Welcome to the one hundred and eighteenth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, directors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with . If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the author further. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here.
Morgen: Hello TJ. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
TJ: I was raised on farms most of my life; we didn’t have much money, and started telling scary stories when I was very young. Storytelling was handed down from my grandfather and I picked it up quickly and loved it. I was an ‘A’ student in school with creative writing, English, and Composition. I never had formal training. I got my first computer in my late 20’s and started banging out stories, networking and learning the world of the internet. I then started selling short stories and getting others published for free. I learned about the publishing world from the ground up – a long and hard lesson. After becoming GumShoe Press and releasing my books under my own imprint I finally got picked up by Silver Leaf Books and finally have the opportunity of a five book series.
Morgen: A long but rewarding journey by the sound of it. What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
TJ: I started off writing mystery books for YA (ages 8-14) and that’s where I made a name for myself. I have recently been writing fantasy (which reviewers and readers are calling a cross-genre of fantasy / manga) for teens.
Morgen: Very popular genres. What have you had published to-date?
TJ: I have 8 mystery books for YA: Mystery of the Attic, On Forbidden Ground, Wound Too Tight, Fantasies Are Murder, The Secret in Phantom Forest, Trade Secret, Image in the Tapestry and In the Grand Scheme of Things. The first instalment of the Shadow Legacy series is out and it’s entitled Art of the Ninja: Earth. Subsequent books to follow until all 5 are released by Silver Leaf Books.
Morgen: How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
TJ: I do everything for my books and myself.
Morgen: So you get to talk to your readers. Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions and do you think they help with a writer’s success?
TJ: I have won and placed several times in the CNW / FFWA competition.
Morgen: Yay! Do you write under a pseudonym? If so why and do you think it makes a difference?
TJ: I write under TJ Perkins, which is just my initials, and yes I do think it helps because my regular name just doesn’t ‘sound’ like a writer’s name.
Morgen: Me neither. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
TJ: No. Sometime they are.
Morgen: Yes, I guess it depends what an author wants. I’m going the eBook route but would still love to see my books (likely to be anthologies) on the ‘mainstream shelves’. Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?
TJ: All of my books are available in all formats. The process took hours to get set up because I had so many to do at one time. And you have to be online to constantly market / promote them every single day, find new outlets of promotion, run a blog, etc. It’s a never-ending process.
Morgen: But hopefully an enjoyable one. I learned quickly with this blog that the more you put in the more (satisfaction) you get out… thanks in the main to authors such as yourself, agreeing to do interviews, guest posts etc. What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?
TJ: My first acceptance was from Publish America. I have since taken my books away from them and published them under my own imprint. Being accepted is still a thrill.
Morgen: Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
TJ: I’ve had at least 80 rejections in my life. After a while you develop the attitude that it’s their loss and one day it will be someone else’s gain.
Morgen: Absolutely… I’m only at 28 / 29 but that’s the only way to think really. What are you working on at the moment / next?
TJ: I’m now writing book 4 of the 5 book Shadow Legacy series. After that I have a whole new novel I’m going to write. Shhhh, it’s a secret.
Morgen: OK – I won’t tell anyone. Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
TJ: Yes. I’ve actually written an entire chapter in one day.
Morgen: Wow, well done. What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
TJ: Writer’s block is ruthless. Yes, it get it – often. It’s caused by having too much going on in your mind that’s not story related. I cure it by exercising. When you exercise you release chemicals in your brain that stimulate creativity.
Morgen: Yes, I’ve heard that. Sometimes I do just fancy taking the dog out so he definitely has his uses (although we go out 2-3 times a day anyway but sometimes he gets an extra walk when I just need to get away from the computer). Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
TJ: I outline my stories, have a basic idea of how the story should play out, and then I make it up as I go along.
Morgen: Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
TJ: I base my characters on real people I encounter, whether I know them or not. Then I build on the basic, first impression I got off of that person, make them good or evil, etc. I’m a firm believer that your main character has a lot of the writer’s personality, beliefs, deep down fears, wants, desires, etc.
Morgen: It does help to flesh them out – make them believable to any reader really. Who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to?
TJ: Any one of my friends that want to take the plunge.
Morgen: Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
TJ: Oh, no, I do a lot of editing.
Morgen: What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
TJ: My creative process is all over the place. It could take months of goofing off, reading, doing research, etc. before I get a firm idea in my head. But I always use the “what if?” factor when creating a story. What if this happened? What if there was this person that did….?”
Morgen: A writer’s key tool. Do you write on paper or do you prefer a computer?
Morgen: What sort of music do you listen to when you write?
TJ: None, but if I did it would be Classical.
Morgen: Me too; no words to distract me. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
TJ: First person. Never tried second person. Didn’t know there was such a thing.
Morgen: There is, it’s wonderful. Well, I think so anyway. Editors don’t feel the same but I think there’s a market out there so I plan to release an anthology of them. Oh, and if you’d like to have a go at one – take a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_person_narrative. I’ve put a few on my sentence starts page on this blog. Do try, you might like it (or love it like I do). Do you use prologues / epilogues? What do you think of the use of them?
TJ: I use them for Shadow Legacy. They’re a good building block or good to firm up the story without going into a full blow chapter.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Morgen: I think that’s the outright winner of all my questions (that and Stephen King’s ‘On writing’ being the most popular writing guide); I think so far only one or two people have says “no”. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
TJ: Well, you’re not a team player that’s for sure. You have to be a loner, but I sort of like hermiting myself.
Morgen: Oh so do I. If anything, what has been your biggest surprise about writing?
TJ: That kids, and adults, really like my stories. Mystery of the Attic is my biggest seller even though it was never edited properly.
Morgen: Shhh… don’t tell anyone. No, really it’s a perfectly crafted, honed piece. I’ve not read any of Dan Brown’s books but I’ve heard from writers that the writing itself isn’t the best but that he tells a great story and I think that’s what the average (meant in the nicest possible way) reader wants. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
TJ: If this is what you want to do – stick with it.
Morgen: Absolutely – it is for me and I plan to. What do you like to read?
TJ: Mystery – Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes, Ellery Queen, or fantasy by Maria Snyder, Cinda Chima Williams.
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing?
TJ: Gardening, exercising, hanging with friends and family, hanging with my kids when they’re not working.
Morgen: Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful and would recommend?
Morgen: I know Good Reads but Kindle Boards is a new one on me, thank you. In which country are you based and do you find this a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?
TJ: USA. It’s a help.
Morgen: Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how invaluable do you find them?
TJ: I try to be, but if I haven’t gotten an overwhelming response so I lose interest.
Morgen: Oh dear. Maybe it’s just a case of persevering – I get different things out of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (the latter can be especially great if you have a query). Where can we find out about you and your work?
Morgen: What do you think the future holds for a writer?
TJ: It looks like anyone can become a writer and put out a book if they use Kindle, Nook etc., whether the story is good or not, whether it’s well-written or not. The e-market is becoming flooded with aspiring writers – serious or not – and there’s so much to choose from that readers are overwhelmed with what to pick from. Sooner or later the ebook market will have to tighten their reins on who can become published and it will be no different from today’s publishing houses.
Morgen: I think this is where editors come in – every writer should have one; professional or otherwise. How to control what goes up is another matter. I still think reviews will out – a bad writer can only have so many friends and relations? Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
TJ: You can go on my website and read sample chapters of my books, watch the book trailer for ‘Art of the Ninja: Earth’, and follow my blog. There are interviews and all sorts of info. Everything about me is on my website. Enjoy!
Morgen: I looked and did, thank you TJ.
Her writing style has been compared to that of Mildred Wirt Benson A.K.A. Carolyn Keen (Nancy Drew).
TJ has expanded into the world of fantasy for adults.
She has partnered with Silver Leaf Books who will release Shadow Legacy, a five-book series of fantasy / adventure.
Update September 2012: Shadow Legacy Book 2, ‘Power of the Ninja: Fire’ will be released as an eBook early Oct 2012. Paperback edition release Feb 2013. This is a must read as the story gets intense.
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on this blog) is free.
If you go for the interview, it’s very simple; I send you a questionnaire (I have them for novelists, short story authors, children’s authors, non-fiction authors, and poets). You complete the questions, and I let you know when it’s going to go live. Before it does so, I add in comments as if we’re chatting, and then they get posted. When that’s done, I email you with the link so you can share it with your corner of the literary world. And if you have a writing-related blog / podcast and would like to interview me… let me know.
Alternatively, if you’d like a free Q&A-only interview, I now have http://morgensauthorinterviews.wordpress.com on which I’ve rerun the original interviews posted here then posted new interviews which I then reblog here. These interviews are Q&A only, so I don’t add in my comments but they do get exposure on both sites.
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