Welcome to the two hundred and seventy fourth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with mystery, action, adventure (and more) author JT Lewis. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, JT. Please tell us something about yourself.
JT: I hail from South-eastern Indiana in the US, where the men are men, but the women run everything. I am married and have four kids, all now out of the house in various stages of college and life away from home.
Morgen: SE Indiana sounds great!. 🙂 What genre do you generally write, JT?
JT: Mystery, Action, and Adventure pretty much sums up the genre(s) I generally write in. Whether a murder mystery, a YA series, or even a sci-fi story, I almost always seem to find a way to insert a mystery into the story, and (hopefully) make it an adventurous story with enough twists and turns to keep the pages turning.
Morgen: 🙂 What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
JT: My first published book, ‘Murder! Too Close To Home’, (formerly ‘The Ghost Murders’) is an action-packed murder mystery and the first in the series ‘The Adventures of Gabriel Celtic’. It was released in December by my publisher Trestle Press in e-book form, with a paperback version coming out soon. Following close behind will be the second in the series, ‘Gabriel’s Revenge’, which is now going through revision.
I have also started a YA series called ‘Pepper and Longstreet’, the adventures of 16 year old Pepper Jones and her mysterious sidekick Jacob Longstreet. More than one person has likened the series to the old Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew mysteries, with a paranormal twist. The first of the series, ‘The Beginning’, has also been recently released by my publisher as an e-book.
Also on the immediate horizon is a Sci-Fi blog series called ‘Circles’. Since I had a minute one day, I started writing the Sci-Fi serial based on something that kept bouncing around in my head, called Circle Theory. There are two chapters of this serial on my blog now (http://jt-lewis.blogspot.com), and my current plans are for it to remain a blog serial… but who knows?
Morgen: It’s fiction – it could go anywhere. 🙂 Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
JT: I do not have an agent per se, but I’m of the persuasion that the new e-book concentrated publishers like Trestle Press act as more of a combination agent / publisher, with some publicist thrown in.
Morgen: You mentioned ‘Murder!…’ is available as an eBook, do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
JT: Both books are out in e-book form. I only recently got a Nook, and I love it, especially for reading other authors’ works for review. I still like reading a good paperback though, and still do most of my reading for enjoyment that way.
Morgen: I think most people do. I bought a Kindle last month and I love it but I’ll still read paper books at home. You mentioned your ‘some publicist’ publisher, how much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
JT: I try to use all of the ‘Social Media’ available… without overdoing it. Getting one’s name out there is the main thing; people need to know who you are. It is also the most difficult aspect of being an author in my estimation. People look to Amazon and B&N and see a cornfield of authors all hawking their stories. Becoming the one stalk that catches their attention is a monumental task.
My publisher does a good job of getting the names of their authors out there in front of people, so that helps a lot. Still looking for the secret formula though!
Morgen: I think we all are. If you find it first, do let me know and I’ll pass it on. 🙂 Actually, I’ve found LinkedIn to be wonderful. I already loved it (caring and sharing of information) but I put a new thread in (about these interviews) in the groups I belong to and have been overwhelmed by the response. Do you have a favourite of your books or characters?
JT: Gabriel Celtic is my hero… and I would love to meet him in person. Like a lot of authors, my intent was to base Gabriel on myself, of course with a few more admirable attributes and many more adventures. Gabriel however quickly took on a life of his own, and as he is apt to do in the books, he did it with finesse and strength of character that I can only aspire to.
Morgen: Creating new characters has got to be one of my favourite aspects. You can never be lonely when you write fiction. 🙂 Did you have any say in the title / covers of your book(s)? How important do you think they are?
JT: Yes, I was asked for input, but my strength is not in the cover as far as the design goes, so I defer to the experts, so far with excellent results I believe. Covers are VERY important… an author has to catch the eye of the reader, and there is no quicker way than a cover that catches the eye…and the imagination.
Morgen: There’s a big debate going on in LinkedIn at the moment about covers and whilst I don’t think someone would turn away from buying a great book if the cover wasn’t catching, given a choice of great or mediocre would certainly get a reader to the great one first. What are you working on at the moment / next?
JT: Doing revisions for the next Gabriel Celtic adventure is my next focus. After that, I hope to get started on the third book… tentatively titled: ICOD (In Case Of Death).
The Pepper and Longstreet mysteries are an ongoing project, as are the serial chapters of Circles.
Morgen: Agents, publishers and readers love series. Once they grab hold of a wonderful character they don’t want to let go. 🙂 Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
JT: I do not write every day. The damnable day job gets in the way a lot, as well as spending time with my wife and household chores. Sometimes I can get an hour or two in at night during the week, but most of my writing is done on the weekends.
I wouldn’t call it writers block, but there are some days that I’m not sure what I am going to write about that day. Usually though, if I sit down with the work and read the two or three chapters previous, my addled mind will kick in and the story will continue.
Morgen: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
JT: Mostly, I write by the seat of the pants. Many times I see the beginning of the book in my head, and I have a general outline of where I want it to go with it, and some of the characters I want to bring in, like that. But mostly, the story comes to life as I write.
Morgen: Most of the authors I’ve interviewed have been ‘pantsers’ and I am too. I plotted my first novel (for NaNoWriMo 2008 – the longest thing I’d written over 3,000 words up to then) fairly thoroughly then once I started I put it away as Sam had other ideas. He’ll be seeing light this year. I only have short stories out so far (and a writer’s block workbook) but most people prefer novels and I have four (and a bit) of them so it would be good to do something with them. We’ve touched on characters a few times, do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
JT: Hmmm…I think what makes a character believable is in large part their flaws, or quirks. Everybody has little quirks that make them who they are. If a character is too perfect…well, who’s going to believe that!
Morgen: Absolutely. None of us are perfect, are we? If a character is perfect it has to be for a reason, and something made of it.
JT: My characters are created in my head, where I visualize who would fit this situation. Whether that would be someone of a “typical’ nature, or in a lot of cases, someone that one wouldn’t expect when they thought about it. As far as naming the character, I use a lot of local names for my characters, which seems to add a lot of personality.
Morgen: 🙂 Do you write any non-fiction, poetry or short stories?
JT: No… well actually, I have written a non-fiction book. It is an Estate Planner, and it is an idea that had been floating around in my head for years and it seemed an important tool.
Morgen: Ideas have a habit of doing that don’t they, and it’s great to get them out. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
JT: My writing gets better as I go… I was not someone that paid much attention to English classes when I was in school.
Morgen: It’s all just practice. New writers worry about the quality but I look back at my early stuff and cringe. But now I have the experience to buff and polish. 🙂 Do you have to do much research?
JT: When needed, but I tend to concentrate more on the story than the exact surroundings or the procedures. In Gabriel’s Revenge, the book starts in Peru, and I felt that I needed to learn a few things about the country and the culture to write about it with any kind of a realistic narrative.
Morgen: A great excuse for a holiday. 🙂 Some writers like quiet, others the noise of a coffee shop etc., do you listen to music or have noise around you when you write or do you need silence?
JT: Generally, I listen to oldies when I write…on the Radio! (What’s a playlist?)
When I write however, I barely ever notice what’s playing, I guess I zone out. When I take a break or get some more coffee (a trait I share with Gabriel), I hear the song playing, maybe even sing along (badly).
Morgen: I’m a tea girl. And I sing too if I have my iPod on – the dog thinks I’m mad if he can’t hear any music. What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
JT: Second, no. The Gabriel Celtic Adventures are written in both first and third person, with Gabriel’s POV always in first. I like this as a way of identifying with Gabriel, and the books are laid out as a retelling of a story from the point of view of Gabriel.
Morgen: Oh do try second person. I love, love, love it. 🙂 Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
JT: Not yet! There is always hope!
Morgen: No, that’s great. Writing should be for reading. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
JT: Just do it! I spent many years thinking about it off and on, but never really committing to it. When I did finally start writing, I didn’t tell anyone! I didn’t want to be someone that said ‘I’m writing a book”, and then never finish it.
Thinking back about it now however, it seems a silly thing to worry about. Not everything one writes is going to be good…at least not at first. But like any craft, one has to practice to master it.
Long story short, my advice is to write whenever you can, as often as you can. And read! Read everything you can get your hands on, especially when it is the type of story that excites you.
Finally, write a fantastic story! Editors can fix errors, Beta readers can suggest changes to make it flow, but no one can right “your” story. My underlying goal is to write an epic story, one that will pass the test of time. I’m not there yet, but I am convinced that if one works at it long and hard, that it CAN be done!
Morgen: So many authors I’ve spoken to have said they wish they’d started writing earlier. I had an email from a young lady the other day (who started her email with “I’m young!!”… well, after the title of “I love your book!!!” which is always an attention-grabber). We got chatting and she’s entering the BBC Radio 2’s 500 word short story competition which has an age limit of 13 so she is young. 🙂 The book, by the way, was one of my free (and most downloaded, possibly because it’s the longest) eShorts, April’s Fool). Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
JT: Two actually: “I’ve lived an unusual life, in the usual way.” (Gabriel Celtic) and “Are you going to do something with the time you have left, or are you just going to fill a hole in the ground.” (Julien Taylor in Gabriel’s Revenge)
Morgen: I love those. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
JT: My thanks for having me on your awesome interview series!
Morgen: <laughs> You’re very welcome, thank you for taking part. 🙂
I then invited JT to include an excerpt of his writing…
The man walked determinedly toward his car, but his mind was elsewhere; on the case, or cases as it were. He was actually making good headway on the investigation by his reckoning, disturbing headway. He had found the link in the cases he had been looking for two days before, and it had changed everything! Even he couldn’t believe the ramifications of his find.
The night was warm and he removed his jacket and hung it over his arm, folding it carefully first. He rubbed his free hand through his military cut salt and pepper hair, letting his mind wander, enjoying the weather.
Reaching the car, he dug into his pocket and pulled out his keys to unlock his government furnished sedan, but his keys suddenly fall from his hand. He looked down in confusion and wonders why he did that, and why all of a sudden he couldn’t seem to move to correct it.
He felt a hand then on his shoulder, hot breath on his neck. “I hear you’re looking for me,” the stranger whispers in his ear, “thought I would save you the trouble.”
JT Lewis is an author living in South-eastern Indiana with his wife Susan and their two dogs. They have four kids in various stages of college and life away from the home. During the day, JT Lewis is an electrical contractor, morphing into the crime fighting author at night and on the weekends.
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