Thursday, May 28, 2015
Interview of Author J. C. Conway
Latest Book: HEARTS IN RUIN
Amazon Paperback Print Edition
Barnes & Noble Paperback or Nook Edition
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Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kveqOm-jieg
J. C. Conway writes romance, science-fiction, and fantasy stories for adults, young adults and middle-grade readers. He is a long-standing member of Romance Writers of America, Yosemite Romance Writers, the World Science Fiction Society, and Mystery Writers of America. He is also a complex-litigation attorney, a former high-school math and computer science teacher, a family man, and a fan of great fiction that stretches the imagination, probes the depths of the human condition or otherwise illuminates the unknown or the misunderstood—best done with a touch of humility and humor.
Q: What’s your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day?
A: My writing schedule varies a great deal. I have a demanding day job and a family. So I have to choose carefully what tasks I'm working on at any given time. When I'm working on a novel first draft I try to average about a thousand words a day, putting in a couple of hours each weekday evening, and a good ten to twelve hours on the weekends. I don't do that all the time. Lately I've been editing and revising. That also involves weekday evenings and some weekend days. But I haven't found a good way to measure my progress in that regard, so I trust my gut. If I feel I'm making headway, I'm satisfied and stay the course. If I'm feeling frustrated and non-productive, I strive to schedule my time better. If everything seems to be falling apart around me, well, that's a good time to lighten up on the righting a bit and pay more attention to the life that is, ultimately, the source of all inspiration in any event.
Q: How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?
A: For people that know me really well it's not that well hidden. They can see me here and there in pieces of good guys, bad guys and side characters. But that's not so much intentional as it is completely unavoidable. I see the world through the filter of my own eyes. If I adopt a character that is someone I know, they tend not to see that because my mental image does not match anyone else's self-image. It's one of the things that make fiction so diverse and fascinating.
Q: Of all your characters, who’s your favorite, and why?
A: At any given time, the answer would be the protagonist of the work in progress. Today, that is Dr. Haley Marx, the protagonist in Silent Sky. She is a brilliant mathematician and multi-dimensional code designer. She has a strong independent streak and an unshakable faith in her interstellar probes and their ability to find intelligent life (something she finds somewhat lacking on Earth). Life isn't easy for Haley and things go horribly wrong. She locks horns with most people she encounters and those that love her give her great latitude.
Q: Do you eat comfort food/listen to music when writing?
A: I have a soundtrack running almost all the time while I write, and I adjust it to find the mood of the piece. My current mix includes some moody 70s rock (Pink Floyd, certain Led Zeppelin tunes), a lot of instrumentalists (including Pat Metheny, Buckethead, Marc Benevento, Bryan Beller and others), and a hodgepodge of specific songs that strike a chord with me, from Spice Girls to Hawkwind.
Q: How do you choose names for your characters?
A: If possible, I approach character names as a form of poetry. It's a combination of sound and meaning. More often than not I start with meaning. I want to find a name that reflects the character. I run through names in my head. I search baby-name websites. I scan last names and first names at work, in the newspaper and in the mail stack. At some point I find something that has meaning and a nice ring to it. So long as that wonderful name also feels right for the character, away we go. Sometimes things hit immediately. Other times a name changes endlessly.
Q: If you could give a younger version of yourself advice, what would it be?
A: Learn the craft now. Don't wait. When I was younger I felt I had something in the neighborhood of forever to absorb enough life and finally get down to writing seriously. I didn't study the craft. I felt it would just come to me. So that combination of youthful immortality and arrogance kept me from writing and finishing works I could have created at that time. I'm stuck now with that idiotic timeline I lazily created in my early twenties. So that would be my advice, maybe delivered with a quick slap upside the head.
Q: What genre would you like to try writing that you haven’t yet tried?
A: Maybe thriller. I generally bring the pace of a thriller to my stories without the maniacal antagonist or actual catastrophic time bomb driving the plot. So it might be good at some point to tone down either the romance or science fiction (my two main genres) and put down a heart-thumping race against death.
Q: Have you ever used an incident from your real life into one of your books?
A: Oh, definitely. Not to the letter, mind you. I extrapolate, tone it up or tone it down, fit it to the story. But without tapping into actual life events from time to time in the course of a story, I don't know how anyone could generate a feeling of authenticity.
Q: Any part of a book that drives you crazy as you write: beginning, middle, or end?
A: The end—especially the last line. That is where I remain indecisive the longest, and sometimes I have to put a story away for months or years before coming back and finally finding the precise ending it needs. It reminds me of composing music. The really great pieces end on a sound that fits the piece and satisfies. To shift metaphors, the best writers stick that landing every time. That's what I want to do.
Q: How many stories are swirling around in your head? Do you keep a mental list, a computer file, or a spiral notebook filled with the ideas?
A: There are about twenty that are at least a little further along than just being ideas. Those I remember only because I keep track of them in a computer file. As far as actually floating around in my head and being actively considered, mulled over, thought about and pounded at on a daily and weekly basis, there are about three stories sucking up most of my mind's attention, with one story taking a clear lead.
Q: What is your favorite holiday and why?
A: I honestly do not have a favorite. My family tends to get together on holidays. I love that. I guess I might say that anyone else's favorite is my favorite, because it feels good to me when people are enjoying themselves that much.
Q: What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?
A: That I am a romance writer surprises a lot of people that know me as an attorney, father, scout leader or math teacher. I enjoy explaining the genre to them and drawing them in. People are often also surprised to learn I'm an active mental health advocate. I'm the vice president and webmaster of our local NAMI affiliate and I do what I can to help families find resources and come to understand what they are (and are not) dealing with. Mental illnesses can be difficult. But they are not the end of the world, help is available, and people and families do pull through.
Q: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A: An elephant. At least that was my first choice when I was about three according to my parents and many chuckling relatives. After that I rotated between wanting to be an astronaut, a writer, a teacher, or a millionaire. I didn't manage the astronaut part (although I pretend in my writing) and I never found out where to apply for the millionaire job. But otherwise, I think I did okay. Becoming an attorney was something that came up much later, and it's been rewarding. And I'm glad I held on to the goal of being a writer.
Q: Favorite food.
A: Grilled steak, well-seasoned, medium rare.
Q: Favorite happy memory.
A: Oh, there are many. Let's say, my children dressed up for the Renaissance Faire.
Q: Favorite drink.
A: Woodford Reserve, chilled with frozen rock cubes. Although it's been years.
Q: Hot summer days or chilly winter nights?
A: Hot summer days, but keep my pale skin in the shade.
Q: What is the top thing on your bucket list?
A: My next novel.
Q: If you could have a super power, what would it be?
A: I need to slow time. There's too much I want to do, so much I want to learn.
Hearts in Ruin a romantic archaeological mystery published by Liquid Silver Books. It involves a groundbreaking discovery in the New Mexico dessert. Despite strong opposition, Daniel and Andrea investigate a dig that uncovers clues to a Paleolithic past more ancient than current theories of humans in the Americas permit. Woven throughout the story of Daniel and Andrea are scenes of two lovers that lived in the past Daniel and Andrea have discovered. The following scene is the prologue to Hearts in Ruin, introducing Tala and Bin, and providing the first clue as to what might have happened to their ancient culture.
Despite the warm evening wind, Tala drew her knees close and shivered. Under the starlight, below the community’s terraced crops, mastodons filled the valley, their footfalls echoing in the dirt. But above, the Fire Star grew.
Not a good sign.
“I have something for you,” said Bin. He crouched near her on the grassy hill. “Close your eyes.”
She inclined her head. “What is it?”
“Hold out your hands,” he prodded.
She complied. A cold weight pressed down upon her palms. “Can I look now?”
Her breath caught in her throat. His gift was a beautiful bowl, bright and colorful with intricate, flowery designs. Around its interior were three words.
Bin loves Tala.
“Do you like it?” he asked.
She didn't know how to respond. It was very sweet. But now? The Fire Star loomed. They faced imminent change—a shift that would unbalance everything.
Still, this simple display pierced those concerns.
“I want you and no one else,” he said.
He frowned. “You feel that way, too…don't you?”
Tears welled. She glanced at the Fire Star.
He followed her gaze. “That's a good sign,” he assured her. “It means we will be happy.”
He extended a hand. She drew a deep, slow breath, accepted his hand, and stood. The bowl slipped from her lap and cracked against a stone.
His eyes widened. His Adam’s apple bobbed. An intense remorse swept through her, momentarily eclipsing her fear of the Fire Star. She had to make this right.
She placed her hand on his chest and held his gaze. “I do love you, Bin.”
She kneeled and lifted the bowl and a fragment that had fallen from it. “This is a good sign. The words are intact.” She then handed the piece to him and arranged his hand. She held the bowl and placed it with the shard in his hand, matching. “This is yours.” She motioned. “And this is mine. It means we belong together.”
She watched his expression shift from despair to joy. He smiled and wrapped his arms around her. His eyes sliced to the Fire Star and back. He flashed a cocky smirk. “Everything will be fine,” he crooned. “You'll see.”
She pressed her face against his chest. No, she thought. It won't.
Bin lowered his mouth toward her ear. “We have everything we need. Nothing can change all this.”
She squeezed. He was right about how she felt. She would accept him into her heart. She saw no reason to deny that. But he was wrong about everything else.
Things would not be fine.
They would not last.
At least they had each other—even if only for now.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you for having me. I write a lot of short stories, and I invite folks to read them. Many are free on the internet. Remember to spend time with the people you love.