Today I'm interviewing an author friend of mine, J.A. Beard. J.A. and I met online in a critique group, and I fell in love with his writing style. I'm happy to have him here today.
Vicki: Tell us a little about yourself.
J.A.: I'm happily married with two children. I'm a bit of a restless soul, so I've lived several places and tried my hand at difference careers including computer programming and a stint in the USAF. Currently, though, I'm in a PhD program for microbiology. So, when I'm not writing or with my family, I'm in a lab.
Vicki: When and why did you start writing?
J.A.: I’ve been writing on and off for ten years. I began writing as a way to sate some of my creative urges and deal with the story ideas I had floating around in my head. When I was younger, I was involved in the table-top role-playing scene. As that involves character creation and world creation, it satisfied my creative urges. Years passed and I played those kinds of games less, but I still had this desire to create characters and be involved with telling their stories. I started experimenting with writing.
First, it was only short stories. I didn’t feel I had the skill level to pull off a novel. I participated in National Novel Writing Month a couple of times in the early 2000s. The novellas I produced weren’t publishable, but the experiences did help me get over my concerns about my ability to produce longer works. I wrote here and there over the years until finally buckling down a few years ago and getting serious about my writing. I started writing novels and joined writing groups to improve my craft.
Vicki: What is your book about?
J.A.: THE EMERALD CITY is a loose modern YA urban fantasy re-imagining of the Wizard of Oz.
Kansas teen Gail Dorjee has tried to escape from the pain of her parents' death by retreating into a hard shell of anger and sarcasm.
Social war and the school's uptight teachers are only mild annoyances. Mysterious phone outages, bizarre behavioral blocks, and strange incidents suggest Osland is focused on something much more sinister than education.
Now Gail has to survive at the school with a pretty pathetic assortment of potential allies: her airhead roommate, Lydia, and, Leandra, a cowardly victim of the Winged. There's also the small matter of the handsome but cold Nick, a boy who seems interested in Gail. He just happens also to be Diana's boyfriend.
Vicki: Who is your favorite character?
J.A.: I have two really. Gail’s my first favorite. She’s feisty yet vulnerable. She’s a good person, for the most part, but far from perfect. I’m not so fond of anti-heroes in fiction, so I worked hard to create a realistic, flawed character that still is a heroine and not an anti-heroine.
Lydia, Gail’s roommate, is my second favorite. She’s a bit of a comic relief character who Gail calls the “Queen of Sunshine”. She has a quirk of constantly screwing up famous quotes, though she does play an important “serious” role in the plot as well. There’s a nice little contrast with her as well. She’s normally a bit of an airhead, but sometimes her weird thought processes let her figure out things that pass by others.
I’m a very cynical person, so it was a fun challenge to write a completely non-cynical character.
Vicki: Are any of your characters based on real-life people?
J.A.: Not really. Although I try to draw on my own experiences and people I've known in generating character psychology, there's no particular direct relationship between any character in THE EMERALD CITY and anyone I've known or read about.
Vicki: As authors, we often throw horrible stuff at our characters to create tension and drama, and to see how our character is going to react. In this book, what's the meanest thing you do to a character?
J.A.: Well, arguably, the cruelest thing happens before the book even starts: Gail's parents dying. Gail's also forced to confront the reality of that death in a particularly cruel way near the end of the book. There's also a phobic character, Leandra, being forced to confront one of her main phobias in a particularly extreme way.
Vicki: Do you have another book you're working on?
J.A.: With the aid of my editor, I'm finishing up edits on two other projects scheduled for release in February and March respectively, A WOMAN OF PROPER ACCOMPLISHMENTS and MIND CRAFTER.
A WOMAN OF PROPER ACCOMPLISHMENTS is a slightly alt-history (sorry Americans, we lost the Revolution in this timeline) sweet Regency paranormal romance.
MIND CRAFTER is a fantasy story focused around a young telepath who gets drawn into a dangerous conspiracy involving a religious cult.
Though I'm also working on the sequels to the above, I'm also working on a historical thriller planned for release in the fall. This story will be set in Heian era of Japanese history.
I'm "cheating" a bit in that I have several novels I'm releasing this year, but most of those manuscripts were completed previously and just in need of some editing.
Vicki: Do you have a blog or website?
J.A.: http://jabeard.com or riftwatcher.blogspot.com
Thanks for having me.
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