Friday, April 13, 2012
The Writer's Block Interviews: J.R. Nova
1.Tell us a bit about yourself and where you live and work.
I'm twenty-five and live in Iowa along the scenic Mississippi River. I have held various odd jobs, mostly in the grocery business. There's nothing special there except that it has given me many opportunities to get to know people, what they think, why, and how that effects their actions—and I feel this translates to my writing. A small town grocery store is a wonderful psychology experiment.
I'm self taught in just about all of my interests. I enjoy playing guitar, meditating, practicing Yoga and running. I'm fairly balanced as far as my interests outside of writing go. I have what I think is a profound joy for life.
I consider myself to be spiritual and mystical, and this effects just about everything I do, including my writing.
2.Describe your journey to becoming a writer/author.
I had an experience in first grade that had a profound effect on what I would later become. My teacher (we lived in Germany at the time) had made small, blank books from construction paper, cardboard and wallpaper, and let us fill them in. I teamed up with a classmate,writing out the story of a young girl who goes to the zoo, and my friend illustrated it. It's one of my fondest school memories, and though I no longer have the book I made, the memory stuck with me and writing was something I always related to, even though I didn't actually write anything on my own until a few years later.
Reading Lloyd Alexander's The High King in fourth grade was another pivotal moment for me. It was the first book I remember reading that affected me personally, and it was definitely the first thing I had read that made me want to read outside the classroom.
I wrote poetry in my early teens, and I began writing fiction when I was sixteen. I eventually quit poetry, but stuck with my stories. At one point I thought I would become rich and famous and that this would happen quickly, but I've since tempered my expectations and have worked harder at crafting a good tale than hoping to be the next Stephen King.
3.Do you gravitate toward specific genres in your writing?
I enjoy writing speculative fiction and fantasy set in more or less modern locations. I enjoy mixing magic with technology, the past with the future, history with the present. I enjoy asking deep “what if”questions and seeing what answers the characters give me.
In my fiction I have no qualms about being perceived as a genre writer.To me my mission is to write what others will enjoy, and many people enjoy a fast-paced, action-filled and suspenseful story. It's what I enjoy reading and it's what I hope to be successful writing, though I have a tendency to throw in deeper subject matter.
I'm also drawn to writing about spiritual and philosophical topics, like“awareness” and meditation. Even more so than being a published fiction author, I want to some day be a publishing nonfiction author.It is a greater challenge for me to actually address truths on the page than to merely show these truths through unreal characters.
4.Tell us about your novel, Rising.Where can readers find it?
I took a break from writing in 2011, taking more time off than I had since before I was sixteen, and it apparently did me much good,because in November I woke up one morning with the idea to Rising and wrote the rough draft in two weeks. I split that draft up, saving the second half for the second book, Sacrifice (unpublished), and went to work on rewriting, revising, and editing the first half, which has become Rising.
Rising is about a young witch, Clara Blackstone, who is searching for a man named Maximus Czar, a former general who had caused much chaos and pain throughout the sector (their name for “country”). After losing her family to his war, and having grown up under the tutelage of a great and powerful witch, Clara sets off to make Czar pay for what he's done, only to find out that Czar is not yet finished.
Clara finds and befriends a boy named Zen Mar, and together they must uncover and foil Czar's evil plans, or risk being destroyed, along with the rest of the world.
Currently, Rising is sold on Smashwords and Amazon as ebooks, but I hope to bring out a paperback through Createspace within the next month or two.
5.Who are your favorite authors? What is on your reading list right now?
I have many favorite authors, but if I were trapped on a desert island(or in deep space) and had only a few books to read, I would hope they were written by Michael Crichton or Frank Herbert. Then I don't think I could go wrong.
Right now I have a stack of a dozen used library books waiting to be read.Some Anne Rice and Colleen McCullough, who I really enjoy, and some old fantasy novels, as well as modern fiction on my Kindle by Rodney C. Johnson (his short story “Light and Fire”) and A. L. Tyler(her novel Arrival of the Traveler), just to name a couple. I'm also working my way through Lord of the Rings again.
Trying to edit my novel and read at the same time was impossible. I've probably read more in the last two months than I have in the previous year, yet it was the same twenty-four chapters over and over again.I'm glad to be able to read something else for a change!
6.How do you promote your work? What methods have worked best for you?
I think “making it” in writing is a mix of luck and word of mouth.I'm hoping to get my novel into as many hands as I can, and hope that people will enjoy it enough to recommend it to their friends, but I don't see how I can force this process.
Because of that I'm taking a long-term approach to marketing. I agree with the idea that my next book is my best marketing tool. What will happen will happen, but I've got to stay focused on what is important: writing.
I do my best to let people know I have a book, that they can buy it,without being an obnoxious spammer. I want readers to be aware of my stories, yet also appreciate my online presence.
Being diverse in marketing is a writer's greatest advantage, and it's what I hope to accomplish with my blog, my Facebook and Google+ pages,interviews and guest posts, as well as my stories. I can be a bit shy about self promotion, but I ignore whatever fear or doubt I have and dive in.
7.What are your upcoming plans for 2012?
I'm in a fortunate situation right now to have a bit of time to write and market myself, and I intend to take advantage of it the best I can. I know time is something many writers don't have a lot of, and it's not something I've always had a lot of. I'm not working full time right now, and it's really freed me up to get a jump on my writing career.
This is an opportunity I cannot waste, as I've wasted similar opportunities in the past. I hope to finish and publish Sacrifice by the end of the year, as well as a nonfiction book I'm working on titled Wrapped in the Present. I have a few shorter works right now, as well, a short story and a novella, and a story that may eventually grow to be a novel at some point. If I can work hard and get each of these projects finished, I may be in a better position for 2013.
8.What is your definition of success as an author?
In the big picture, I will be successful if I can pay my bills. Anything more than that is topping on a quite delicious cake.
But every day I find small victories, things that make me feel as if everything I've done is worth it. When people compliment me on what I write or thank me for changing their worldview, it propels me forward. Success is often more abstract than tangible. I hesitate to measure it by a large contract or an award. Success is happening all the time on an individual level, in how I affect others.
I want to live, and if I can live by writing, I'll be very happy. I don't think I can ask for more out of my own life if I can live by my writing and also change people's lives.
9.What advice would you offer to aspiring authors?
For years I've dealt with perfectionism and doubt. I wish I hadn't. Maybe it was a good thing, because it kept me from publishing what now I think was junk, but at some point I know I must leave these feelings behind, or be doomed to obscurity. When I began writing again last November, I gave myself only two rules:
I would not contend with doubt.
I would not be a perfectionist.
I may not have been the most positive and upbeat person in the last few months, but I'll be surprised if I've spent more than a single minute thinking I wouldn't succeed in publishing my first novel. And that I've finally published it is proof that I've caged my former perfectionism.
I would tell any aspiring writer to do his or her best, to learn craft (grammar, punctuation, character, pacing), to work hard, but to also trust that the story is good enough when the work is done. Even if it takes four or five drafts, understand when enough is enough and take a chance.
Readers are a much better judge of our own work than we are. We see it only through our personal perspective, but we are writing for our readers,now for ourselves, and it's their personal perspective that counts, not ours.
"J. R. Nova is an author of speculative fiction and fantasy. He plays guitar, meditates, runs, and philosophizes. Not much else is known about him, as he lives in another dimension with his pet, Harpy."