J.D.: Not really - I don't have a favorite shirt I wear or anything. The only thing that's important when I'm writing is to find a spot where I can concentrate and focus on the story. Oddly enough, it doesn't have to necessarily be somewhere quiet. Sometimes a place like Panera Bread is good.
Paul: What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?
J.D.: I generally like the same sort of books I try to write - mainly thrillers or mysteries. I love reading Ken Follet, Jack Higgins, and I've read everything Alistair Maclean ever wrote. Once in a while I get out of my comfort zone and delve into literary fiction. I love Hemingway's short stories, but I'm not much of a fan of his books.
Paul: If someone had the power to step into your creative mind what would they see?
J.D.: Probably smog, cheese, or maybe a landfill filled with empty M&M bags! I always have lots of story ideas. I tend to act out scenes of a story in my head, sometimes for an extended period, before I write anything down.
Paul: Do you have a favorite character in each of your series, aside from the lead? If so, which one and why?
J.D.: Imme Amoud, who is a re-occurring character in my Eb Maclean series of books. Imme's on the side of the angels (barely!), but she is violent, sexy, and dangerous and she plays by her own rules. Imme's survived being near the Twin Towers on 9-11, and she has a mysterious past (that will slowly be revealed as the series goes on). Eb notices almost right away that her plummy English accent (supposedly acquired from her days at an upper class English boarding school) comes and goes depending on the type of persona she wants to convey at any given time.
Paul: In all the years you’ve been publishing your work, what is the biggest mistake you made that you could share so others can avoid making it?
J.D.: I haven't been at it that long, so my big mistakes are probably still to come! I think my biggest mistake so far was writing my first two books without any consideration of e-publishing. That caused my editor/marketing partner a lot of trouble when the time came to put my book on Amazon - I hadn't done any formatting at all. I also wrote the book and put the e-version on Amazon before ever considering what kind of marketing plan to follow. I would recommend that authors begin building their author platform on social media (Twitter, Facebook) before publishing their book when possible.
Paul: How do you find the time to write?
J.D.: This is one of the toughest things for me. I don't make enough time for writing. When I'm working on a story there is always a magic moment where the story grabs me...and then I know I'll stick with the project until it's finished. The problem is getting to that point! I'm trying to rectify this over the summer, and I plan on setting aside a certain number of hours every week to write. It's definitely a work in progress.
Paul: What is one thing you hope I do not tell the readers?
J.D.: I guess I hope you don't talk about my sick, twisted little mind. It's a very odd thing being a fiction writer...I spend way too much time thinking about dark things...the less-than-savory aspects of human nature. It's an occupational hazard of any writer of thrillers. A good writer has to be willing to look at the dark side of human nature and have an active curiosity about why people do what they do in moments of stress.
Paul: If you are self-published, what led to you going your own way?
J.D.: I fell into indie publishing by accident. I wrote Judgment Tramp with the idea I would shop it around to agents, but a very good friend of mine passed away right when I finished the book. I made the decision to print and sell the book myself to raise money for a benefit we held for my friend, and that kind of made the decision for me. I don't regret self-publishing at all. I think it will become an even bigger part of the industry in years to come.
Paul: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
J.D.: I plot the basics of the story out in advance, but I'm not afraid to follow an idea if it comes up during the writing process. I think over-plotting a story is a mistake, and I think beginners get caught in this trap a lot, usually after 100 pages or so. Writers have to be flexible - the characters are often going to take over a bit, and sometimes that's the difference between a good story and a great story. Allowing the characters to act out a bit is also a good cure for writer's block.
Paul: Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
J.D.: I try not to edit at all. Usually I have to do some editing, but I try very hard to keep from being heavy-handed about it. I wonder how many writers chop the heart out of a great story because they've read somewhere that writers must edit their work, or because they've read that the first draft of a story is always bad. When I first started writing I over-described everything, but now I try to do in one sentence or a paragraph what I used to describe in a page and a half of narrative.
Paul: Do you have to do much research for your stories?
J.D.: I try to do the minimum amount of research necessary to make my story fly. I'm not interested in writing Tom Clancy style techno thrillers, but I do want my stories to be realistic. I write about locales I understand - I'll never write a story set in Prague or Berlin unless I visit those places and become familiar with the area and people. I grew up in Michigan, and I love South Haven, Michigan, the area where Judgment Tramp is set. Using this area as the setting for my book was my way of writing what I know.
J.D.: My most recent book is Judgment Tramp. It's a thriller, but it has a bit of a psychological twist to it. The protagonist, Eb Maclean, is an ex-army helicopter pilot who is having trouble re-entering civilian life after being wounded in Iraq. He gets involved in a mystery when his half-sister's car is blown up outside of the restaurant she owns. As he stumbles toward solving the crime, Eb finds out that his own family is involved in the mystery, and he also has to confront some uncomfortable truths about himself. I wanted Eb to interact with strong female characters in the book (and the series), and that's something about my book that is different than many thrillers.
Paul: Do you also write any poetry, non-fiction or short stories?
J.D.: I've recently become interested in writing short stories - something I thought would never happen five years ago! I intend to do more short stories in the coming months with the goal of publishing a compilation. I'm a working musician and piano teacher, so I'm in the beginning stages of writing a how-to book about playing the piano (The piano technique I use).
Paul: Do you have any pieces of work that will never see the light of day?
J.D.: I have stillborn stories and "drawer novels," just as I'm sure every writer does. Never say never though. Something in one of those clunkers may inspire me someday to write the Great American Novel. Anything else I write I write for people to see...I don't keep a journal or anything like that.
Paul: Do you enter competitions? Are there any you could recommend?
J.D.: I've entered the Writer's Digest short story competition the last two years. If I win I will definitely recommend it to others!
Paul: How much marketing do you do for your published works or for your ‘brand’?
J.D.: I have to confess when I published Judgment Tramp on Amazon back in December 2011 I took a blind plunge into the murky online publishing world. I had virtually no platform, no experience with social media ( my Facebook didn't know my face, and Twitter was just some activity that celebrities did), or online marketing. In other words, I didn't know much about promoting my "brand." I quickly realized there would be a little more to this indie publishing thing than sitting back and watching the sales roll in!
Okay, I never really thought that - but to answer your question, I've found that it’s a matter of expanding my platform and exposure one bite at a time. I'm active on Twitter, and Goodreads. I also have a blog, and I continue to explore ways to get my name and writing out in front of people. I've found that being active within the community of indie writers is a must. I truly live by the belief that when we help each other to be successful we, in turn, help ourselves. Innovative marketing and building a brand is a key for any indie writer.
Paul: What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have any hobbies or party tricks?
J.D.: I like old cars - I own a 1962 Corvair that I hope to get on the road someday. I also like model trains. Lately I've become interested in streetcars and interurban railways as they were a type of railroading that closely interacted with people's daily lives. Music is my other profession. When I'm not writing or playing around with my model trains, you'll find me playing keyboard with several bands around the St. Louis area.
Paul: Well, that was wonderful, J. D. I wish you all the best for a successful future.
J.D.'s Blog: J.D. Currie
J.D. on Twitter: @JDCurriewriter
J.D. on Facebook: J.D. Currie
J.D.'s latest book: Judgment Tramp (Amazon)