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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Author Interview: J.P. Sloan

Today I am pleased to present to you all the forty-fourth in a series of Author Interviews. Recently I sat down with the also brewer and winemaker J.P. Sloan and our conversation went something like this:

Paul:  I like to start my interviews by asking if you have any writing rituals?
J.P.:  I tend to sequester myself in the basement office with a lowball of bourbon, and dial in the appropriate Pandora station for the particular manuscript. I've found choosing the optimal writing music to be an embarrassingly crucial part of my pre-writing process. I usually write an hour each night after my child's bedtime, and do longer stints on weekends.

Paul:  If someone had the power to step into your creative mind what would they see?
J.P.:  I imagine it would look like a cluttered basement, crammed full of planned projects I've yet to write. Open one box and you'll find a dark noir urban fantasy like The Curse Merchant; open another and you'll find an extreme future sci-fi. There's even a western horror lurking in one of those boxes. It's rather like the wardrobe leading to Narnia, only with significantly more cobwebs and the odor of whiskey.

Paul:  Do you have a favorite character in each of your series, aside from the lead? If so, which one and why? 
J.P.:  Edgar Swain, Dorian's best friend in The Curse Merchant, is a middle-aged antiques dealer who collects magical artifacts, and is clearly baked from a youth of cannabis indulgence. Dorian describes him as "a fistful of zen stuffed into a loud print shirt." What I love most about Edgar is that his priorities are entirely centered on his family. He's more grounded than Dorian, but will also never achieve greatness… which is fine by Edgar. Fun fact: I named Edgar Swain after Edgar Allan Poe and a street I cross every day as I escape Baltimore.

Paul:  How do you find the time to write?
J.P.:  Rather than finding the time, I endeavor to "make" the time. It helps that I have a fully supportive wife, whom I've asked to gently kick my ass down the stairs until I've gotten my writing done. I carve out one hour each night, regardless of mood… though using music and specific liquors helps as a kind of mental trigger to snap me into the creative mode. It's cheating… but it works.

Paul:  What is one thing you hope I do not tell the readers?
J.P.:  I do hope you won't mention how little I've read in the genre that I write. I'm a dreadfully slow reader, and I tend to labor through a novel even when I enjoy it. I rather stumbled into urban fantasy without planning to. I wrote the story that wanted to be written, but I'm embarrassingly ignorant of the urban fantasy genre and its major authors.

Paul:  If you are self-published, what led to you going your own way?
J.P.:  I spent the better part of 2012 submitting The Curse Merchant to literary agents. Overall I had four requests for a full manuscript. One particular agent left me positive feedback (which anyone who has submitted understands is pure gold), and summed up her rejection as a matter of marketing. The Curse Merchant splits its audience between the female readership of urban fantasy and the male readership of noir. Once I decided to self-publish, however, I felt absolutely energized. The entire process has really agreed with me. I enjoy the creative control most of all.

Paul:  Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
J.P.:  I am a notoriously left-brained writer. On my blog I've outlined my pre-writing process, complete with four-page spreadsheets for character development and plot outlines based loosely on Joseph Campbell's Monomyth template. If I spend three months drafting a novel, I've spent two months pre-writing. I don't necessarily espouse this as the One True Way, however. It's just what works for me.

Paul:  Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
J.P.:  I've been writing seriously for almost ten years, and I've found that I'm never going to be an adequate editor of my own work. Sure, my writing has become more rounded, particularly since I began a meticulous pre-writing process. I never write a story I don't know the ending to. But as I finish new projects, I'm routinely astounded at how many errors and poor writing choices I continue to miss on second, third, and seventeenth readings. Thank the gods for my editor!

Paul:  What is your most recent book? Tell us a little about it
J.P.:  The Curse Merchant is the opening novel in my Dark Choir series. It is the story of Dorian Lake, a hex-peddler in modern Baltimore who sells hexes and charms that effectively enact "instant karma." His ex-lover, Carmen, comes to him with a problem… she's sold her soul, and only has two weeks to buy it back. She asks for his help. Unfortunately, Dorian has already antagonized the soul monger, Neil Osterhaus. As a result, Dorian must find a replacement soul for Carmen, an endeavor that pushes his moral limits. 

Paul:  What inspired you to write this book?
J.P.:  I work in Baltimore, and find the city to be a maze of old buildings juxtaposed beside new development. It's not hard to glance down any given alleyway and find a strange, shadowed century-old brick stoop and imagine something dark occurring inside. The city was my inspiration, and is a kind of silent character in the novel.

Paul:  Do you have any pieces of work that will never see the light of day?
J.P.:  The Curse Merchant is my seventh novel, but the first I felt was ready to bring to market. Its predecessor is a post-apocalyptic "powers" novel named Omnipotence. I was debating bringing it up to snuff even though it's somewhat experimental (five character POV's), but Eric Kripke may have changed my plans thanks to his new series, Revolution, which has the same basic apocalypse as Omnipotence. Jury's still out on that one. The others will never see the light of day, as they were "learning novels."

Paul:  What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have any hobbies or party tricks?
J.P.:  Outside of writing, my greatest love is brewing and winemaking. I'm an active member of my local brewing club, and I compete with my homebrews. I've even won a few awards. I'm also a BJCP Certified Beer Judge, and meet with a regular group of friends to study world beer styles. The wine is a new thing, but no less diverting!

Paul:  Thank you, J.P. That was wonderful. I hope you have an excellent 2013!

About J.P. Sloan: I am a storyteller, eager to transport the reader to strange yet familiar worlds. I write science fiction, urban fantasy, horror, and several shades in between. I am a husband and a father, living in the “wine country” of central Maryland. During the day I commute to Baltimore, and somehow manage to escape each afternoon with only minor scrapes and bruises.

J.P.'s Blog: J.P. Sloan
J.P. on Twitter: @J_P_Sloan
J.P. on Facebook: J.P. Sloan
J.P.'s latest book: The Curse Merchant (Amazon)

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