I love interviewing writers about their process, their struggles, and their preferences when it comes to the craft. There’s only one way to create a book and that’s to sit down and write, but there is such diversity in beliefs, methods and timeframes about getting from point A to point B.
I’m pleased to introduce J.P. Sloan. He’s an author and a home brewer extraordinaire who was gracious enough to answer a few questions about writing, his stories, and home brewing. Check out the great storyline for The Curse Merchant after reading the interview.
J.P. after reading about your writing process in the blog hop, you seem very organized in your approach to a first draft. How do you vet new ideas before you begin your outline/spreadsheets/etc?
I do tend to be somewhat left-brained, don’t I? Good news: I reserve plenty of room for intuition when it comes to story ideas. Mostly, I just let them simmer. Hour-long one-way commutes are good for that! The ones that continue to tickle my amygdala get the full-bore prewriting treatment.
That’s not to say that every idea turns into something… I’m sitting on two half-manuscripts right now that have been shelved because either I’m not yet ready, or they’re not ready.
Do you have the same critique partners for all your work or do you have different sets? And why?
I have a powerful alpha reader (my wife), who is a college English professor. She gets first crack at all of my work after I’ve passed several course cloths over them. After that I have two trusted beta-readers I always go to. Outside of them, I attend a monthly critique group of writers, about four in total, from wildly different genres and experiences. We only comb over about twenty pages per go… but they offer valuable outside perspectives and support!
What is the most difficult aspect about being a writer?
Crushing self-doubt. My God, it’s easy for our brains to pump the brakes mid-project and convince us that we’re crapping out the worst kind of dreck imaginable. Then when we’re done, we have to deal with early critiques and edits, which ram additional knees to our creative groins. And once it’s all packaged up and in the hands of the readers, we have the reviews…
It’s all too easy to say “you gotta have thick skin” when you’re not bleeding out onto your page.
What are your top three nuggets of wisdom you would like to share with unpublished writers?
First: Write the story you’d want to read. Don’t waste time with a project you feel “someone else” will enjoy. Readers can feel your enthusiasm lifting off the page, so don’t cheat them out of that.
Second: My wife always says “never write in a vacuum,” and she’s absolutely correct. Expose your early drafts to your peers. Get knitted into a critique group, or just find someone to give you honest input. They’ll make you better because they’re not inside your head.
Third: Don’t become obsessed with prescriptive advice from writer’s blogs and workshops. There is concrete theory to creative writing out there, sure… but very often new writers find themselves in an endless spiral of theory-soak. As Chuck Wendig once said: “…writing a book is like moving a couch. We can talk technique, or we can move the damn couch.”
What is your favorite part of the writing process?
Writing the last sentence of your first draft. No matter how inexcusably awful your first draft is… when you fire off that last period, it’s nirvana!
Do you have any suggestions for editing drafts?
Step one: let the manuscript sit for at least two weeks.
Step two: do a straight read-through and correct the obvious screw-ups.
Step three: make a second pass for story issues… lose threads, dropped characters, weak motivations, etc.
Step four: make a grammar/syntax pass.
Step five: farm it out to a trusted critique partner, and take their input with several handfuls of salt.
Lather, rinse, repeat until it sings.
What do you think is the most important element a story should have?
Flow. I could rifle down the list of must-haves such as goals-motivation-conflict, characterization, etc. But every last book I’ve read in the last two years, to which I would give four or more stars, put the metal down and sucked me through the pages without exposition deserts or walls of description. They kept me wanting to turn the page, offering me a new question that needed to be answered before I fell asleep.
Do you have other stories in the works?
Definitely! I’m wrapping up the first draft of a stand-alone horror/western with the working title Yea Though I Walk. From there I move on to prewriting the third Dark Choir book, The Curse Mandate. Beyond that, I have a new series in a pseudo-science fiction/fantasy setting that’s been haunting me for a while.
What fueled your interest in home brewing? (Is there a correlation with your writing? The need to create stories you want to read and the need to create a beer you want to drink? 🙂
I was drawn into homebrewing shortly after we moved to Maryland after Hurricane Katrina. We found ourselves displaced and transplanted into a new environment and culture with few friends and activities to fill the hours. I think my needling into the Society for Creative Anachronism is what first led me to consider homebrewing. I found a local club, got involved, and never looked back!
Brewing is a LOT like writing! Creating a recipe and researching the best ingredients and methods is much like prewriting. There are general accepted methods that produce the best product, both in beer and in fiction. And for both pursuits, there’s a period of time wherein you must simply wait for the work-in-progress to mature. And they’re both meant to be shared!
If someone wrote a book about your life, who would star as you in the movie version?
My fellow ginger, Eric Stoltz. When I was younger, I was told I bore more than a passing resemblance to the man. Though lately in my “silver fox” years, I’m more of a cross between Anderson Cooper and Dexter Holland of The Offspring.
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Date of Re-Release: September 15th, 2014
Cover Artist: Conzpiracy Digital Arts (http://www.conzpiracy.co.uk/)
Dorian Lake spent years cornering the Baltimore hex-crafting market, using his skills at the hermetic arts to exact karmic justice for those whom the system has failed. He keeps his magic clean and free of soul-corrupting Netherwork, thus avoiding both the karmic blow-back of his practice and the notice of the Presidium, a powerful cabal of practitioners that polices the esoteric arts in America. However, when an unscrupulous Netherworker interferes with both his business and his personal life, Dorian’s disarming charisma and hermetic savvy may not be enough to keep his soul out of jeopardy.
His rival, a soul monger named Neil Osterhaus, wouldn’t be such a problem were it not for Carmen, Dorian’s captivating ex-lover. After two years’ absence Carmen arrives at Dorian’s doorstep with a problem: she sold her soul to Osterhaus, and has only two weeks to buy it back. Hoping to win back Carmen’s affections, Dorian must find a replacement soul without tainting his own. As Dorian descends into the shadows of Baltimore’s underworld, he must decide how low he is willing to stoop in order to save Carmen from eternal damnation… with the Presidium watching, waiting for him to cross the line.
I am a storyteller, eager to transport the reader to strange yet familiar worlds. My writing is dark, fantastical, at times stretching the limits of the human experience, and other times hinting at the monsters lurking under your bed. 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. I’m surrounded by grapevines and cows. During the day I commute to Baltimore, and somehow manage to escape each afternoon with only minor scrapes and bruises. I am also a homebrewer and a certified beer judge. My avocations dovetail nicely!
Find J.P. Sloan Online: