If you look at J.M. Richardson’s profile picture the first thing you notice is his smile. It screams gentleness with a touch of wittyness and whimsy. However, there is MORE to him than his picture. J.M. Richardson is the author of The Twenty-Nine and the up-and-coming book The Apocalypse Mechanism – August 2012.
So humor and whimsy aside, The Twenty Nine is a serious book written by a serious author. Thus, I am very excited to introduce you Mr. Richardson today as Muse In The Valley‘s Author of the Week:
What 5 words describe you best?
Educator, writer, husband, father, (boy, this fifth one kills ya) intellectual
Tell us your latest news?
I have two events/signings coming up this summer: one at the Barnes and Noble in Sundance Square in Fort Worth, TX on July 21 at 1 PM, and one on August 18 at the Franklinton, LA library. I will be signing copies of The Twenty-Nine, but also promoting my upcoming August release, The Apocalypse Mechanism.
When and why did you begin writing?
Oh, I think I wrote my first poem in about first grade, and I also remember trying to write a “novel” at the age of about 12. It was a little western bound in brown construction paper that I had frayed along the edges to make it look old…and…western… I’ve wrote poetry and short stories competitively in high school. I tried to start a couple of novels in college, but I did not start serious writing until about six years ago when I began writing The Apocalypse Mechanism. I came to love writing more than I ever knew I could. It’s therapy for me. Helps me release inner frustrations and demons.
What inspired you to write your first book?
The Twenty-Nine is my first published book, but not the first I wrote. It’s inspired by political turmoil that is very much in the news every day. It’s also inspired by Rick Perry, the governor of Texas–a former candidate for President of the United States, who once mentioned that Texas should secede. But the first book I wrote, The Apocalypse Mechanism, is inspired by my love of ancient theology and the connections of those old Middle Eastern religions. It’s also inspired by my fascination with the sophistication of ancient technology.
Do you have a specific writing style?
Kind of. It’s always sort of morphing. I love description, almost to the painfully slow stuff that Steinbeck wrote. But not everyone likes that. Some abhor it. My novels have some deep, slow moments, and I use a lot of description there. But other parts are more fast-paced adventure, and so I cut back on the description and let it flow along. So I use a hybrid of literary fictional word-painting and the pace of an action novel.
Who inspired your main character, Derek, describe him a little?
Derek, to me, is the same kid as millions of other young men that come from broken homes, impoverished, but hard-working families, and an ever-increasingly difficult American economy to live in. He grows up in rust-belt Cleveland, where his mother was laid off, his father was a dead-beat, and he was just doing what he could to take care of he and his mother. His mother’s sick, and they have no health insurance, so he ditches the mechanic job for a military career, hoping to make a better living. he has no idea he’s about to fight in the second American civil war. Overall, though, he’s a good kid. He’s a born leader; has a good head on his shoulders. He’s a little damaged, and we all are, as he comes from a rough family life. Just striving to find his place in the world.
Counter-productive partisan politics in Washington have begun to cross the line, and some leaders take drastic measures. Twenty-nine states out of the fifty secede as they did in 1860, and form a new country called The Republic of America. Soon, the Republic and the US begin down a path into civil war–American killing American in burning US cities.
What books have most influenced your life?
I don’t know that I could say that a specific book has ever really influenced my life. I could name several books I like. I love Fahrenheit 451 and Anne Rice‘s Queen of the Damned. I’m a fan of Steinbeck and Stephen King, but I can’t say that there was a book that made me say, “Hey…wow…I’m a changed man.”
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Anne Rice, and it’s not a vampire thing. I was way into vampires before this recent mainstream Twilight, True Blood, and Vampire Diaries era. I love Anne Rice’s writing and her style. I love the complexity of her stories, and how, though it’s supernatural, it all seem to make so much sense. It’s all so plausible. I love her darkness. And it doesn’t hurt that she’s from New Orleans, which is the area I grew up in.
What are your current projects?
Well, The Twenty-Nine got published before The Apocalypse Mechanism, so I had to put the sequel to that, a book I call The Barataria Key, aside to write the sequel to The Twenty-Nine. I’m currently at about 75,000 words with that book, which is called A Line in the Sand, for now at least.
What do you do when you are NOT writing?
Well, I’m a teacher, and I still need the day job for now, so aside from summer and holidays, I’m doing that. I have a wife and two young daughters, so I spend a lot of family time. I play guitar, I like to watch football and baseball. I’m a lover of good beers and enjoy deep intellectual, political, and social discussions. Oh, and I like long walks on the beach…and puppies…
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Nope, it was pretty air-tight. The Apocalypse Mechanism is going through edits right now, and I’m pretty sure, since it was my first and written quite some time back, that I will be changing a good bit about that one. I don’t know that I could name any specifics at the moment, but they’ll come to me once I get into editing mode.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Maybe not from writing the book, but I definitely learned a lot from the process of finding a publisher. This industry is cold and cut-throat. It’s so difficult to get the attention of ANYONE that will take you seriously. I think it’s cool that the e-book revolution has inspired so many new, fresh publishers to pop up and challenge the big New York and London publishers. At the same time, the ease of just anyone being able to upload a manuscript to Amazon and Barnes and Noble has flooded the market, and publishers have had to become more selective than ever. This industry is crazy.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Writing is art. So when you hear anyone say that a book was “poorly written” or that some one doesn’t know how to write, don’t listen. That’s like a Monet fan telling Pablo Picasso that his portraits of people were terrible and that it looked like a Kindergartener did them. There is not definition of good art, and there is no definition of good writing. These people sit on their high horses like sentinels, standing watch for “different” styles of writing, ready to defend the language like some holy relic. When it comes down to it, every reader likes a certain type of writing, and rather than say they didn’t care for a book, they pass judgment on it as being a badly written book. So take constructive criticism for what it is, and learn from it, but when it comes to just plain criticism, let it roll off of you.
If you had to give yourself a “theme song” what would it be and why?
The Walyon Jennings song from the Dukes of Hazzard. I grew up in the deep south–southeast Louisiana–and despite the fact that I really don’t listen to a lot of country music or have a pickup truck with a gun rack, there is a part of me that is a fun-loving, light-hearted country boy just floating through this life.
Name three items which need to be with you at all times?
My cell phone, my keys, and my wallet–pretty simple.
What would we find in your junk drawer right now?
Beer coozies, batteries, random buttons and screws, and a million drawings my five-year-old have done because I haven’t had a moment when she wasn’t looking to get rid of some of her masterpieces to make room for the twenty she will draw tomorrow.
Hulk, Spider Man or Iron Man? Why?
Iron Man. Not only is he virtually indestructible and cool-looking, but he’s also, underneath…what’s the line from The Avengers…a genius, billionaire, philanthropist, playboy.
If aliens landed in front of you and, in exchange for anything you desire, offered you any position on their planet, what would you want?
To be the most popular best-selling author in the galaxy.
If someone wrote about in the newspaper, on the front page, what would the headline say?
Man’s head explodes due to too much thinking!
Where to we go to buy The Twenty-Nine?
J.M. Richardson is a native of southeast Louisiana where he studied education and social sciences, earning his degree from Louisiana State University. He has been writing for leisure nearly all of his life, wrote competitively in high school, and had intensive writing coursework in college. He now resides in the Fort Worth, TX, area with his wife and two daughters where he teaches geography, history, and sociology. ( source: Winter Goose Publishing )
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I want to thank J.M. Richardson for this delightful interview. Please come back to Muse In The Valley in August when The Apocalypse Mechanism comes out. It will be my pleasure.