My guest today is versatile multi-genre author J.C. Allen.
JC Allen is from Charleston, WV, and has two teenage daughters. He fell in love with computers at an early age – from the time the first home computers were available. His college major was computer science, and he worked for a computer service company as well as running his own.
He began writing when he was separated from his daughters, as a way to stay connected with them and also to entertain them. He started with a Harry Potter/Dungeons and Dragons-type adventure series and progressed to sci-fi, fantasy, thrillers, political intrigue, and action/adventure as the girls matured.
Welcome, J.C. It’s nice to see you.
Great to be here. Thanks for inviting me, Lyn.
My pleasure. I’d love to hear how you began writing.
To be honest, I was thrown into a situation where I had nothing else to do. I started writing a journal of what had happened to me, basically to keep the events straight in my mind and have a record for future reference. When others read the account they became hooked on the story. They were even more shocked to learn I had a talent for writing (me, the kid who HATED English classes in school) and I could actually string sentences together which were not only readable, but interesting! After reading thousands of books in my lifetime, I knew what I liked, and decided I could write a book too. Surprisingly, folks praised my writing, saying my stories were original, refreshing, and not your average everyday ‘cookie-cutter’ novels. I figured this was just a polite way of saying ‘they suck’, but I was having fun so I continued to write. I finally got the nerve to ask a few severe critics to read the stories, expecting to be raked over the coals. To my astonishment, they liked them, encouraged me to publish, and asked to read more. So, I continued to write, and have written 26 novels now, with plans for several more. My editor/publisher/promoter has a hard time keeping up with me, with only four books completed so far, but as soon as Mom retires from her day job, you can expect more!
Avoiding those cookie cutters can be a real challenge. By the way, I know your mom is your biggest fan. At the risk of sounding “girly” do you use scented candles, music, etc., to put you in the mood to write?
Ha! Scented candles, but only after a really good Mexican meal! Seriously, I do actually listen to music, but not just any music – it has to be Joe Satriani or Steve Vai to get my creative juices flowing, and Megadeath to drive angst and other emotions into the stories. Those artists inspire me so much because they depict every emotion and take my mind out into space somewhere – out where all the great stories reside, just waiting for someone brave enough to venture out far enough to find them. I’ve always been moved by music – for pure inspiration or calming clarity – it’s the answer to my questions.
Music is also one of my inspirations. Can you tell us how you develop your plots and your characters?
I don’t develop plots except for the primary idea behind the book. I develop the characters, give them a scenario, and let them drive the whole thing wherever it may go. I try to push them in the original direction I perceived, but they sometimes have more pull in the fantasy world than I do here in the real world. I’ve had a few arguments with them. Never won any.
LOL! Characters do have minds of their own, it seems. Do you see yourself in some of your characters?
Only the heroes. (Hahaha – that’s a joke) Obviously, characters come from my mind, so they must be at least partly based on my personality or my perception of how others would act in certain circumstances. Several of my protagonists have amazingly similar outlooks on life, political and ethical beliefs, sense of humor, etc., and a lot of my stories have strong underlying moral lessons.
Good to know. How do you unwind and relax when not writing?
I love to watch movies – any kind. The worst are the best to me; the best are the best to me; the ones in between are the best too. Starting to get my drift? I listen to and play music (guitar), and love to read. Spending time with friends and family is a special treat, and I’d do that 24/7 if possible. However, for unwinding (and winding up in other worlds), video games trump all! I could literally lose myself in video games for days.
Gotcha. You sound like you enjoy adventure, so where in the world would you most like to visit?
I’ve always had two places in mind to visit. The Amazon jungle is first on the list. I want to get lost with some tribe who lives off the land and never has to deal with the everyday obnoxious crap we put ourselves through in the ‘civilized’ world. To TRULY be free is one of my long-time desires. Second on my list is Australia, particularly the aboriginal regions. The land looks incredible there. I’d also like to visit some of the ancient areas in Southeast Asia – Burma, Vietnam, Cambodia, etc. (Oops, that’s three places. So I lied – sue me!)
Wow! You really are adventurous. You mentioned you enjoy reading. Do you prefer writing and reading books in a series, or ‘stand alone’ books?
I mostly prefer series, although I have enjoyed many stand alone stories, especially historical journeys or books based on history (no matter how loosely). I write most of my books with sequels in mind. Of the 26 books I’ve written, only four stand alone. I think the reason is because I feel closer to the characters that way – you join their world, grow with them, and they almost become part of your extended family.
So true. Which of your characters would you like to be and why?
One of my favorite characters is a wacky ship captain who is super smart, chosen to lead Earth’s very first REAL mission into outer space (extrasolar). He has so much fun with life and everyone else around him. He was basically chosen for this mission because the powers-that-be wanted rid of him. It turns out he’s the absolute best choice since the trip is real space travel – years upon years to their destination, not the warp 10 speeds of Star Trek. His antics keep the crew and families from going stir-crazy. I’d also like to be this character so I could go on the mission (another place on my to-visit wish list – I would have listed it above, but it’s not in this world).
Ooh, what fun! I’d love to tag along on that mission! Thank you so much, J.C., for sharing your thoughts and dreams with us today. Now please tell us about one of your books.
Delighted to. The name of this book is Novel Ideas.
YouTube book trailer video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8gf1oVYZAI
Penny Reed’s hopes for the future came to a crashing halt when her father died, making her a ward of the state. Knowing her grandfather was still alive and recognizing she’d never survive in the “system,” she stole her father’s boat and sailed away.
Forrest Reed was a man who danced to the beat of his own drum. Having little tolerance for most people and appalled by the worsening political climate in America, he created his own island somewhere in the Pacific to escape the madness. He thoroughly enjoyed his quiet, sheltered existence. Imagine his surprise when Penny showed up, claiming to be his granddaughter. Could Forrest say good-bye to a life of solitude, making room in his heart for his only grandchild, or would events from a painful past always stand between them?
January 1, 2040
Jordan was nervous. He was about to make the biggest announcement of his career – to him anyway. He sighed deeply, waiting for his latest understudy, Samantha White, to begin the report.
“Today, on his 70th birthday, world-renowned author, Forrest Reed, has announced in a statement issued by his agent, Philip Conrad, that he is releasing his final novel,” Ms. White read from the teleprompter with an appropriately despondent tone, which actually appeared to be fairly genuine. She was situated in front of a breaking news logo which rotated slowly, while dozens of books swirled in the background, emerging from the blackness as if bubbling up from the bottom of a stew pot. Forrest Reed’s familiar covers adorned the front of each book – and more surfaced endlessly. She continued to read the statement. “It is with a heavy heart that I am forced to inform you that Mr. Reed has decided to hang up his vocal processor and enjoy the remainder of his life at his newly completed home at an undisclosed location. He has requested everyone respect his decision to retire, and refrain from future contact.”
As Samantha finished her script, the camera switched focus to Jordan. “Wow, Samantha,” he soberly intoned, shaking his head in disbelief. Jordan, a legend in the business, had been spinning the news from the same desk since the inception of the interactive 3-D Holo-TV broadcast. Now in his sixties, he was by far the oldest anchor still on HV.
Samantha White was the newest face of the show, which seemed to cycle new, young, attractive women into Jordan’s evening news show annually. Jordan was obviously rocked by the news, but managed to finish his comment with, “He’s the last of a dying breed.”
“Yes, Jordan, he is. With 150 novels reaching number one on the bestseller list over the past 30 years, he has consistently released an average of five books per year, when nobody else seemed to be writing anything. That’s going to cause a severe void in the ever-declining book market.”
“And movie market as well,” Jordan added. “Seventy-two of his books have been made into films. His movies have grossed $48.9 billion in box office sales and have sold a staggering 3.4 billion copies in the aftermarket. He is reportedly worth an incredible $200 billion – definitely one of the world’s richest men.” As he spoke, the statistics appeared in colorful displays all around the two reporters.
“How did he become so popular?” Samantha asked the experienced newsman.
“Well, Samantha, it’s really quite simple. He was the only person out there who could come up with interesting, unique ideas.”
“What do you mean?” she pursued, genuinely intrigued.
“In 2010, when he began writing, the well seemed dry. People were growing tired of the cookie-cutter novels – the generic, molded, scripted repeats of previous successes. Forrest Reed came along and made people disengage their auto-pilot minds from the internet and immerse themselves into his imagination. He often criticized the entertainment industries of being so cold and calculating with their formulas for success, and challenged them all. The industry seemed unable to produce anything new. Old movies were recycled, mainly because nobody would chance anything different. Forrest Reed blasted the school systems and parents for not pushing young minds to be creative, to solve problems, to think other than in a linear fashion, but kids were being increasingly left plugged in and tuned out. They had mastered the world of digital communication, but had lost the ability to communicate with each other. All the languages of the world were degrading into a universal, anachronistic, lazy impersonal, and emotionless waste of space – according to Reed. He called the entire generation screenagers, and predicted they would reach new lows never previously thought possible. He said his generation strove for mediocrity, while this one strove for nothing. In 2015, twelve of the top 100 songs were remakes of old songs. He predicted that by 2035, more than 95 of 100 would be recreations. A quick check of the numbers –” he deftly manipulated the area around him to show the statistics, “reveals that, indeed, Reed was right. Ninety-seven of the top 100 songs in 2035 were remakes.”
“Amazing,” Samantha commented. “Why can’t anyone create something fresh and new?”
“Reed believed the minds of children were polluted with the ideas forced onto them by our education system. He thought parents lacked the ability to inspire their children because of their own poor levels of education, causing each generation to become worse, compounded by the previous mistakes. In his record-breaking non-fiction book titled, A Lost Art: Thinking, he details personal beliefs on the state of creativity in the world – and he appears to be right about all of the predictions he made.”
Samantha sighed heavily. “With Forrest Reed gone, and this show the only remaining source of creative commentary, what will happen?”
Jordan shook his head sadly. “I suspect the book industry will finally die off and the sole source of our entertainment will degrade into 20th century commercial jingles, remakes of ’80s movies, unreal so-called ‘reality’ shows, ridiculous sitcoms and a continual stream of OMG, WTF and WGAF.”
It was obvious he found this scenario rather revolting. Jordan had always prided himself in being a student of Reed’s, concurring with the famous author in nearly every sad detail of the pathetic state of the planet. He really didn’t want to think of the world that would rise from lost creativity and originality. It seemed everyone thought being like everyone else was a good thing; the biggest problem Jordan and Forrest saw with that was the population all met at the bottom, not the top. He and Reed appeared to be the last two dinosaurs that had broken away from that path.
The show continued with several old clips of Reed preaching his gospel to the masses of mush-minds, most of whom just didn’t get it. Jordan and Samantha set out several charts which the HV users could peruse at their leisure. One showed that Forrest Reed’s novels outsold the rest of the market three to one in the last year. His last two movies grossed $3.8 billion, more than the total of all other movies for the previous four years.
Jordan finished his broadcast by pleading, “Forrest, if you can hear me, we really need you. Please don’t leave us.” His somber mood didn’t abate after they signed off; he was really crushed.
Concerned, Samantha asked, “YGBOK?”
Jordan stared a hole into her as if she were from another planet.
“Sorry. Are you going to be okay?” It was a rule of his show not to use acronyms, one that he still tried to enforce off the air.
“No, I think I’ll go read his last book, then just shoot myself,” he answered drily.
Now she regarded him as the alien. “Good luck with that,” she responded.
He chuckled. “And Reed says there’s no hope for this generation. But you see? You are capable of independent thought – even humor! That was really funny, Sam,” he said sarcastically.
“I was serious,” she informed him with a straight face.
He laughed harder.
Amazon.us purchase link: http://www.amazon.com/Novel-Ideas-ebook/dp/B0082NSE00/
B&N purchase link: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/novel-ideas-j-c-allen/1110794552?ean=2940014419000
Author website: http://jcallenbooks.weebly.com/
Suggestion from Lyn: Also sample J.C’s political thriller, M.O.D. http://www.amazon.com/M-O-D-ebook/dp/B004SUR5L0
Really enjoyed the interview. Love hearing how other authors got started. Good luck J. C.
Thanks for stopping by Charlene! I appreciate the good wishes.
Great interview. I have read Novel Ideas, and it is a great story. Not my usual genre, but I really enjoyed it.
Ah, Australia, so you would like to visit my neck of the woods. If you did, I am sure you would enjoy it.
I remember your wonderful review, Margaret! I sure hope we both get to visit – I’l love meeting you and seeing the sights.
Very enjoyable excerpt. I read J.C.’s novel M.O.D. and was bowled over. It’s great! He’s an author filled with many original ideas!
Thanks for stopping by, susan! And thanks also for the fabulous endorsement.
Great interview, J.C. Through Lyn, I feel as I know you and Shirley. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your excerpt. This sounds refreshing and a break from the norm and I look forward to reading your work, J.C.
Carra, thanks so much for dropping by and reading the feature. I hope you get a chance to try one of his books!
I loved your invention of the “wacky captain.” A unique character can add so much excitement to a story. Ever notice how the wackiest captains are great in sci-fi stories like Star Trek and Firefly? People love them.
I must be getting really old because I didn’t know either of your music choices. I llike that you play guitar. Playing an instrument can clear the mind and settle the nerves.
I’ve enjoyed reading your blog/interview. I wish you every success in your writing career.
You might be too young to remember his music choices, Sarah! His musical taste is stuck in the ’80s!
What a super interview, Lyn and J.C. Loved learning about how a guy in the business got his start and keeps going. Hi Shirley-Mom! How luck is he to have you in his family. Good going.
Hi Barbara! Thanks for checking it out.
Sounds like a book I’ll enjoy. Nice to “meet” a new-to-me author, J.C. Thanks for sharing.
I hope you’ll give it a try, Caroline! Thanks for stopping by.
Wonderful interview!! I tweeted.
Thanks so much, Ella!
Great interview, Lyn! Thanks so much for featuring my son. Most people know I’m his editor/publisher/promoter (and his biggest fan), and I’ll be glad to answer any questions anyone has.
Hi Shirley. Glad to see you. Interviewing J.C. was a pleasure. I’m sorry he can’t personally answer comments, but I know you’re a great representative for him. Thanks for joining me today.