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Interview: J Dark, author of Best Intentions

by Steven Radecki
February 24, 2017

By your own admission, you say that you came late to the writing game. What prompted you to start and want to get published?

I was having a rough go of it back in 2006 when, on a whim, I got into the online game City of Heroes. When I joined, this group called “Futura Force” that had these players, “Kill Favored”, and “Electroidium” that got me interested in posting short little stories on the forums. Then both of those players started talking about “National Novel Writing Month”, and how they were going to participate because they liked writing. I’d had a taste of doing it and decided “why not try something new?” The rest, as is often said, is history.

What led you down the path to your first novel, Best Intentions? Were there any specific inspirations for it?

My daughter. We’d lost a good friend recently and that got me to thinking about what people leave behind. A story seemed like a way to give my daughter something special, and leave something behind when it’s my time to go. She wanted me to try and publish it after reading it through, so I got an editor to clean it up, then submitted it to Paper Angel Press. I was shocked when the contract was sent.

How did that feel? What advice would you give to other first-time authors based on your experience with the entire writing and publishing process?

It felt amazing that I actually finished a story and had it to share. For first time authors, go for it! It’s a tough road, and you need to expect rejection, nothing worth doing has instant gratification associated with it. If you really want to be an author, be ready to put the time and effort in. That doesn’t mean 50 gazillion words. Often it means just sitting down each day and writing a paragraph or two just to keep the story building and learn to be consistent.

What have you find to be the most exciting part of being a published author? What has been the most difficult or challenging?

The most exciting part is right next to me at the moment. I look at this book with my name on it and keep asking how it is that this author has the same name as me. That kind of goes with the most difficult too. You write a manuscript, it gets accepted, and suddenly you have a book, and now you have to write another. Will it be good enough? Will it be better than the first one? Will this be what it’s like each time with a new book? It’s easy to get neurotic about writing, and for me, who is a bit neurotic anyway, it’s hard to keep from spiraling down that hole. I want to get feedback on my writing, so I can do better with each story. It’s kind of hard to get that starting out. No one knows your book and when you don’t have friends that read, good, critical feedback is rare.

How do you write? By that, I mean, do you have a set schedule or do you wait for inspiration to strike?

I’ve never had much luck with trying to build a plot. I find writing “off the cuff”, letting the story develop without a plan, works best for me. I have a goal of X words a day, so I can learn consistency of writing. I’ve had layoffs of time without writing a thing in the past, and I find that my skill and feel for writing erodes without practice. So, I try to be consistent to learn more about writing and try to improve my skills.

What do you see as your next milestone achievement in being an author?

Someone once said you’re only as good as your last book. Each story is a milestone, and it’s that story that becomes the current beginning, and end, and judgment of your storytelling skill. It’s not so much a milestone as a new beginning each time. And each time I want to do a little better. Better characters, story, dialog, background, emotion. It all creates the story. My milestone is the next book, and that the next book is better than the previous one.

Best Intentions is the first book in a planned series. Do you have any other books you would like to do?

I plan to keep writing until I can’t any more. As for the Glass Bottles series, there are four planned books. I am collaborating with some other writers on a cyberpunk-style story, and with another in an urban fantasy theme. I am really excited by them and want to see where each story goes. I want to explore everything I can. One nice thing about writing is that there is no mandatory retirement age. As long as I can write, I can write, and share stories.

What makes a story interesting to you—both as a writer and a reader?

Like anyone, if it catches my imagination, I’ll enjoy it. A story has to involve the reader, and invite them to turn the page and read what happens next. I enjoy most anything. I have a preference for stories that make me think, and feel, as I read them. As a writer, I want to make people think, and at the same time, write so that they have a visceral reaction to the story. I want to engage them so they can feel the story, enjoy the highs, and lows, the stress and tension, and relief. In essence, I want to make the story real.

Are there any writers who were major influences on you: in terms of style, theme, or story?

Any book I’ve read has probably influenced me one way or another. Likewise, anyone I’ve collaborated with, or currently am collaborating with, has influenced me. I’m an unashamed borrower of anything the feels right. Every story comes from parts of imagination and memory. I’d never write if I couldn’t read. Seeing imagination in print fires my own imagination with ‘what if’ all the time. Anything can be a prompt, an idea for a story. A story could be the start, or something I see, or hear, or smell. Anything’s a possibility, you just have to give yourself permission to dream, and to write that dream onto paper, or a computer.