Time for a new feature here at The Farthest Reaches. Guests step behind their words to discuss some of the elements that go into their writing. This is a bit different than most guest posts by authors on other websites; I'm not focused on selling or plugging -- though you will see a link to the author's website where you can presumably make a purchase.
I'm all for facilitating a way for readers to get a hold of the books they wish to buy -- certainly! But this space is primarily for writers to share with you a bit about how they do what they do. The technical or functional aspects behind how their stories are made are the focus here.
I recently got in touch with Author J. Alexander Greenwood, writer of the eccentric thriller "Pilate's Cross" who I first met some months ago after he graciously mentioned me in an interview. This week, we yakked about his process, writing space and more. Check out what Alex had to say, in his own words:
J. Alexander on J. Alexander...
I'm J. Alexander Greenwood-- Alex to my friends and Jason to my Mom. I reside in Kansas City with my wife and daughter. My grandfather was a midlist Western and historical fiction writer who encouraged me to write. I've written the thriller novel Pilate's Cross, the award winning short story Obsidian, a half dozen or so failed book manuscripts and thousands of press releases in my day job as a public relations consultant.
J. Alexander on his writing space...
I write in a small room crammed with books, trinkets, a telescope and lots of collectible toys. On the walls are a framed 45 of The Police's "Synchronicity II" (autographed by all three members of the band), a playbill of "The Best Man" autographed by Gore Vidal and lots of miscellaneous Sherlockiana. The room overlooks a large deck on the back end of our house that I affectionately call "The Crow's Nest." It has a pirate flag fluttering in the breeze. It's a nice place to drink vodka and watch the sunsets.
I like to drink tea while I write. The best days are when the tea goes cold after two sips because I get lost in my work. I listen to a lot of Mark Snow (he scored all of the X-Files shows and features) when I write thrillers and my paranormal short stories.
J. Alexander on his current work...
The other project is a novella that sets up a back story for a series of paintings and sculptures titled What the Gardener Saw by David Terrill (he created the Pilate's Cross book cover design and illustration). Think Edward Gorey meets Tim Burton meets Arthur Conan Doyle drinking too much absinthe. We're doing an installation in October 2011 at a Kansas City art gallery with music composed for the series and excerpts from the novella. Publishing the novella itself is a complex issue as it has more than a dozen rich illustrations, so we'll be shopping for a publisher or a backer before it gets out there.
After that, I'm writing nothing but short stories for a few months before I tackle the third and final installment of the Pilate series, tentatively titled Pilate's Ghost. (You heard it here first, folks!) I'm shooting for Summer 2012 on that one.
J. Alexander on his writing style...
I compose at the computer keyboard--either in my office or on a laptop at the dining room table or yes, even a coffee shop. My hands are a little arthritic so longhand wears me out quickly. I also have horrific handwriting (it seems more suited to the practice of medicine--though I'm a PR man, not a doctor, Jim), so I'm sure I would have a hard time reading it when the time came to type it up anyway.
I research a bit. Pilate's Cross had extensive research because it's based on a real life murder-suicide in Peru, Nebraska. I had crime reports, crime scene photos, affidavits--the works.
Otherwise, I prefer to have visited locations I write about at least once. I think it adds a degree of verisimilitude if you can confidently describe a place or thing--even if only in passing. For example, in Pilate's Cross, one of my characters is beaten severely and has to go into an induced coma. My brother-in-law is a nurse practitioner, so I called him to ask what drug would be used. (Diprivan.)
I rewrote Pilate's Cross six times, with about four or five more polishes. I have a circle of readers I trust to tell me if something needs work, is confusing or just plain stinks. I hired a fairly basic (read: inexpensive) line editor, too. However, there are still a few typos so I think I'll hire a really serious editor to go to town on the next ones. We indie authors have enough credibility problems without mucking it up ourselves with careless editing.
J. Alexander on his gang...
My wife is very, very supportive. She listens to me when I need to talk out parts of the book. More importantly, she never treats writing likes it's some tedious hobby. She treats it with respect and encourages me. We had a baby a couple of years ago, which really threw me off my game, so when I came to her recently and said I have to spend more time on it (after the baby is asleep) she was cool, even though it meant she would be a writer's widow a lot more. My daughter hasn't quite cottoned on to what I do at the keyboard, though she likes to wander in and sit on my lap and write all over my post-it notes while I work.
Where to find out more about J. Alexander...
The "mothership" is at www.PilatesCross.com but the Facebook page seems to be where all the action is. Or, if you want something fancy, have a look at the book trailer:
Thanks, Alex! This was a charming peek into your writerly world. You've provided some great insight into how you wrote your first book, what your habits and goals are, plus, some neat first teases about your upcoming books. Many thanks for sharing with us!