Today, I’ve got a great interview with author John J. Smith about his newest novel, Finding Katie. It’s a comedy, a bit of a departure from his earlier work, and I got a chance to ask him a few questions about his writing, his books and living the author’s life…
How hard is it to balance working full time and writing? I know how hard it is for me to find a little time for writing, and I’m not cranking out novels!
Believe it or not, it is nearly impossible. I have a high demanding job that demands around 60 hours a week, I’m on call once a month that requires a fifteen minute response, which means I cannot leave the house, and finally I work nearly every weekend. There are times when I walk away from my desk and all I want to do is sleep. But! I love to write so I try to write at least a half hour every night before I call it a night. Therefore, my schedule is at least the half hour and I go as long as I can keep eyes open. I feel totally disoriented if I don’t get to at least open my novel and do something.
Outside of actually writing I do jot down notes and thoughts throughout the day, especially when it comes to that hard to nail down scene or paragraph, and I think that is one of the things that keeps me driven. I see those notes calling out to me.
Do your co-workers know about your secret life as an author? How have they reacted to it?
Yes, several do, and the reaction goes from a “eh, who cares” to a lot of support. I have one friend/co-worker who actually has my links in the closing of his personal email. Now that’s cool. There are also two co-workers who have purchased all of my novels and short story collection. They don’t treat me any differently than they do the other associates but I absolutely love the support.
Technical writing is tough (I do a lot of that in my job). Does writing fiction help alleviate some of the tedium of it? Do you find your fiction seeping over into your documentation?
I have to laugh at this one, sorry, but I also do a lot of technical writing which is very different from writing fiction. They’re not even remotely close. So yes, writing fiction definitely takes the tedium out of writing non-fiction. Although I like technical writing and putting together presentations, it pales in comparison when it comes to writing fiction. I love the idea of creating a character, especially when I can focus on some little molehill and make it a mountain. That’s thrilling and I never get that feeling from a power point.
With Finding Katie, you’ve said you wanted to write a comedy. How do you set out to be funny? Is it a different process for you than writing your other novels, some of which have pretty dark themes?
Finding Katie was the most difficult novel I’ve written, mainly because I was writing with humor in mind. I had this fear of what might be funny to me would not be funny to you. So, needless to say, I wrote and rewrote several scenes and paragraphs until I was bone dry with that idea. The scene with Preston coming back from the townhouse that just burned down and Melosa wanting him to take a shower and how it ended (surely I’m not giving the ending away) took several iterations before I settled for that ending. I have a tremendous amount of respect for writers, who can sit down, bang out a sitcom week after week, and never lose their audience. However, in the end I did enjoy writing Finding Katie and have a part two in mind for Preston and a couple of his new friends, which I hope to start next year.
What (or where) is your favorite place to write? Do you find that some places are more inspirational than others? Do you find that your setting influences the story?
I have three places: my desk when I am not working, my kitchen table (believe it or not), and finally the sofa with my two Shitz Zu’s. One on each side. When I first started writing fiction I traveled a lot and would write at night at the hotel room desk, or maybe just lying across the bed (you have to love laptops), so I got used to writing just about anywhere. The most difficult for me was actually on an airplane and rarely do. I suspect that was due to the close quarters, so to speak. But, I have come up with some really good ideas while at an airport. Delayed Flight was one. That idea came when I was eavesdropping on a couple that ran into each other. There must have been something there at one time, the expressions were telling me how to write the story.
What inspires you to keep writing?
That’s simple, I love writing. I absolutely love writing. I cannot imagine not writing. I think about it from the moment I get up and it’s usually the last thing I think about when I doze off. I have more ideas than I have time to write and am usually writing down ideas while I’m working on a story. I wish I had more time than I have to get those ideas down on paper. I have a folder full of bad ideas and half finished novels, I suspect most writers do, but that doesn’t stop me from trying to jot down a new idea and then get it on paper. Did I say I love writing? This sounds crazy but writing inspires me to write.
To me, that doesn’t sound crazy at all! I love to write (and I keep telling myself that someday I will organize all of these half-written chapters and story tidbits into something more cohesive) and just the act of writing is satisfying, all on its own. I write every single day, and even if I just make myself sit down for 15 minutes and write about my day at work, or about some crazy story idea, or my musings on reality tv, it’s still writing and it’s still very fulfilling — even if no one but me ever reads it!
I want to thank John J. Smith for taking the time to answer a couple of questions. For more on his works, check out his website.