Meet the new boss… Not the same as the old boss at all. J.R. McLemore has been writing for a long time. He has several books, short stories and compendiums on sale. His sales are pretty solid and his ability to write a good story is well documented.
I wanted to meet J.R.
My first experience of this great writer was a pretty simple, straightforward read of one of his books. The book was called The Old Royal. It’s the story of a man who wants to achieve the greatness of his idol writer. He achieves it with the help of a typewriter.
The story was a sensation! So, here on Novel Ideas I want to present its writer to you.
Oh! Why do I call him ‘the boss’? Well, that’s simple! I call him the boss because one day soon he will be the biggest selling author on the face of the planet!
Q) Let me start by asking what drove you to become a writer?
After reading a novel by Stephen King and getting so involved with his characters, I picked up his non-fiction book about the craft of writing. His words about writing were so passionate that they resonated with me. I remember the seed of a story taking root in my mind. Day after day, that seed blossomed and grew. Eventually, it was a fully-formed story yearning to get out. I knew I had to give it a chance, so I sat down with the determination to see it through. Like a mother bird, I pecked away until it was mature and pushed it from the nest to see if it could fly into the world. Some days the writing came easily, like a waterfall over a precipice. Other days the writing was a difficult struggle. But, despite those arduous days when I felt like throwing in the towel, what kept me going was the idea that I was making a world with people in it that I had created; through my writing, I could accomplish anything.
Q) I think it’s important for anyone dreaming a dream to keep in mind that they can accomplish anything. What is it you want to accomplish as a writer?
A) As a writer, my main purpose is to entertain readers the way I have been entertained by great stories. I want the reader to get lost in the story, connect with the characters, and forget about me, the writer, as they experience new worlds, events, triumphs and tragedies. Sure, making money is always good, but more importantly, it’s about stirring the emotions of someone else through your words. Words can change the world.
Q) What do you think about self-publishing? Is it the future?
This is a rather difficult topic and surely not something I can cover in one answer. I think self-publishing is great; it gives everyone a chance to bypass the stodgy gatekeepers in the traditional industry so that they, too, can create those books hiding within themselves. Of course, that also means that there will be a deluge of books for readers to wade through, sifting through garbage to find those diamonds in the rough. I think that a lot of fantastic writers might be lost in the shuffle because they may be spectacular writers but horrible marketers, therefore, leaving them to wallow in obscurity. As for whether I think self-publishing is superior to traditional publishing, my answer would be: No. I think they each have their pros and cons and every writer can choose a myriad paths to eventually attain success.
Q) Many writers become disappointed when they realise that they probably won’t be in Hollywood a week after releasing a book. How has the reality of being a published writer played out for you?
A) Well, it certainly is different than I first imagined. As I’ve mentioned, I got started thanks to inspiration from reading Stephen King’s work. I won’t lie and say that I wrote for the enjoyment of it. On the contrary, I, like many fledgling authors, had visions of publishing my first book to a lot of fanfare; meanwhile, the whole world would anxiously await my next blockbuster bestseller. I imagined insane piles of cash, quitting my day job, and interviews on the talk show circuit. I think that’s normal for most writers or those who say they want to write a book. Truth is, it’s nothing like that. At least, not for the majority. As a matter of fact, the first novel I wrote still hasn’t seen the light of day. It didn’t spread its wings and take flight from the nest as I anticipated. I’ve rewritten it three times and, still, I’m not satisfied with where it is. I plan to let it age a little more (like a fine wine, I hope) before serving it to the public. Reality caught up with me relatively quickly. I don’t mind the act of writing anymore (it’s the editing that’s painstaking!) Also, the delusions of becoming stinking rich have vanished. For me, writing is a way to deal with the mundane world, where I can do anything I want. It’s a release, an escape, where you can leave your troubles for a while, and that’s what I hope it is for my readers, as well.
Q) Many writers struggle to balance the need to make money and build readership. Which is more important to you?
A) Again, let me be honest by saying it’d be nice to write for a living! However, I’ve accepted the fact that I probably won’t be the next mega-bestseller. I’m content with having a large audience. Every writer puts a piece of him/herself into each story. Writing a book is a long, lonely journey. Some writers complete the journey with money as their motivating factor. However, when I first met one of my readers and listened to them tell me what they thought of my book, it was priceless. Spending so long stringing sentences together to create paragraphs, and then to make those paragraphs into pages that formed a whole book is daunting, leaving plenty of opportunities for self-doubt. (I think all writers–at least the good ones–are their own worst critics.) When you put that book out there, you’re putting a piece of yourself out there for others to judge. When you hear a reader enthusiastically discussing something like that that you’ve toiled over to create, it’s priceless! And, that is my primary reason for writing.
Q) A question about the writing trade now! Are characters or description more important?
A) If I had to choose between focusing more on characters versus description, I’d have to choose characters, although, I think both are quite important to a good story. In my opinion, characters are more important in that they are the driving force behind the story; without them, you’ve got a car without an engine. Description can be a flashy sports car, but without a solid engine (the characters), you can’t really go anywhere. Also, too much description spoon feeds the reader extraneous details. For instance, describing characters’ wardrobes and settings ad nauseum takes away from the action or flow of a story.
Q) What, in your opinion, makes a good story?
A) I can give you my answer, but that doesn’t mean it would jibe with everyone else’s opinion. Reading and storytelling, like any art form, is very subjective. For instance, I enjoy southern literature and see the virtue in such stories. However, a dyed-in-the-wool science fiction fan would probably disagree with me completely. With that said, I think a good story is one with believable characters who seem familiar and who the reader genuinely cares about. The writing should be tight without being overly “writerly”–I just hate reading a story written by a writer with an extensive vocabulary who feels (s)he has to flaunt that ability; continually sending the reader running for the dictionary is a sure-fire way to alienate them. Also, the reader shouldn’t be aware of the author’s presence while reading. The story should be at the forefront and it should carefully and gradually pull the reader in to get lost in wonder and awe. That, to me, is what makes a good story!
Q) What do you personally look for in books you purchase?
A) I purchase books whose synopses are enticing. First, I have to admit that I gravitate toward interesting covers. I think a cover should convey some hint of what lies insides. After a cover has grabbed my attention, I check the description. If the synopsis piques my interest, I’m more than halfway toward purchasing it. Sometimes, I like to peek inside to read a little of the text so I can get a feel for whether the author knows what (s)he is doing. Of course, that doesn’t always work! Also, I’ll admit, I like to read the author’s bio; I like knowing that (s)he puts his/her pants on one leg at a time like the rest of us. I tend to steer clear of any authors who think they are idols to be worshiped because they have a book on a store shelf. I like to read broadly, so, aside from those criteria, sticking to a particular genre doesn’t matter.
Q) I wanted to ask you as an author, what has been your most exciting experience?
My most exciting experience so far has been talking with readers who’ve read my books. One of these readers I happened to meet at my daughter’s high school graduation party. Her boyfriend introduced me to his father. His eyes lit up as he stuck out his hand and said, “Hey, I read one of your books.” You could imagine my surprise! I’m sure I was beaming with excitement. I was on cloud nine to listen to him talk so intimately about something I’d written. The best part: he loved the story and had purchased another book. I look forward to discussing that one with him as well.
Q) Do you like to write in peace or with music? Does music help you with your creations?
A) I enjoy writing in peace. Although, that’s a bit misleading since I write with the television on. Yeah, I know that probably sounds a bit distracting. It’s my way of closing the door, though. I can tune out the noise as I sit on the sofa and focus on what’s happening in the story. I do a lot of creative endeavors in the same fashion and it really bugs my wife. She is constantly asking me why the television is on if I’m not watching it. I keep having to explain that, for me, it’s like having others in the room; I don’t feel like I’m writing in a vacuum. On the other hand, music is an aural experience and is actually more distracting for me, unless it’s entirely instrumental. Still, I find I’m more productive in front of the television, lost in the worlds I’m creating.
Q) Thank you for your time, J.R.
A) Not a problem, Nick. I have enjoyed it!
[important]Get your copy of “The Old Royal” right now! It’s a FIVE STAR read![/important]