April 24, 2012

Author Ryan Hill - Interview!

Title: J.P. TroubleAuthor: Ryan Hill
Publisher: Warren Publishing
Release date: March 30, 2012
Genre: Children’s
Pages: 32
Website: ryanhillwrites.com
Twitter: @J_Ryan
Facebook: JP Trouble Books

Barnes & Noble

Karen: Welcome, Ryan! It’s a pleasure to have you here! *virtual handshake*

Ryan: Thanks Karen! Pleasure to be here! *drinks virtual coffee*

Karen: Let the fun begin! Can you tell my readers what your fondest childhood memory is? And did it have any influence over J.P. TROUBLE?

Ryan: My fondest childhood memory is a tie between spending each summer playing golf with my dad and riding around in my little General Lee car. My parents had to replace its plastic tires on more than one occasion.

As for my perfectly average childhood influencing my perfectly ABOVE average book J.P. Trouble, I’m going to have to say no. The story is actually based on my dad and how he got his first dog when he was a kid. The dog was, oddly enough, named Just Plain Trouble, or J.P. Trouble for short.

Karen: Tell us about your kid lit story, J.P. TROUBLE, what’s it about?

Ryan: J.P. Trouble is the heart-warming and slightly tear-inducing story of Little Johnny Lippett, who is new to town, has zero friends, and is having a particularly awful day…until he finds a small puppy. Then his day becomes an all-out battle royale between him and some girl bullies over who will end up with Trubbie dog.

Karen: How did you come up with the title?


Ryan: I had several ideas for the title: Wrestling with Dinosaurs, Ninja Pirates and the Treasure of the Octopus’s Garden, and Dragons: A Complete and Utter Fabrication of their History, by Dr. James P. Bosillius. However, I went with J.P. Trouble in the end because that was the dog’s real name, and it sounded like a perfect name for a book about a dog named J.P. Trouble.

Karen: What is your favorite part about J.P. TROUBLE?

Ryan: I don’t like to brag *snorts* but I love that the girl bullies smell like pickles…and the trail of hot dogs and bubble gum that Trubbie dog follows to Little Johnny’s house.

Karen: Tell us about that adorable cover! Did you have a say in the process for choosing it?

Ryan: I had a little bit of say in the cover and the illustrations throughout the book, but for, oh, ninety percent of the illustrations I let Stacy Evans work his magic, and he did am amazing job. The one thing on the cover that is irrefutably of my own design is the hot dog on the book bag. J.P. Trouble is my first book, and it felt oddly appropriate that my literary debut have a hot dog on the cover.

Karen: What about illustrations? Did you draw them? If not, did you have any say over what they looked like?

Ryan: I can draw a mean stick figure, but that’s as far as my drawing abilities go. I was familiar with Stacy’s earlier work and trusted him to create the visual world of J.P. Trouble. There were maybe a few things here and there that got changed, but nothing really big of note.

Karen: How long did it take for J.P. TROUBLE to be published (from offer to release date)? Tell us a little about the process.

Ryan: I got the acceptance letter from Warren Publishing in July 2011 and the book was originally scheduled for release in mid-February. In between that time they took a look at the manuscript to see what kind of changes needed to be made and the illustrations were created. We did the full layout of the book in January, where it was decided that it needed additional illustrations, pushing the release date back to March 30.

It’s an exciting process seeing your writing come to life in a book. An illustrated book is doubly exciting, because you get the added bonus of seeing your work interpreted into a visual format as well.

The process I went through as a writer was pure elation when I found out J.P. Trouble would be coming to life, then a lot of twiddling my fingers as I waited for everything to be ready, then sheer horror as the release date loomed and the insecurity of putting your baby out in the world reared its head. Nothing is scarier, especially for a debut book, than those few weeks before release when all you can think about is “Will people like what I wrote? If they don’t, I’m finished. FINISHED!!! And if I’m finished, I may as well dunk my head in a shark tank.” There was also a lot of hyperventilating, praying, and ritual sacrifices to every higher being in the universe. Fortunately, the response so far has been mostly positive.

Karen: What was the first thing you thought/did when you received the offer?

Ryan: OMGZIMGONNABEAPUBLISHEDWRITEROMGZZZZZZZZZZZ!! That was my first thought. I’m also man enough to admit my eyes got a little wet. No tears came out, but there was a definite welling of the tears in my eyes.

Karen: What were some of the biggest challenges to getting J.P. TROUBLE published?

Ryan: The biggest challenge was believing in the story. My dad told me about the dog when I was in college, and I wrote the initial draft of the story afterwards. That was...eleven or twelve years ago. When I finally decided to take the plunge and make my life about writing, I dug up the manuscript, polished it off, and sent it out, mostly just to see what would happen. Warren was the only place I sent it to, and they quickly fell in love with Trubbie dog.

Karen: What new projects are you working on?

Ryan: I have a few other J.P. Trouble stories that are in various stages of development, but I’m also trying to break into the world of Young Adult. I have a zombie novel I’m shopping around, and am also working on a new story about a demon that has to join forces with an angel to “save the world,” or something like that. Maybe they’ll create an air hockey league. Or start a vaudeville act. It’s too early to tell.

Karen: If you could meet any author, who would it be? And what would you ask him/her?

Ryan: Any author ever would be William Shakespeare, even though he’s a playwright. Or Hunter S. Thompson, but only if we could spend a weekend in Las Vegas. If I could meet one living author, it would have to be Christopher Moore. He’s my favorite author. Writes the most silly, absurd novels that appeal to my silly, absurd demeanor.

Karen: What is your favorite kid lit book and why?

Ryan: Green Eggs and Ham. Every kid grows up on Dr. Seuss. He’s the master. Green Eggs and Ham was my favorite of his.

Karen: Now let’s delve a little deeper. Shall we? When did you decide writing was the path for you?

Ryan: *wades slowly into the deep end* I’d always been drawn to writing. Get it? Drawn? Yeah, that was cheesy. But seriously. I’d always been an avid reader (my mom claims I taught myself how to read), and I loved writing. We always seemed to have some kind of creative writing section each school year, and it was by far my favorite time of the school year. I also loved movies. Just stories in general. Hearing them, reading them, or talking about them.

I knew writing was going to be a major part of my life for a long time. After I finished grad school at N.C. State (go Wolfpack!), I moved out to Los Angeles to try and make it as a screenwriter. In the end, L.A. just didn’t work out. There were a million reasons why: cleaning smog off of my blinds once a month, being so far away from home, waking up to find ants crawling on me…okay that was only three reasons, but there are a lot more.

Back in North Carolina, I worked a handful of jobs with big faceless corporations where I got to do at least some sort of writing, hoping to find a “happy medium.” It didn’t really work out, and when I was displaced in 2011 I decided enough was enough and focused all of my efforts on being a full-time writer.

Karen: How did you know this is what you wanted to be when you grew up?

Ryan: I always envisioned myself being a writer of some sort. Or a professional golfer, but that fell by the wayside early on. Also, I’m not strong enough to be a fireman, I’m terrible at science, even worse at math, business bores me, and farming just doesn’t sound fun. Doesn’t really leave me with many other options.

Karen: Do you have a day job? Or do you write full-time?

Ryan: I write full-time. I do write film reviews, and get paid a pittance for it, but I love it. Basically writing is my day job. And my night job. Annnnd my weekend job. It’s essentially my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Karen: Who controls your characters? You or them?

Ryan: Both. I create them and control what they’re like, and then we go on the journey together. I know where they’re going to end up (for the most part), but I let them decide how we get there. It all depends, really. I feel my brain twisting into knots so I’m going to move on to the next question before I get too confused.

Karen: If them, when are they the most persistent?

Ryan: Okay, my brain is really going to get confused. If I start writing about fantasy baseball, don’t say I didn’t warn you. My characters exert their personalities most in their interactions with each other. Dialogue, body language, actions, you name it. Again, I like to know the destination, but they help decide the trip.

Karen: Where do you write? (office, coffee shop, Batmobile, etc.)

Ryan: Anywhere. EVERYWHERE. Home, Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, a friend’s couch if I’m crashing there, when I had a “real job” I’d do it there every now and then, sometimes the bathroom…if you can be someplace and use your laptop, there’s a good chance I’ve written there.

Karen: How long does it take you to write a book?

Ryan: Depends. Before I went all in on writing, a year or so. Now? I try to write two thousand words a day, though it doesn’t always happen. I can knock out a first draft usually in two, three months, then the joy of editing begins, and that part of the process fluctuates from book to book.

Karen: How do you get into the writing zone?

Ryan: Like most writers, I’m very, very lazy. I’ll write a little, surf the Internet a little. Write a little, watch TV a little. This process goes on for eight to ten hours a day. I’ve never had an all-night writing marathon, but when I’m working on a story I’m always thinking about it, especially when I’m not writing. Basically as long as I’m hitting at least two thousand words a day I feel like I’ve been a productive member of society.

Karen: What do you do in your down-time…if there is such a thing?

Ryan: Watch movies, read books, try to live life, etc. There isn’t really a downtime though, because every time I read a book or see a movie part of my brain is trying to soak up whatever it can, from the story mechanics, to the style, to the tone. When I’m not writing a book I’m usually editing one…and thinking about what book to write next. I guess this is a long-winded way of saying there isn’t really down time. Unless I’m watching N.C. State football or basketball. Actually, that was a lie. If I’m watching a game on TV I’ll write during commercial breaks.

Basically writing is my drug of choice. The good news is it doesn’t make my face cave in, Jean-Claude Van Damme style.

Karen: Before we go, you must face the rapid fire round. Dun, dun, dun…

Coffee or tea? Diet Pepsie
Chocolate or candy? Isn’t chocolate candy?
Team unicorn or team zombie? ZOMBIE. Unicorns are silly, haha. I walk around my house in zombie slippers, not unicorn slippers. There’s your answer.
Star Wars or Star Trek? Awe, man! It used to be the Wars, but the prequels have ruined that franchise for me. And I loved the new Star Trek film. My answer? Lord of the Rings.
Spiderman or Batman? Batman. My favorite comic book character. Ever.
Yes or no? Maybe?
Ice: crushed or cubed? Crushed. I love it crushed, and my dog loves it crushed. And I totally CRUSHED this question!
Panster or plotter? Pantser. Though it does wear holes in my pants faster. Get it? Because I fly by the seat of my pants? GET IT? Yeah…I’m moving on.Paper or plastic? Um…paper?
Pencil or pen? Pen. Hate pencils (because there’s such a HUGE difference between the two).

Karen: Thank you so much for stopping by, Ryan! Feel free to visit any time!

Ryan: Any time? So I can stay here rent-free as long as I like? Sweet! No, all kidding aside, thank you so much!

April 2, 2012

Self-doubt: the cherry on top…

About to bite into a woe-is-me sundae? Has writing that work-in-progress lost its sweetness? Never fear. You’re not alone. *raises hand* I too have (and do on a daily basis) give into the saccharine allure of self-doubt…only to find it bitter and completely useless.

Seems like the Negative Nancy voice is always there to offer a non-encouraging word: You’ll never finish that project…You don’t know what you’re doing…No one will want to read it. Even as I’m writing this post, those three things swirl in my mind like a dark rain cloud about to burst.

And to that voice I say: Who the heck does self-doubt think she is? Hm? *lifts eyebrow* Who has time to worry? Between friends/family, a full-time job at city hall, Twitter (yes, the blue bird gets its own category), promoting my debut novel, revising another story, writing my current work-in-progress, attempting blog posts, beta-reading and somehow experiencing life…well, for Pete’s sake doubt has got to take a hike.

America poet, Sylvia Plath once said, “And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

This is so true. As a writer, you are your own worst enemy. Writing is such a mental activity that if self-doubt wedges its way into the deep, dark crevices of your mind, then it’s a struggle just to see a hint of creativity. But the imagination is always there…just needs to be lured back out into the open. On that note, I offer these three carrots to help get you in the writing zone:

  1. Make a playlist. For each one of my stories I have about twelve songs that set the mood, remind me of the characters, speak to me about their personalities or just make me happy. I find this tool extremely helpful for discovery time and plotting. And Lord knows, I am not a plotter, but that’s another post.
  2. Edit at the end. If I edit as I write then I get caught up in unnecessary details that will most definitely change on the tenth or eleventh draft anyway. (insert maniacal laugh here) A tip that has helped me to stop editing as I go is to read only the most recent five pages before writing that day. Then I don’t stress over the inevitable plot-holes, bad spelling, poor grammar, excessive southern dialect, etc. *winks*
  3. Finish the book. We all get distracted by a new idea…it’s human nature. But I try to keep in mind that my current characters need their story told too. And if I don’t do it…well, who will? It’s that feeling of typing the last word in a manuscript that keeps me going. It’s pure euphoria, like seeing the heavens open and winged unicorns fly to earth on a path of rainbows. Seriously, it’s that fantastic. And if you’re like me after you type the end, you’ll high five yourself, smile like an idiot and clap like a giddy school girl.
Remember, your voice is unique and your characters need to be heard, so flick the self-doubt off the sundae and write…