Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today, J. C Owens – Writing has always been of the utmost importance to me, often a means of expressing frustration, anger and grief during terrible times in my life. It was also there for the joys and triumphs, a faithful companion through it all that never failed me. I do indeed love to write and have over twenty books sitting idle in my computer, waiting…
Thanks so much, J. C. , for joining me!
JSC: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
J. C. Owens: I was making up stories and using them from the time I can first remember. I was a very solitary child who wasn’t comfortable with people, so I lived my life with animals and imagination. Those stories were as real to me as if they truly existed. When I started school, and we were asked to write anything at all, I would get utterly carried away, and was told over and over to limit my creativeness to what was being asked. : P I never had any trouble with essays in high school – apart from trying to cut them down to acceptable parameters. I never really thought of myself as a writer. I just wanted to write and the stories got bigger and longer, until a few friends persuaded me to send in my first story, “My Name is Aelida”, a m/f story of Arthurian britain. That whole process led me to a second book, “Shadow of the Sun”, about Hephaistion and Alexander the Great that got me into the whole m/m genre. It wasn’t until I finished “Gaven”, that the whole writer thing became reality. Suddenly I was published and so it began… : )
JSC: Have you ever taken a trip to research a story? Tell me about it.
JCM: When I was researching for “Shadow of the Sun”, I took a four country trip through Italy, Greece, Turkey and Egypt. It was mind blowing and gave me perspective of other cultures, other beliefs, and how, in the end, we are just people. Just human. It was incredible and the things I saw and experienced, and the wonderful people I met will never be forgotten. I very much believe that travel, especially to places that we don’t understand, leads to a more open mind.
JSC: What is your writing Kryptonite?
JCM: Oh, man, that has to be word count. That is definitely my Kryptonite!! Once I hit 30,000 words, I start having doubts and the nearer I get to the end, no matter how long, I start truly believing that the work is complete garbage, not worth sending to the editor – why am I even writing if this is the best I can offer. Blah, blah, blah! So I fight past that, and eventually get the darn thing finished and send it in to my long suffering editor with reams of warnings about how much work this is going to entail to ever be published.
So I leave it, walk away, do something else for several days, and then come back and re-read it. Huh! That doesn’t sound so bad. Has potential actually.
I find that a little distance for a while provides a load of fresh perspective!!
I really don’t understand my own thoughts processes. I just try to work around them. : P
JSC: Do you reward yourself for writing, or punish yourself for failing to do so? How?
JCM: I am such a perfectionist as regards myself. Don’t expect it from anyone else. Would never put that sort of pressure on others, but I can be a really ridiculous slave driver when it comes to myself. I get a bee in my bonnet about something must be finished by such and such date and drive myself into the ground to achieve it. That might work with other jobs, but when you are creating, it just seems to completely kill your muse and turn everything into a stressfest. Then you get frustrated because you are not achieving what you wanted and the cycle goes round and round.
I have found that sometimes, it helps to stop, to go back and see what you have achieved already, instead of always leaping into the future. Sometimes the present is a pretty good place.
JSC: Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
JCM: This has always been difficult for me, especially in the early years, when you hang on every word, every mention of your book, and if it is in the tiniest bit negative, you feel like they have destroyed your child.
It took a long time to get a thick enough skin to realize that no matter how good your work may be, not everyone is going to like it. Some will hate it, for some reason only known to them, especially if it triggers something that brings extreme emotion to the fore.
Someone told me, a long, long time ago, that with everything you do in life, 10% are going to love it utterly. 10% will tear it apart with a vitriol that cuts deeply. And 80% really don’t give a damn either way.
That helps on the downer days when malice can hurt you to the core. Just remember, people’s angry, malicious words come from somewhere deep inside of them, where they themselves hurt. It doesn’t make it right, at all, but it always makes me think that I wouldn’t want to be them for anything. What a sad, angry life.
I’ll just stick with me, thanks.
JSC: What is the most heartfelt thing a reader has said to you?
I went to a GRL convention in Denver a couple of years ago. It was my first time meeting other authors and fans and it was a little overwhelming. I was still suffering from a disbelief that I could truly call myself an author, even after twenty books. So it seemed unreal to be behind a table and people coming to speak to you about your stories.
I love my fans, and I always, always appreciate when they send me emails and reviews and useful critiques. So meeting some of them face to face was incredible. I was lucky enough to meet two long time fans, and hear their stories and why they felt that my books had changed them. Both of them had been severely injured in the military, and their lives were changed and full of pain. Yet they told me that my stories had inspired them, that if my characters could go through the hellish things they had and walk through the other side, stronger and with the hope to heal, then so could they.
I can never thank them enough for the insight and the gift of their words. I pull that out when other people say that my stories are too dark, too full of angst.
There are those of us who need that.
JSC: Who did the cover for “Dark Rain,” and what was the design process like?
JCM: This cover was a new experience for me. I had fought with covers over the years, and finally resigned myself to whatever was given. I know it is a difficult process to create a cover, and certainly I do not have the skills needed for such a thing. But sometimes it was hard to see your book with a cover that didn’t suit the story in the least.
With “Dark Rain” I sent in a photo I had seen that seemed perfect for the cover, and to my surprise, my editor agreed to have a single man shown, not the formula of two men together as is normal. I love this cover, perhaps because it holds a bit of me in its creation. It has been wonderful to choose the current three “Rain” series covers and I can’t wait to see the fourth! Love them!
JSC: What inspired you to write “Dark Rain”? What were the challenges in bringing it to life?
JCM: When I was younger, I loved epic stories, fantasy, science fiction and some emerging genres. I had always vaguely wanted to write something along those lines, but life got in the way, and I was, in some ways, still stuck in the old ways of when M/M stories first started in ebooks. More about sex than story. I have always fought that, believed that there are those who want and expect more. I think sex is great, and certainly there are some great writers out there who can make you hot and wanting, but that isn’t me. I want story. I guess I want my worlds to be somewhere better than what we deal with here, with people judged so harshly for things so ridiculous as who they are attracted to.
So with “Dark Rain”, it was intended to be one book, a typical story, and move on.
I was not expecting for there to be two, then three, then four books. I don’t even know if it is finished yet, and certainly there will be side stories because several characters demand it. I was not ready for this at all. I have never written a back to back storyline and found it far more difficult than I could ever have imagined. It is very easy to lose sight of details and make mistakes from book to book, so I had to create a huge paper character and plot map about 8′ long.
I have no idea how George R.R. Martin does it. : P
JSC: As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
JCM: Either a wildlife biologist or a marine biologist, which is hilarious because I am terrified of water. (Even though kayaking is my favorite hobby. Go figure.) Had no doubt that that’s where I was going with my life. Then I became an adult and everything went to hell in a handbasket from there…
Knew I should have Peter Panned it and never grown up.
JSC: What qualities do you and your characters share? How much are you like them, or how different are they from you?
JCM: I have been through a lot in my life, times when things were so bleak that I couldn’t see my way to the next hour, much less the next day. But I also have a core of stubborn determination that won’t let me just lie down and give up.
That’s what I see in my characters. They reach the bottom, but they don’t stay there no matter how broken they are. Sometimes you just have to tell the world to get stuffed, and take your own path back, one step at a time. Do it your way, and don’t let anyone tell you to do it differently.
I guess I’m a bit of a stubborn ass, and certainly some of my characters roll along that same road.
And now for J. C.’s new book: Dark Rain, book one in the Andrones Chronicles.
Alone behind the mask, only his Chosen could touch him.
Raine held no hope for his future. Youngest in a line of brutal, warlike brothers, he is judged to be weak and worthy only to be sold off for political gain. Now the worst of his brothers is taking him to the heart of the empire that has conquered their homeland. Taldan, the Imperial Heir of Anrodnes, is holding a traditional choosing of a companion, a Chosen, for when he ascends to become emperor. Forced into the competition for the title, Raine finds himself in a different world, one of culture and science, so different than his cruel home. Even though he feels immediate attraction to the cold, logical, and powerful Taldan, Raine knows he has no hope of winning a place at the prince’s side. How can he compete against the other candidates or compare to Hredeen, the mysterious leader of the imperial harem, a gorgeous man of otherworldly grace who is far more than he seems? But if Raine fails to win Taldan’s heart, his brother has a dreadful punishment waiting, one he’s eager to inflict.
Prince Taldan views the ceremony of the Chosen as nothing more than an annoyance. He will ascend to be the emperor, don the metal mask and be granted the powerful magic of the position. After that, he can finally return to his studies and experiments to better the lives of his people. He sets his younger brother and best friend to help sort through the mass of candidates for his Chosen, viewing the ceremony as a foolish tradition to endure. But when chance leads to him saving a young man named Raine, from the violence of Raine’s cruel brother, events are set in motion that will rock the empire to its foundations. Taldan knows the emperor must be emotionless and logical, even cold, but Raine stirs feelings and heat in him that he is not prepared for. Now there are ominous rumors of war on the horizon and the threat of betrayals and assassins in the court, and Taldan discovers that Raine is right in the middle of it all…
Raine stood at the prow of the ship, one hand held tight in the rigging, cloak held snugly around him against the spray. The ship might be large, but it battled the strength of the north wind, prow rising high on each wave, then tilting sharply into the trough behind.
The motion had the majority of the passengers huddled below the deck, but Raine sought this last, small amount of freedom.
Ahead, almost mythic in the haze of brutal weather, the continent and kingdom of Anrodnes loomed large, and larger with each passing moment.
His possible future. His doom.
He blinked away salty wetness, unsure if it was the spray or his own emotions. He thought he had left tears behind in his own country, in the vales of green, the lush fields and deep, mysterious jungle valleys.
There was no way but forward, despite his despair.
His brother had seen to that all too well.
As though the very thought had conjured him, a hard hand grasped his shoulder, squeezing brutally until he flinched, biting his lip against the pained cry that fought for release.
“I don’t think flinging yourself overboard is the answer, Brother.” Salnay’s tone held cold mockery. “You are worth far too much for that.”
Raine took a shuddering breath as the grip was released, though the hand remained, ready to inflict yet more pain if Raine should rebel.
“There is no hope of that, is there? Not with your hounds on my heels.” Raine gestured abruptly and with bitterness to the two large figures, standing but an arm’s length away.
Salnay laughed, a grating sound that made Raine grimace. He kept his gaze upon the approaching landfall, refusing to meet his brother’s gaze, see the gloating there.
“You act as though this is such torture, yet you will be the hero of our country, your name a blessing in the temples.”
Raine curled his lip, fingers turning white where he held the rigging. “You are too confident, Salnay. I have to be chosen. There is no surety in that. The High Lord Emperor will have many men to choose from. He may well take another as his bondmate.” He could only hope for such an eventuality. Then he would not be marooned in this harsh, hostile land, a pampered toy in a tyrant’s hands.
The hand tightened cruelly, making him buckle under the pressure, so that he tried to twist away. His brother caught him by the shirt front, jerked him close, so that he hung helplessly in the powerful grip, his smaller form struggling without hope of release.
“You will play your part to perfection, or you will suffer for it. Is that clear?”
Raine saw black spots begin to dance before his eyes as his tunic collar cut off his air, and tried to nod, his mouth opening, but only a choking gasp emerging.
He was cast to the deck contemptuously, and he huddled there, gasping for air, head bowed.
Salnay kicked him hard enough to drive him several inches across the soaked boards, but Raine hardly felt the pain through the need to breathe.
“You are the key to the army we need. You will be our salvation. A small sacrifice to make in the scheme of things. You will seduce the Imperial Heir, or I will sell your skinny ass to the nearest brothel. Am I clear?”
Raine managed a nod this time, letting his soaked hair hang forward around his face, hiding his pain and the defiance that still smoldered like a tiny fragile flame.
“Good. Get him inside. Don’t want him catching ill before the Choosing, do we?”
Writing has always been of the utmost importance to me, often a means of expressing frustration, anger and grief during terrible times in my life. It was also there for the joys and triumphs, a faithful companion through it all that never failed me. I do indeed love to write and have over twenty books sitting idle in my computer, waiting…
I started off writing under the name of J.C. McGuire, “My Name is Aelida” 4 part series, (a novel of Arthurian Briton and the strength of a woman in a world where men rule and her ancient bloodline is more important than her happiness), and “Shadow of the Sun”, a very emotional novel of Alexander the Great and his lover Hephaistion. Done from Hephaistion’s viewpoint, (we all know that he dies in the end) it was the hardest thing I have ever written. I still get tears when I read it. I still love all of those books and actually read them as if someone else wrote them!!
“Shadow of the Sun” got me into the male/male genre and I began to write under J.C.Owens. I enjoy writing of the beauty of men loving men, plus the conflict in what a person thinks they want, versus what they truly need to become themselves.
I love to hear from my readers and always appreciate suggestions and comments for future books. Sharing a love of reading and good, hot sensuality between men is always a cause for celebration!
Author Website: http://www.jcowensauthor.net/