This month, it’s my pleasure to chat with J. B. Reynolds.
J.B. lives in rural Northland, New Zealand, where he raises children and chickens. He writes humorous short fiction, where tragedy meets comedy and character reigns supreme. His first short story was published while he was a university student, and in between that and a return to serious writing in 2016, he has worked as a graphic designer, landscaper, ski and snowboard technician, librarian, apple picker, and baker of muffins and teacakes.
Nowadays, when not writing, he’s a husband, father, and high school teacher (not necessarily in that order). He enjoys sailing, cycling, and playing music, really loud, when his wife and kids aren’t at home. He has a big garden, where he likes to get his fingernails dirty, and he loves to eat the things that grow in it.
He is currently working on his Crossing The Divide short story series. The stories in the series feature different characters and switch between locations in New Zealand and Australia, but they are all, in a way, coming of age stories and are linked through the theme of relationships.
D: Tell us about your writing process and the way you brainstorm story ideas.
JB: I haven’t needed to brainstorm ideas yet. I’ve had a number of ideas kicking around my skull for a long time and now I’m trying to turn them into stories. But I felt I made big strides with my writing process on Square Pegs. I’ve got a basic structure, which I learned about from watching a webinar featuring Joe Nassise—it’s what he uses—and the story hangs off that structure. I outline the required scenes from there.
With Square Pegs, I wrote the first draft, then went through and tidied it up to make a second draft. Then I sent it out to some beta readers for feedback. I made some changes based on their feedback, and at about that time I discovered the online writing community at Scribophile. I posted it on Scribophile and got some really useful comments and suggestions from people there. I made some more changes, and then sent it to a professional editor. She suggested some further changes, nothing major, just improvements in the flow and language, and I’ve made those changes and it’s nearly ready to go.
My editor also suggested I change one of the character’s names. I agreed and put out a facebook post asking for suggestions, as well as an email to my mailing list. The response has been awesome, so now I need to go through the suggestions, decide if any of them are suitable, and then change the name. Then I need to design a cover. I’m really happy with how that process has worked and I’ll use a very similar process for the next story in the series, What Friends Are For, which is almost ready to send out to beta readers.
D: What is the easiest thing about writing?
JB: The joy and sense of satisfaction it brings. Terry Pratchett says that writing is the most fun a person can have by themselves, and it really is. I love writing. It’s easy to do the things you love. The hard part is figuring out a way to make the things we love put food on the table.
D: Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in future?
JB: I’ve really done very little in the way of marketing so far, and I think every thing I have done has been a step in the right direction. Perhaps I could have held off a little longer before I published my first stories, but so much of what I have learned in the last year has come about because I published them. I don’t regret it.
D: When did you decide to become a writer?
JB: January of 2016. I had an idea for a novel kicking around in my head. I’ve got three young children and a demanding job and I just decided one day that the only way I was ever going to get any time to work on my novel idea was if I got up early in the morning and did it before work, while everyone else in the house was still asleep. So I did. I started getting up at 5.00am six days a week, and then made it seven, and now I’m getting up at 4.45am, seven days a week. I never thought I was a morning person, but now it’s just habit, and I look forward to it.
D: What was your favourite book as a child?
JB: I loved reading Asterix comics. The first book my mother bought me through the book club programme at primary school was an Asterix comic. They had them at the public library as well, but they were in hot demand. I’d get a kick out of trying to decipher the meanings of the names. My favorite was Unhygienix the fishmonger. It was years before I knew what Getafix was referring to. I also loved the Tintin comics. My favourite character was Captain Haddock. I thought his drunken antics and his swearing were hilarious.
D: I remember Asterix. My favorite was the bard, Cacofonix. Thanks for stopping by JB.