Today I welcome author J. A. Beard to my blog as part of his virtual book tour to promote his new work, a young adult urban fantasy The Emerald City. What happens when a lonely, angry orphaned Kansas teenager arrives at a sinister Seattle boarding school and finds she has to battle against not just the bullies, but supernatural forces as well?
J.A. Beard likes to describe himself as a restless soul married to an equally restless soul. His two children are too young yet to discuss whether or not they are restless souls, but he’s betting on it. He likes to call himself the Pie Master, yet is too cowardly to prove his skills in an actual baking competition. So, really, he’s merely a Potential Pie Master!
While writing is one of his great passions, science is another, and when he’s not writing or worrying about baking, he’s working on the completion of his PhD in microbiology.
I was intrigued by this writer’s description of himself as ‘a restless soul’, since I’m one of those myself. (France is the third country I’ve lived in.) I wanted to know more … and here’s the response. Over to J. A. Beard.
My Restless Soul
My family is scattered across my home country of the United States. The age of the internet, along with international travel, has allowed me to make friends around the world. When your friends and family are all over, will any particular place feel like home? For me the answer is no.
I’m blessed, of course, with an intelligent, lovely wife and my children by my side. Already, though, even in my children’s short life, we’ve moved half-way across the country. Many of the moves that have defined my life thus far have been the result of practical considerations: employment, work, and military service. Despite that, I find after a few years in a place, even if I like it, I want to move. I could settle anywhere, I suppose, without too much complaint, but there’s always something clawing at my soul and pushing me toward somewhere else. Both the commonality of humanity in different places, allowing me potential comfort anywhere, and the differences, providing for new experiences, help keep this desire to explore the world lit inside of me.
I feel the same way about my writing. Any person with even a thimble-full of marketing or publishing experience knows the value of targeting a niche if an author is interested in commercial success. Targeting a niche with a series is even better. Though I write for creative reasons and not commercial reasons, it’s hard not to worry about money on some level. The more one makes from writing after all, the more time they can devote to it. One does have to pay the rent and buy food for the kids in the end, after all
James Patterson successfully built a personal publishing empire because he delivers a known quantity to readers seeking out that known quantity. J.K. Rowling would not be a wealthy woman today if instead of seven Harry Potter books she delivered seven books in completely different genres. Those two are mega-stars of the fiction world, but there are many other authors, both super-stars and more low-key selling authors, who have found success by not wandering too much.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that. Most writers produce works in genres they enjoy. I don’t know a huge amount about Patterson’s motivations, but Rowling has spoken at length about how Potter was a labor of love. Indeed, when her first book came out, it was swimming very much against the publishing tide in terms of both content and length for its primary target audience. There was no calculated business plan on her part to turn Potter into some sort of commercial juggernaut. I doubt anyone could have foreseen that one of the most successful authors of our time would be the creator of a story about a British boy wizard. She just wrote a series she loved and, fortunately, it connected with the readers. On the other end of the spectrum, Jonathan Franzen certainly wasn’t going out of his way to make The Corrections something that would scream “best-seller” in a market dominated by commercial mainstream titles. He wrote what he wanted to write. Sure, Oprah helped, but still, he stayed true to himself.
I write because I love it. I write because I must. So many different stories flow through my head. Like my wanderlust, I have a wandering soul when it comes to genre. I’ve always read and enjoyed many different types of stories. My release schedule for this year includes YA urban fantasy, fantasy, and Regency paranormal romance—works that suggest at least some connection in regards to magical elements. Though I’m also researching a non-magical historical fiction thriller and have plans for a totally non-supernatural contemporary cozy mystery series. There are also a few hard YA science fiction books I have in the back of my mind. Is there a true thread that connects adult, young adult, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and historical fiction?
I do tend to think in series, if only because I doubt most people want to sit down and read a 500,000 word book, but the more I write, the more I find I can’t help myself. I want to continue to explore different genres, just as I want to explore different places to live.
Wanderlust, how both fortunate and unfortunate it can be!
J. A. Beard blogs at riftwatcher.blogspot.com and is on Twitter as @jabeard_rf. You can buy The Emerald City in these places:
If you’d like to win a copy of this modern re-imagining of the Wizard of Oz, then please leave a comment below. The winner will be chosen at random on 17th March.