J D Byrne
‘Does Earth plug a hole in heaven, or heaven plug a hole in Earth?’ ~Genesis
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In the beginning…tell me what made you decide to start writing?
I write for a living as a lawyer. I had ideas that I thought would be neat for stories and realized nobody else was going to write them. Besides, they would give me a different outlet for wordsmithing. I began working on short stories, then eventually jumped in with a (failed) attempt at National Novel Writing Month. That got me hooked.
Are there any authors or artists who influence(d) you?
I’m always leery of answering questions like this, because “influenced by” doesn’t mean “winds up sounding like.” With that caveat, some of the ones that have had an impact on me are G.R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Ursula K. Le Guinn, Douglas Adams, and Bryan K. Vaughn.
Tell me about your series.
I just finished a trilogy called The Water Road” made up of The Water Road The Endless Hills, and The Bay of Sins
A woman discovers a terrible secret that rocks her world and lights a fuse she might not be able to control
The world of The Water Road has a pair of species living on opposite sides of a massive river (the titular road). The Altrerians, to the north, have been keeping the Neldathi, to the south, fighting each other for generations, so the Neldathi won’t unite and come north like they did in years past. Antrey, the main character, discovers the secret of how the Altrerian alliance, the Triumvirate, is doing all this. It leads her to commit a rash, violent act and set out to make things right. Whether she actually can is anybody’s guess.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Two, I think, plus a couple of shorter things. I just finished the first draft of The Orb of Triska, first book in a new steampunk series. I’m setting it to one side while I jump into an entirely different kind of story for NaNoWriMo. Besides those, I have a couple of short stories in The Water Road universe that need a final polishing.
What’s your opinion on the practice of ‘banning’ books?
I’m against it (who isn’t?). Having said that, I think it’s important to recognize a distinction between really “banning” something using the power of the state and things being freely available but subject to vigorous criticism. Readers have a right to speak their minds, too, after all.
Tell me about a principal character in your book(s). What makes them memorable?
Antrey is the main character in The Water Road trilogy. She’s a person of “mixed parentage” – half Neldathi, half Altreria. As a result, she doesn’t really have a home in either society. She does a very bad thing, but has an innate sense of right and wrong such that it plagues her and drives her. She’s an unusual revolutionary, I think.
Indie, or traditionally published – and why?
Indie, because I like the control it gives me over the finished product. I tend to write things that aren’t quite what they appear – Moore Hollow is a zombie story without the brain eating, The Water Road is a fantasy trilogy without any magic – and I like that I can ensure that the stories that go out into the world are what I want them to be.
It’s said that to write well, you need to read a lot. What do you think?
I think that’s true. Going back to the question about influences, I think that everything you read (or hear or see) influences you. Even things you don’t like influence you, if only by helping you figure out what doesn’t work. Reading more gives you more inputs, more ideas to play with.
Tell me what you feel the worst, and the best, aspects of being an author are, and why.
The best, clearly, is the actual writing. Getting to build your own world to play in, making characters dance, stretching yourself to tell the story. The worst, in my experience, is the sales part of it. It’s hard to connect with readers, particularly if you’re more introverted (as I am). I’m not a natural salesman and I hate being sold, so I find it tough to step up and try to get somebody to buy my book.
Are you a plotter, or a pantser? What do you think of the opposite approach?
More of a plotter, although I try to be flexible. But I like to have a basic idea of where the story’s going, who the main players are, and where they’re doing it before I start writing. I admire the heck out of pantsers, particularly those who write sci-fi and fantasy. I’d get lost in a made up world without the prep.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
There’s something in The Water Road books that I’ll be interested if anybody figures out. It doesn’t relate to the main plot, but it’s seeded through each book and provides some information (maybe – or maybe not) about the nature of the universe in which the story takes place. It just kind of happened, so it’s not something I try to insert into every book.
Tell me about one favourite hobby or pastime that isn’t writing or reading.
Music – listening to it and making it. I have a small home recording setup; just a few synths and a computer to put things together. That was my major creative outlet before I started writing seriously.
What are you writing at the moment?
I’m just getting ready to start a space opera for NaNoWriMo called The Messenger. It’s about a guy who gets a tattoo that turns out to be a heap of trouble for him and his girlfriend. They get chased, have to figure out what’s going on, whether to do the right thing. It’s less planned than my other projects and it’s the first explicitly sci-fi novel I’ve done, so I’m really excited about it.
What’s your opinion on the belief that indie books are badly edited and lower quality than traditionally published?
Some are, without a doubt, because it’s so easy for people to throw anything up on Amazon. But I think most indie writers know that readers respond to a professional product and do their best to produce one. In my experience, people who just throw stuff up tend to try it once or twice then disappear forever. An indie author with lots of titles is in it for the long haul and isn’t likely to be putting out a shoddy product.
What is your favourite genre to write, and why?
Fantasy, because you can do anything you want with it, so long as it makes a little bit of sense. That freedom is great and can really unleash your creativity.
If you could, would you live in the world you’ve created? Why / why not?
Not a chance! I’m too fond of modern technology (and medicine) to go back to a late 18th/early 19th century world like the one in The Water Road.
If you could go back to the start of your writing career, what is the one piece of advice you’d give yourself?
Start thinking about marketing from the very beginning. I didn’t create a website or establish a Twitter account until I actually had a book out, which meant I didn’t have anybody ready to buy what I was selling.
Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what do you like?
Sometimes. Mostly I listen to progressive rock (hence the Gabriel-era Genesis quote up top) or ambient/down tempo electronica. Music makes me happy and a happy writer is a productive writer.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
That I could actually do it! I had no idea I could really construct a story that worked over the length of a book, much less three. Related to that is that I have the ability to improvise and deal with problems as they come up. Some of my favorite characters are those who weren’t in the plan originally, but became necessary as the story unfolded.
Tell me three unique things about you.
1) I played soccer for 15 years, but never scored a goal.
2) I once wrote a story that stared our one-eye dog and two cats and their adventure with a dragon.
3) I met my wife for the first time in person (we met on the Internet) at an Interstate rest stop. It was equidistant from each of our homes, honest!
J. D., thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!