7 Questions With Author J.R. Alcyone
In today’s interview, Author J.R. Alcyone gives us an insight of what it takes to become a writer and how’s life behind the scenes of writing a novel.
You’ll learn what are some of the platforms where authors can publish their work and how to approach research for your upcoming novel.
If you’re curious How To Become A Writer, you’re only one click away!
My name is Jen, and I am an award-winning and published nature and landscape photographer, a history buff, and a cancer survivor. I have a BA from Baldwin-Wallace College, where I majored in history and philosophy, and a JD from the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law where I was managing editor for the Cleveland State Law Review.
I live near Lake Erie, and I work as a brief writing attorney for a consumer rights law firm. When I’m not working, taking pictures, or writing, I am usually running, listening to music, or reading.
My debut novel, Five Fathoms Beneath, is based in part on my own experiences with cancer and bipolar disorder. It’s a book about fathers and sons, the invisibility of mental illness, and forgiveness.
It’s also a story about how we all have value and how we can all make the world a better place, no matter what obstacles we might face.
Esther Rabbit: What’s your own definition of an author / indie author?
An author is anyone who has published, well, anything. An indie author is someone who has self-published at least one piece of work.
Esther Rabbit: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I consider myself a combination of both. In the beginning, I create a rough overview or outline which highlights the key plot points of my story.
But how the actual scenes play out is something I pants. And I try to remain loose with plotting; if something isn’t working with these characters, I’ll make changes on the fly.
Esther Rabbit: Can anyone become a writer nowadays?
I would say pretty much, yes. With the rise of print on demand services through companies like Createspace, Lulu, Kindle Direct, Ingram, and Blurb, a person can literally publish a book for essentially free now, and that opens up writing a book to a wider variety of people, including those with voices which haven’t always been represented by traditional publishers.
POD also opens up the possibility for publishing books which are much more experimental or non-commercial and works the traditional publishers snub for whatever reason.
The bad side of this is there are more books than ever before and getting attention as a writer is harder than ever.
Esther Rabbit: What determines an author’s success?
I hate to give a waffling politician type of answer, but that depends on how we measure success. And I think it’s healthy and good for authors to define success for themselves. A very wise photographer friend liked to say, “We compete with ourselves.”
I think that’s a good attitude to have. For some writers, success is writing a blockbuster or hitting the best seller list. For other writers, success might be winning an award or getting good critical reviews.
For yet other writers, it can just be pleasing and having fans who love their work, regardless of how well it sells or what critics think of it.
In general, to ultimately be successful as an author, I think you need luck and some financial backing; marketing and publishing a book, while there are many free options available, really does require some money if you want to succeed.
Too, a writer needs to be willing (and able) to work hard at their craft and make sacrifices for it in terms of time. And making connections doesn’t hurt.
To become a truly great writer, I think a writer also needs some raw and inherent talent. I think nearly everyone can become a competent writer, but to become a truly great writer–I’m now talking about someone on par with Shakespeare or Hemingway–requires some level of inherent talent, in addition to working very hard.
Esther Rabbit: What’s your favorite genre as a reader?
My favorite genre as a reader is historical fiction. I also like mainstream/general fiction, especially books where the main character has an interesting job, and I get to be immersed in or learn about something new.
Esther Rabbit: Just how much research is there behind a novel? Tell us how it looks behind the scenes.
I think the answer to this question is very much dependent on the author and the type of novel they are writing.
There is a popular saying, “Write what you know.” If you write what you know, you probably will spend little time researching whereas if you go outside your comfort zone well…
For my debut novel, I went well outside my comfort zone. It’s set between 1959 and 1987, so although that’s the near-present, I still had to make sure I didn’t have any major anachronisms, i.e. that no one was texting or talking on an iPhone.
Then there’s issues related to your characters’ jobs. The main characters in my novel are a cardiologist and a cardiothoracic surgeon, so I read non-fiction books and looked at reputable websites for plot ideas; I also found beta readers who worked in the medical profession to make sure my novel passed the plausibility and realism test.
If you’re not setting your novel somewhere familiar or generic or in another world altogether, the setting plus local customs also has to be researched; half of my novel is set in a city and country I’ve never visited.
Fortunately, you can learn a lot about a place from the internet, Google Maps, research, and even just finding friendly people from that place who don’t mind answering questions.
Then there’s the sensitivity issues related to if you’re writing for example a person of color when you’re not one, or a person with a disability or disease you don’t have yourself, or a different nationality, creed, religion, sexual orientation, etc.
And I’ve probably just scratched the surface here. If your character keeps a pet, and you’re not familiar with say cats, parrots, or ferrets, you’ll even have to research that.
Research can seem overwhelming and that’s why I think the biggest issue with research is it can be an excuse to procrastinate actually writing a novel.
Because a novel is fiction not everything has to be one-hundred percent perfect, and if you need to, you can always pause and research a point.
When I write and there’s something I don’t know and need to research, I write how I think it should go, while leaving myself a note to go back and make sure what I’ve written is plausible and consistent.
In terms of keeping your research organized, many writers swear by Scrivener, but I always found Scrivener a little too cumbersome and I like to collect things in Microsoft One Note.
Esther Rabbit: How long do you self-edit your manuscript before sending it to a proofreader/ beta reader / editor?
Before I send anything off to another person to read, I read it over at least twice myself. One thing I would suggest to new writers is convert your book into something you can read on your Kindle or eReader.
You’ll be amazed at what issues you can uncover and fix on your own, which will in turn let your beta readers be more helpful.
In terms of editors and proofreaders, unless you’re talking about a developmental edit, your novel should be as clean as you can make it prior to sending it to an editor; some editors even charge based on how much work they believe your manuscript needs meaning it’s in your best interest to clean it up as much as you can.
In terms of proofreading, that’s the final step, so that should only come after you’ve incorporated your editor’s suggestions and your book is considered otherwise “finished.”
Find J.R. Alcyone here:
Find her book here
Are you in the Writing Industry?
Shoot me an email, I’d love to interview you!
And if you’re a fan of Paranormal Romance, check out Lost in Amber:
“A new Interplanetary Alliance ambassador on an earthbound mission.
A handful of genetically altered humans to be rescued.
Meeting her changed everything.“