Saturday, October 24, 2015

Interview with J.D. Byrne, author of Moore Hollow

J.D. Byrne, author of the newly released Moore Hollow (see October 21) is the latest writer to answer the Speculative Fiction Showcase's challenging interview questions, including the one about the green smoothie...

Apple or PC?

PC all the way! I grew up a computer geek and so I've always been happy with computers that actually acted like computers. Plus, my day job’s in a field that has always been a PC one, so it makes sense to have some commonality across my regular computing venues.

Do you use Scrivener or Word?

Word, although I’ve never really played around with Scrivener. Again, I use Word at work and have for years, so I’m pretty familiar with it. Having said that, I use yWriter for first drafts, because it has a nice way to organize non-manuscript stuff (characters, settings, items, etc.) so it’s at hand while I’m writing. Then I dump to Word to edit.

Do you have any pets? Do they influence your writing?

Until very recently we had a black cat, Kali, as well as a one-eyed dog, Maia, but Kali died last weekend, so we’re down to being a one critter household. Maia thinks she influences my writing, mainly by wandering into my studio and begging for attention while I’m doing it, but none of the critters have found their way into a story. Yet.

Would you rather see your stories on the big screen or the little screen?

Depends on the story, I suppose. Moore Hollow, my new novel, would work well on the big screen. It’s a fully enclosed story, not part of a series, and could be adapted without jettisoning entire portions of the book. On the other hand, The Water Road trilogy (coming in 2016) would fit better on the small screen. It’s much longer (obviously), has a more expansive universe to explore, and would require a longer term commitment by viewers, I would think (particularly when they don’t see any human beings on screen!).

But, you know, either way, I don’t think I’d be that picky so long as the checks cleared. :)

Are you hooked on any of the shows on the sci-fi channel? If so, which one(s)?

My wife and I just burned through the first season of 12 Monkeys, which was really good. Very different from the Gilliam film (which I adore), but I'm glad they didn’t try to stretch that over too many hours. I’m also very excited about The Expanse, which debuts in December. I’m about to finish the second book in that series (Caliban’s War). It’s got real potential for a good series.

Do you own copies of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings DVDs? The extended version? Do you ever watch them?

I’ll make a confession - I’ve never been a huge Tolkien fan, in spite of my love of progressive rock, which takes more than a few cues from the man’s work (my favorite band is Marillion, after all). I’ve seen all the Jackson movies and enjoyed them, but didn’t feel the need to have them for posterity, much less in the extended versions. Now if he’d made a series of movies from Terry Pratchett’s books, I’d be all over those.

Are you a Luddite? Or do you prefer to be on the bleeding edge of technology?

I don’t really think of myself as a Luddite. I’m not afraid of new tech and once I get something I tend to use it all the time (ask my wife about how I’ve learned to love a smart phone). It’s not like I’m hunched over my grandfather’s old manual typewriter or anything. But at the same time, I’m hesitant to upgrade stuff that’s working for me and run the risk of new stuff going wrong. I’m not on the cutting edge, but I’d like to think I follow fairly close behind.

Are you--or have you ever been--a gamer?

My first gaming experience involved a Vic-20 computer and a cassette tape deck. So, yeah, I’d say I’m a gamer. But I tend to run in spells where I play and then I don’t. Honestly, a lot of free time I once had to do that kind of stuff is given over to writing now. When I get a chance, I like to sit down with my PS3 (what did I say about upgrading?) and play the kind of sports that I could never play in real life due to the fact that I’m a clumsy old nerd.

Do you cook? What is your best/favorite/most popular recipe?

I do cook, pretty much every day. My most requested dishes are probably jambalaya (without seafood, thank you very much) and beef stew. Both are recipes I found on the internet and tweaked a little bit for my own tastes. Seems like a good formula.

Have you ever heard of or had a green smoothie? If you’ve ever had one, what did you think about ?

Yes. One of my co-workers one day brought in enough stuff to make smoothies for everyone out of lots of leafy green bits (mostly kale, I think). It was one of the worst things I’ve ever had in my mouth in my life. It was like sucking yard clippings through a straw. If that’s what good for me it, I guess I’ll keep being bad.

What are you wearing right now?

An old DC United jersey (from the VW sponsorship days – a little awkward now). I keep telling myself I’ll wait to update until they win another championship and add another star to the logo. Seems like that might be a while.

Does life fascinate you?

Sometimes it does. One of the things about my day job as a criminal defense lawyer is that I see a lot of people with very odd life stories. Things that you could never use in a book because readers wouldn’t believe it. What’s the old saying? “The difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense?” But even beyond that I’m frequently amazed, in both good and bad ways, by the way people treat each other and the reasons for doing do.

What would your animal totem be?

It would be a two-faced totem – think of the old carvings of the Roman god Janus – with Rat on one side and Pig on the other side, from the comic strip Pearls Before Swine. They represent the parts of my personality so well it’s scary. Rat’s my cynical, down on the world part, while Pig’s my bouncy, fundamentally optimistic part. On any given day either one of those can take control, so I’d need both for my totem.

On a scale of 1-10, how eccentric are you?


Do you consider yourself a slave to the muse?

Not so much. I think one of the important things new writers learn from listening to those who have been at it for a while is that writing is as much perspiration as it is inspiration. That isn’t to say being inspired doesn’t help – I’ve certainly had days when it seemed like the universe was pouring stuff out through my fingers. But, in my experience, those days are few and far between. If you can’t get up and keep writing even when the muse is attending to other customers, you won’t get very far.

About J.D. Byrne

JD Byrne was born and raised around Charleston, West Virginia, before spending seven years in Morgantown getting degrees in history and law from West Virginia University. He's practiced law for more than 15 years, writing briefs where he has to stick to real facts and real law. In his fiction, he gets to make up the facts, take or leave the law, and let his imagination run wild. He lives outside Charleston with his wife and one-eyed dog.

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