Part One of a Conversation with: John McLemore regarding writing and his new book, ‘The Old Royal’.

Q: In a previous interview with Nick Wale of Novel Ideas, you spoke about your original motivation for becoming an author was to make piles of cash, is that still your motivation?

 

 

A: Heck no! I had a healthy dose of reality years ago. If that was still my motivation, then I’m doing something wrong. My motivation for continuing to write is knowing that I can write whatever I want. Unlike successful traditional authors, who are beholden to the whims of their publishers and confined to the genres that’ve made them successful, I don’t have to endure those restrictions. If I want to wait two years and publish a book about cats traveling to colonize Europa, I can. Or, if I change my mind and decide, instead, to write a book about B-movie horror creatures solving crimes at Universal Studios, I can do that, too. I can turn on a dime, man! As a writer yourself, I know you’ve heard the old adage “write what you like to read”. Well, I never adhered to that bit of advice before. I was too worried about writing what I thought might be more popular. If traditional authors were successful writing crime fiction, then that’s what I wanted to do. It wasn’t until I started reading more widely that I realized I loved many different genres and wanted to write in them all. [I think I’m running astray of the original question, here. Let me try to bring it back on course.] I like writing something that intrigues me. If I can do that, then everything’s okay. But, what’s best, is when readers talk to you about your writing. For me, talking about something that I created with someone else who really enjoyed it is better than the money. [I see you looking at me out of the corner of your eyes with your eyebrows cocked.] Seriously.

 

 

Q: Also in the Nick Wale interview you spoke about how Steven King was a big inspiration to you. Steven talks about how in order to write you have to read and read a lot. Do you agree with that statement and if so who else do you read and what has drawn you to their work?

 

 

A: Oh, yes. I agree with a lot of things Stephen King has said. Not everything, of course, but most of it. His advice to writers about reading a lot is quite sound, in my opinion, and very vital. In addition to that, I’d like to add to it by saying, not only should writers read a lot, but they should read outside of their favorite genres. I know there are writers out there who only read mystery because that’s what they love to read and, so, that’s what they choose to write. The same is true for every other genre out there. I’ve heard the excuse that they don’t want to rehash the same old stories, so they’re looking for something fresh by reading everything they can within that genre. Okay, that’s a noble excuse, but I think it limits those writers, too. In answer to your question, I started out by reading only Stephen King. I enjoyed horror and only wanted to write horror. However, at the advice of my wife, I ventured outside that genre to read a crime fiction story. I found that I absolutely loved it, so I got more. Later, I returned to some classic fiction that I neglected to read in school and found that I had really missed the boat on some great storytelling because I was close-minded. Since then, I’ve learned some great techniques for ways to tells stories and plot devices that I wouldn’t have gained had I stuck to only one genre to read. There are many, many authors out there we can learn from if we’ll just venture outside our comfort zones and give them a try. Some of the authors I’ve enjoyed have been: Christopher Moore, Cormac McCarthy, Elmore Leonard, Joe R. Lansdale, and Robert B. Parker, to name but just a few. There’s so many more I could list, but, hey, the list is so long!

 

 

Q: In that same interview you spoke about how self publishing was a great experience and I’m assuming like myself you’re a self published author. Have you tried to get picked up by a traditional publisher? What was your experience in regards to that?

 

 

A: Early in my writing career, I was dead-set on going the traditional route. Of course, back then, self-publishing had bad stigma and was viewed as a desperate writer’s last resort. I think things have changed now, especially with how the publishing industry is changing. More and more writers are migrating over from the traditional world to self-publish because of the freedom to do what they want and because they have more creative control. Starting out, I shopped around short stories to magazines, trying to build up my portfolio. It was difficult because I was still learning my craft, so I accumulated my share of rejections, and that was just with small magazines! Imagine how much harder it is with the big publishers. Eventually, I received some acceptance letters. My first came from the editor of Shroud Magazine; a guy named Tim Deal. He published my short story, Hush, Hush, My Love, which is also featured in my collection An Adverse Anthology. Anyway, my first major break came from Tim. I still have that printed email hanging on my cubicle wall at work. Since then, I’ve had a change of heart about how I wanted to go about being published, who controls how and what I write, and, I wanted more creative design over the entire process. I have my hand in every step of the process (from writing, editing, designing the cover, to laying out the interior design) aside from the actual printing (if it’s a physical copy) and I love it. When I order proofs of my paperbacks and hold them in my hand, I take pride in the fact that I created every bit of it. I don’t think I’ll ever try going the traditional route. If I do, it’s because some big publishing house has offered me a boatload of money to publish one of my books. I don’t think that’s going to happen.

 

 

Q: What was your inspiration for writing The Old Royal?

 

 

A: You’re probably going to laugh when I tell you. I started this story back in 2009 after looking at several short stories I had that were unfinished or not exciting enough to publish by themselves. I hated the idea of letting them languish in obscurity after writing them. The best thing I could think to do with them was incorporate them into a book. But, how? I knew the main character would be a writer and these would be stories he had written, but that didn’t make for a good story. After a few more days of turning over that premise, an idea struck me: I’d use those stories as a vehicle to introduce the typewriter, and thus the means for my character to travel in time. From there, the pieces started coming together to make the bigger picture. I’d always wanted to write a time-travel story and the fact that I was able to incorporate those story fragments made it more fun.

 

 

Q: I too love the old, early 1900 typewriters, I own a 1926 Underwood Number 3-12” that I found at an auction. The old typewriters have such character and looked like works of art in my opinion. Do you actually own an Old Royal?

 

 

A: No. Unfortunately, I don’t own an old Royal typewriter, or any typewriter, as a matter of fact. However, my mother had a baby-blue Royal typewriter that was given to her in the 60s. I remember using it quite a bit when I was younger to type papers for school reports, or just for fun. While writing The Old Royal I did think it would be nice to have an antique typewriter, just for the novelty of having it.

 

 

Q: Would you like to use an old style typewriter to write a novel?

 

 

A: [Attempts his best Gary Coleman impression] What’choo talkin’ bout, Chris? [Laughs] Absolutely not! Like I said, I remember using my mom’s Royal typewriter as a kid to write school reports. The nostalgia is nice, but I’m hooked on the luxuries word processors afford us now. Could you imagine writing the better part of a novel only to realize you confused two character’s names half way through? With a word processor, you can easily fix that by doing a search and replace. On the other hand, with a typewriter, you’d have to retype each of those pages. Okay, maybe you wouldn’t have to retype each one. I suppose you could go through with White Out and change them, but talk about tedious. As if writing a novel isn’t hard enough. Just for the sheer difficulty, you’ve got to respect those older writer who had no choice decades ago.

 

 

Q: What would you say was your main characters motivation for writing?

 

 

A: Probably visions of grandeur. I’m sure Anthony’s primary motivation was believing that he had it in himself to become rich and famous like his idol. I think that’s the reason most new authors get started writing. I mean, who doesn’t like to fantasize about being your own boss, working from home, and becoming independently wealthy just by writing stories? After all, writing stories is so easy, right? See, you and I know that that’s a huge misconception. Writing, like a lot of other things in life, lure people in with its flashy glamour. Except, once you’re knee-deep into it, you realize that glamour was a mirage caused by the vapors rising from the cesspool. Did that sound bitter? I didn’t really mean to sound bitter; just trying to dispel that misconception with a dose of reality. For one, writing isn’t easy and should not be approached so lightly. Fame and riches are the wrong reasons for getting into writing.

 

 

Q: Were you trying to make a social statement of any kind with this story?

 

 

A: You know, I don’t normally approach any story I write with the intention of delivering some heady social commentary. I think that sort of stuff is for smarter writers than myself. My goal, first and foremost, is to deliver the best and most entertaining story I can create. During the last iterations of the editing phase is when I’ll look for symbolism, theme, or morals and that’s where I’ll try to polish them so that they show through. I never try to hit my readers over the head with speeches from my soapbox. I try to keep my own personal beliefs out of the story. But, since you asked, I do think The Old Royal has a strong message, which is: be careful what you wish for. In addition, I think it’s a fine example of that old saying “the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side”. That’s all; no Da Vinci Code here.

 

 

Q: While I read the story I couldn’t helpbut draw comparisons to my own life as a writer, did you intend to have the book be somewhat auto biographical?

 

 

A: I’m glad to hear you say that. I’m hoping it will resonate with writers in that way. No, that wasn’t my intention, but I think every story is somewhat autobiographical to some extent because I usually put a piece of myself into every story, some more than others. Since this main character was an average-guy-writer, I probably put more of myself into him that I anticipated. Of course, now that I’ve said that, I hope he doesn’t strike any readers as a bad guy.

 

 

Q: I thought you did an excellent job depicting the writing process through the thoughts of your main character. Do you write in a similar manner or do you approach writing from more regimented structure?

 

 

A: Oh yes! The writing process that Anthony uses in the story is very much how I write. Over the years, I tried various writing techniques: from verbose outlines and character sketches to writing spontaneously, using no notes or outlines. I wouldn’t say I’m a very regimented writer, but I do have a certain way I approach my writing these days. I like to create a lot of text files on my storage device to hold any important story notes, character traits, research links, etc. Each of these text files sit in a folder for their appropriate story and I might open them frequently to check something as I’m writing. For the most part, I familiarize myself with the part of the story I’m sitting down to write and visualize it in my mind like a movie or television show. As it unfolds, I let my fingers fly, disregarding my internal editor so I can get those words onto the blank page while the action is happening. My internal editor only comes back on duty when I hit the editing process. Although, when I sit down to write, I sometimes re-read the story where I left off previously and do a little bit of editing.

 

 

Q: Did writing ‘The Old Royal’ require you to do a lot of research? What kind?

 

 

A: I did some research while writing The Old Royal. Most of it was to find out what life was really like in the early 70s because I was just a baby then. I used that fact for Anthony in the story, originally making him a baby in 1973, and since I couldn’t rely on my memory, I had to take to the web to do plenty of research to determine what prices were, what was playing on television and in theaters. Here’s a little anecdote about my research. One of my colleagues at work read The Old Royal just after I wrote it and reached the part where Anthony finds the TV Guide on his sofa. My friend Googled that to see if it was real or something I made up. When he found that it was real (that I had actually done the research), he located that issue on eBay, bought it, and gave it to me at work. That really made my day.

 

 

Q: What was your biggest challenge in writing, The Old Royal?

 

 

A: My biggest challenge was overcoming self-doubt. As a matter of fact, this story hit a snag and stalled out for about a year when my main character found himself in the past. I realized I still had to write about half the book and didn’t know where to take the story once my character went back to 1973. According to the plot outline in my head, I knew I had to get Anthony more than 30 years into the future, but was unsure how to do that without boring the reader to tears. After doing a year of “research” (read: procrastination) I mentioned the premise of this story to some guys I work with and one of them said, “I’d buy that book!”. That was all the motivation I needed to resurrect this story from the dead-idea drawer. After some thought about how to get the plot moving again, it occurred to me to just summarize Anthony’s successes as I jumped ahead in the timeline. Showing glimpses of Roger’s life during this time, I think, reinforced the contrast between both characters’ lives. Once I was over that hurdle, the rest of the story was pretty easy to write.

 

 

Q: How would you describe your book? Is it horror story or a super natural story? What?

 

 

A: I had the darnedest time with trying to categorize this book. I think I finally went with general fiction because that seemed safer. The time travel element is very important, but I didn’t want to explain the process in too much detail, so it has that fantasy element. Also, there is a crime that takes place. (I won’t mention what or where it occurs for obvious reasons.) Also, there are embedded stories of various genres, so that also makes it difficult to categorize. I still think general fiction is the safest bet, but I’m not sure if that will cause readers of certain genres to pass it over. I guess time will tell. Also, it’d be cool to hear what category they think this book should belong to.

 

 

Q: How has your writing affected your relationships with friends and family? How has it affected your choice in which books you’ll take the time away from your writing to read?

 

 

A: Writing hasn’t really affected my personal relationships with anyone, that I know of. My writing takes a backseat to friends and family, although, I do tend to pester them from time to time to read my stories and give me feedback. And, oh boy, watch out if you get me talking about books and writing! I’m hard to shut up. During the writing of one of my books, if I’m not actually behind my laptop writing, the story is still churning in my mind. I’m usually trying to see further down the story line to know where I’m going with it, or I’m trying to puzzle out a tricky plot hole, something like that. Books I read during this time don’t ever take away from my writing. I try to do most all of my reading in bed, just before I turn the lights off. I always read an hour (sometimes longer if it’s a weekend) before turning off the bedside lamp. If I’m working on a particular theme, say time-travel, for instance, I’ll try to read other books in that same vein. It’s always good to see how others handled situations before you encounter them. Most of all, when I pick up a book to read, it’s almost always for pure entertainment.

 

 

Q: Do you follow any self published authors work? And if so, are there any writers like yourself, self published, that you’d recommend to your fans?

 

 

A: There’s only a couple of self-published authors I’ve read. I’d recommend Hugh Howey’s Wool series–he’s got great writing talent. Also, there was a book called Blabbermouth that I picked up from author Joel Travis, which was really good. A friend of mine, Todd York, self-published a science fiction novel called A Long Way Home, which I thought was written well, and I’m not a big science fiction fan. Well, usually not that kind of sci-fi. But, most of the stuff I read, I pick up from Barnes & Noble when I meet up there with one of my good friend’s every weekend to discuss books, writing, and a whole host of other things. I have read some other self-published authors, one who is very well known, but, honestly, I wouldn’t recommend his books to anyone because I think his writing is sub-par. I’m baffled by his success; I guess his covers, which look great, and his notoriety are what get people to buy his books.

 

 

Q: Besides writing novels and short stories, do you write other things like, essays, news articles, editorials, quotes, screen plays etc.?

 

 

A: Not really, no. There was a time, early on, when I wanted validation as a writer. I wrote reviews and copy for electronic products and devices using a website called TextBroker. I think they’re still around. Anyone who wants to do that kind of writing can create an account and choose from the available categories and write this stuff. Clients post the listings, stating what they are looking for and how much they are willing to pay per word. I made a few bucks doing that, and I think it’s a great service for writers, but I got tired of that kind of writing; it’s not what I really want to do. Instead, I prefer creating imaginary worlds where my characters can do whatever I want them to do. I like writing to entertain.

 

 

Q: Where can readers find your great books and what are the links to your web and fan pages?

 

 

A: Well, my website is http://www.jrmclemore.com/ and I have a blog at http://jrmclemore.blogspot.com/ where I talk about my books, current releases, what I’m working on, my silicone mask making, photography, learning math, and well, pretty much anything I’m interested in. On both of those sites, I link to where my books are available, but for readers who want to go directly to them, I am on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/J-R-McLemore/e/B004US2P42), Barnes & Noble (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/j.r.-mclemore), and Smashwords (https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/JRMcLemore). And, please, if you happen over to my blog, feel free to comment or hit me up on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/jrmclemore). We writers get pretty lonely and it’s great to hear from readers.

Chris1

 

 

Thanks for having me, Chris. It was a real pleasure.

 

The Pleasure was all mine John, Good luck and we’ll see you on the Best Seller List!-Chris

 

 

 

 

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One thought on “Part One of a Conversation with: John McLemore regarding writing and his new book, ‘The Old Royal’.

  1. Pingback: J.W. Northrup

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