About JD –

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.

Questions –

1. When did realize that you wanted to be an author?
I started writing seriously about 11 or 12 years ago. I’d always had ideas that I thought would make for good stories and I finally decided to try and see if I could get the stories down on paper. When I found out about National Novel Writing Month it really focused my efforts.

2. How long does it take for you to write one of your books?
It’s hard to say because I usually have multiple projects going at one time, all at different stages of production. Probably, if I focused on one thing from start to finish, it would take about six months before it was ready for outside editing and such.

3. How do you balance your work schedule when you’re busy writing?
Unfortunately, I have a day job, so writing mostly comes during the evenings and weekends. Fortunately, it’s a job with a fairly standard schedule and doesn’t require me to take it home with me at night, so I can completely disengage when I’m home and focus on writing.

4. What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Probably that I tend to write stories that don’t track traditional tropes or expectations. For example, Moore Hollow is a book about zombies, but they aren’t the brain eating menace they are in most zombie stories. The Water Road trilogy is an epic fantasy without magic. I like to try and do something different.

5. How do you come up with ideas for your books?
I have a couple of files on my computer where I dump anything that I think might be an idea for a story. There are so many weird, odd things all around us in the world that I find plenty of inspiration there. Usually I’m able to add a little note about what I’m thinking, where that particular idea might go. Otherwise, I’ll just dump the link. If I come back to it in a year or so and can’t figure out why I thought it might make a good story, I’ll chuck it and move on to the next one.

6. When did you write your first book?
I finished my first manuscript in 2008, the second year I did NaNoWriMo. It’s not very good and it’s sitting in a box in my closet. I thought about trying to revise it a while back, but it’s so far gone it’s beyond saving. It might be a little bit of backstory for another series of books sometime in the future, though.

7. What are your hobbies when you’re not writing?
Reading, of course, although most of my reading is actually listening in the form of audiobooks. I just started Jeffrey Toobin’s book on the Patti Hearst kidnapping, which is really interesting so far. I make music when I can, armed with a stack of synthesizers and little idea of what I’m actually doing. It’s fun though.

8. What does your family and close friends think of your writing?
They’re all supportive, to one extent or another. I know family members have read my books that have never read fantasy before, so it makes me happy to help broaden their frame of reference a bit. My wife is the real rock for me when it comes to writing, always supportive, but also a voracious enough reader to know when things aren’t working (nor is she afraid to tell me that!).

9. What was one of the most interesting things that you learned about yourself when you published your first book?
That I have very little graphic sense. I mean, I’ve never thought of myself as an artist, but I at least thought I had a decent idea of how something should look. The ability to conjure an image, even if not actually replicate it in real life. Doing the cover for my short story collection put that thought to rest. The things professional cover designers came up with for Moore Hollow and The Water Road trilogy aren’t just light years beyond what I could do, but beyond what I could think up.

10. How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?
I’ve published five books so far and I’m going to take the cheap way out and say that I can’t name a favorite. They’re all special for me, in some way. The Last Ereph and Other Stories, my short story collection, was my first. Moore Hollow was my first novel and produced my first rave response (and demand for a sequel!) from a local reader. The Water Road trilogy was my first big, epic work, which I lived with for years. It allowed me to create a completely new world, one that’s rich and deep. So you can see where I can’t pick just one.

11. What do you think makes a good story?
Interesting characters doing interesting things, or having interesting things happen to them. That’s the core of any good story. It’s one thing to have the big idea – the “what if?” that is at the center of lots of fantasy and science fiction – but if you can’t have characters people care about dealing with that contingency, it becomes an empty exercise. I’d rather have a reader with a really deep feeling of some kind (loss, anger, humor) at the end of one of my stories than an appreciate for clever wordplay or what not.

12. Where do you like to kick back and write your books?
I can’t kick back because my usual writing place is my home office/studio, where my writing PC is part of a stand-up desk arrangement. So mostly I stand, although sometimes I park myself on a stool. I’ve also had good luck writing chunks of things during book festivals and such. Not much else to do between visitors to the booth.

13. What’s the weirdest subject you’ve had to research as a writer that you never would have otherwise?             In The Water Road I have a scene where one character gets hit in the leg with an arrow. Since this character had to continue throughout the book, I needed to figure out how one deals with an arrow wound. I searched – and was promptly directed to a writer’s forum where someone else had already asked the question. Long story short – it was just the opposite of what I thought I should have him do. The things you learn writing books!

Thank you JD!!

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