Born and raised in the Charleston, WV area, this young single father started writing when unimaginable circumstances thrust him into a situation beyond his control. As a way to stay connected to his beloved daughters, he began writing stories to entertain them – first a fantastical, magical adventure, the Edge of Knight series.
What started as entertainment for his daughters evolved into a coping mechanism to maintain his sanity as he waged a monumental battle against injustice. The battle continues, and as his daughters have grown into teenagers, the stories have changed to more mature fiction.
J. C. Allen is a pseudonym, represented by the author’s middle name, his younger daughter’s middle initial, and his favorite niece’s initial. Both girls have been instrumental in bringing his books to the public.
What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book(s), but nobody has? Write it out here, and then answer it.
Are your characters based upon real people you know?
Yes, almost every character is the exact personality of a friend, family member, enemy, etc. Most dialog I write is based upon their speech patterns and conversations I have shared with them. I observe people and listen carefully so I can reproduce believable dialog.
What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine or do you have any weird, funny, or unusual habits while writing and what are they?
When a story hits me, I write almost non-stop until the whole book is on paper. It rarely takes me more than a week to produce a manuscript, but unfortunately it then takes a year for editing!
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
It seems each story leads me to another, so I haven’t experienced writer’s block yet. I normally have to force myself to stop writing because I know my editor is already swamped!
What is the single most important piece of advice for aspiring authors?
Edit, edit, edit! The best story in the world becomes frustrating to read if it is full of typos, grammar and punctuation errors, or plot holes.
What are your current/future projects?
I’m working on the eighth installment of a series called Edge of Knight – a magical sort of dungeons/dragons/wizards tale.
Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
I started writing to entertain my pre-teen daughters – magic or adventure tales featuring kids who had to overcome some type of adversity. I also write some pretty heavily politically-slanted novels based upon my experiences and frustration with the justice system, and some sci-fi (because that’s my favorite genre to read). I’m not sure there’s any way to balance them, nor do I feel the need to do so.
What do you think is the future for independent authors and do you think it will continue to be easy for anyone to be a published author?
I think there will eventually have to be some sort of process to ensure independent authors produce a high-quality reading experience, and would hope that would keep the doors open for individuals who are dedicated to providing it.
Are you traditional or self-published, and what process did you go through to get your book published?
I am totally self-published and enjoy the control it gives me over my work. All my novels go through a rigorous process to guarantee quality – beta readers, line editing, proofing, formatting, etc.
Have you ever changed a title, book cover, or even the content of your book after it was published? What was that process like?
Other than correcting a few typos which slipped through all the editing, the only changes made to my books have been to add information about other available novels as they are published. The process is fairly simple when you are self-published – merely upload a new document!
What opportunities have being an author presented you with and share those memories? (i.e. travel, friends, events, speaking, etc..)
I haven’t been able to travel, but have certainly enjoyed talking about my books with readers, and have loved all the interviews.
What are your marketing, advertising, promotion strategies and which one(s) have worked the best for you? If you had to share your most valuable promotion tip, what would that be?
I think marketing is really difficult for independent authors, but have had some modest success promoting on Twitter, Facebook, my website, and blogs. The best promotion is definitely word of mouth. Once you find your audience (or they find you), sales will grow.
If you are a self-published author, which platform do you prefer? (Amazon, Smashwords, Lulu, Author House, or something not mentioned), and why?
Although my books are available on several sites (Amazon, B&N, Createspace, Smashwords, Kobo, Apple), the majority of sales are on Amazon. I would assume that is because ebooks can be priced so reasonably, and the Kindle reader seems to be the most popular device. I find Amazon very responsive and easy to work with.
What field or genre would you classify your book(s) and what attracted you to write in that field or genre?
As mentioned above, I write in several genre – sci-fi, young adult, political intrigue, technothriller, action/adventure, etc. I write what interests me.
What do you do if inspiration strikes in an inconvenient place like (car, restaurant, bathroom/shower, etc..) and how do you capture that moment before it gets away from you?
Thankfully, I’ve been blessed with a fairly good memory, so can usually recreate whole scenes word for word days later.
Do you have a target amount of words/pages for each of your books or do you just know when enough is enough?
I write until the story is told.
How do you think you have evolved as a person/author because of your writing and do you believe your writing has helped others, how/why?
I’ve undoubtedly learned more about grammar and punctuation than I ever learned in school, and have gained a whole new level of respect for the English language! Since I put a lot of myself into my stories, it has forced me to deal with situations which would often only be explored through years of intense therapy or self-reflection, and allowed me to grow emotionally. I have talked to others who have lived through similar experiences, and would like to think my words have somehow helped them in their own journey.
How much influence do you believe a title, cover, content, page numbers have in purchasing decisions of potential buyers/readers?
I love catchy titles, but want one that relates to the story somehow. A good cover is a necessity, and should easily give a hint of genre. Page numbers are a matter if individual preference – seems people either want an epic novel to consume them for days, or a quick read to entertain them for a while. Content is of supreme importance, otherwise you’re just putting lipstick on a pig.
I am first attracted to the cover/title, and then read the blurb to make my decision to buy. But once I buy it, your content better live up to my expectations, or you’ll never sell me another book.
Do you believe there is value in a Press Release, have you used any press release service, and what have your experiences been?
I have never used any press release service, but would imagine it would be helpful.
Do you believe there is value in a review? Do you believe they are under rated, over rated, or don’t matter at all?
Reviews are extremely valuable to me, both as the author, and as a reader. I believe that’s one of the best features of Amazon – their reviews on every sort of product.
What are your thoughts on authors doing review swaps, paying for reviews, or reviews that just don’t seem right for the book?
I don’t believe in paying or swapping for reviews. I want to see honest feedback and opinions on books I’ve written, whether good or bad. No book is going to appeal to everyone and I certainly don’t mind if you tell me why it didn’t strike your fancy. Sometimes I have to wonder if the reviewer has tagged the correct book, but most people who check out the reviews are smart enough to decide if it’s valid.
Do you believe there are competitors or general readers out to sabotage authors with bad reviews and what are your experiences with this?
I’m fairly certain it happens, and I’ve had a few really negative reviews myself, but chalk it up as part of the publishing experience and don’t let it bother me. Anyone who puts themselves in the public eye is going to attract some haters eventually.
Have you ever had an interesting, funny, or even bad experience during a live interview, reading, event, or autograph session?
I’ve answered some pretty off-the-wall questions in written blog interviews, but have not yet participated in any live sessions.
With self publishing being so easy these days, do you believe there is an over abundance of books out there and how do you sort through all the hype or copycats?
There is definitely a flood of books on the market right now, and it makes it extremely difficult to get your works seen. Thankfully, word of mouth gives me plenty of options, and once again, Amazon has an amazing feature, ‘look inside’, which allows me to read several pages so I can decide if it’s something I want to buy.
What is your biggest fear about having a book published?
Biggest fear? None! I’ve been thrilled with the whole process.
If you have multiple books published what do you feel is your greatest work, why?
My personal favorite is ‘Novel Ideas’. I love the main characters – a cranky old author who has withdrawn from the rat race, and his cheeky granddaughter who has risked life and limb to escape oppression.
What is the intended audience for you book?
This book was actually written for my daughters, to inspire them to fight back against injustices, but adults love the message too.
Give us a fun fact about your book(s)?
I’ve always emphasized that my daughters should make up their own minds about past/present/future events instead of blindly accepting someone else’s opinion, so some of my books have alternate explanations which may raise some eyebrows!
If you had the chance to get one message out there to reach readers all over the world, what would that message be?
Read! There is nothing else on earth that will enrich your mind, expand your horizons, offer experiences you’d never be able to accomplish in your lifetime, or entertain you more than books! Even the most fantastical escapism will teach you something.
Do you find it easier to connect with your readers with the advances in technology we have today like social media? What platform do you prefer, and why?
It’s definitely easier, perhaps too easy at times (often distracting because it’s fun!). Facebook is probably my favorite.
What makes a good story, why?
I tell stories I want to hear. I like action and adventure, quests for justice, or tales that stretch my imagination.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
I have actually used a book of baby names to pick for my characters. I like when it has a meaning relevant to the story, but often use names of people I know who have the same characteristics.
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
I read them, but never respond. I certainly enjoy the good ones, but don’t let the bad ones bother me. I do not expect everyone to have the same opinion – I like steak, you like tofu; I like red, you like green; I like beer, you like wine – who cares! Neither is wrong – we just have different tastes.
What are some events you have attended or participated in that has been a positive experience/influence on/for your writing?
None so far, but hope to be able to participate in the future.
What is the easiest/hardest scene for you to write, why? (Love, action, fight, death, racy, controversial, etc…)
I hate writing love scenes, and don’t like to read them either, so you’ll find them lacking (non-existent) in my books. I love controversy, and will take on the most sacred cows around.
What would you like to write about that you have never written about before?
I’d love to write a great mystery.
Have you ever had a book idea or characters come to you in a dream? What did you do about it afterwards?
A lot of my ideas are from living nightmares, so the dream fantasies are a welcome change and are often expanded into books.
Do you have any characters you would like to introduce in other books or a combination of characters from multiple books you would like to write about in one book?
My stories usually have the same type heroes – they are intelligent, deplore injustice, and have a great sense of humor, but other than series featuring the same cast of characters, I’ve never combined them with other books’ characters.
Were your characters based off real life people/events or did you make it all up?
Most characters are based upon someone I know, and a lot of the events have really happened, especially in ‘M.O.D.’
What are the most important elements of good writing? According to you, what tools are must-haves for writers?
A good imagination is most important, and an ability to entertain is equally valuable. And if a writer doesn’t possess an excellent grasp of the English language and usage, he’d better have a darn good editor.
What book(s), author(s), or significant life event(s) have had a positive or negative influence in your life that inspired you to begin writing?
A life-altering event threw me into a situation beyond my control, and took everything from me I valued in an instant. I started writing as a way to vent my frustration with my circumstances and to keep me from going crazy with grief. As I wrote, I discovered others were moved by my words and it became my salvation.
What are your thoughts about eBooks vs. print books?
While I still love the look and feel of a physical book, ebooks have revolutionized the industry and attracted new readers. The portability is the most attractive feature to me. What used to take up an entire room (or building) can now be contained in a slim device – a complete library in your hand!
Do you view writing as a career, labor of love, hobby, creative outlet, therapy, or something else?
All of the above! I don’t write to get rich (and it’s a good thing), but it wouldn’t break my heart if I sold a few million books.
Were there any challenges (research, literary, psychological, or logistical) in bringing your book to life?
Challenges are many and varied. I don’t have access to computers, so must depend upon my talented editor/publisher/promoter (my mother) to handle most details. Often the most basic supplies (pencils and paper) are difficult to obtain, and working and living conditions are a nightmare.
Do you proofread/edit your own books or do you send them off to an editor? If you send them off to an editor, who/what have you had the best experience with?
I use several beta readers and an editor (Mom), and do a final proofread before publishing. My mother is excellent, but overwhelmed with all my stories. The results are worth it – I constantly hear compliments on the quality of the editing.
What are the advantages/disadvantages of self or traditional publishing?
Trad publishing has become nearly unobtainable for new authors. Fewer and fewer publishers are willing to take on an unknown, and if they do, are unlikely to expend much effort in promotion. And frankly, most writers I know are unwilling to give up control of their story to meet the requirements of publishers.
Do you have a subject/genre you would never write about, why?
I’ll never be able to write romance or erotica. I wish I could – they seem to sell really well, but I don’t like reading it, and don’t understand why so many do.
What motivates you to write and where does your inspiration come from?
My motivation comes from my desire to be productive, and my inspiration comes from my daughters. I want to leave them something of me.
What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
I try to be realistic, even when writing fantasy. The people have to be real, with faults and foibles and quirks and pure goofiness at times.
Do you design your own cover? If not who does, why?
My mother designed most, and a very talented artist, Melissa Richet, designed a couple.
What is your most/least favorite part of the writing process, why?
Most favorite is developing the storyline. I usually mull it over for a few weeks, putting it in order in my mind before committing to paper. Actually getting it onto paper is the least favorite part because of the limitations of my surroundings and lack of resources.