Today I have author J.A. Beard here to answer about writing. He’s first YA book, The Emerald City, was released early last year.
What’s the hardest part of writing a book?
Editing. Generating plots and characters is very easy for me. I have about a dozen books pretty much fully plotted out in my head right now. The actual act of sitting down and writing the first draft isn’t that hard either. It’s great fun, and I don’t get writer’s block. I like to blast straight through and not edit until I’m finished with the entire draft.
Editing, though, having to go back and polish, is painful. I suppose a lot of it, for me, is that the initial writing portion is the single most enjoyable part. It’s pure creation. Tweaking and editing, though, that feels more like “work.”
What inspired you to become a writer?
I love creating characters and scenarios. When I was younger, I used to be really into role-playing games, in addition to creative writing. I suppose as I’ve become less of a gamer, more of my creative urges have been funneled more directly into writing. I just never really got past the day-dreaming stage. It’s just more fun to crystalize your day dreams and flights of fancy.
How do you deal with negative reviews?
I don’t really. That is to say, I do tend to read many of my reviews, but other than examining them for general trends, I don’t get too hung up on them, particularly as I’ve had far more positive reviews.
The reality is that everybody has different tastes and expectations. While in some cases people are just going to be negative, it’s often the case that their disappointment just is about their particular interface with a work. It’s not a personal attack on me, my wife, my kids, my plants or anything. They just didn’t like my story. No harm, no foul.
For The Emerald City, I’ve had people praise it for the very things other people disliked. No one likes to put out a creation and be told someone doesn’t like it, but a person simply can’t put out work for public consumption without being willing to accept that occasionally they’ll get torn to shreds. Overall, though, I’ve been pretty pleased with the reception of The Emerald City considering it’s my first published work.
Did you base any of the characters on real people?
Not really. When I generate characters, I generate a fully actualized personality and history for them that is independent of any particular real-world model because I don’t want my process to be too tied up with certain assumptions and biases that can sometimes come with that sort of thing.
I want a totally artificial “person,” but I still want to be able to predict their reaction to any event even if it never comes up in the story. That helps me have them react more realistically in scenes and, I think, adds to the verisimilitude of the character because they are, I hope at least, projecting more than is directly being shown in the story.
J.A. Beard is a restless soul married to an equally restless soul. His two children are too young yet to discuss whether or not they are restless souls. When he hasn’t been writing, studying history, or making excuses for not writing, he’s tried his hand at several careers including intelligence analysis, programming, and research science. Though he likes to declare himself the Pie Master, he’s yet to prove his worth in the brutal baking show-downs of Celebration, Florida.
In this loose young adult re-imagining of the Wizard of Oz, Kansas teen Gail Dorjee has tried to escape from the pain of her parents’ death by retreating into a hard shell of anger and sarcasm.
When her aunt and uncle ship her off to an elite Seattle boarding school, Osland Academy, she spends her first day making enemies, including the school’s most powerful clique, the Winged, and their leader, the ruthless Diana.
Social war and the school’s uptight teachers are only mild annoyances. Mysterious phone outages, bizarre behavioral blocks, and strange incidents suggest Osland is focused on something much more sinister than education.
Now Gail has to survive at Osland with a pretty pathetic assortment of potential allies: her airhead roommate, a cowardly victim of the Winged, and Diana’s cold but handsome boyfriend, Nick.