For today’s Author Spotlight, we’re talking to J. L. Park! If you missed last week’s spotlight, check it out here!
M.N.: Tell me a little bit about yourself. What genres do you write in?
J.L.: I normally write in Speculative Fiction, mostly Dystopian. I’ve been thinking of story that would work in Urban Fantasy that I might work on after this series.
M.N.: What do you feel are the biggest challenges you face when writing?
J.L.: Finding the time to write – I work full time at my job, and have two children under 5 as well. I write mostly after they’ve gone to bed.
M.N.: What about your books do you feel is the most special or unique?
J.L.: They come from a view that is different – a New Zealand twist on things even in a fictional setting – my culture finds its way into my writing as easily as it does my spoken language. As a member of the LGBT community as well, it often features in my work but is never the biggest thread of the story.
M.N.: Can you give me an example of how your New Zealand background influenced your writing?
J.L.: I’ve noticed that I have to be careful not to include too many colloquialisms or words from our other spoken national language that I would use in normal conversation. I tend to view the world from a New Zealand perspective – we accept most people for who they are, as long as they’re a “good sort”, and I’ve always found it difficult to understand how people can hate someone they’ve never met because they’re different to them. We are also a people that you don’t want to cross – we tend to be protective, and stand up for ourselves and the underdog- the MC in my Alexis Chronicles series would fit in well in here.
M.N.: I’ve read that authors who include LGBT elements in their stories are often rejected by traditional publishers. Did this affect your decision to publish independently?
J.L.: I wasn’t acutely aware of that fact, though it doesn’t come as a surprise as it’s still unusual to see LGBT representation in a lot of mainstream places for TV or books. There is more out there than there has been, so it’s getting better. But it didn’t have any effect on my decision to publish independently – I wanted more control over what happened to my series, and one of the themes in the series is currently (over the last year or so) in the public consciousness – I felt that if I waited until a traditional publisher picked it up, and got it out there – it may have been too late for it to make its impact.
M.N.: Now that you’ve got the benefit of hindsight, are you happy with your decision to self publish?
J.L.: Yes, while the marketing and promotion of it is a steep learning curve that takes me away from writing the next two, I have the control over my series, and it’s out in a time where people are thinking on and talking about the underlying theme. I think that theme however will be in the public consciousness for a long time yet – it may have only just started.
M.N.: Was there any particular book or author that made you want to write?
J.L.: Not that I can put my finger on. I’ve always wanted to write, and have written here and there. I’ve always enjoyed Stephen King, and a lot of the Urban Fantasy/Paranormal and Dystopian authors. One of Bella Forrest’s series – the Girl Who Dared – kind of gave me the push I needed.
M.N.: Do you have a favorite book, or a list of favorites?
J.L.: Hugh Howey’s Wool series
M.N.: Tell me about your current Work In Progress.
J.L.: My current WIP is Book 2 of The Alexis Chronicles – Black Phoenix Rising. It’s a continuation of She Wore Black – the first book of The Alexis Chronicles. It follows Reed Taylor on her journey to change the city of GreyBrook from an oppressive society, to something more balanced. However it’s intrinsic hatred of women, and those who buck the system makes this much harder and more dangerous than she realizes.
M.N.: What does your writing process look like? Do you outline, do you invent the plot as you go, or do things land somewhere in the middle of that spectrum?
J.L.: I’m a bit of a ‘plantser’ now – I used to be a ‘pantser’ inventing it as I went along – She Wore Black was mostly written this way. With the second and third books, I needed to know more about where it was going, so have semi-outlined them. It’s actually easier, so I might keep going that way.
M.N.: I’ve never heard the term ‘Plantser’ before, but I might steal it. When writing “She Wore Black” did the plot end up going about where you expected, or were you surprised by how it turned out?
J.L.: I can’t remember where I first heard “Plantser” but I remember thinking ‘Thats SO me!” – if it fits – steal it!
She Wore Black ended earlier than I had thought it would – I thought it was initially going to be a standalone – but as I got into it, I realised it was going to be a series – so you could say I was surprised that it ended where it did, but it was the perfect spot to move into the next book, and it felt right.
M.N.: When you made the decision to make it a series, was it because the story you wanted to tell was taking too long to get to the finish, or did you realize that you were writing towards something grander than you’d initially conceived that would go beyond your initial planned endpoint?
J.L.: It was a bit of both. I had an idea of the endpoint, and it kept getting further away. The end point is the same, or similar to what I had planned, but will work so much better with the rest of the story in between. In one book it would have been paced too fast, and not given the reader enough time to get to know the main characters, and get invested in them before rushing off. I wanted to do my book, and any readers I had, justice.
M.N.: Do you know how many books it’s going to end up being?
J.L.: At this point, I’m pretty sure it will be a trilogy.
M.N.: If you could go back and give yourself any piece of advice when you first started writing, what would it be?
J.L.: Don’t worry about other people reading it. Just write it for you, and the rest will come later. Don’t take the constructive criticism personally – use it, if it works for you, and it will actually make it better.
M.N.: Do you have a favorite piece that you’ve written, or a recommended “starting point” for people looking to get into your work?
J.L.: Given I only have the one piece out in the world – I’d suggest She Wore Black: The Alexis Chronicles Book One as a very good place to start.