Monday, April 25, 2011
J.C. Guest: Baseball and Books--What could be better?
Good morning, everyone! Grab a cup of coffee and join J.Conrad Guest and I for a little chat.Conrad Guest is here today to discuss baseball and books, two of my favorite activities.
Tell us a little about yourself.
JCG: I’m the author of Backstop: A Baseball Love Story in Nine Innings, through Second Wind Publishing. Backstop was nominated as a 2010 Michigan Notable Book and this year was adopted by the Lewis Department of Humanities at the Illinois Institute of Technology as required reading for one of their courses—"Baseball: America’s Literary Pastime"
Last year, I completed The Cobb Legacy, a murder mystery written around baseball legend Ty Cobb and the shooting death of his father by his mother. I just completed my sixth novel, A Retrospect in Death. One Hot January is hot off the presses, to be followed later this year by its sequel, January’s Thaw. My short fiction, non-fiction and sports writing can be found on the Web and in print publications. Available for author readings and writer workshops, I also provide editorial services.
What are your writing goals?
JCG: For me writing is like a career in baseball but in reverse. Ballplayers reach their primes in their mid to late twenties and their careers are over before they turn 40. I didn’t start writing my first novel until I was thirty-six—about the time most ballplayers hang up their spikes. Having written three novels in the last three years after having written three the previous fifteen years, I’d have to say I’m hitting my prime at age fifty-four.
As for goals, I just want to continue to improve, write quality fiction for as long as I can and enjoy the process. Oh, and that readers continue to find me.
What is your most rewarding experience during the writing process, J.C.?
JCG: I realized I was a writer the day I gave up fretting over publication—the dreaded rejection letter—and learned how to enjoy the process. I really enjoy it all, from rolling out of bed to hitting the shower, making breakfast and putting on coffee; heading over to the humidor to select a cigar, unwrapping it, inhaling the fragrance of the wrapper, snipping the foot and lighting the head and watching my den fill with smoke. It’s all in the process. But it all comes down to arranging words on a blank monitor—crafting that sentence I love to read in other novels, the one that leaves me thinking, I wish I’d written that. And then I read it again, and later I reread it to a friend over the phone.
It’s a shame that writers today are advised against writing anything that risks taking the reader out of the story because those are the moments, the passages, for which I live. To me how something is said is just as important as what is said. So writing a paragraph, a piece of narrative, or an exchange of dialogue that really nails it, that brings tears to my own eyes … well, that’s what I find most rewarding. It’s what brings me back to my den each Sunday morning.
Tell us about your latest book.
JCG: The first of a science fiction/alternate reality diptych, One Hot January is based on a theory that Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt conspired to allow the Japanese a preemptive strike at Pearl Harbor, thereby enabling Roosevelt to declare war openly, without political repercussions. In my revised historical account of events, Churchill alerts Roosevelt that his code breakers have learned of the Japanese plot. The U.S. is thereby able to thwart the attack, delaying involvement in World War II long enough for Germany to grow too strong to be defeated.
A century later, Hitler’s successor continues to eradicate entire races and cultures to ensure German supremacy. A small sect of genetically engineered beings sees the flaw in selective breeding and extermination, and so they travel back in time, to the events just prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, to achieve the successful conspiracy that leads to the reality in which we live today.
In One Hot January, Joe January, an emotionally aloof private investigator from the South Bronx, gets more than he bargains for when he uncovers this seemingly impossible plot of time travel and alternate realities by grudgingly agreeing to help a pretty young woman locate her missing father. Her father, a Professor of Archeology from Columbia College, must prevent the secret location of Hitler’s body, which lies in a cryogenic state awaiting a cure for cancer, from falling into the wrong hands. By the end of the novel, January is thrust one hundred years into the future, where he must survive on a century-old sagacity as he endeavors to find his way back to his own time and the woman he loves but lacked the courage to tell. The tale concludes in January’s Thaw, to be released later this year.
Filled with mystery and intrigue, action and romance, the January series is speculative fiction on a large scale.
Is it available in print, eBook, and Kindle formats?
One Hot January is available through my publisher, Second Wind Publishing, and will soon be available from Amazon in both book and Kindle formats.
Do you think your writing has improved since your first attempt? If so, in what way?
JCG: If my writing hasn’t improved over the years I don’t think I’d still be writing. I think my writing has improved in just about every aspect of the craft: my dialogue is more real than it has ever been, my narrative is more compelling, and overall, my story-telling has improved.
Raymond Chandler said, “Everything a writer learns about the art or craft of fiction takes just a little away from his need or desire to write at all. In the end he knows all the tricks and has nothing to say.” I still have plenty to learn, and plenty more to say, so I plan to be around for a while longer.
After hours of intense writing, how do you unwind?
JCG: My most intense writing sessions are on Sunday morning—four to six hours of intensity with coffee brewing and a cigar between my teeth acting as muses. Some of the most productive marathon sessions result in 3,000 words or more. Afterward I often kick back to sip a beer, watch a ballgame and maybe take a nap. Other times, if I’m still feeling my creativity flowing, I’ll go back after an hour or two and set about revising what I’ve just written.
Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
Thanks for dropping by, Conrad. Much success with your books!