Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.
Recently, we interviewed author J Denison Reed about his writing and his recently released, Clifford’s War: The Bluegrass Battleground, an action thriller that delivers exciting action, colorful heroes and villains, and seamless plots. (Read the review here.)
J. Denison Reed, born in New Jersey, currently lives in Virginia with his wife, children and their cats, Spencer and Guster.
Ever since he was a child, he enjoyed creating short stories and poems. He joined the Army after graduating high school which started his career as a Network Engineer. With story-telling always on his mind, J. Denison would write very short and creative, two paragraph stories or short poems in station logs, work logs and trouble tickets purely for others amusement.
In addition to writing, J. Denison enjoys other creative outlets like photography and making candles.
He even co-owns a small candle company with his wife.
How often do you base your characters on real people?
Several Characters are based on real people. If I find they have interesting personal traits that would fit well with a character I am trying to come up with or if I like their name, I will use them. Not all of the people I use will have the same name or even personality, but rather be loosely based on someone.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I started and scrapped several books before I found enough patience to be able to finish my debut novel. If I had to put a number, I would say, at least four.
What does literary success look like to you?
I define literary success as someone reading something of mine and getting so inspired, they create something of their own from it.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I tend to do some minor research before I start the story and find myself doing more extensive research as I am writing. Sometimes you get into a story and an idea for a plot twist or action sequence pops in your head and you need go back and think, “Is that possible?”
Then you find yourself researching the strangest possible things. In fact, I think I will get a shirt that says, “Ignore my search history, I’m a writer.”
How do you select the names of your characters?
Some, I use random name generators. Others I use combined names of family and friends.
Do you read your book reviews? Do they please you or annoy you? Do you think you can learn a lot from reading criticism about your work?
I do, and I should probably stop, but I know I wont. I am my own biggest critic and I have had plenty of moments where I thought I was terrible, but you talk yourself out of those thoughts and remind yourself that some will really enjoy your work and others wont. I only get annoyed by reviews when I know that the reviewer didn’t read the story. I have had average reviews that floored me, but I got over it, knowing that they read the story, but it just wasn’t their style. But I also got a glowing review from someone who talked about “Clifford’s War” as a gory war story and it was obvious, they just read the title and wanted to post a review about it. I find that annoying because it’s dishonest to the potential readers.
I welcome constructive criticism. I think it’s the best way to grow as a writer.
What is your favorite childhood book?
I am a huge fan of Shel Silberstein. I probably read “where the sidewalk ends” and “The giving tree” a thousand times. “Runny Babbit” frustrates me, though.
How did you decide which form or genre was right for you?
I let the story decide. When I started the Clifford’s War series, I initially wanted to write a horror story, inspired by a thought I had while looking at an old historic church. As I was creating the story, it morphed into more of an action thriller than horror and I could feel it. As the writing progressed, I found myself adding humor and odd situations and it became an faced-paced high Action thriller with a touch of humor. After the re-reads and edits, I knew I had something good.
How hard is it to establish and maintain a career in fiction writing?
It’s not too difficult. You should develop a character profile and loosely stick to their traits. This can also help you grow a character as well, by highlighting a trait and expanding or retracting them. Small things like pocketing something from the store in one part of the book which leads to a small minor issue, then later they are faced with something similar, but they decide to do something different (Good or bad) will really show character trait movement or development.
Were your parents interested in literature? Did they read a lot? What books did you have in the house?
I remember my Mother being an avid reader. She loves Dean Koontz. I think this is one of the reasons I decided to write. I remember her getting so excited after reading a good book and wanting to talk about it. I wanted to be able to create something that excites people in that way.
How do you begin a book?
I try to start a book in the middle of peril. I want the reader to pick it up and get invested by the first paragraph.
What’s more important: characters or plot?
Characters. I believe that we, as humans, care more about people than plots. You must either Like or dislike someone enough to care what happens to them. If you create great relatable or well hated characters, the readers will care about their journey. I am not saying that plot is not important, but I think the plot of the story hits harder or softer depending on the level of care the reader has for the characters involved.
If asked, what would your friends and family say about you?
Hopefully good things.
If you could only change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would give myself more patience. I think having patience helps the writing process.
Are you a feeler or a thinker?
A little of both. But I feel I am more of a thinker. 😉
Tell us some more about your book.
Clifford’s War is an action thriller series. The first book is “Bluegrass Battleground” and takes place in Kentucky, USA. “Without End” is the sequel that takes place in Northern VA, outside of Washington DC. The characters moved there at the end of the first book to work with the main character, Clifford Dee’s, former Military commander.
There is action, intense scenes, and some light humorous situations in both books.
What inspired the premise of your book?
I was on the road for my job and spotted an old historic church near Culpepper, VA. Thoughts flew in as I was driving and I initially wanted to create a horror story about someone trapped in the church.
This became the beginning of Bluegrass Battleground and introduction of Clifford Dee, the main character of the Clifford’s War series.
How many rewrites did you do for this book?
So many, but just enough.
Which scene or chapter in the book is your favorite? Why?
In Without End: The parking garage. (No spoilers)
Which scene was most difficult to write? Why?
In Without End: Again, The parking garage. I needed it to be perfect.
How did you decide on this title?
It was actually very difficult for me to come up with a title for the book/series. At the end of Bluegrass Battleground, I knew I wanted this to continue into a series, but I couldn’t think of a good title. Even now, I think I should have spent more time looking for the perfect title. I like “Clifford’s War” but I don’t think it’s perfect for the story. I think others see that title and they think about an actual war and not an Army vet Private Investigator, and the “War” which is his life and career.
What’s next for you?
Clifford Dee has many more battles to fight in his “War.”
Categories: action and thriller