That's right, it's spring! Sometime today. I think.
And I missed it?
Oh, man. Does that mean another four weeks of winter or something?
In any case, here's today's interview!
D. J. Austin is a career U.S. Navy sailor, joining the military soon after graduating from high school. He began his career as an enlisted sailor, serving onboard aircraft carriers in the late 1990s. In the middle of his career, he earned a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from The Citadel, which led to a commission in the US Navy. He continued serving as a commissioned officer onboard submarines for the next ten years, during which time he earned a Master of Engineering Management from Duke University.
D. J. Austin is now retired from the U.S. Navy and lives with his wife and children in a small, New England village by the sea.
@authordjaustin on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok
Fun fact about the cover for The Austin Paradigm – the cover artist couldn’t find a military officer photo that looked how I wanted it to, so four years after retirement, I put on my dress white uniform and had my wife take photos of me from the back. I sent them over to the cover artist to use, and viola.
Excerpt from The Austin Experiment:
The submarine slipped beneath the choppy water and was gone.
I snapped my attention to the sailor in front of me. His face was blank as I’m sure he was trying to decide what exactly I was doing or thinking. I didn’t say a word…, I couldn’t. Looking back on that moment, I wish I had handled it differently. I remember distinctly looking around the control room. I remember the officer that was on the sub’s periscope, how much I wanted to be like him, how much I instantly idolized him. I had only been on the vessel for a few hours, but he was the one. He was the sub’s Weapons Officer, the WEPS. Among the few department heads on a submarine, he even had the best title. You could
feel the respect in the room for him from the junior sailors. There was an unspoken trust that could also be sensed from the other direction as well, from the captain. This man, the captain, was responsible for this entire submarine and every soul on it, yet when he looked at the man on the periscope…, the WEPS…, you could see the calm and the sense of peace in his face. He trusted this man with every ounce of trust he possessed. Maybe that’s why I immediately felt the same way, calm, at peace, trusting, …, even though I was sinking on a steel vessel for the first time in my life.
“Excuse me, Sir,” the junior sailor in front of me said again. It felt like minutes had passed as he waited on me, but only a few seconds had gone by. “I need to get past you to check for leaks,” he demanded.
I moved my body out of his way almost by habit. Great, I thought, a few hours into this new job and I already feel like a complete dumbass! The sailor paid me no mind and went on about his business, flashlight in hand, checking all around for any new seawater leaks as the sub slipped slowly down beneath the waves above. None of us could have sensed what was coming in the days ahead, not the sailor who slipped past me tediously performing his tasks, not the confident WEPS spinning on the periscope, not even the all-knowing, all-seeing captain.
None of us could possibly know what we were about to experience.
Excerpt from Infection – Extinction Event Series Book One:
“Eric? Do you have the reports I asked for?”
Some distant part of my psyche heard her, but the familiarity of her voice did not spark enough excitement in by brain to pull me away from the daydream I was involved in.
She continued calling my name, but I could not be bothered with the simplicity of her request. The news report I had been watching in the corner of my computer screen had taken hold of my mind and was causing me to slip away into a fantasy land of holiday festivities.
“Yes, boss?” I finally replied, blinking my eyes quickly to remove the burning sensation caused by my wide-open staring.
We all, I’m sure, have moments of intense thought at work, where our mundane tasks are replaced with childhood memories or dreams of moments yet to come. Rarely, however, are they so poorly timed that they cause embarrassment. This was one of the rare events and I could feel my cheeks warming as I focused on my boss, Trish, standing at my office door, tapping her foot repeatedly. As my eyes make their way up to her eyes, I notice that her arms are tightly crossed, a sure sign that I have annoyed her by my repeated failure to acknowledge her presence despite the fact that she was calling my name.
Patricia Emily Stevens, lovingly referred to as Trish to her face, and not so lovingly referred to as PEST behind her back. Obviously, her nickname had initially been derived from her initials, PES, but I added the T to the end after I heard a coworker call her a tyrant one day after a staff meeting a few years ago. Trish was one of those bosses that make you wonder what exactly upper management is looking for when they select people for promotions. Yes, she was well educated, having earned a bachelor’s degree in business and then a MBA, which she lovingly hung on her wall for all to see as they entered her lair. The problem wasn’t her knowledge, it was the way she presented her knowledge, consistently making sure that everyone in the room knew she was the smartest person in the room.
I’m not saying I could do a better job if I were the department supervisor, but I have been working at this company for seven years, compared to her three. I don’t have a MBA, but I am working on it through an online school. When our manager posted the job opening, Trish and I were the only two applicants. He interviewed us both, but I knew the end result before my interview was even over.
The minute he said, “Look, Eric, you can’t say you’re working on your MBA when you have taken one class two years ago and done nothing since.”
That comment was the nail in my professional coffin and the day I knew my future was bleak here at Cornerstone Enterprises.
Honestly, I don’t see a long-term future for myself here anyway. Cornerstone is the marketing branch for several large drug manufacturers, and it’s just a bit too boring for my liking. When I imagine a life as a marketing executive, I think more about the companies that promote concerts or car racing, the more adrenaline focused activities. I don’t like writing and promoting ads for the geriatric medicines that our clients produce. But the job market doesn’t support me quitting to pursue other options, and my bank account definitely doesn’t support me being unemployed, so I’ve been biding my time here, collecting a paycheck, while I weigh my options.
“So, do you have them or not?”
“Oh, yeah. Sorry! Your reports are right here,” I say, handing her a stack of papers out of my desktop filing tray.
“You know, Eric. I’m not sure when you decided to disengage your brain, but you should really think about focusing more on your work if you want to continue progressing here. Otherwise, you’re going to be sitting at your cheap desk in your windowless office for the rest of your derisory life.”
Trish the PEST turned and walked away from my door, making her way to whatever important marketing research meeting she had lined up for this afternoon.
“Yeah, thanks boss,” I graciously replied, watching her ass wiggle as she walked away, “…for the words of encouragement,” I mumbled under my breath once I could see she was far enough away to prevent her from hearing me.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? I've always enjoyed expressing myself through writing poetry or short stories. In October 2020, I had the idea for my first book, The Austin Experiment, and just started typing. It took three days to pen the entire first book, which still blows my mind. I have not been able to reproduce that writing speed despite wanting to! The second book in that trilogy took two weeks to complete, and the third was about the same. In all, the first Trilogy was complete before the end of 2020 and the three books released in December 2020, Jan 2021, and Feb 2021. I sold over 2000 copies in 2021 and had close to 50,000 pages read on KDP, and am maintaining a 4-star rating on Amazon.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books? Mainly life experiences or current events. For example, The Austin Experiment takes a large portion of its setting from my time serving on submarines while in the Navy. The idea for the book though came during a hike in the woods with my wife and three daughters. We walked through a trail with a tree wrapping around the path like an arched doorway and the time travel portal the main character walks through in the book was born. Actually a lot of the scenes that happen in the woods in that book were born that day on that hike. My second series, the Extinction Event Series, is five books in total, three of which are either available now (Infection – book one) or available for preorder (Injection – book two and Immunity – book three). The idea for this series came from my own experiences with COVID, which I battled through in 2021.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing? We like to spend time together as a family. In the winter, we all enjoy skiing. In the summer, we are always on the water boating, paddleboarding, or jet skiing. All of my kids are heavily into sports, fencing and soccer mainly, so we also spend a lot of our free time at practice and games.
What does your family think of your writing? They love it. My first series just became available in hardback, and my copies arrived. I didn't think much of it and left them in the box, but my wife took them out and displayed them in our living room. I didn't even realize she had done this, and it actually made me quite proud to see them out. It made me realize that, although writing has become somewhat normal for me, it is something unique and special and those around you should be involved in the process.
I always love finding my books on the shelf in a public library!
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books? Actually how easy it is to write and publish a novel compared to how hard it is to market and sell that novel. In my mind, before this journey began, it seemed to be quite the opposite, sort of an – if you write it, they will come – scenario. This is absolutely not the case, though. There are so many options out there for readers, so you can write a much as you want, but marketing your product is important and takes up the larger portion of your time by far.
How many books have you written? I’ve written eight books so far, and have another ten or so started. Which is your favourite? I'll always have a soft spot for the first, The Austin Experiment, because it really envelopes a lot of my life experiences. Many of the emotions felt by the main character I felt during my time in the Navy, from the feelings of walking into a new ship as a young officer to the excitement of leading a crew of sailors during a mission.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up? I always wanted to fly fighter jets. I had poor eyesight, though, so I could never fulfill this dream. I turned to ships instead, serving onboard aircraft carriers and eventually submarines, which was a pretty awesome job! I'm still envious when I see pictures from some of my military friends who had the opportunity to fly high tech jets, but I'm completely satisfied with my experiences.
Does writing energize or exhaust you? When I'm in the mood to write, it's an invigorating experience that is self-feeding, meaning my mind spawns ideas as I write. I don't use outlines or maps, instead just starting with a main idea and developing my story, letting it lead me wherever it goes. On the opposite side of this, though, if I'm not in that creative mood, I don't write. The ideas don't flow when I force it, which leads to rewriting and regret. This has been problematic for my current series, the Extinction Event Series. I knew this would be a five book series when it started with book one, Infection, and books one through three flowed quickly, but I stalled during book four and have been working on it for a few months. Oddly, it is my favorite of the series, though, and I think my mind is forcing me to take the time to get it just right!
Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? I write everything under the pseudonym D. J. Austin. I chose this mainly to separate my professional and personal life. I didn't want my kids
teachers or my coworkers judging me or my family based on their thoughts of my work. I like having privacy tied to my name and publicity tied to my pseudonym. I do use my bio and my picture though in my books, website, and advertisements to physically connect me to my pseudonym, which may defeat my original intentions. That being said, I wouldn't change this if I had to do it over again, mainly because now I feel like D. J. Austin is his own person and I can be that person separate from myself.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want? I am 100% original. I write what I feel, think, and create, and I don't write to market.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be? Get started now. There's nothing holding you back and there's no point in waiting for the right moment. Just get the words on paper!
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? My spirit animal is a bulldog for a few reasons and I think I have carried that over into the writing world. I was given this spirit animal in the military for my bulldogish way of completing assignments, push hard and fast until complete, leveling whatever got in the way. I think my writing style is a lot like this, my mind works this way, battling out the content until it's complete.
What does literary success look like to you? Fans reaching out to tell me their thoughts, having a reader base waiting on my next book, reading real reviews of my work (good and bad), being recognized by a reader. I'm not downplaying having a series picked up by Netflix, that would also be amazing, just unlikely!
What’s the best way to market your books? Word of mouth, newsletters, Amazon and Facebook ads, offering free books when possible, author interviews, placing free bookmarks in local libraries and lending libraries, promoting content on my website and social media.
What do you have coming next?
I have a new series that I'm midway through. Infection – Extinction Event Series Book 1 is fully released. Injection – Book 2 and Immunity – Book 3 are available in paperback now or for eBook
preorder now. They are releasing March 31st and May 6th respectively. Rebellion – Book 4 will release in July, and finally Resurgence – Book 5 will release in August. Neither of the last two books are available for preorder yet as I’m still writing book 4 and only have ideas for book 5. Also, neither covers are developed yet.
Separately, I’m delving into other genres and currently writing two stand-alone thrillers initially titled “Save the Date” and “Candy Lake”, and a Rom-Com titled “Written in the Starts” under a different pseudonym – Zoe Parker. The Rom-Com you can start reading now for free on Kindle’s new Vella platform. I’m writing this book slowly as serialized fiction on this platform, then will publish it as a full novel later.
Lastly, my oldest daughter and I came up with some great ideas for a fantasy series of nine books while we were, you may have guessed, on a hike in the woods a few
months ago. We’ve started this series already, and it is developing slowly. I’ve learned that developing an entire fantasy world takes a significant amount of time and effort, as well as a very large imagination. Kudos for sure to the fantasy writers out there!
Anyway, thanks so much for the interest and your time. I hope you have enjoyed learning a little bit about me! I would love the opportunity to learn about you as well. Please reach out anytime to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website www.authordjaustin.com and sign up for my mailing list.