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Adam Interviews... J.T. Cunningham!

Well, look at that - another month gone by!

Let's check out what July has to offer... uh-huh. Yes. Oh, and that too.


How about we start the first Monday with an interview?

I have J.T. Cunningham with me. J.T. Cunningham is a graduate of the University of Minnesota, where he was published in the Tower. His work has also appeared in Alice Says Go F*** Yourself, published by Agape Editions. His first novel, Devil’s Entropy, was published on June 13 by Tea with Coffee Media.

Social Media Links

Twitter: @JTCunninghamm

Instagram: jt_cunninghamm

1. Reboots – a great idea or a lack of creativity?

I think reboots can offer something distinct in terms of a new creative vision being implemented into something already established. If there’s something new and interesting to be done with characters and a world that aren’t your own, then I think there’s merit. Unfortunately, most reboots aren’t made with the hope to inject originality into a previous idea, rather they’re made to capitalize on familiarity, which I would argue defeats the purpose of returning to something older. If the story stands on its own, and captures an essence of timelessness, then it’s best to leave it be.

2. What’s a book that pleasantly surprised you?

“The Swerve, or How the World Become Modern” by Stephen Greenblatt. I read it in high school and absolutely detested it. Then I revisited it about a year ago; I was surprised how masterfully it was written and how quick I was to write it off. I think it goes to show that just because you didn’t like a book or film initially doesn’t mean you’ll always feel that way. Sometimes you just need a few more years’ experience and a change in perspective.

3. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I was in elementary school. A children’s book author came to visit and read from one of his books, and later held an informal writing group with interested students. The simple act of filling out pages in a notebook with some truly godawful stories sparked a desire to craft longer, more complicated ones. I wanted to create, and I realized I could do it the best with words.

4. Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

I mostly stick to subjects I have an academic interest in, so history, religion, and mythology usually take precedent. Of course, other books, plays, and shows with characters and themes that resonate with me provide plenty of influence.

5. What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

When I’m revising, it’s not unusual for me to take a scorched earth approach and completely dump everything I wrote for a first draft before going onto the next one. I find that way to be beneficial in the sense that I’m not beholden to anything particular and instead can go off impressions. I might lose some good sentences or phrases here and there, but I consider it a worthy sacrifice.

6. Is there a trope you find yourself going back to in multiple works? Or one you avoid?

I like showing the juxtaposition between what characters think and what they do; oftentimes they’ll be in direct opposition to each other. There’s an irony there that’s fun to work with. They're good opportunities to explore more nuanced characterization.

7. What do you think makes a good story?

My personal perfect story is a trifecta of plot, character, and theme, wherein each facet is integrated into the others seamlessly; one provides the catalyst to further the other two and they work in tandem until the end. It’s an incredibly difficult thing to pull off, and I can only think of a handful of examples that manage to do so. Nevertheless, they’re some of the absolutely best stories I’ve experienced. There’s just something so fulfilling about it working out.

8. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket and curb your expectations.

9. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

Four, but thus far only one’s seen the light of day. My favorite is one of the unlucky ones that haven’t.

10. Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you building a body of work with connections between each book?

I think it should be done on a case-by-case basis. As exciting and fun as doing something like what Stephen King did with “The Dark Tower,” it’s a gamble. Sometimes I think it’s better to preserve the sanctity of a book’s individuality rather than trying to tie it back to something larger. Sometimes something should just be its own thing.

11. What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

I’m not sure if it’s technically underappreciated, but “A Canticle for Leibowitz” by Walter M. Miller Jr. is the best novel I’ve ever read. I think it’d make for a great miniseries.

12. How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?

Treat the reader like they’re intelligent. Give them a story with integrity without pulling your punches. If you lay the groundwork well enough, then they’ll go along for the ride. How else would “Dune” have gotten as popular as it is?

13. Are you traditionally or self-published? Or both? Do you feel there are advantages to one over the other?

I’m in a unique position where it’s a sort of hybrid. I’m with Tea with Coffee Media, which feels like a mix of both. They’ve granted an enormous amount of autonomy and creative freedom during the editing process, which I’ve greatly appreciated. I’m not sure I would’ve gotten that with another imprint.

14. What is the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything?

Read “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

15. What does literary success look like to you?

If I was to be arrogant, I’d say having my books taught in university courses. Giving public readings. Winning the Pulitzer. Honestly though, I think the truest form of it is just people reading them, period. If they like them, even better.

16. What do you have coming next?

A neo-noir mystery that explores mysticism in the modern age.

BUT WAIT! Here's an excerpt for you from "Devil's Entropy"

The Knights weren’t supposed to be there. By all means, they shouldn’t have been there. Nothing about it struck Corman as something they wouldn’t give two shits about, especially considering the other thirty-eight instances where they never bothered showing up. But this one for whatever reason garnered a significant police presence: barricades were erected, uniformed cops idled around, and armored, jet black Corvette Stingrays were parked up and down the street.

“I wondered where all the education budget went,” Edgar murmured.

“Probably have anti-mine sensors if Yue was right,” Corman said.

“But who can afford mines anymore?”

Corman pulled out his falsified ID badge from his breast pocket. It had earned him more than a few debts to the Golden Hermetics, but when it came to fraud and deception, nobody did it better. That being said, they were insufferable pricks. They looked down their noses at anybody not a part of their ‘club’ as they liked to call it, and even to someone they actively assisted like Corman, took every opportunity to be condescending assholes about it. All of the Minneapolis gangs were emotionally draining in their own way; the Hermetics got so high off the fumes of their own shit they believed it was actually gold.

Approaching a uniformed cop standing guard, Corman flashed his ID badge.

“Sir Mador,” Corman told him. “I’m on special assignment from D.C. Thanks.”

“Oh, I, um— Go on ahead,” the cop stammered.

Without a flicker of recognition, Corman made his way through the massive hole in the exterior left by the chimera. Its body, as well as the bodies of the wiemca, had been removed from the scene. Their bodily fluids, however, had not. Glancing for familiar faces, his stomach sank. Between a thick cloud of smoke were Sirs Kay and Bors, the sons of Knights who failed upwards. Despite their titles, they were low ranked; they didn’t even have the security clearance to know what went on most of the time.

Meaning King wants to keep this quiet, Corman thought.

“Holy shit, if it isn’t the devil himself,” said Kay in his grating, nasally voice. Both Knights were looking at him now. Kay had the face of a ferret and the complexion of a rotting pumpkin. Bors was a fleshy man, with a weak jawline and an even weaker chin.

Goddamn it, Corman thought, bracing himself. He offered a terse smile.

“Word around Camelot is some lunatic with a gardening tool is making trouble,” Bors said. “We had a pool going. Either it was you or some idiot who looked like you. And it looks like half the department owes me.”

“Figured you’d go and stick your snout into our business,” Kay said, sneering. “There aren’t any truffles around, sorry to say.”

“What were you hoping to do, billy goat? Eat the dead bodies before we could bag them?”

“Actually I was gonna piss on them first,” Corman replied.

“Doesn’t surprise me,” Bors said.

“Why would you piss on something you’re gonna eat?” Kay asked, cocking his head to the side, his beady little eyes narrowed.

“Piss is sterile,” Bors told him.

“No, it’s not. It’s fucking piss.”

“I didn’t say it was clean, dipshit. I said sterile.”

“What’s the fucking difference?” Kay demanded, throwing his cigarette onto the ground.

“Way to dirty the crime scene,” Corman said. Both Knights turned to glower at him. “Unless you think cigarette ash is sterile.”

Kay stomped the cigarette out. “Well, whatever. What are you even doing here, mooncalf? I don’t know who you brainwashed or hypnotized or whatever to get in here, but you should probably get the fuck out.”

Corman showed him his badge. “Got transferred to D.C., actually. I’m here on business. What, you think I just up and left?”

“I was hoping you got executed, myself,” Bors told him.

“No doubt about that,” Corman said with a shrug. “But unfortunately for you, I’m very much alive. And unfortunately for me, that means I need to get to work.”

“Hold it.” Bors held out a hand. “What the fuck is D.C. doing, sending you here? There’s nothing here they care about. Not to mention we just got your stench out of the office.”

“All right, cool it dickhead,” Corman muttered, shoving his hand out of the way. “This isn’t major. Just doing a routine inspection.”

You’re the dickhead,” Kay snarled.

“I’ll give you that,” Corman said. “Now get out of my way so I can work.”

“Fuck you, mooncalf,” Kay spat as Bors led him away. “This ain’t over.”

“Turns out having a department full of fucking idiots might be a good thing,” Corman snickered, taking out his notebook.

As soon as they were out of earshot, Edgar scolded him. “They won’t buy that forever. They might not even buy it at all.”

“Yeah, and?” Corman crouched in front of the Seal, sketched out the sigils.

“They might get you extradited,” Edgar told him. “Did you not listen to a word Yue said?”

“Several, actually,” Corman murmured, cross-referencing his sketches. “Relax, Ed. If the Hermetics did their jobs right, there’s no paper trail to follow.”

“This was a completely unnecessary risk to take, Corman,” Edgar said.

“Seal forty-eight,” Corman noted. In the spaces in between the pentacle’s points were the symbols for sulfur, mercury, and salt. In the middle was the staff of Asclepius. “Forbidden medical knowledge. Now what could they want with that?”

“All right, you got it. We should go now.”

“Think there’s some infection going around? Some sort of virus endemic to the wiemca? But they’re all half-dead, so…” Corman jotted some of his thoughts down. “So what could they—?”

“Bors and Kay are coming back,” Edgar whispered.

They strode up to Corman and stared down at him, Kay with more than enough menace for the both of them.

“This what a routine inspection is?” Kay barked. “Looks like you’re fucking up our crime scene.”

“You’re gonna have to pack it in, man,” Bors said. “Fuck off.”

“Sure,” Corman said, standing up. “I was just putting my dick away.”

“Why the fuck was your dick out?” Kay demanded.

Bors started to explain, but just sighed instead. “All right, you had your fun. Now fuck. Off.

Shrugging, Corman tucked his notebook away and started off. “Mind the piss, boys. It’s slippery.”

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