Hey, welcome back! Got a nice hot cup of coffee? Ready for some great chat with another one of our authors? Today we have J.D. Cunegan, the creative mind behind the Jill Anderson series of mystery/thriller/superhero novels. Ready? Let’s go!
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always been creative, but it wasn’t until I got to middle school that I had any idea of how to channel my creative energy in a constructive way. I discovered comic books – superhero comics, specifically – when I was 11, and from that moment on, I decided I wanted to create my own characters and tell my own stories. I started out wanting to be a comic book creator – the next Jim Lee or Todd MacFarlane. But as I got older, I became a much better writer than artist, so eventually, I made the transition from panels and word balloons to prose writing. The stories I grew up wanting to tell survived the transition, and they’re among my first published works.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
There is no set schedule, partly because I never know from day to day when I’ll be able to write and how much time I’ll have. My day job isn’t a typical Monday-through-Friday, 9-to-5 gig, so I have to be a bit flexible as to where and how I can get words on the page. I try to write at least 1,000 words a day, and there are days when I easily exceed that limit. But there are also days when I either can’t get the work in or the words are hard to come by. But I figure that’s true for every writer.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I don’t know if this qualifies as “interesting,” but I’ve noticed the more I write and the more I publish, the harder the words come. You would think after publishing six novels, a collection of short stories, a non-fiction book, and seeing my work in multiple anthologies, I’d have an easier time actually putting the words on the page, but the opposite has been true. I second-guess myself a lot more than I did before I was published, and I haven’t quite sussed out why that is yet.
What does your family think of your writing?
Much to my surprise, my mother and grandmother are actually fans. I didn’t peg them as cop-turned-superhero-cyborg fans, but they’re always asking when the next book’s coming out, and when they do get their hands on a new one, they’re usually done with it in a day or two.
Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I will say this: I might not have many fans, but the ones I do have are passionate, really supportive, and they’re always there to tell me how much they love my work. They’re the confidence boost I need when things aren’t going great at the keyboard, and while I’d still like to reach bestseller status, the handful of people out there ready to devour whatever pours from my fingertips is a godsend for me. I also love that two of my biggest fans hail from Germany and France; I’m international!
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As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Depends on how old I was when asked. When I was really young, I wanted to be a Ghostbuster. Then I had a brief period where I wanted to be a teacher, and I even had a phase in middle school where I wanted to be a meteorologist (that dream died once I found out how much science and math I needed to study). Since then, though, I’ve wanted to be a writer.
What is the first book that made you cry?
For the most part, books don’t hit me like that. Movies and TV shows do, but not books. That’s not to say books don’t make me emotional – they do. But they almost never drive me to tears. One exception, though, was S.E. Anderson’s Aix Marks the Spot. I found myself crying at the end of that one, and it completely surprised me. I wasn’t expecting a coming-of-age scavenger hunt tale set in France to hit me like that, but it did.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I think, to a degree, pursuing originality is a fool’s errand. Because a) I think originality is overrated, and b) it’s almost impossible to actually achieve. Everything derives from everything, and there’s no shame in telling a story that’s similar to another (aside from outright plagiarism, of course). So long as you can get readers to invest in your characters, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to get away with almost anything creatively. There are small ways you can make your story different from others (defying genre convention, breaking down tropes, etc.), but I think writers’ energy is better spent on character depth and emotional heft than in finding the next great original story.
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What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
R.R. Virdi, E.A. Cope, S.E. Anderson, Madeline Dyer, Cait Ashwood…the indie author community has been a godsend to me, and not just in the sense of helping me with the ancillary parts of being self-published (like finding editors and cover designers and marketing advice). Seeing my author friends succeed, reading their work, is honestly one of the most inspiring things to me, because it constantly reminds me that it can be done, that I’ve already done it – multiple times over – and that I can do it again.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Getting the words on the page is the most important thing. None of the other stuff matters without sitting down and writing the story. You can’t publish a book that hasn’t been written, and you can’t convince people to buy a book that doesn’t exist. There is a time and place to worry about everything related to publication, but without the actual story – the whole reason you became a writer in the first place – the rest of it’s moot.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Scrivener. The organizational tools alone make Scrivener worth the cost for writers, and it’s no coincidence that I started actually finishing my stories once I bought Scrivener. I can’t write a book anymore without it.
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What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
E.A. Copen’s Beasts of Babylon. Western plus horror…she’s not the first to tackle that combination, but of what I’ve read of that particular genre mashup, hers is the best. Copen deserves to be more widely known anyway, but Beasts of Babylon truly deserves to be the sort of book everyone’s talking about.
What are you working on now?
Right now, I have several projects in various stages. I’m putting the finishing touches on Bitter End, book six in the Jill Andersen series, which should be ready for release sometime this spring. I’m also working on a lesbian assassin thriller, tentatively titled Summertime, Assassins, and Other Skullduggeries, which will be split into a trilogy and released this summer – and toward the end of the year, I’m planning to launch a new urban fantasy series that’s a spinoff of both the Jill Andersen series and my fantasy novel Notna.
What do you have coming soon?
Bitter End, book six in the Jill Andersen series and the end of the current arc, came out in April. The series itself won’t be over, but this book will be the culmination of everything that’s been building since I first released Bounty in 2015. It’s going to be my most intense, hardest-hitting, most emotional book to date, and I almost feel like I owe my readers an apology in advance.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I hope people give my most recent release, a non-fiction book titled The Art of Reading, a try. Especially other writers. I’m a firm believer that the truly successful and productive writers are also voracious readers, and I’ve noticed my writing slumps coincide with my reading slumps. The Art of Reading is my thesis that reading is essential to writing, and I really hope other writers find something meaningful and useful within those pages.
Where can your fans catch up with you?
I’d love for them to go to my website, https://jdcuneganbooks.com, but I’m all over social media. Whatever works best for them! On Twitter I’m @JD_Cunegan and Instagram is jdcuneganbooks
Thanks for visiting!