Interview with J. E. Andrews

Published 2018-01-20.
When did you first start writing?
I started making up stories long before I put pencil to paper, but it was mid-summer of 1969, when I started putting stories on paper. I was in the back of the family station wagon, going on summer vacation. I had my stack of comics and a stack of paper. I started then, I believe. If I'm mis-remembering, at least it's a good tale. My first stories were set in a fantasy universe. I made up a world based on magic. Creating worlds and characters and interesting stories is what got me going. I spent a lot of time with those first stories. They are still trapped in paper with fading pencil lines, unlikely to ever see the light of a reading device.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes. It was terrible. I was very much into Andre Norton at the time. So, I wrote this really neat Fantasy story. It was fun. I was doing really good. The story was progressing nicely. Then I read it over carefully and realized I was almost copying one of her stories. I had changed names and exactness but it was so close that I had to give it up. I don't recall the story now. I do recall the incident and what it taught me about my story retention. Years later I came to understand that mimicking a writer you admire is a beginners lesson, a means to enhance non-existent skills.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Maybe. I recall the first book that caught me was called 'Ghosts, Ghosts, Ghosts'. It was an anthology. I recall several of the plots from that collection. I was in sixth grade and ever since then I had to visit the library to feed the need to read. Back then libraries had limited Fantasy and Science Fiction sections. I pretty much read all the school library had on the shelves. I became addicted to those genres. It was years later before I started my writing attempts.
Who are your favorite authors?
The list would be too long but off the top of my head I'd start with Andre Norton, the first book of hers she published under the name Andrew North. While her stories were great, capturing my imagination, she also assisted many younger writers, which I thought was cool. Others that I like are- Stephanie Meyer, Tara K. Harper, Stephen King, Lee Child, Dean Koontz, Robert B. Parker, J.D.Robb/Nora Roberts, Heather Graham, Robert Heinlein, J.R.R.Tolkien, and many more. It's not that I'm a fickle fan but if I'm reading a good book, that author is my favorite.
What is your writing process?
I have no idea... I think of it kind of like taking a seed of unknown origin, planting it and tending it. Over time I get to know what kind of tree, shrub or weed it becomes. The seed is my initial Idea. It can be anything from a unique setting, situation or character type. It could be as short as a sentence or a name. When it catches my imagination I let it take off. I'll put it on paper or start a file and see how far it goes and in which direction. My Magic Series started with an observation about standard characters while I was browsing a bookstore, looking at what was popular. I wanted someone different. A name and character type became approximately 14 books to this point.
How do you approach cover design?
With fear and trembling... Not the best condition. The first covers I started with were images of the main characters I'd created. I'm something of an artist so I draw the portraits and have a friend do the layout. For several of the recent books I hired a cover artist to do the hard part. I'll likely do most of mine in the future for financial reasons and control. I think ebook covers are a different creature than hardcopy but as important. Most people do judge a book by its cover, at least for picking it up to check.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Really, there are two areas of great joy for me. The first is when I accomplish what I'm aiming at with a book. The second is when I hear feedback of someone enjoying what they've read of mine. That's why I started publishing my stories in the first place. Nothing has ever inhibited my writing, but the idea of sharing the stories with others makes it worthwhile.
What do your fans mean to you?
Fans mean a great deal, they are a wonderful source of inspiration. I can't say that I write for my fans, I do write for myself or I'd never do it to start with. It is sharing my tales that gives me a boost. I would hate to disappoint my fans, so I'm always studying and trying to improve my styles.
What are you working on next?
Next? Not really sure. Currently I am Revising my Magic series. I'm adding a dimension to the books that I would consider the 'mental' zone. There's this occasional missing point where I leave stuff in my head rather than put into the story. Or a section could use some embellishing. With the Magic series, I've also added details in later books that could be in the earlier. The series winds up at Book Nine. I have the eighth written, so that's coming. The Ninth is coming along. As the last of the arc everything wraps up, so I'm being careful not to leave anything out.
Describe your desk
Desk? If that means writing area it would be 80% of my apartment. But mostly these days I write in my command chair (recliner) opposite the TV with my laptop on a lap-desk between the arms. The end of the coffee table has a pile of papers, details of characters and scenes, sketches of characters. The lap-desk has a cup with four pens (different colors n inks), sticky pads, a photo of my granddaughter, assorted notes, and three thumb drives.
What's the story behind your latest book?
The latest book doesn't have a title yet. It is the ninth book of my Magic series. It's the culmination/end of this arc. Pepper Paull, introduced as an academic Good witch in the first book, has gained powerful magic books. She's learned how to master their magic. Over the years she's gained a small but powerful coven. She's gained a circle of friends, some of whom she'd never have considered before. Now, when the chips are down, she must rely on their proven strength, as they rely on her. Throughout the series Pepper has shown that words have meaning and truth has value. Her beliefs are put to the test now.
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