Interview with J. G. McNease

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in south Louisiana, although, I'm no Cajun. My writing is influenced by my southern mentality of hospitality, love, family, and relationships. I can't say that it's any different from other places around the world but I can say that my roots play a part in my writing in some way. Sometimes, it comes out in my writing and I don't even notice it.
When did you first start writing?
I started writing when I was just a little girl. I always loved to write creatively although I never imagined that it would turn into a career one day. Only recently, though, did I start writing novel-length works.
Who are your favorite authors?
I have several favorite authors but I guess these would be on the top of my list: C. S. Lewis and Francine Rivers. C. S. Lewis is a timeless author who I would have loved to have met during his lifetime. Francine Rivers wrote my absolute favorite book, Redeeming Love, and other books that I have on my bookshelf, such as A Lineage of Grace and A Voice in the Wind.
What do you read for pleasure?
I read all sorts of books and things for pleasure when I have the time. I read books by my favorite authors, books recommended to me by others, and anything I find that might be interesting. I read fiction for pleasure mostly.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
This is a difficult question because I have so many favorites but I will attempt to narrow it down to five. Here goes...
1. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers
2. The Narnia Books (all of them), by C. S. Lewis
3. Marley and Me, by John Grogan
4. Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller
5. Something Borrowed, by Emily Giffin

As for why these books are my favorites, I can say this: each book served a purpose for me in entertainment, inspiration, and joy. Redeeming Love was my top favorite because it's a book that I can, and do, go back and read over and over again. The Narnia books were inspirational for me and helped shape my own writing style. Marley and Me was just a darn good book and being a dog owner and lover, it made me laugh and cry. Blue Like Jazz was raw and real and I appreciate Donald Miller for his honesty in writing it. I can relate to his book because I went to a public university and being a Christian wasn't always easy. Something Borrowed was a great summer read and it was quick and easy. I read the rest of the books as well as I relaxed and laid out in the sun one summer years ago.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I look for good books and take recommendations from people that I know. I've got several books in my queue right now to read, including the 50 Shades of Grey books, which were originally self-published.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I read on my iPhone on either iBooks or the Kindle app. If I could read on a larger screen, that would be nice, but I don't have another e-reading device right now. My husband has a Kindle 3G so I use that from time to time. I still like to have a physical book in my hands though, even though that is a bit old-fashioned now.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I'm inspired by life each day which helps me to get out of bed and go to work. I love my life so why not wake up and live. I have an amazing husband, a sweet dog, and a great job. My family is supportive and loving, my apartment is fly and I live in sunny Florida (30 minutes from the gulf coast). Life is so very good.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The greatest joy of writing for me is the thrill of writing a story, piece by piece, and taking a journey with my characters to places that even I didn't know they would go. I let my imagination off of the leash and let it run free. I surprise myself sometimes when I'm writing because of the little twists and turns I let a story take. It's fun because it's almost like reading an unwritten story with each word that I write.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Becoming an independent author was a choice I made when I decided to publish my first book. I had a goal of publishing a book and the self-publishing route gave me the most freedom and control over accomplishing that goal.
What is your writing process?
My writing process is simple. I don't do the traditional brainstorming before I start or the character mapping. I just sit down and start typing. What comes out is what comes out.
Where do you find your writing ideas?
I find my ideas in everyday life most of the time. Sometimes, a book that I am reading will get me thinking about a topic and then something interesting will come from those thoughts that I can put down on paper. Other times, I will get into an interesting conversation with someone which will then turn into a story or something will happen that will spark my imagination. It's funny how the mundane things in daily life can turn into something incredible with a little imagination.
What inspired you to write your first book?
My inspiration to write The Last Navigator came from experiences I had while participating in a graduate school course in Hawai’i several years ago. While visiting the School of Social Work at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, we learned of the Navigators, and of Nainoa Thompson, one of the few remaining true navigators. The Navigators are a group of people who use natural elements, such as the stars, the planets, the movement of the waves and clouds, to find their way in the ocean. The title, The Last Navigator, was inspired by the Polynesian Navigators and, although it is not about them, the Navigators in my book do use the stars to find their way. I pulled from elements of the Polynesian Navigator traditions to write The Last Navigator and develop my characters. The storyline and many of the characters were also shaped by my background as a social worker and my desire to learn about and understand the human condition.

In writing The Last Navigator, I wanted to create a story that pulled from my experiences in Hawai’i as well as from current societal and personal life themes. Themes such as the empowerment of women and the hardships of single parent households are evident in the book. The main character in The Last Navigator, Lani, is a young female whale who dreams of being more than average. She wants to make a difference—and she does. In developing her character, I wanted to empower young women to follow their dreams and not simply conform to the norms of this world. Lani is shaped by her life experiences and her relationships with other characters, such as, Mother, and Kilo, and even the zany character of Manny, the sea turtle. She learns through trials and overcoming obstacles that she can indeed reach for the stars and achieve great things. My hope is that in reading The Last Navigator, some part of Lani’s character will resonate with each reader. Whether that resonance is found in her search for life’s meaning, or her desire to go against the grain, I hope she will touch the hearts of readers young and old.
Did you learn anything from writing your first book that was unexpected? If so, what was it?
I did learn something from writing my book that was unexpected. I learned that I am capable of writing a book from cover to cover. I never thought that I could do something of that magnitude before but as the chapters continued to flow through my typing, I realized that I actually had it in me to write an entire book.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My latest book is the companion novel to The Last Navigator. It is written from the point of view of Ryan, a pivotal character from The Last Navigator. I'm still working on the final book blurb but here's what I have thus far:
Ryan Watterson, the owner and operator of a whaling fleet in southern Japan, is on top of the world. Whaling season is in full swing and Ryan’s father gets a tip from an old friend. Being in poor health, he enlists Ryan to captain the fleet and venture into unknown hunting waters. Ryan proudly accepts the offer to take the control of the esteemed Watterson Whaling Fleet. Leaving his beautiful wife, Mary, and his infant daughter, Sarah, behind, he embarks on a journey that will lead him far from the comforts of home. When the Sweet Sammy burns and sinks into the Pacific, a stranded and hopeless Ryan is befriended by a whale named Lani who changes his life forever.
What are you working on next?
I have several “works-in-progress” that will be coming out soon. The first one is the companion novel to The Last Navigator called, Through Ryan’s Eyes. I have also been working on a novella called Waltzing with Raindrops which is a story of a young woman who returns home to care for her ailing father. It is a romantic tale about a Daddy’s Girl who finds love when she least expects it. My hope is that it will combine a little steamy romance with family struggles and the loss of loved ones in a story that tugs on your heart strings and makes you smile, laugh, and cry. I’m not sure when this one will be complete and released but hopefully by the beginning of next year (maybe even Christmas, if I work really hard). Finally, I am working on my own story of adoption, family relationships, struggles, joys, laughter and tears. It may take me a few years to write this one but I have started the journey.
Which do you prefer to write – full length novels or short stories?
I prefer to write short stories but I like full length novels as well. What I like about short stories is that I can finish them in a matter of days rather than months. I can get an idea in my mind and start to write and finish a short story of around 7500 words in a day or two. My latest short story, The Woman in the Zebra Hat, is available to download for free here on Smashwords.
What do your fans mean to you?
Fans? I never even thought about the fact that I may have fans out there. My fans are my support and my motivation to write more and produce more. I enjoy making others happy and my fans are probably happiest when I am putting out new works for them to read (am I right?). I feel blessed to have people who read my work, support me in my goals, and want to see me accomplish great things.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords has been a breath of fresh air as far as formatting, converting files, and publishing goes. I had my reservations about Smashwords to begin with because they don't send to Amazon which is where I wanted to sell. After trying Amazon KDP for a while, I decided to give Smashwords a try. It was easy, quick, and self-explanatory. Plus, with Smashwords, I could offer my short story for free which was not an option with Amazon.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I think the first story I ever wrote was a picture book (with superior illustrations, I might add) in first grade. I can't remember the story exactly but I remember it had something to do with ants.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I can't remember the very first story I ever read but I can remember the first story that had a major impact on my life. I had a boxed set of books called Serendipity books. They were moral stories that had a lesson on values and always ended with a moral. The book, Serendipity, was a story about a sea monster and it had a huge impact on my life, even to this day. I thoroughly enjoyed the moral stories and I feel that my own writing has morals and values tucked into the endings.
Who or what inspired you to become a writer?
This is a great question. The answer would most definitely be my husband. I enjoyed writing before meeting him but his dreams of becoming a writer inspired me to become one as well. I had never met anyone who wanted to be a writer. I guess I looked at writers like I look at movie stars. I never thought of them as ordinary people who decided to write books one day. My husband is just a man who wanted to write. His desire to do more and be more in life inspired me to give it a try.
If you were told your stories were unbelievable and not written very well, would you continue to write? What would your response be?
If I was told that my stories were unbelievable and not written very well, I would be discouraged. I have been rejected before, though, in academic writing. It’s a cut-throat world out there and some people aren’t very nice. I would probably cry a bit and then get to work on making my story better. If the person that told me that my story wasn’t well written didn’t offer any constructive criticism, then I would ask for it. If they couldn’t give it, I would move on and forget about it. Some people are just jealous that you have written a story and will cut you down any chance they get. Don’t let it get you down. Let it make you a stronger writer and a stronger person.
How do you approach cover design?
Cover design is a new thing for me, as is writing, but I am quite handy with Adobe Photoshop and InDesign. I truly enjoy designing graphics and images so cover design was fun for me. For The Last Navigator, I searched and searched for the perfect combination of images to put together and create the cover. I had in my mind what I thought I wanted but in the end, I found an image of a lone whale and then I found an image of an island. Those two elements seemed to work great for my book and then I thought about the sky. I did research on what font works best for a cover and used Trajan Pro because it looked the cleanest. I then just played around with Photoshop until I had created the perfect cover.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I'm still working on my marketing skills and techniques but so far, offering my book for free has gotten the most downloads. I guess with self-publishing, it's a trial and error kind of thing to market your own book.
How do you start writing a new book? What comes first?
For me, the story comes first. I start with a phrase or an idea for a story and then I write and see where my writing takes me. Writing for me is a journey because when I start, I never know how the story will twist and turn and eventually end. I just go with whatever comes into my mind at the time.
Do you like to travel? If so where is your favorite city?
I love to travel! I have two favorite cities: one big and one small. My favorite big city is New York, NY. I love the hustle and bustle of the city and the fact that it never sleeps. My favorite small city is Hau’ula, HI. It’s a little town on the north shore of Oahu. I spent an amazing three weeks in Hawai’i a couple of summers ago and I found my heart to be most content in Hau’ula.
Have you ever sat and just watched the people go by?
All of the time! I love to people-watch! I used to just go to the mall and sit at the food court to see all of the different types of people that would walk by. It’s fun to make up little stories in my mind about their lives and conversations just from hearing a small snippet of a sentence as they walk by.
Describe your desk
My desk for work is a cubicle with an L-shaped desk. My computer is set up on the long end of the L and my printer and free space is on the short end of the L. I have two computer monitors set up so that I can work more efficiently. My desk at home? Well, I don't have a desk. I have a laptop and my lap and my couch or my bed.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
When I’m not writing I spend my time working. I have a full-time day job as an administrative assistant so writing isn’t my primary activity. I also spend time with my wonderful husband, Kyle, and our newest edition to the family, Annie, our Great Weimar. So, for about 40 hours of my week I am working a desk job as an administrative assistant at the Florida Department of Health. The nights and weekends are either spent writing, formatting, publishing, or spending time with my little family of three.
Where do you want to go with your writing career? Where do you see your writing career in five years?
I don’t know where I want to go with my writing career. I have hopes and dreams for my writing but you never know where life will take you. Just a year ago, I had no idea I would be a published author. I didn’t know I could write a book either. Now I have written a book and it has been published. In five years, I hope to have a couple of books published and I would love to see my name on a bestsellers list.
Published 2013-08-21.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Cousin Elk: A Short Story
Price: Free! Words: 4,730. Language: English. Published: November 16, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Historical » General
Cousin Elk is a short story of a man named Elk who had a vicious temper that led to troubling times in the lives of the Woodward family and the Young family. Based on a true story, Cousin Elk will transport you back to a time when life was much simpler and slower. Though it is a tale of reminiscence, there are twists and turns throughout the story that lead to an unexpected ending.
The Last Navigator
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 43,250. Language: English. Published: September 2, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » General, Fiction » Adventure » Sea adventures
As a young, vivacious whale, Lani should be busy flirting with the local boys but instead, she finds herself daydreaming about the Navigators—a mythical tribe of whales thought to be extinct. Against the will of her elders, Lani leaves behind her friends, her family, and her duties as a female and sets out on a journey to discover her destiny and change the history of whales forevermore.
The Woman in the Zebra Hat: A Short Story
Price: Free! Words: 9,690. Language: English. Published: August 19, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary, Fiction » Sports
Sue has always dreamed of being the woman in the zebra hat. From her very first Derby, she fell in love with the sights, sounds, and fashions of women in the grandstand. The Woman in the Zebra Hat is an inspirational short story about family, dreams, love, and self-discovery. It's the perfect lunchtime read, short and sweet, and will have you laughing, crying, and feeling uplifted.