Interview with J. D. Shank

What are your five favorite books, and why?
I love so many books! One of my all time favorites is "To Kill A Mockingbird," by Harper Lee. I love "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe" by Fannie Flagg. I'm a bit of a Harry Potter nerd. Recently, I've been introduced to "The 39 Clues" series. "Odd Thomas" by Dean Koontz is another favorite. Kathy Reich's Temperance Brennan novels re-ignite my fascination with physical anthropology. I also love non-fiction books from Malcolm Gladwell.
What do you read for pleasure?
I read whatever I can get my hands on!
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Southeastern Ohio, in the Hocking Hills region. I will tell you, I have been a number of places on this earth, and I will say that the Ohio River Valley is one of the most scenic.

I would say though, that beyond the beauty of the area, I was most influenced by the time I spent around Ohio University. O.U. has a strong English program and when I was in high school I was invited to participate in the Governor's Scholars program where I took mini-classes during the summer with other high school students. During that program I took Creative Writing and was exposed to writing and critique outside of my small high school influence.
When did you first start writing?
I can't remember. It seems like I've been writing stories for as long as I've been literate. I remember making "books" as early as the 4th grade. We wrote poetry and journals all through junior high. I continued to write and take Creative Writing courses through college.
Describe your desk
My desk was found years ago in a junk pile of a lumber supply company. It was an old office desk that they wanted out. Its solid wood and heavy. I had a carpenter build a shelf component to hold my desktop computer and printers while making room for space to hold paper trays and other utilities. I've used my desk for everything from running a business to homeschooling my children. Right now it is in its usual state; fairly organized with a touch of scatter for that "lived-in" feel.
What's the story behind your latest book?
I actually wrote "Unlikely Treasure" about 5 years before I published it. I had just sold a business and found myself with more time and energy than I knew what to do with. My four children were still small, but they were used to me juggling home and business, too. After I would clean my house, feed them and take them for outings, there just still seemed to be a lot of day left!

My philosophy on writing a book is that you must have 3 things all at once: an idea, the time, and the energy. For the first time I felt like I had all three! So, one day I just started to write. Before I knew it, my story was all I could think about. I developed story lines as I was going about my daily life and then I would get back to writing as soon as I could. I really found my passion.

The first draft took me about 9 months to finish. After that my family moved. I started and finished my bachelor's degree. Finally, I was able to enlist some good friends to help with some editing and a few drafts later, I felt that it was as close as I was going to get this particular story. All that was left was to get the courage to put it out there!
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I love getting out of bed in the morning. I didn't used to be such an early bird, but over the past few years I've seen the benefit of early morning quiet time and reflective walks that help clear my head for the day.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I'm rarely not writing. When I'm not writing I am reading or watching movies. I love all sorts of story telling mediums.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I remember the first NOVEL I ever read. Stories and books have been a part of my life since birth. But, the first full-fledged book that I remember reading was "Where the Red Fern Grows" by Wilson Rawls. It was such a touching story! I was probably 12-years-old and I realized that stories could really feed your soul.
What is your writing process?
I hate outlines. So, if you want to know how I format and outline a story you will be disappointed to find that I have no substantial planning structure. I do make notes of my character details as I go so that I can look back and make sure I have my facts straight. "Bill Keller is an accountant. He can't fix a leaf blower." Stuff like that. Novels are long stories and they take months to create. Six months from the time I begin to write about Bill, I want to make sure that I don't suddenly turn him into a small engine repairman.

Most of my story sorting is in my mind and in chronological order to the story. One chapter at a time I ask, "okay, what happens next?" It all leads up to the ending, which I've already decided on. I'm just trying to figure out how to get to that ending.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I am a story teller and I love telling stories. Writing is how I can tell stories that would otherwise be lost in the frailty of memory.
How do you approach cover design?
Unlikely Treasure was my first novel and frankly, I was at a loss! I enlisted my 13-year-old daughter to draw a design that we could work with. From there I hired a designer to move from my daughter's sketch to a finished product. Honestly, I'm batting around ideas for a second cover. I think I am going to also have my daughter help with its design as well.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have a Kindle, only because it was given to me as a Christmas present a couple of years ago. I tend to want to have an actual book in hand. However, I have been happy to find ease in being able to check-out library books using my Kindle.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Usually the ebooks I end up with are books that I've searched for through my local library's lending service. I like having the option of getting the book quicker on my kindle rather than having to wait for the print version to be brought back in by the previous patron.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I think that this is a great era for self-publishing. I wanted to write the book. I wrote the book. Through the whole process I imagined that eventually I would have to survive endless letter writing and submissions until a publisher decided to accept it. After learning about self-publishing and the market for ebooks, I knew that was the direction that I wanted to go.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
I'm really excited about the services that Smashwords provides for authors. I wouldn't have imagined this experience could have been as smooth as it has been. I get frustrated easily with technology, but each step I took it was like I was being told "Now, hold on...just do this next." So, as I took the steps that were suggested the frustration was cleared up and finally I had my book formatted and ready to go! It was a great experience.
Published 2013-12-07.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.