Interview with J.R. Schumaker

What's the story behind your first novel?
Diana’s Dragons: The Awaited began as a bedtime story I made up for my four children in 2001. They were ages three-eight at the time. They loved the dragons and started asking questions, which spurred me on. After the kids fell asleep, I thought I might have something cool, so I ran (really, I ran) down the hall, sat at my computer, and threw down the ideas. The basic take on the main character has stayed all along, as has the setting, which is based on where we lived then, in the San Pasqual Valley of north San Diego County.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I have always seen this book as reaching many readers. I want to share the characters and the world they inhabit. While revising my first draft, I spent two years submitting to agents and publishers. As the world of publishing has been evolving, it dawned on me I needed to evolve and make this happen for myself and my potential readers. I had heard of an authors who were having great success building their own digital platforms and launching their novels digitally, so I adopted that approach. I'm so happy I did.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
I am only just launching, but having the recommendation of colleagues who've used Smashwords, and looking into the success stories and valuable features for distribution, I have great respect for the Smashwords system and the scope of its reach within the online publishing scene.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I feel like I created a new family in my characters. Though it seems I crafted them, they revealed themselves to me over the years of rewriting and revising. I am now overjoyed to send them into the world and see if others love them as much as I do. Other than that, writing is a bliss/torture endeavor. But that's true for just about anything one really cares about and sticks with, rain or shine.
What do your fans mean to you?
Hearing that a reader got even a bit of joy, or wonder, or even much needed distraction or peace, is like seeing one of my children smile. I live for it.
Who are your favorite authors?
J.K. Rowling, Ernest Becker, J.D. Salinger, Jane Austen, Douglas Adams, Roald Dahl, Harper Lee, Amy Tan, George Eliot, Colleen McCullough, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Alice Walker, Charlotte Bronte, David Sedaris, Ralph Ellison, Barbara Kingsolver, John Steinbeck, Rudyard Kipling, Susan Straight, George Orwell, Ursula K. Le Guin, Gore Vidal, Yukio Mashima, Madeleine L'Engle...

I could go on. I'll save this answer, wake up tonight, and think, "How could I have forgotten ____?!"

Oh! Here's one, now: Toni Morrison!
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Well, it's not getting four kids ready for school, anymore, so the sky's the limit! The phone calls and visits from my wonderful children and my magical granddaughter are welcome anytime. Lately, with the first book seeming to grow into the creation I suspected it could be, I've often awakened with the feeling that I cannot wait to get back to my computer and my characters.

But let's face it, getting up in the morning —first and foremost— is really about the coffee.
What are you working on next?
Book two! Diana's Dragons: The Stolen will be finished in 2018. There is a vignette from the second book at the end of Diana's Dragons: The Awaited, and on the website. More of the mysteries surrounding the villain's ill-gotten dragon magic will unfold. And we may meet someone far, far more dangerous.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Though I live in a humble abode, the beach is quite close by. I get there for the sunset often, and also sometimes sit on a bench, after dark, and just listen to the crashing waves. Before my oldest child moved out of state with his family, I had my beautiful little spitfire of a granddaughter to entertain, and she to entertain and exhaust me. Our favorite game was looking for monsters in the back yard, only to be eaten by the giant palm tree and coughed back out again. Now, I tell her "princess stories" over FaceTime, and she acts them out, as a "doctor princess" or "zombie princess" or "knight princess," depending on her mood.

I read. I dance in my car. I listen to music on an actual turntable—everything from Debussy to the Doors. (The Moody Blues are my favorite!) I binge Marvel shows and other Netflix. I eat the gourmet food my significant other makes, or we go out for the Baja Mexican food that other regions are trying to get right. I talk with my kids, my parents, my friends, my beloved sis. I ski if I can afford it. I read some more.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I remember the first story I remember. I don't think it's the first one I ever wrote. It was in the sixth grade, and my Halloween story was an explanation of what was in the "Surprise Hamburgers" that the lunchroom served. I will spare you the gory details, because—clearly I was not headed for writing actual horror stories—my story originated with the head lunch room cook brushing her teeth after eating a hamburger and getting a "great idea." Blech. Wrong kind of horrifying.
What is your writing process?
Messy. Chaotic. Interrupted (until I give myself intermittent, deep retreats for a week or five). It involves a lot of post-it- notes, coffee, pacing, and paper and pen revisions. But now that the first novel has taken shape, the outlines for the next three in the series seem to be presenting themselves in a semi-orderly fashion. This should be interesting.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I remember The Poky Little Puppy, but I think I was indignant that his cleverness wasn't appreciated. (Also, someone chewed the side of the book, and we never had a dog.) When I was eight, I first read James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl, and I was in fantasy heaven. I'm sure I read it seven or eight times in the third and fourth grade. Until then, I had had no idea where printed fiction could take me. I knew the secret to innumerable alternate realities, and they started with giant fruit and other wonders.
Published 2017-09-22.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.