Sunday, February 18, 2018

J.A. SCHNEIDER: Author Interview

J.A. (Joyce) Schneider is a real leader in the independent author community. With ten great thrillers to her name, 117,000+ followers on Twitter, and a legion of fans (including yours truly!), Schneider’s books regularly rack up hundreds of five-star reviews. She’s worked for Newsweek, has had titles published by Simon & Schuster, and broke into the indy scene in 2012, when it was still relatively new. Since then, she hasn’t looked back.

Embryo was her first series, medical thrillers that often explore the murky line between reproductive technology and modern ethics. The books are convincing windows into what goes on behind the glass doors of big hospitals, full of fascinating medical details that inform and entertain. (Schneider’s husband is a doctor, so it gives the plots lots of authentic detail.)

Her Det. Kerri Blasco series follows two New York investigators on cases that are always contemporary, crisply written and tightly plotted. Her latest, SHOELESS CHILD, is about a little boy who witnesses a terrible shooting that leaves one woman dead and his mother wounded. The story ricochets between tender scenes and terrifying ones, catapulting from a thrilling opening (Schneider’s first scenes are killer!), through imaginative twists, to a climax that both surprises and gratifies.

All her books teem with authentic characters and dialogue, too. I’ve been a fan of Det. Kerri Blasco ever since I met her in the first book, FEAR DREAMS. She’s always tough, cool and likable. But Kerri has a soft side too, and it's wonderful to watch that part of her evolve in SHOELESS CHILD. Incidentally, Schneider’s main characters are often romantically involved with their professional counterparts, so there’s a perfect dash of romance, too.

I really admire how she balances it all. I’ve wanted to interview Joyce for a while now. She was gracious enough to be the first author to respond to my W5W interview technique. (The Who, What, When, Where and Why’s of the #writerslife.) From plotting to promo, here’s a peek into how this outstanding author works.

Who are your biggest influences as a writer, and why?
Late Writer: Ira Levin, absolutely (Rosemary’s Baby, The Boys From Brazil, The Stepford Wives, others) I re-read him often, am still astonished at how he conveys so much with so few words. In The Boys From Brazil, Liebermann, the Nazi hunter, waits frantically in a post-war German prison, about to meet a female former Auschwitz guard. He’s beside himself with emotion, thinking of lost loved ones, imaging what the woman being brought to him will look like. A monster? A snarling beast? He waits; the woman’s lawyer brings her; the door opens…and in droops “a small, bent woman in a shabby uniform, with a disappointed mouth.”

“A disappointed mouth!” Three words summarize a whole life as it ends, takes stock of itself. We see that small, gray, bent woman much better than if Levin had described her in more detail. Three words … Wow.

Contemporary Writer: I also read James Patterson, his best stuff. I love his pace, fast action; also his ability to say much with few words.

What are your top three writing tips for creating great characters?
Spend some time thinking about them.
Then start writing – just start pressing keys.
Watch your  characters start to come to life and surprise you. When hopefully this works, the feeling is like Gepetto amazed to see Pinocchio take off.

What are your top three tips for plotting great stories?
Wish I knew! I don’t outline; at most I have a rough outline which will change totally before it’s done. I like to be surprised as the story finds its way through the sticky morass of characters and plot threads…that’s when I try to figure out what I’m really trying to say. It’s an unconscious thing. Ideas come as I write, and practically every paragraph’s a surprise to me. I do wish I could outline and plot ahead, but I can’t. I just let the story eventually, after umpteen drafts, take me where it wants to go.

What are your top three book promo tips?
BookBub, there is only BookBub. Every time they’ve accepted a promo of mine (not often, wouldn’t that be nice?) the result has been astonishing and has lasted for sometimes two or three weeks; also has lifted my other books on the same “BookBub tide.”

Second and third might be Amazon Marketing ads and Facebook ads. I’ve just started exploring those two, so I can’t report concrete results.

Of the many “mini BookBub” sites, eReaderCafe seems to have become very successful, with big author names daily in their emails. Other smaller sites might bring results lasting one or two days, but on the whole they are weak.
Even a BookBub ad drops you back after a while, and the best way to grow is just write the next book. Have patience; it’s a marathon, not a sprint. The chance of best sellerdom via publishing one or two titles – you have a better chance of roping a unicorn. Rarely, you’ll hear about some “debut best seller,” but on the whole, success = inventory.

Also important are one’s friends on Facebook. I’ve been fortunate that, over the years, relationships with some Facebook friends have become warm and very supportive. These friends buy my books, write reviews, and then clamor for the next one. That’s a good thing, right?

When did you know you wanted to be a novelist? Tell us a bit about that time in your life.
“Writer” and “novelist” still seem like such pretentious words. I’d never walk into a party & introduce myself as, “I’m a writer.” Don’t know why that is, how odd of me. But I always loved stories and wrote: poems, adventures, ghost stories to entertain other kids around campfires.

Then, while working at Newsweek…well, everyone was doing it – writing - hoping to create that great bestseller so they could quit working at Newsweek. Older, successful former staffers would come back and say, “Why are you still here?” Ha! So the idea blossomed over time.

SHOELESS CHILD is Book 4 in your fantastic psychological thriller series featuring Det. Kerri Blasco. Where did you get the idea for the latest book?
The idea came when I read about an attack in NYC, the borough of Queens, where a shooter stormed into the apartment of two women and their small children. There were pictures of a police officer carrying out a crying little boy, it was so awful, and I thought: what if that cop hadn’t been there right away? What if that child had to run out alone into the night? A dark city street, more danger even after the trauma of seeing his mother shot! The story grew from there. But I started with just that image of the running child, nothing more.

Why do you think you write? Why are you so motivated to create stories and characters?
I really love to tell stories. Create that magic carpet that transports readers from the mundane into the extraordinary. I also like to show ordinary people struggle through terrible odds and come out okay. Stories like that reassure. And entertain. And lift us out of ourselves. What else besides a great movie or book can do that? And books you can read in bed, under the covers, any time with a flashlight. Books are magic!

I love that! Books are magic! Absolutely true! Big thanks to Joyce for taking part in the W5W interview! Subscribe to the blog for more insight into this crazy thing called the #writerslife! And for more info about J.A. Schneider and her books, check out the links below! Thanks for stopping by! 

Amazon author page: J.A. Schneider
Traditional releases: Joyce Anne Schneider

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