Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Author interview with J. E. Andrews/ S. Hawk

This week I’m interviewing an amazingly creative author John E. Andrews who writes under the names of J. E. Andrews (for his family books) and S. Hawk (for his mature books). So let’s meet him:

‘I've always been hooked on books, so writing was a natural next step. My most important project came with raising 2 daughters by myself, through that I learned a lot about me and people. They turned out nicely, since they were mostly self-propelled.

I've always been creative, with everything I do. I've been a Florist, Carpenter, Scene Shop Tech in a big Theatre, Grocery store, and now retired... though never 'retired' from being a dad. I use all the experiences and observations from a full life to create the character driven stories I write.’

He sounds very busy, no wonder he’s managed to indie publish 26 novels and 1 novella in 11 years! He’s created a tweetable introduction for you below (tweet here):

‘For character driven stories of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Contemporary Paranormal, with more than a touch of the unique, check out ‘S.Hawk’ for Mature, or ‘J.E.Andrews’ for Family.

Before we started chatting about his writing, I had to ask about his twitter handle ‘Neverborg1’ -does it have roots in Star Trek?

‘First –thanks, I did put some thought into my handle, though not in the direction you think. When I first joined Twitter (which will always be Twitter) I was doing it more to tune in to the political talk, back in the 2016 US election cycle. 

My avatar image (right) is James Stewart from the movie – Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. It was a political movie about the corruption in government and how frustrating it was for an honest politician to face that and try to maintain his integrity... while trying to get something done for his constituents. A good movie. So, that image, which I hoped would be recognized and portray my leanings in the political realm. 

The name Neverborg1 was to state that I oppose the Conglomerate Mind – the Hive Mind of being obedient to the Machine. I believe in the individual and the rights of all people to be themselves... recognizing the Borg as being the greatest evil while appearing to be inevitable. Resistance is Futile. AI will take over everything. So, that's the origin of the handle.’

Gosh, I wasn’t expecting that answer! And in case you’ve not met Borg before, they’re scary baddies who inject nanoprobes into individuals so they lose free will and become Hive workers – or as I like to think of them, bad dudes! Before we move onto his writing, my final indulgence is to ask which is his favourite Captain?

‘I'm old enough to say I watched the original episodes on TV, so I like William Shatner and enjoyed the show from the first. I liked Janeway, and the Voyager series. I also enjoy Picard (in fact, Patrick Stewart in all roles - The Canterville Ghost was fun), Scott Bakula in the Enterprise series and Chris Pine in the recent movies.
Leonard Nimoy was always my favourite. I used to practice the hand-sign and raised eyebrow.  (I know, cool).’

I’m sorry, I’m giggling at this, but I suspect many of us have done the same! John continues,

‘I love Science Fiction overall, so I also loved the Star Wars movies, along with all decent SF movies through the years. (Blade Runner, 2001 a Space Odyssey, Logan's Run, Planet of the Apes –original, The Black Hole, so many).

I'm not much of a fanboy, I read too much to be hooked on movies or TV. I've read in every genre but for romance, I get hooked on particular writers and read all their stuff until something else catches my attention (or if they get predictable LOL).’

It’s one thing to read a lot, but quite another to write, so what inspired him to take that leap?

‘I was often sad when a book ended, having to wait a year for next book, so I started writing my own. My imagination keeps me going. I've got books I've written 40 years ago that'll never be published because of the ones I'm starting in these days... imagination never ends.’

Too true! What does he enjoy the most about writing?

‘Creating the worlds and developing the characters. Most of my stories are character driven or character studies, each in their own particular world. Which is why SF*, F*, and contemporary with some paranormal thrown in is most fun.’
*(SF- Science Fiction, F – Fantasy)

Does he have a daily writing routine?

‘It's rather random according to mood and what phase of a story I'm on. Yesterday I was editing and I worked from 10am until 1am the next morning with lunch/ dinner breaks. I don't have a standard time, though I try to write 8pm until 1-ish every day.’

So, a real night bird then! What has been the hardest part of his writing experience?

‘Deciding which story to work on. I might have a dozen books going steadily yet must choose which one to focus on (and when uncertain, I use dice).’

I’m sorry, a dice? I need to know more!

‘LOL. I have 3 dice – a 6-side, and two 12-side gamer's dice, in a clear jar. The only time I really turn to them is when I've hit a wall with whatever I was working on. Usually this means I know what I need to write to continue a story I'm working on, but it must work in the context of the story. For instance, in my book Dragon's Magic, I had to figure a way for my MC (main character), a witch, to kill Dragons. Seeing as how the Dragons are nearly immortal, it was a tough problem. It took me nearly 5 years to solve that in a way consistent with the elements of the series of 9 books. I wrote other books as I dealt with that problem.

So, when I hit the wall, I'll roll the dice to choose one of my WIPs (work in progress), unless I'm already drawn to one. (I rarely need the dice, it's a safety net, so I don't waste time). My WIP list is only at 30 stories but there are many more files of potential books in my computer.

When I do roll, I will stick with the choice and work on it, either until I finish the book, the section... or get caught by a really LOUD new idea. 

My problem with all the WIPs is that I know all the stories, but they are all fun to work on. Also, stories evolve. Like the 9-book series mentioned above, I knew the entire story arc as soon as I created the first character. But, by the time I wrote book 5, developing the Stories of the Characters, I had to go back to the first couple of books to elaborate details I'd only hinted at previously. 

I sometimes think of my books like the social evolution equation in Foundation which expands in all direction as details are known. (I read the series by Isaac Asimov back in the 70s).’

I admit, I had to google this and now I’ll have to learn more as it sounds fascinating! So, what does he consider the best money he’s ever spent as a writer?

‘I'm a little bit of an artist, so I did my own covers for the first batch of books, a fantasy series. I'm not a computer artist but freehand, so my art never translated well to digital. So, hiring an artist for the covers has proven beneficial. It's one initial outlay I wish I could've afforded then.’

And what does he find the most difficult thing about writing characters who are very different from him?

‘The voice (how the character presents her/himself) is it. I try to make each an individual, so once the character clicks for me, I'm good. A trilogy I'm working on has such a distinct MC that I reread the story to get the feel of her each time I work on it.’ 

I find this fascinating, as writing in so many genres and series surely must entail some rereading of previous notes or manuscripts? If so, how does he manage all this data? 

‘You're right. I believe most of my MCs have strong individual voices, so I do reread all I'd written. There is a lot that goes into creating the voice of the character, it's not only the actual dialogue, but actions, intentions, purpose... all of it, how they observe the world around them. I try very hard to have identifiable voices for each character so the reader can hear the features I'm aiming at. I have to be both subtle and blatant... you know, doing the impossible LOL. It's especially difficult when there are a dozen (or so) characters in a book, such as my SF series SeaScape, which has three Main Characters with Mates, Children, and Crew... everyone is different.

As far as managing the data, rereading is one primary part, but I think a large part is keeping each of my characters alive and growing in my head. I can set a story aside for a year or two and bring it back to life after reading a bit.’

Wow, that’s amazing! Does he read reviews of his books and how does he deal with them?

‘I definitely do not seek out reviews. I first published at Amazon and never received reviews. Publishing at Smashwords.com/ Draft2Digital meant I got notified of reviews, so I checked them out. I also receive some direct communication with mutuals who have read some of my stuff. There’s also face-to-face talks with friends/readers but I don't think reviews should influence my writing, unless everyone hated them. I have to please myself, and I'm very critical and picky.   

This question of readers giving feedback was tweeted about recently, and I do wonder about it. A reader has no obligation to the writer to give feedback. It's only in this age of personal social media where everyone expects a two-way conversation on opinions. 

When I first considered being a writer (this was pre-computer, to say nothing of pre-internet) it could take a genre author ten years to make a name - cut that in half if you get a big-name publisher -but there was no instant feedback for a novel... everything took time. Now, everything is supposed to happen in a week, or less.’

Too true! So which of his books should readers try first?

‘For fantasy, Too Much Magic – book 1 of a 9-book urban series. For SF, Sea's Dance – book 1 in the series. For my Mature books, Buried Draughts –book 1 of 3. For a conspiracy thriller with sex and ghosts, Pet- book 1 of series. (As an aside –although labelled  ‘Adult’, they do not rank as Porn – this disappoints some people!).’

Gosh, plenty of choice for readers then! Can he give us an extract from one?

‘Notice on pin board
Female pet wanted? Whaaa?
Petite, attractive, twenty to thirty years old. Full time. Limited.
This was funny.
Couldn't be what I'm thinking…
What did limited mean? Pet?’

That had me laughing! Which book is this from?

‘LOL – it’s from PET. This is where the MC, Emily, needing to find a job, first steps foot into a mysterious side of this renewed civilization. It's really something of an SF storyline, with alternate reality mixed in. It's kind of Post- Post Apocalyptic. 

The world is meant to be a perfect world/ civilization, where everyone can be the Best of who they are meant to be. This is book 1 of a 6-book series, book 6 is being written as we speak. The difficulty is wrapping it up, tying all the loose ends in a manner I'll be satisfied with. 

Interesting thing with this book Pet... listing a book as Adult, or Mature, only allows one category, so they all look the same intensity, unless you read the sample or blurb. So, people looking at the title Pet, as an Adult book, automatically think it's something about kink... usually thinking its instant, deep, pornographic kink. Except all of my books are character driven, and porn is not really like that. It does have kink, sensuality, and stuff, but there's a lot more to it than a simple porn story. So... when there's a sale on the site, I can watch when copies of Pet get sold... which is great... but then I'll see Pet2, Pet3... all 5 sell... This tells me there are people enjoying the Story, the Tale, rather than the titillation of the story. While I might sell 10 or 15 copies of Pet, I'll only sell 1 or 2 of Pet2. Usually these people buy most of the books I list. I find it amusing.’

Honestly, you learn something new every day! I ended the interview asking what’s next for him?

‘Top of the list is book 6 of my Pet series to wrap it (it's complicated), but there’s also book 3 of Beck series, book 1 of The Vessel, book 5 of SeaScape SF series, book 2 of Alice of MW series, I have a list, and I never know what new idea I might get later today which might start something else. I simply write. Oh, I do have a Steampunk trilogy which is nearly finished, too.’

Jeez, I don’t know about you but I find his enthusiasm exhausting – I need a cuppa and a lie down! If you’d like to find out more about John, please visit his links below and help support this creative author:

Twitter: Neverborg1@twitter.com
Also available on Amazon

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