- GUEST AUTHOR & POET -
I'm pleased to introduce a good mate of mine who is multi-talented. He's either writing, playing guitar, writing poetry or maybe playing softball ... Etc.
Welcome, BJ ...
1. TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. In grade school we were assigned to write one-page compositions. I was fascinated with space and the efforts to put a man in orbit. Saturday afternoon matinees added to my imagination, so I wrote about creatures from outer space. When I discovered TV’s Twilight Zone and the works of O Henry, I discovered irony. My writings have been infested with irony ever since.
In high school I started writing poetry. My first poetry was published in Encounter: An Anthology Of Modern Poetry while I was in the 11th grade. I was also writing lite romance short stories, what today would be considered Young Adult, mostly to impress the girls.
For 30 plus years as a DJ, I wrote commercial copy and radio programs, along with publishing a few short stories in the fiction and sci-fi pulps. After a few years of nomadic life, during which I wrote my first novel, Elysian Dreams, I settled down in Seattle. I was lucky and found a traditional publisher interested in my work. I’ve been writing and with Brighton Publishing ever since.
2. WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
I think Stephen King said, “Not to write is suicide.” Or something along those words. Anyway, I agree, and to me writing just comes naturally. I also discovered at a very young age that writing was a great way to order my thoughts. Writing helped me to make some sense out of a world that, to me, seemed to make little sense.
3. WHAT TYPE OF PREPARATION DO YOU DO FOR A MANUSCRIPT? DO YOU PLAN EVERYTHING FIRST OR JUST SHOOT FROM THE HIP?
I guess I’m kind of a scattered writer. By that I mean I have no secrete formula. Short stories usually come from some outside inspiration: something someone said, or something that happened, or even a song or a catchy phrase. Then my mind mulls it over for however long it takes. I usually end up writing short stories in one or two settings.
My novels were a bit different. The inspiration was there as well as thinking about it. But when I sat down to write the characters took over and I just followed their lead. Usually with little or no notes.
Ice Cream Camelot, which is my memoir of growing up during the Kennedy era, was something that bounced around in my mind for many, many years. When it came time to write, it was time! I wrote Ice Cream Camelot in only three months (that’s while also working full time). And much of that time was taken up with doing research to make sure I got my dates and places correct.
I was inspired to write my newest book, Planet Alt-Sete-Nine: The Lost Princess by my closest friend and fellow author Alissa Berger. Alissa is a video gamer, and the idea for Planet Alt-Sete-Nine came to me as I sat and watched her playing. As I wrote it became clear that PASN was going to be a series of books. It was then that I started taking notes and doing some pre-plotting. I’m more than half way through book two Princess Haylee which should be out around Christmas of 2018, and the notes and planning make sure everything stays aligned and true to the story line.
4. WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
I’ve always enjoyed alone time, and productive, fun alone time is great. I love creating situations and characters and then watching how my characters act and react. I tend to ‘binge’ write, that is I’ll write a complete short story or a full chapter of a novel in one sitting with out stopping, until I’ve exhausted what is in my mind. Then, going back over what I have just written, it’s a lot like reading something for the very first time. It often surprises me. That is a wonderful and very satisfying feeling. I think that is the best part of being a writer, letting your characters lead you.
5. WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
I guess the obvious answer to that would be writer’s block. Only I don’t really have that problem, someone or something is always talking to me inside my head. For me it’s not a matter of what to write, but often finding the time to write. Also, since I binge write, I often find I’ve lost myself for hours on end. It can make for some very late nights and sore backs.
6. WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
I’ve been blessed to be able to follow all my dreams into reality. I love tinkering with old cars and have worked as a vintage car mechanic and restorer. I spent the better part of my adult life on the air as a radio DJ. I’ve played some baseball and still play a lot of softball; even got paid as a for hire corporate ringer pitcher, playing for large companies with teams. Now I’m a published author and I teach writing at Seattle’s famed Hugo House for writers. I’ve also tended bar, DJed in night clubs and ran sound for live bands, and played guitar in a few, including a gig at the Seattle Hard Rock.
7. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
Just writing a book or even a short story is an amazing accomplishment. Being published to me is even more difficult. You can write the world’s next greatest novel but getting someone to notice it is a near insurmountable task. But I’ve been lucky. My short story Seven Seconds was named one of the best and most read short stories of 2017. I received the Penn National Poetry Award for My Poem “Amos Fuller Doesn’t Speak.” I was part of the Anne Frank Diary Project. Another poem of mine “Black Wall” was featured on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial Blog, while “The Twelfth Of Never” was read at the Vietnam Memorial Wall. And excerpts from my memoir Ice Cream Camelot, which has been called the ‘60’s version of The Catcher In The Rye, have been used and featured at the John F Kennedy Library.
Like I said, lucky.
8. WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
Book two of the Planet Alt-Sete-Nine series, Princess Haylee is taking up most of my time. My publisher, Brighton Publishing and I are thinking of a Christmas release. But the way things go in publishing, Planet Alt-Sete-Nine: Princess Haylee may show up early 2019. The rest of my time is involved with release parties, signings, conventions and all the fun things that accompany having written a book.
9. WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Oh, gosh, just about everything anything. It is usually an inspiration rather than an idea that makes me want to write something. The first thing I ever had published, a poem titled “The Twelfth Of Never” came to me as I sat in high school study hall. It was a Thursday, and the next day was Friday the 13th. Bored and not interested in doing my math homework, I got to wondering what all the fuss was about Friday the 13th, why not Monday the 3rd or Thursday the 12th? The poem almost wrote itself and was published in a national anthology a few months later.
One of my most popular short stories, Rain At The Intersection Of Tomorrow, which appears in the anthology Beyond The Hedge: The Dark And The Light, was inspired while sitting on a park bench with friend and fellow writer KJ McPike.
I’m a great people watcher, so I find inspiration, and lots of great material, all around me.
10. WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
While genres are great for identifying and cataloguing works, I try and shy away from being pigeon-holed into one genre or another. If I mention that Elysian Dreams contains elements of time travel and therefore could be considered science fiction, I feel I risk alienating those who may not be into sci-fi or time travel but would otherwise enjoy reading Elysian Dreams, a contemporary fantasy adventure.
Ok, the disclaimer being said, I guess most of my work, novels and short stories, fall into the contemporary fantasy/sci-fi genre. Even my romance stories always seem to have some quirk or twist to them. I think that is why they are so popular, the ever-present undercurrent of irony which runs through all my work, even my memoir Ice Cream Camelot.
11. DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR NEW WRITERS?
I’m sure it’s been said a million times before but WRITE! Keep writing and don’t give up. Being published doesn’t make you a writer, writing does. You may not be published yet, but when you tell someone you are a writer and they ask what you have written, look them in the eye and proudly reply with the title of you latest work! And don’t let the insanely crazy and complicated business that is publishing today intimidate you. It takes hard work, time and patience, but it does pay off in the end.
12. DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
Not really. To many it may seem so at times. But that is just because I am such a scattered writer. I can binge write for hours and days, even weeks at a time. And I can go for a month or more without writing a word. But during that time there are always things coalescing in my mind. My problem isn’t what to write but finding the time to write when all those thoughts, ideas and characters are ready to come out.
13. DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
Whenever I can find the time. I’ve always been a night person, and I do still have the responsibilities of a full-time job. Writing isn’t paying all the bills yet…it keeps getting better and better, but I’m not there yet. So, I find myself often writing evenings and late into the night. When I’m lost in a story or a chapter, I feel as if I’ve been in some sort of time warp.
14. DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
Elysian Dreams was written entirely by hand on legal tablets, mostly while on the road. My memoir, Ice Cream Camelot came together in large part while sitting at the local coffee house. But that was because I already knew what I was going to say, so it was just a matter of transcribing my thoughts. Now, however, I have my corner writing desk surrounded by my books, my reference materials and my guitars. My routine is to sit down and write with the oldies or classic rock channel playing on the TV and Emily, my guitar next to me. When a certain song comes on I’ll stop and play along, then set Emily down and go back to writing without missing a beat. A strange routine I know, but one that works well for me.
15. WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
Creating something fresh and new, and knowing that somewhere, someone is enjoying characters and worlds and plots and twists and irony that I created. It is a humbling joy.
16. WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
I have so many it is hard to say. What comes to mind is Charles Shultz and his Peanuts characters who taught me to read. Ray Bradbury who taught me to dream. Rod Serling and HP Lovecraft and especially O Henry from whom I learned about irony. F Scott Fitzgerald showed me it’s ok to bare your feelings in your writing and Flannery O’Connor and Hemmingway and Steinbeck showed me there are amazing stories to be found in ordinary things. There are many incredible contemporary writes that seem to keep challenging me to be a better writer with each of their works. People like George RR Martin, Kim Harrison, Laurell K Hamilton, Kim Stanley Robinson, William Gibson.
17. WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
Just being recognized by a reader is a head rush. A couple of reviews I received made me wonder if they had the right author. A side from being called the ‘60’s Catcher In The Rye, someone wrote that if history books were written like Ice Cream Camelot a lot more people would be interested in history. When Elysian Dreams was released, a reviewer said, “Neblett is a writer who dreams like Isaac Asimov and thinks like Haruki Murakami…” That’s heavy company.
And a quote of mine was prominently displayed on a sign in a London subway station where thousands of commuters passed daily.
I did have one very strange and memorable encounter with fans. One day, following an afternoon of writing at my favourite coffee shop, I was stopped by a gentleman who recognized me from my book picture. As we talked, a woman interrupted and asked if I was Billy James the radio DJ. She had remembered and recognized me by my voice!
18. WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
Ha! Mostly, because of Elysian Dreams I get an earful of reader’s thoughts, beliefs and concerns on time travel. They don’t really say I got it wrong, just that it might have worked better their way. I have several appearances, including sci-fi and fantasy conventions coming up in support of Planet Alt-Sete-Nine. I’m sure I’ll learn all about readers views on artificial intelligence and alternate realities!
19. WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
All the time. Sometimes I think I am the posted boy for irony. I always tell people that if they want to get to know me just read my books and stories. You can always find a small part, and sometimes a not so small part, of me in my writing. That is especially true of my short stories.
20. OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
If I didn’t fall into radio I would have been either a history teacher or a major league baseball pitcher, maybe both. I still play a lot of softball. A while back, a singer for whom I had played guitar locally, asked me to tour with her. I still enjoy playing but I’m too old for even a short time on the road. I also have a large collection of records from my radio days and I enjoy getting together with my close friends. Here recently we’ve gotten into going to an arcade to play virtually reality video games.
21. DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
Yes. I am traditionally published, so they provided the final editing. I also trade chapters with my two close writer friends Alissa Berger and KJ McPike. Both ladies are accomplished writers and they make great sounding boards for works in progress. I do the same for them and it works well.
22. DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
Gosh, a tough question. I enjoy so many things and every day. My better half, Shae would be there. And I’m sure it would involve writing at some point and/or discussing writing while enjoying time with my friends. It would have to be sunny and comfortable enough to be outside. There would be music and maybe some playing softball and/or taking in a baseball game.
23. IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD IT BE? WHY?
It would be Shae… she ‘gets’ me and she makes me laugh.
24. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IF YOU HAD THE CHANCE TO SPEAK TO WORLD LEADERS?
Cut it out!
25. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
Keep writing. Do more traveling in support of my books. I’ve always wanted to see Australia. You may find me on your doorstep one day, Clancy.
26. WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON BOOK TRAILERS? DO THEY SELL BOOKS?
I really don’t know, but I also don’t see how they do. I think they are an interesting marketing tool, and some are very cleaver. But I just don’t know.
27. DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ANY OF YOUR CHARACTERS?
Nearly all my romance shorts and many of my other short stories. Professor Collin Crowly from Elysian Dreams is the history professor I’ve always dreamt of being. And you just might recognize a newly introduced character in book two, Planet Alt-Sete-Nine: Princess Haylee!
28. DOES THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY FRUSTRATE YOU?
Only in that I see so many good works and writers going un or under recognized. Why I don’t know except that there is so much product out there these days. It is indeed a tough and demanding business. And I can understand the way things work from the publisher’s view, but as a writer it is still frustrating.
29. DID YOU EVER THINK OF QUITTING?
Quitting writing? I don’t think I could even if I wanted, it comes so easy and natural for me. There is always something coming together in my head, characters talking to me, and if I don’t let them out they keep me awake at night. So, I guess the short answer is no.
30. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVOURITE MANUSCRIPT TO WRITE? WHY?
They are all fun in their own way. Elysian Dreams began life as a writing exercise that turned into a short story. Then the characters kept talking to me and telling me there was so much more to be said. So, I listened.
Planet Alt-Sete-Nine was and is a very fun book to write. I see so many of my friends in the characters and artificial intelligence, alternate realities and video gaming are such popular and relevant topics.
But I’d have to say writing Ice Cream Camelot was probably my favourite. Aside from being my own personal story, it was so much fun recalling those days and revisiting my childhood friends and sweetheart again. Parts were tough to write, others flowed; some brought tears, some brought gasps in amazement that we survived. But it was a wonderful and very cathartic experience.
31. HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE ‘SUCCESS’ AS A WRITER?
Writing a book, or a story or a poem or a play or anything. Just the act of writing is success. Writing is a very personal thing that cries out to be shared but doesn’t need be to be successful. How’s that for irony?
32. WHAT SHOULD READERS WALK AWAY FROM YOUR BOOKS KNOWING? HOW SHOULD THEY FEEL?
Hopefully they should feel satisfied and wanting more; knowing that their time was well spent. If a reader takes anything from my books and stories, anything at all, I consider that an honor. I try not to preach or impart my ideals or ideas on readers. My job as an author is to write something that people will read and enjoy in their own way. If they take nothing I am satisfied that they have taken the time to read my work. If they do take something from it, all the better.
33. WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE YOUR BOOKS MADE INTO MOVIES? EVER WRITTEN A SCREENPLAY?
Funny, I once wrote an episode for the TV show “Charlies Angels”. To my surprise, it was accepted and considered but the show ended before they ever produced it. That was my one attempt at any kind of screen writing. But, yes, I think it would be cool to see my memoir Ice Cream Camelot on the screen. And I’ve been told that Planet Alt-Sete-Nine would make a great movie. I hope someone looking for their next project is reading and paying attention!
34. HOW MUCH THOUGHT GOES INTO DESIGNING A BOOK COVER?
Hummm… good question. I designed the cover of Elysian Dreams, it is the house in the story. My publisher liked it and used it. There was never any question to me about the cover of Ice Cream Camelot. I had a vision and discussed it with a very talented illustrator and artist and second baseman, Emily Gussin. She did an excellent job bringing my idea to life.
As for Planet Alt-Sete-Nine, I had no clue. I left it up to my publisher Brighton Publishing and they knocked it out of the park, it’s a great representational cover.
35. WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE DREAM?
Another head scratcher… I don’t really know. Sure, it would be great to be as wildly popular as say Stephen King. But I’d be happy if my books just kept being published, read in increasing numbers and paid all the bills. Beyond that I guess just being able to continue to write and play softball and be surrounded by my close friends in a peaceful, loving world.
36. WRITING IS ONE THING. WHAT ABOUT MARKETING YOU, YOUR BOOKS AND YOUR BRAND? ANY THOUGHTS?
If I knew the answer to that I WOULD be as wildly popular as Stephan King! I really enjoy going to book and sci-fi/fantasy conventions and doing reading and signings and appearances and meeting readers. I’d like to be able to do that full time. I know social media is very important and I try to do my part, but to really do it properly I wouldn’t have any time left to write. Quite a catch 22. Shae helps a lot, but I think to really be successful and market yourself and your books properly you need someone doing it full time. But who can afford that? I’ve thought of looking for an agent, but again, just don’t have the time. So, again, if anyone is out there looking for their next up and coming client, pay attention!
37. DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS.
The best me there is.
38. WHAT PISSES YOU OFF MOST?
39. WHAT IS THE TITLE OF THE LAST BOOK YOU READ? GOOD ONE?
Just re-read my signed copy of Johnny Cash’s Man In Black. Johnny’s own story in his own words… need I say more?
40. WHAT WOULD BE THE VERY LAST SENTENCE YOU’D WRITE?
Probably something like, “The book is fine, Kelly, stop changing it and publish it!”
41. WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU HAPPIER THAN YOU ARE NOW? CARE TO SHARE?
I guess just to see my books reach more people. I don’t have to achieve best selling author status, but it sure would be nice to be able to just write… and play softball.
42. ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
Just a big thanks to you, Clancy! You are one great renaissance man, you do it all and still make time to help and recognize others. The world needs more like you.
Clancy's comment: Thanks, BJ. there is no end to your talents ... Or, charm. Stay well my friend.
Love ya work!