Failing Test, discusses his book, his journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.
DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about Failing Test?
J.M. PIERCE: Failing Test begins as Test Davis enters his last weeks of high school. He is a good kid with a horrible home life, a lack of self control, and a crush on Nicole Paxton. When he finally gets his chance with Nicole, it doesn’t go as planned and his anger gets the better of him. In a drunken fit of rage, he discovers a power that had been resting dormant within him. His life then becomes the ultimate test (and failure) of self control as his secret is revealed to the world.
DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?
J.M. PIERCE: One of my favorite characters in Failing Test is Cliff Johnston. I didn’t know Cliff at all and one day he showed up to meet Test. Suddenly he was a major player in the story. All of my characters begin with a concept, sure, but most all of them tend to develop a personality on their own. Living life and meeting people has given me an immense pool from which to draw from. Go sit in a Denny’s some time and look around. The diversity of people is inspiring.
DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?
J.M. PIERCE: When I originally wrote FT, I pictured high school teens reading it, and they do. Surprisingly and thankfully, it is being well read and received by far more than just the teen market. All of us have either been the victim, the bully, or the innocent bystander. I think that anyone of any age can identify with someone in this story.
DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?
J.M. PIERCE: I have always been a creative person. In grade school, I made my own comic book complete with illustrations. In junior high I began to play in a band and was the only songwriter. I also found myself writing a lot of poetry. I had always been a reader and it wasn’t until my sophomore year in high school that something clicked. I was introduced to the work of John Steinbeck and that was when my passion for reading started. I devoured everything that our library had of Steinbeck’s and then wanted more. I became the kid that was begging for extra credit book reports and asking to do research papers. It was a great time!
After high school I continued to play in a band and actually recorded three albums. We played around the state four nights a week, all the while holding down a full time job. There came a time when I wanted to settle down, get healthy, and raise a family. When this time came, the rest of the band wasn’t thrilled with just being a weekend thing so we all went our separate ways. I didn’t really miss playing, but I did miss the creative outlet that writing music provided.
I’ve always had stories in my head, and one day I sat down and started typing. I didn’t really intend to write a novel, I just wanted to be creative. It was a difficult time with my full time job and the stress was unbelievable. The process of writing was so cathartic for me that I did it every night. Several months later I had an 87,000 word draft!
I started to query agents and then sent off the manuscript for “formal” editing. I was signed to a small agency, but thankfully discovered that they weren’t right for me and was able to opt out of my contract. After that disappointment, I had begun to look into “self-publishing.” It was actually a very difficult decision at the time. It was a decision that came after a mountain of rejection emails. I was one of those who felt like “self publishing” was a cop-out. Then I stumbled onto some articles about some indie success stories. The more I investigated, the more it appealed to me. There are so many legitimate writers within the indie community and some of them are experiencing giant successes right now. They inspire me to work hard and know that there’s hope for bigger things.
DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?
J.M. PIERCE: My writing process is pretty fluid. Typically, I’ll just sit down and let my mind go. If I get an idea for something that I want to happen later on in the story, I’ll type out the idea on a “notes” page that I create below the current page. I try not to let my writing interfere with family time. Generally, I only write after the kids go to bed or over lunch at work. I have an aversion to bright light, so my ideal writing space is dimly lit and quiet. Music does inspire me, but I can’t listen to it while I’m writing unless it fits the scene that I am currently working on.
DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?
J.M. PIERCE: There are many. Some may seem popular and cliché and some are so taboo (it seems) that people are surprised that I’ll even mention their name. John Steinbeck is one of my favorites. His characters are so real and even today I think people are identifying with them.
There was a stretch of time when I was addicted to Michael Crichton. The amount of research that he had to have done for much of his work is evident and it left a lasting impression on me. It really made his stories a place to live, which is something that I strive for.
Stephenie Meyer is another one of my favorites. Without having read her work, I think that the romantic aspects of Failing Test would be non-existent. The story of her success is inspiring as well.
I have also been greatly influenced by Stan Lee of Marvel Comics fame. Heroism aside, there are some amazing stories within those brightly colored pages that rival any novel.
Other authors on my list would be Owl Goingback, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis.
DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you'd written yourself?
J.M. PIERCE: I don’t know that I’ll be able to answer this one. I write what I write and read to enjoy, not to envy.
DAVID WISEHART: How did you create your cover?
J.M. PIERCE: I consider myself an amateur photographer and had a great time coming up with the image myself. With that said, I would love to work with a professional cover artist on future works. There are some amazingly talented artists out there that I think do authors proud.
DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?
J.M. PIERCE: I think that the most important form of marketing that I’ve done is just to be involved in the writing community. That aside, I’ve sponsored Kindle Nation Daily, the Kindleboards, the Indie Spotlight, and have run ads on Goodreads.com and Facebook. I have also been featured on many blogs and will graciously do any interview that is requested of me. I try to make it a point to purchase at least one sponsorship or advertisement per month and then continue to be involved in the community.
DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?
J.M. PIERCE: Right now the Kindle seems to be the center of the reading universe; if you’re an author and not on this boat, you’re destined to be at the bottom of the ocean.
DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?
J.M. PIERCE: Wow. I have learned so much, but still have much to learn. Patience is a virtue. I know we’ve all heard it a million times, but it’s a fact. Have there been authors that have scored big with their first novel? Yep. Is it likely? Nope. That’s not to say that your novel couldn’t achieve a large level of success, but don’t expect it overnight. Be prepared for slow sales, frustration, and bad reviews. Ah yes…bad reviews. We will all have them, no matter what. You must not let one destroy you. As an artistic breed, we writers tend to be overly sensitive and will let one bad review overshadow twenty good ones. For whatever reason, we will give credence to that one review and assume that the rest of them are wrong. That is ridiculous. The poor reviews hold no more weight than the good ones. Each is another person’s opinion. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t pay attention to the bad reviews. Quite often there is something in there that you can learn from and improve on. I’m just saying don’t let one bad review turn you away from your dreams. Do not EVER respond to a bad review. It has been proven time and again that this does nothing but create more problems. DON’T DO IT!
Read as much as you can. I know it is sometimes difficult to read while writing your next masterpiece, but the reality is that the more you read, the more well rounded your craft can be.
Write as much as you can. For me, life is more and more a challenge that is determined by the hours in a day. I write for my own reasons, but one of them is the possibility of providing a better life for my family. One has to be careful not to become too self involved in the process and, in turn, alienate the ones that you are doing it for!
If you aren’t already, get involved with the Kindleboards. It is the most amazing community on the net with a plethora of authors there willing to show their support, condolences, praise, and honesty when needed.
DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.
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