The Smashwords interview with Jack Chaucer …

John cropped good one

Q: Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
A: I grew up on Chaucer Drive in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, so it must be fate that I became a writer. I enjoyed Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” in high school, too. As a result, I picked Chaucer for part of my pen name.
My family moved to Chaucer Drive when I was 6. By age 7, I was already the leading force in creating a neighborhood newspaper with other kids on the block. We’d pass the handwritten paper around at the end-of-summer block party and all the adults would get a good laugh.
Writing novels and raising twins may be my day job, but I’m still in the newspaper business at night. I edit and design pages at the Republican-American in Waterbury, Conn. I’ve been in the journalism business for 22 years now at four different papers in three states.
Q: What’s the story behind your latest book?
A: My latest book is “Streaks of Blue: How the Angels of Newtown Inspired One Girl to Save Her School.” I know. The title is quite long — kind of like Pearl Jam’s song “Elderly Woman Behind a Counter in a Small Town” or a Fiona Apple CD title. The subject matter of this book, however, is no laughing matter. When 20 first-graders and 6 women were gunned down at an elementary school on Dec. 14, 2012 — and not all that far from where I live with my wife and kids — the whole world seemed to stop and pay attention. How could gun violence in our schools and country get any lower than an entire class of first-graders being wiped out 11 days before Christmas? But, of course, the world goes on about its business eventually.
Not for me. In fact, this was the only topic I could think about as I considered what to write about next. My new book, which will be published on Sept. 27, is the culmination of eight months of wrestling with this brutal but extremely relevant plague on our society.
The protagonist, Nicole, receives a warning in a dream that one of her classmates — a boy she once knew in elementary school — is plotting the next big school massacre at her high school in New Hampshire. The story follows her attempt to reconnect with and befriend the boy before it’s too late.
It was an extremely hard story to write, but I’m very proud of how it turned out and I look forward to sharing it with the world very soon. I’ve dedicated the book to the Newtown victims and have pledged to donate half of the proceeds to the Newtown Memorial Fund, whose motto is “Hitch Your Wagon to A Star.”
Q: What motivated you to become an indie author?
A: I think it has become cool to be an indie author, so much so that even Big Six authors are going off on their own and e-pubbing directly to readers now. It’s an exciting time for writers. It’s such a bold and empowering challenge to try to become an author and publisher in my own right that I simply could not resist. I’ve cranked out four novels in four years and continue to learn a lot every day, mostly through trial and error. It’s already been a fascinating journey through this creative/marketing process. Though I’m still basically an unknown author, I have this gut feeling that my new book “Streaks of Blue” will put me on the map. It’s an exciting time and, much like a reader of a page-turning thriller, I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Q: How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
A: Smashwords is amazing. It gives you the ability to create something special and then distribute that creation to the entire world FOR FREE. It gives you the financial freedom to hire quality editors (Bill Bernardi and Dave Krechevsky, you both rock!) and amazing cover designers (Damon Za and Ida Jansson, you both rock!) to polish your novel before e-shipping it out to every corner of the planet. In short, if Mark Coker ran for president, I would vote for him.
Q: What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
A: Do you remember the 1980s show “The A Team?” I think it was the Hannibal character who always said “I love it when a plan comes together.” Then the music would kick in.
Well, I love it when you start with this one great idea and you keep developing it until it spawns more great ideas and, eventually, the whole plan comes together, resulting it a great book.
It’s like putting a giant puzzle together, but all you get to start with is one completely blank page.
Q: What do your fans mean to you?
A: So far I only have a few, so every one is precious! Their positive feedback is a huge boost!
Q: What are you working on next?
A: After four novels in four years, I need a bit of a mental break following “Streaks of Blue.” But my next goal is to attempt to write a trilogy. So far I’m toying with the name “Mammyth,” but it’s all very nebulous at this point.
Q: Who are your favorite authors?
A: George R.R. Martin is a big one. I’m a huge fan of the “Game of Thrones” series. I would love to find a way to world-build 1/100th as well as him!
Q: What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
A: My twin son and daughter. I’m not sure “inspire” is the right word though. They’re both 2, so it’s more like they demand that I get out of bed each day.
Q: When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
A: Working, raising twin toddlers, cutting a lot of grass (we have a pretty big yard) and, very soon, preparing for my league’s fantasy football league draft!
Q: What is your writing process?
A: I actually hand write the first draft. I can’t sit at the computer for that phase of the project. It takes too long to come up with all of my ideas. When I do get a good idea, I never have writer’s block. The first draft takes me about 3 months. Then it’s rewriting, overhauling and editing for another 3-5 months. The cover concept took a lot longer to finalize for “Streaks of Blue” than for “Queens are Wild.”

Published 2013-08-24.


Happy first birthday to “Queens are Wild” …

I first published the e-book on July 17, 2012. I’m writing this at 11:55 p.m. on the 17th even though the time stamp says the 18th. Either way, what a wild year. Fittingly, it was nice to see the paperback edition show up in my hometown Litchfield library’s catalog for the first time today, too. It’s shelved in Adult Fiction with fun database search topics like chess, time travel and my personal favorite — political kidnapping. Ha!

In “Streaks of Blue” news, Ida and I scrapped our first cover idea. We both agreed it just didn’t work. Hopefully, we’ll get it right the second time. The story deserves the right cover. Meanwhile, my colleague Dave Krechevsky is in the process of editing the first half of the manuscript. I’m still hopeful that I’ll publish the e-book sometime in August, but September is a possibility. I want the paperback out much quicker this time, hopefully October or November.

Streaks of Blue is done!

I just finished the rewritten and retooled draft last night. 52,900 words. A tad longer than I thought it would be, but just right for a YA drama. Now all it needs is some copy editing, polishing and, of course, a cover. Norway’s Ida Jansson did such a kick-ass job on “Queens are Wild” that I plan to hire her again. Plus my idea for the cover can’t be done with a photograph. The talented Erin Covey instead has volunteered to shoot my portrait. “I’m always willing to help out a fellow creative,” she says. How cool is she? I guess it’s about time I had a real author photo!

Can’t wait for the world to read it! I’ll be donating half of any proceeds from the novel to the Newtown Memorial Fund.


New cover in the works for ‘Queens are Wild’ paperback edition

I’m finally going to put “Queens are Wild” into paperback form, hopefully sometime this summer on Amazon’s CreateSpace. It’s about time I got the book onto Amazon. Ida Jansson, a talented Norwegian designer, is going to begin crafting a new cover late next week with Margeaux Quigley on it and more emphasis on a poker theme. It’ll be exciting to see what she comes up with.

Meanwhile, I’m almost halfway done with my second draft of “Streaks of Blue.” I hope to e-publish for early beta reads by August. My newspaper photographer colleague, the very talented Erin Covey, will be shooting the cover for that one. All we need to find is a teen girl with blue hair (or some extensions) to play the role of Nicole!

It should be interesting to have two books out, in both print and ebook form, by late this year.