Interview with fantasy author J.J. Sherwoodby marbob00 marbob00 on 11/01/15
On a cold winter night, wind howling into the desert sky, one ordinary hospital gave witness to a historic event. JJ Sherwood was born at 2:30 a.m. on December 31st, just barely managing to squeeze in to supplant New Year’s Eve. JJ has always had a flair for the dramatics.
Sherwood began writing in the womb after a harrowing incident in which Mother Sherwood swallowed a pen—and thus, destiny was born. JJ’s first work was completed by the age of 5: a riveting tale of a duck attempting to climb into an apartment during the pouring rain. Unfortunately this book is not in print, but it served as the first spark that spurred on a lifetime of creativity.
Much of JJ’s childhood was spent tearing through the woods, playing out fantasy worlds, and tying Barbie to the roof so that the Power Rangers might rescue her. Middle and high school carried on this roleplaying, while college encompassed creating and refining over 250 characters in the world of Aersadore.
After escaping college, finally armed with the tools of the trade and a lifetime of development, JJ set to writing what would become the Steps of Power series: it was then that Eraydon slew his first dragon, Jikun battled the warlord Saebellus, and Taranus rebelled against his brother’s throne.
When not orchestrating the lives and deaths of the people of Aersadore, JJ’s hobbies include drawing, video gaming, wearing a bathrobe, and eating too many baked potatoes. JJ Sherwood lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with one loving and extremely patient spouse, a bearded dragon, a monk parakeet, and four cats who look far too similar.
What’s inside the mind of a fantasy author?
Voices. A lot of strange voices of individuals in invented cultures who tell you exactly how to do things.
What is so great about being an author?
The great thing about being an author is writing something pulled from the recesses of your creativity and then finding someone as excited about your thoughts as you are.
When do you hate it?
I hate the business end of writing—self-promotion, having to ensure you make a profit, etc… While I know it’s necessary, it is not enjoyable by any means… I’d rather just write!
I wake up, feed my four cats, say hello to my parrot, wave to my bearded dragon (who either bobs his head back or scowls), and then I start writing. And then I don’t stop working until about 10 at night (wherein I take a two hour break to play League of Legends with family and friends) and then I work again until 2am. Sleep. Repeat. 7 days a week. And I love it.
Do you think authors have big egos? Do you? How do you know?
Some do, some don’t. I have met authors who are extremely successful and they have truly admirable humility. I have met other very successful (and non-successful authors) who give off airs of arrogance. I once gave advice to another author after beta reading his novel; he discounted my constructive criticism and that was pretty much the last time we spoke. Arrogance is certainly present. For myself, I wouldn’t say I have a big ego so much as a fragile one. It’s tough—pouring 100% of yourself into your work and hearing something negative in return. You have to grow a very thick shell. And I think sometimes, for some authors, this manifests itself as arrogance—having a “big ego” or “superiority” is an easy way to take the blow from a negative review and shake it off because “such an opinion is beneath them.”
How do you handle negative reviews?
I haven’t had one yet, but I imagine I’ll be pathetic through negative reviews for a while. I’ll have to get myself a good bottle of Riesling. And a pizza. Maybe a Snickers bar on the side. I’ll have to grow a spine, frankly.
What is the usual response when you tell a new acquaintance that you’re an author?
Generally people are excited. They think it’s “cool.” I suppose, since I’ve “always been a writer,” I don’t quite understand that enthusiasm, but I’m always very flattered by them.
What do you do on those days you don’t feel like writing? Do you force it or take a break?
I force it. I find that if I take a break, the “don’t feel like writing” phase lasts much longer than if I just tell myself to suck it up and write anyways.
Any writing quirks?
Well, I wear a bathrobe (yes, even in the summer) while I write. A thick, warm bathrobe. I also have a folding chair with a box on it beside my chair… for my cat. Having a cat next to me helps me write better (And keeps him off of my keyboard!). I also lock myself in the smallest, quietest, darkest space available. And then I listen to Batman music.
Have you worked on your novel intoxicated? What was the result?
I have, once. The result was the impression I was the most genius writer since Chaucer. The after-result was realizing that I am, in fact, not.
What would you do if people around you didn’t take your writing seriously or see it as a hobby?
Until less than a year ago, that was pretty much everyone around me. I speak rather colloquially online and in person. If I don’t have at least 5 exclamation points in a paragraph or a dozen emoticons, it’s probably not me. So I think a big part was the inability of people to separate the goofball they know with someone who can “write a legitimate novel.” It was tough for a long time—frustrating and rather insulting. I will say what many in my shoes have said: it hurts. But I will also say, in my case, that it’s forgotten the moment they read and love my novel or see the success I have at conventions/online, etc… It has been a bit of “validation,” honestly. And so I suppose it’s eventually had a positive effect on everything.
Some authors seem to have a love-hate relationship to writing. Can you relate?
I understand that completely. There are days where I feel that way—usually when the voices in my head refuse to co-operate. I love those characters but I hate that they can cut their strings.
Do you think success as an author must be linked to money?
To a degree, yes. There are probably brilliant authors out there who do not have the financial means to hire a good editor or good artwork or good publicity and so they will never be discovered. It’s a real shame. I think having money going into the field is often very important to your future success. However, more than this is the way an author handles themselves online—through forums and social media—as well as in person at conventions. I ran into an author at a convention whose cover failed to impress me, but their personality was so magnetizing that I purchased their book and am enjoying it thoroughly. I hope they achieve the same impressions online—they deserve it.
What had writing taught you?
Some authors write their characters from their experience. I live with experience learned through my characters.
Leave us with some words of wisdom.
Never be afraid to share your work! So many authors I know (and even myself, at times) are embarrassed to share their work for fear of criticism. If you don’t share your work, you’ll never know how far you have come or how far you have to go. Take a chance on the people in your life. They might just surprise you.
Title: Kings or Pawns (Steps of Power: The Kings Book I)
Author: J. J. Sherwood
Publisher: Silver Helm
Purchase on Amazon
About the Book:
The first book in JJ Sherwood’s Steps of Power epic fantasy series. The Kings, Book I: Kings or Pawns is a political intrigue that spirals into an action and adventure series as the final events unfold.
8,994 P.E.—The elven city of Elvorium has become corrupted to the core by politics. With his father dead and The Royal Schism at his back, Prince Hairem becomes the king of the elven world on Sevrigel. Young and daring, Hairem is determined to undo the council’s power, but quickly finds his loyal council members brutally murdered by an assassin loosed within the city.
As corruption and death threaten to tear the city apart from within, the warlord Saebellus threatens the city from without, laying siege to Sevrigel’s eastern capital. With the elven world crumbling around him, Hairem finds himself in a dangerous political balance between peace and all out war.