Author Interview with CJ West: Why He Might Be Dexter Morgan’s Best Friend

Welcome to the Kickoff of June’s Featured Writer posts!  Every Tuesday I’ll be hosting a different author where they gush the gory details on writing and life.

CJ West

It’s a double dose of CJ West this week, whom many of you may know from the twitter #MANday challenge that’s been tweeting around.  CJ recently released his new digital short, Thugbook; his seventh publication.  He writes thrillers, and his blog is captioned Suspense.  Creativity.  Action.  You can also find him at his website or doing author interviews on his Blog Talk Radio Show.  But today, he’s here with us, answering  my questions about the writing life.  And, he’ll back this Friday, sharing his guilty pleasures right here on The Happiness Project!

CJ Answers Questions About CJ:

JW:  You have led a diverse pathway of careers.  You wrote your first book while still in school, pursued your love of golf and considered going pro, then got your degree in Business Management and made a living helping companies with computer networking, and then went back to writing.  What has each of these roles taught you about life?

CJW: In each of these things I was following a passion and I have been very fortunate thus far to work at things I love doing. My greatest lesson learned is to seek good advice. I grew up in an environment that highly valued independence. My life’s journey would have been vastly different if I had embraced the advice of knowledgeable people early in my life. I have worked very hard at each of my passions and with sound advice I could have achieved much more with all that effort.

JW:  As a novice writer with a time-sucking day job, I’m always curious know to how other writers did it: the switch to writing full time.  What was the game changing moment where you decided to focus on writing, and what struggles along the journey did you have to overcome?

CJW:  The big moment for me was when Sin & Vengeance was optioned for film. The offer came out of the blue and when it did, I began to believe I could entertain readers well enough to make a living writing books. The writing life for me is still a constant struggle. I don’t believe I’ve made it yet, but I have had the great pleasure of entertaining many readers and I’m thankful that I wake up and write every day.

JW:  You host a Blog Talk Radio show called The Thriller-30, what authors have been the most inspiring to you on that show?

CJW:  Tim Hallinan was a wonderful guest and became a good friend after doing the show. Many of the authors really appreciated the time I put into preparation and enjoyed having their work highlighted that way.

JW:  I listened to your podcast with author Vincent O’Neil where you discussed his book Death Troupe, a book about a roving band of murder mystery actors.  I learned that you love getting involved in murder mystery theater!  How did you start that?

CJW:  I was invited to take part in a murder mystery show by a friend. I was hesitant to get up on stage as many authors are, but I discovered after about 5 shows that I really enjoy acting. I’m getting a bit better at being in front of a crowd and the great thing about the shows I’ve been involved in is that they are very interactive. The crowd gets involved and it is a great time playing a role and getting to know people.

JW:  So let’s talk about your readers!  You have some really innovative events and outings to connect with your readers.  What kinds of things have you done, and what events do you have coming up?

CJW:  I have put on dozens of fun events for readers. We’ve done everything from Advanced Driving Classes, Firearms training, Murder Mysteries, Poker Lessons, and of course I’ve been to most of the big conventions to speak to readers. I’ve hosted many online events and parties including an online murder mystery. Right now I’m getting in shape for a MANday challenge. If I lose, I’ll have to post pictures of myself half naked – a scary prospect for a writer!

CJ Answers Questions About His New Short, Thugbook:
JW:  You recently celebrated your birthday!  May 23rd you launched a twitter party and giveaway in honor of your new digital short, Thugbook!  Tell us about your book.

CJW:  Thugbook is the story of a social network gone wrong. Thugbook (a practical idea, I think) is a site where citizens post photos of criminals. The site soars in popularity and at the same time is engulfed in controversy. Criminals are turning up dead and the blame lays squarely on Thugbook. It’s an exploration of greed, revenge, and the power of technology to shape our society.

JW:  I was lucky enough to read Thugbook, and would you say “it’s part Big Brother, part Dexter, part Hustle and Flow and part The Social Network” is an accurate description?

CJW:  That’s a lot of parts! I think it certainly fits in there somewhere.

JW:  Do you think Dexter Morgan would approve of Thugbook?

CJW:  Dexter would love Thugbook. It would be the ideal research tool for him to plan murders!

JW:  The head honcho of Thugbook is a young CEO named Blaine.  He’s not very likeable when we start out.  What helped you create his character?

CJW:  People are motivated by different things and power changes people sometimes. Blaine started Thugbook to avenge the rape and murder of his sister. Along the way Fame and Fortune come to Blaine and the trappings of success change him.  I wanted to contrast this with Jones who is true to his mission to repay the criminals who have caused him harm.  The men accomplish great things, but their methods and the way they deal with success are very different.

JW:  The driving force of your story is that the reader never knows quite who to trust.  You have presented one story from several perspectives, always asking the question Is this right or wrong?  We know there are vigilantes taking the gang members into their own hands, but you ask us to think about issues like privacy and moral ethics.  What plotting tips can you share?

CJW:  I really enjoy plotting novels and my plots evolve with each new work. I think it is important for plot to grow out of character and if you start with interesting and motivated characters in conflict, good things will happen.

JW:  Well said!  What other writing tips do you recommend for writers?

CJW:  Get good advice. I also heard a great commencement speech by Neil Gaiman and his words of advice were, “Make Good Art.” That really hit me and I think it is what we all need to focus on.

CJ Answers Nonsense, But Fun, Questions:

JW:  We writers work hard, and often alone, describe your perfect day off.

CJW:  I must admit that I rarely take a day off. Maybe two or three a year.

An ideal day off would be a day on the water with my kids catching blue crabs.

JW:  What last words of advice do you have to share with our readers?

CJW:  Enjoy every moment of life’s journey. Drink in the wonders of nature and the complexities in the hearts and minds of the people you meet.

Thank you, CJ, for taking time to chat today and for sharing your new short, Thugbook, with us!

What other questions do you have for CJ?  What do you think of the idea of Thugbook?

And, don’t forget, learn more about CJ’s guilty pleasures this Friday! 

16 responses

  1. Hi Jess, and CJ! Fantastic interview! Thugbook is in my TBR list on my Kindle and I can’t wait! Before that one I have to read Sin and Vengeance! CJ, one of the things I love most about you is how hard you work. Your dedication to your writing and to making the experience of reading your books fun for your readers is exemplary! I wish you much success–in writing and in the MANDAY challenge!

    1. I can’t wait to hear what you think of Thugbook when you’re done. It’s such a mind-provoking idea. And I agree, the outreach CJ does with his readers is very commendable! Hope he’s doing his planks right now! LOL

  2. Great interview. I love that plot idea. This sounds like an intriguing book for me to check out. Thanks, Jess & CJ. Oh, and I’m totally expecting Jillian to achieve the goal of exposing CJ’s abs.

    1. My big takeaway is how disciplined CJ is. He does share good advice about structuring your story and creating strong characters. I really hated Blaine when the book started out, but he lets you get to know him and why he would do the things he does. That’s crucial for hooking your readers.

  3. Thugbook sounds like a great concept. Wish I’d thought of it! Alas, I can say the same about The Hunger Games, The Shining, Catcher In The Rye…etc. and so forth and so on.

    1. You weren’t even born for some of those release parties. I wouldn’t be too hard.

  4. Great interview! It’s fun to learn more about CJ, as I only recently connected with him via Twitter. I love the fact that he benefited so much from going against the grain. Passion oozes from his insight. 🙂

    1. Oooh nice line! You must be a writer! 😉

      I’m glad you two have met now. Perhaps you can start a thriller writing superforce. Just be careful how you organize it. If you read Thugbook you’ll see, be careful what you wish for.

  5. Great interview, CJ and Jess! It’s always fun to learn more about our peer and CJ offers some excellent advice. Let’s keep tweeting up a storm and get him on Jillian’s MANday blog!

    1. Ah yes, MANday. Now that’s one way to get your readers attention! LOL

  6. Hi Jess

    Wow – facts about CJ. When I wrote about him for manday I just made it all up! He’s a great guy and I had no idea Sin and Vengeance had been optioned (he’s probably going to tell me I should read his blog more often!).

    Thugbook is a good read and you can’t quite guess how its going to turn out till the end. It’s a frighteningly plausible idea and it’s probably only a matter of time before something like it is started … hopefully with “better” characters!


    1. Oh I totally thought the same thing! Of course I’m the kid who loved reading dystopian books in school. Harrison Bergeron by Vonnegut? Remember that one? Love these stories.

  7. […] back!  This past Tuesday, I had thriller writer, CJ West over talking about his new short, Thugbook!  Today, CJ’s back at the Happiness Project reminiscing about his 10 untouchable guilty […]

  8. […] Writer Posts!  The fun was kicked off by thriller writer CJ West and you can still find out why Dexter Morgan might be CJ’s best friend or what his Top 10 Chocolate Guilty Pleasures […]

  9. […] days, but I’m so excited about my new Tuesday series featuring writers!  Thriller writer CJ West kicked us off, and in case you missed her, women’s writer Patricia Sands joined me yesterday!  Next week […]

  10. […] Series, that was more of an ongoing project.  It’s been a really rewarding one having had CJ West, Patricia Sands, and now Wisconsin Writer Jay Gilbertson all guest on my blog!  And guess what […]

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