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.
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!