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Author Interview – Mark LaFlamme

What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general? The discipline is always the biggest obstacle for me until I manage to get on a roll. Your friends are outside, throwing frisbees and drinking beer. There’s a baseball game on and it would be good to hit the recliner and watch a few innings. But you swore you’d start pounding out 2,000 words at a minimum each day, and damn it all, now is the time to do it. I generally overcome that procrastination rather quickly. By the time I’m a quarter into the new work, I crave each chance to write some more. I’ve had days where I pound out 7,000 words and stop only when I start going cross-eyed. Of course, there are those days, too, where you write and write and write and still can’t seem to reach 2,000. The bottom line for me has always been that I have to get there, no matter what.

Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it? In writing “Guys Named Jack,” I decided I wanted to go with first-person narrative. What’s more, I decided to do it from the points of view of four different characters. Sounded like an easy thing to do at the outset. But of course, each character is different. Each has his own distinct style and his own personality, so the writing had to be a little different from one Jack to the next. It was challenging, but also great fun. By the time I was done writing, I felt sincerely connected to each of these kids. I felt like if I wanted to, I could give them a call on the phone and say, “Hey, Jack. Nice job out there today.” I think it’s good to be that close to your characters, as long as you don’t actually start making those calls.

Do you intend to make writing a career? Absolutely. For the past 20 years, I’ve been getting paid for writing news stories and columns. It’s a beautiful thing and I can’t imagine doing anything else. Now, of course, I’d like to make the leap from news to novels. Sometimes, when I have to race out to cover a late-night fire or a car wreck, I mourn for the time that could be spent working on the latest novel, instead. I think that’s a pretty clear sign that I’m ready to move on. Of course, it’s much easier said than done.

Have you developed a specific writing style? No doubt about it. I write fast-paced stories with a lot of dialogue. I have a pull-no-punches style and I like to take risks. But that being said, I like to mix it up a lot, too. For a while, I wrote third-person narratives and nothing else. Then I took on first-person and tried my hand at narrating from the point of view of a woman. I think an individual style is hard to escape a lot of the times, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try new approaches and learn new tricks.

What is your greatest strength as a writer? Dialogue, I’m told. A lot of readers have suggested that it’s crisp and believable dialogue that really sucks them into a story. What’s funny about that is, I never would have thought of it on my own. I like writing dialogue. More often than not, I’ll speak it aloud to make sure it sounds okay. That kind of thing can draw you funny looks if you happen to be writing in a library or a Starbucks (I never do that. Can’t imagine doing it.) But that aside, I’ve always thought of my strength as stamina. I’ll start writing at midnight and I’ll still be going when the sun starts to rise and the birds are singing their dawn songs.

Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it? More often than I’d like to admit, frankly. And every time it happens, I get this sense of panic: What if the words never come back? What if I’m just tapped out and I’ll never be able write with abandoned again?  It’s almost never a shortage of ideas but more of a big fat clog in the intellectual pipe –  the words are flowing in my head just fine, but when I try to get them down on paper, all I get is a frustrating little trickle. To me, the only way to get through it is to just keep banging away. I’ll sit down and peck out a thousand words no matter how much I have to force it. Or 500 words or 25. Whatever. Sooner or later, that clog is going to rattle loose and there’s this big, juicy whoosh as the words start flowing again. If things are really bad, I’ll start a story specifically for the purpose of plowing through the blockage. I don’t care how stupid or badly written the story is, if I can get through it, I’ll be back in business. Sometimes, I’ll mix things up – instead of writing at midnight, I’ll write at noon. Instead of getting to it in my little office, I’ll go downstairs with a laptop and write with the spiders. It’s such a mental game. Writer’s block is fist-pounding frustration, but it always goes away sooner or later.

Can you share a little of your current work with us? After I finished “Guys Named Jack,” I started writing shorter stuff just to stay in the groove. I wrote a novella about the very first cryogenics subject revived in the distant future. It was pretty horrible because I tried rush it. Into the trunk it went. I wrote another novella called “Press Run,” about a news crew staff stranded in the newsroom after monsters start crawling out of the weird green snow outside. That one was great fun and so to my editors it went. After that, I wrote a series of short stories – I must be up over a dozen of them by now – which I like quite a lot. I’m pretty sure I’ll package the best of them together with “Press Run” and make a collection out of it. The working title is “The Sadness,” for reasons that will become clear after the third or fourth story.

How did you come up with the title? The best answer I can give you to this is, “I don’t know.” I always wanted to write a story about a group of unrelated people who develop these mysterious skills. In my head, I had the whole plot worked out, it was just a matter of sitting down to write it. Somewhere between the original idea and the writing of the story, all my characters became teenagers and then I named them all Jack. No idea why. I firmly believe that the conscious mind is responsible for only half of the writing process. Something else goes on the dusty regions of the subconscious where cogs you aren’t even aware of just keep turning in the dark. I surprise myself with unexpected plot twists all the time. It’s the coolest part of the process for me. So, early on in this novel, one of the characters says something like, “All over there world, guys named Jack are having this same experience.” About two seconds after the line left my fingertips I yelled out, to no one in particular, “Wahoo! I have my title!” And I never even experimented with others. As a title, I love “Guys Named Jack.”

Jack Carnegie has developed a head for numbers – a true savant who was just an average teenager a day before. Jack Deacon builds things, from self-propelled drones to goggles that can see through walls.

Jack Van Slyke awakes with an ability to speak a half dozen languages.Jack Gordon discovers he is a master of the martial arts, just when he needs it most.

All over the country, young men are finding that they have special skills, areas of expertise that appeared out of nowhere. They’re confused. Baffled. Maybe even dangerous.

And they’re all named Jack.

After experiencing adventures on their own, the Jacks will come together in the deserts of Arizona. There, they will set out on the quest to find out what has happened, becoming a multi-talented task force with not a single clue why.

But answers are coming – chilling revelations about their own minds and about new terrors that imperil the world. Together the Jacks will have to make a decision: drift apart and return to being careless teenagers? Or band together and fight a rising evil that threatens not just the Jacks, but the world.

Buy Now @ Amazon

Genre – YA / Thriller

Rating – PG

More details about the author

Connect with Mark LaFlamme on Facebook

Website http://marklaflamme.com/

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