Monday, October 19, 2015


Q) Do you own a cat? The Black Cat Blog wants proof (a picture).
I am 100% cat person. Unfortunately, after we moved to Maryland after Hurricane Katrina, I developed an acute allergic asthmatic response to our cat, Jezebel. Giving her up for adoption remains one of the most horribly wrenching experiences in my life.

However, my wife being a life-long dog person, we've now filled that hole in our lives with a goofy-ass German Shepherd. She's about as non-feline as a dog can be, but she is her own kind of awesome.

Q) WORST life advice you ever received.
"Follow your dream." Alternately, "do what you love and you'll be successful." Barf. I find this to be the most toxic kind of idealism. It's a lovely notion, but it reeks of confirmation bias. We see successful artists, writers, pornography directors (whatever), and they all say "I just found a way to do what I love, and everything else fell into place."


It's fine and dandy to cherry-pick the people who "found a way." But here's the brutal reality… for every one of them, there's tens of thousands who did the same and failed. Just loving something doesn't make you good at it. Even being good at it doesn't mean you can make a living. And when you have an entire family that depends on you to keep the mortgage paid and the meals elevated above spam and beans… you have to pay the bills first.

Sure, long-term, I'd LOVE to write for a living full-time. Hell, I'd take brewing and writing part-time, as long as it doesn't hurt my family in order to do so. It's soul-crushing, I admit, but the day job isn't what I live for. I keep it so that I can continue to work toward full-time writing. In the meantime, whenever I see someone plaster one of those "follow your dreams" platitudes on Facebook, I just roll my eyes and continue to exert my shoulder against the proverbial grind stone.

ANN: I feel that, as both a veterinarian and a writer, I'm truly lucky and blessed to have TWO jobs that I enjoy.

Q) BEST life advice you ever received.
My father (and I do worship the ground he hovers over) gave me three bits of advice in my lifetime. I've remembered them all:

1) "Never marry a girl without a chin."
I'm… still working on what the hell this means, but I'm happy to report my wife cuts a striking profile.

2) "Son, you'll never run with this clan until you catch the wild snipe in the forest at midnight."
It's entirely possible my dad was screwing with me by this point.

3) "Buy low, sell high, deny everything."
This one is solid gold.

Q) Please share a picture of your favorite shoes. Or hat. Just to be nice, I'm letting you choose a hat if you want. :)
I do love a nice pair of strappy black heels. The strappy-er the better-er.

ANN: At first, I was going to be impressed that you could fit your feet in those shoes (I know I couldn't), but alas...

Oh… wait. You mean shoes that I own? Sorry.

I got my first pair of cowboy boots this summer, specifically to impress my wife. Yes, I'll always be a teenage boy at heart. We got a matched set, because we're "like that."

ANN: I love it.

Q) What's your favorite science fiction film? Am I opening a giant can of Dune Sandworms, here?
Weirding modules aside… you have to split this down into categories, in my opinion. Lately, between Gravity, Interstellar and The Martian, I feel we've hit a new benchmark for sci fi realism…and I like it! Of these, The Martian is my fave… as is the book. Great stuff! A fine blend of non-formulaic survival narrative with a non-dreary future milieu. How I do tire of dystopian futures in cinema (keep them coming in fiction, though).

When it comes to the classics, the gold trophy has to go to 2001: a Space Odyssey. Groundbreaking on several fronts.

However, to quit dancing around the issue, the sci fi movie I "like" the most, the one I've seen umpteen-godzillion times? Aliens. I could quote this movie front to back.

ANN: That's it! I've GOT to read The Martian.

Q)  What's your favorite writing rule (or rules) that you live by? What rule (or rules) do you hate?
I was asked this question at a panel during the Mid-Atlantic Fiction Writer's Institute Conference two months ago. My answer for what's my favorite writing rule: "Keep writing the first draft. Don't stop to edit as you go… just keep writing until you finish. Then go back to revise." I was immediately called out on the carpet by one of my fellow panelists, who happened to also be a professional editor. He insisted that this is bogus advice in that some people prefer to edit as they go, and do so with success.

Which was a very true and valid point. This rule is my favorite rule because it works for me. My struggle is keeping momentum going. When I stop to revise, I lose the wind from my sails, and the results are often catastrophic. But just because this rule created a breakthrough for me, that doesn't mean it'll work for you.

Which means, consequently, my least favorite writing rule is any rule that claims to apply to everyone.

ANN: I TOTALLY agree. Every writer is different. Each writer should make up their own rules.

Q) How do you balance having a family and writing? Time is such a constraint.
It's 75% dedication and 25% cheating. Regarding the cheating… I married another novelist. We both understand the struggle, and we help keep each other on point. On the other hand, that doesn't solve the problem by itself. A wise man once told me "you'll never find time to write; you must MAKE time to write." We set aside an hour each night (when we're in full-bore drafting mode) after the boy is in bed, and we make with the word counts. Sometimes when we have free days to ourselves, we'll go together to Panera or a brewpub and write together. When we're in the swing of it, the habit isn't hard to maintain. Then… illness or injury or visiting family will enter the picture and derail the schedule. Getting back into the rhythm is always difficult. Painful, even. But just like exercise, it gets easier the more you stick with it.

Q) I feel like ever since I entered social media, I've been losing too much time zoning out on the Internet. How do you feel about this social dilemma?
I do most of my social media interaction when I'm in between projects at work, or sitting around waiting for my son or what have you. My personality tilts toward extroversion, so Tweeting and FBing (fibbing?) comes easy to me. I do, however, close my browser when it's time to write. That time is sacred, and I can't encroach upon it. After an hour or more of writing, though, I tend to pick a particularly effective line and post it on my Facebook page. So, it's time-and-place really.

Q) How do you feel about selfies? Selfies in hats?
Here's the thing… so many people crap all over those who post selfies. It's hip to deride selfies, but I find they're a valuable self-care tool. I suffer from depression. Well, I suppose "suffer" is a strong word. I'm saddled with it from time-to-time. And it affects my self-esteem. I had someone tell me that developing a habit of taking and posting selfies is a kind of affirmation, a way to capture the best "you" that you can find at that moment, and then put it out there in a semi-permanent fashion. It's a statement that "yes, I think this looks good." For people with low self-esteem, a little vanity can be medicinal.

ANN: I was just saying this morning that the pictures I post after each and every race probably count as selfies. (At least people don't have to SMELL me...)

Q) What event would you call your breakthrough as an author?
The biggest breakthrough I had since signing with Curiosity Quills (which was a pretty big milestone in its own right), was the Bookbub promotion for The Curse Merchant. CQ arranged a free download period for Merchant and advertised via Bookbub. In a two-day period, Merchant landed #9 on Amazon's free list. That's #9 of everything. Stats show just under 20K downloads in that two-day period, which told me at the very least that TONS of people were willing to give my stuff a shot!

Q) What do you know now that you wish you knew much earlier on as an author?
I wish I knew how much time passed between signing a book with a publisher and its publishing date. Once I signed over my Dark Choir series to Curiosity Quills, I entered a kind of "catching my breath" period… which was a mistake. I should have kept plugging on, writing the next few books instead of waiting to see what would happen. I had two releases fairly close together, followed by over a year of nothing happening from the reader's point of view. I wish I had kept the production going, so that the readers wouldn't have to wait so long for a follow-up!

ANN: No kidding. Plus, I hate that something inside me has to "wait" until certain things are done to start something else (because sometimes waiting takes a LONG time). I drive my own self nuts.

Q) What's the best marketing advice you can give other authors?
Keep writing more books. Market all you like, but nothing will replace have a corpus of work for new readers to latch onto. If you write series, then put your efforts into getting four or five books out there before you start looking seriously at spending marketing dollars. Readers love series, and series readers tend not to roll the dice on new authors until they see a few books ready to roll.

If you write stand-alones, recognize the cards are stacked against you. Keep plugging away. Create content to sell.

Beyond that, don't labor your marketing efforts too hard. Be genuine and organic. If this means you're an extreme introvert with issues trying to talk yourself up… own that. Speak into the can, if you will. Readers accept writers in all shapes and personalities…but they don't have much patience with fabricated, artificial shtick. And thank God for that!

ANN: Yes, writing over marketing.

Q) Name 5 books you wish you'd written (and not just for the money and fame).
The Martian by Andy Weir
The Zona (damn you, Nathan Yocum!)
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy  by D.N.A.
The Forge of God by Greg Bear
Red Mars (the whole trilogy really) by Kim Stanley Roberts
(for an Urban Fantasy author, I mostly read science fiction)

Q) List 5 books you loved as a child.
This might be more difficult, since I had reading difficulties when I was young. But, here goes:
The World Book Encyclopedia (I had a fairly lonely, sheltered childhood, and would spend hours just flipping through the full color photo pages of our encyclopedia set)
Sackett by Louis L'amour (the first novel I read on my own, recommended to me by my father)
2001: a Space Odyssey (the first novelization of the movie by Clarke, first book I read in one sitting)
Animal Farm by Orwell
Night by Elie Wiesel (this was in high school, so I wasn't necessarily a child…but damn was it formative!)

ANN: Oh my gosh. We should start a "as a child spent hours poring over encyclopedias" support group. I did the same thing. It's sad everything is all Internet now, but I guess that keeps it up to date (if you can trust the source, of course).

Q) If you were to be executed tomorrow, what would you choose as a meal for your last supper? Just because it's you, I think I'd better ask what you want to drink as well...
A New York style pizza with pepperoni, sausage, bacon, extra cheese… and a nicely crafted märzen to wash it down.

Maybe an 80/- Scottish Ale. Or an Oud Bruin. Eh… better get back to me on that.

Bio, Books & Links
J.P. Sloan is a speculative fiction author … primarily of urban fantasy, horror and several shades between. His writing explores the strangeness in that which is familiar, at times stretching the limits of the human experience, or only hinting at the monsters lurking under your bed.

A Louisiana native, Sloan relocated to the vineyards and cow pastures of Central Maryland after Hurricane Katrina, where he lives with his wife and son. During the day he commutes to the city of Baltimore, a setting which inspires much of his writing.

In his spare time, Sloan enjoys wine-making and homebrewing, and is a certified beer judge.


THE CURSE MERCHANT (Book 1 of the Dark Choir series)

THE CURSE SERVANT (Book 2 of the Dark Choir series)

"Bait & Witch" (the short story prequel to the Dark Choir series)
Can be found in the CHRONOLOGY ANTHOLOGY by Curiosity Quills Press


  1. Great interview. Also, some of that advice is very timely from where I stand!

    1. Agreed. Very appropriate advice for me as well.