Author Interview with James J. Cudney

Saturday, March 24, 2018


I had a chance to interview author James J. Cudney, about his debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, his new book, Father Figure, plans for his future and what advice he can give to aspiring authors.

Before we dive into the interview, let me just say that I was SUPER excited when Jay (as he likes to be called) agreed to let me interview him for this blog, and I’d like to send him a HUGE Thank You and wish him great success!   

So let’s begin…

1. Tell us a little about yourself. Perhaps something not many people know? 

You go for the tough questions right out of the gate! Let's see... I've always thought of myself as your typical, average, normal guy. I'm a bit odd at times, but so are we all! I have absolutely no sense of direction and wouldn't survive long if I were ever lost in a forest or desert. But I can remember the total bill from a restaurant I ate at ten years ago. I find it humorous to analyze the types of things I remember and forget. Sometimes useless information wins out over cherished memories (former memories, I suppose I should say!). It makes life amusing for others who like to either confuse me or tease me about it. I'm considered very shy and quiet by most people, but when I'm close with the person, the word most often used to describe me is sarcastic -- always meant in a good way. I'm never mean, but I often rely on humor and facial expressions to keep a conversation going. I'm apparently king of the eye roll...

When I published my first book, friends would ask (or I'd think about it myself, too) whether I'll behave or act any differently. And in the end, the answer is probably 'no' to that question. I'm me and I can't turn it on/off without something changing in places I wouldn't expect it to change. So... I'm very consistent... always quiet in person and very chatty online... have the most diverse group of friends in my life from all over the place... and am usually so introspective, I forget how to come back to reality.

2. What made you want to become a writer?

Although I love words, I'm mostly a plot and character writer. Once I've settled on those aspects of a book, everything else falls into place. I shouldn't say this out loud, as I'm sure it'll be taken the wrong way, but I hear voices and see people inside my head all the time. I could be on line at the grocery store loading the conveyor belt, and a character will pop in my head with a bit of dialog that I feel compelled to explore. It's moments like these where I know my imagination and creativity are so rampant, I couldn't do anything else but be a writer. That said, I spent ~15 years working in corporate technology where it wasn't always about creativity. I can do other things, but it's not necessarily where my passions are best addressed.

3. Watching Glass Shatter is your first novel.  How long did it take you to write it?

Forever! About 3 days. Just kidding! See, I told you I am often sarcastic. I completed an outline and first draft in under 3 months. It went through 3 months of beta reading and revisions, but by March 2017, I started shopping it around to agents. I made some small changes based on feedback and then signed with a publisher in July 2017. We launched in October 2017 which was about 1 year from the very first day the idea popped into my head. While I was sleeping, I should add. I woke up from a pseudo-dream state thinking about the Glass family and by noon the next day, I had 3 pages of plot written out.

4. Do you write every day? How many hours a day?

Writing is my full-time job right now, so I have it easier than those trying to write while working another job. I also write a daily blog and beta read for others. It's about a 50/50 split between writing and everything else... some days it's all writing. Others it's all marketing and blogging. On average 4 to 5 hours per day. My goal is usually to write 6 chapters per week, which means I can churn out a first draft in about 1 1/2 months. Then I spend just as much time editing it before anyone else is ever allowed to read it! But strictly Monday thru Friday. Weekends are downtime, personal time and sometimes book marketing...

5. What did you edit out of this book?

I had a bit of the opposite problem for most of the book. As I was editing, I kept adding more scenes to round out the family dynamics. There were a few things I removed, but it wasn't whole scenes.  A majority of the feedback in the middle editing stages were that I had too much description and detail. It's amusing (alarming?) when I read a negative review that indicates I over-explain too much about the setting or character's thoughts. If they'd only read the earlier versions, I wonder what kind of trouble I'd be in then! One scene that was severely edited down was the wedding memory for Olivia and Ben. I wanted to dazzle readers with Olivia's recollections about how in love she was with Ben. The entire wedding day was a chapter long, but feedback told me no one cared what the bridesmaids wore or how the flowers looked. I think they were right, but there are days I pull out those lost pages and wonder if it can be re-used elsewhere, too.

6. What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?

Great question... In my debut, Watching Glass Shatter, there are 5 sons, which means a majority of the book is about male characters. Their wives have smaller supporting roles, but Olivia, their mother has a very large role. I connected with her the minute I drafted her profile, as I could draw parts of her from strong females in my life. She's a tough woman, and most readers dislike her for 75% of the book, which is completely intentional. By the end, I want you to warm to her, but she's never meant to be mother of the year. She's not based on any one person in my life and that's the only reason I didn't have difficulty writing for her. I pulled enough traits from people to compile a character that felt right. 

Now flip to my second book, which is tentatively named Father Figure... the two primary characters are both eighteen-year-old woman. I had no idea what would go through their minds other than from other books I've read, movies I've seen, or minimal interactions I've had throughout my life with someone in their shoes. They're very different personalities, too. When it came to intimate scenes, I couldn't decide how to show them as innocent/naive versus moving forward with a sexual experience. I wanted to ask questions, but that's kind of weird. Imagine running up to random girls, or even a few I know... 'hey, can you tell me what you were thinking when you...' I'd run away if someone did that to me! That's probably where I felt the most out of my element. 

7. If you could spend time with a character from your book, whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?

Purely because I know it would be super fun, I'd have to pick Jake. He's witty and clever enough to make me laugh the whole day. We'd probably go to a few bars for drinks, see a Broadway show, people watch in a park, and cook dinner together. Maybe not in that order. But I also have a special place in my heart for Aunt Diane, as she's the kind of family member we all need to have standing by our side helping us grow up into wonderful people with a heart of gold. With Aunt Diane, we'd probably flip through old photographs, play a few games of cards, chat about life goals and dreams, then end up sharing an entire chocolate mousse cake with a very expensive bottle of wine.

8. What book that you have read has most influenced your life?

This is probably the hardest question now that I think about it. So, you're off the hook for starting out with something simpler than I expected. Thank you! Let's see... I'm usually not influenced by reading a book. I tend to learn in shorter increments through things like checklists, bullet points or experiencing it in person. I'm not easy to teach, probably worse than an old dog when it comes to learning tricks. Okay, now I'm just getting cheesy and off topic. But if I had to pick one that made me think about life differently, tempted by an alternative opinion I'd not had, it would be James Morrow's The Philosopher's Apprentice -- only sections 1 and 3. Section 2, I swear, it's an entirely different book... and I feel awful recommending this book to people because they always scream at me when they read the second section. It literally makes no sense, but it also makes perfect sense as a counter to the rest of the plot in the other sections. Psst... don't read it, but please do. And don't scream at me. I can be a baby sometimes.

9. What are your plans for the future? Where do you see yourself as a writer in five years? 

My goal is to publish 1 book every 12 months. I say I want it to be every 6 months, and it may be in the beginning, but as I get more interested in topics I'll need to research, it will take longer. My first two books will be 7 months apart, so... at this rate, I hope to have 7 books published and a large fan base who enjoy being part of my crazy mind and world. I also want to build a brand that's about more than just reading and writing. I believe in connecting with readers and removing the invisible wall between an author and a book lover. I asked my blog followers to pick the characters and topics for my second book as I want people to feel invested in me and the future together. I'll never be the hidden author behind the wall... I want to be collaborative as much as time will allow. I plan to write a few book series and dabble in diverse genres. I've been told I should consider romance writing... I'm not sure I could do that without blushing when people I know read my work. It was already tough enough to discuss my mom's feedback on two of the scenes in Watching Glass Shatter. I may have died twice that day. The first time was just my way to avoid the embarrassment, the second time was legit!

10. What advice would you give to all aspiring writers out there?

Know why you write. Once you know that, know your audience. If you have answers to those two questions, and talent to back it up, you will be successful. Define your success, too. If you don't know the goal, how do you know when you've reached it? Start small. Don't think about writing a best seller. Don't even consider how much money you'll make or how popular you'll become. Put out a piece of work you're proud of. Test the waters. Have a thick skin to accept negative reviews. (I say this, but I still haven't mastered this art. I don't cry anymore, but I go silent for hours. My other half ALWAYS knows when I've gotten a bad review. It does get easier!)

To find out more about Jay, feel free to check out his blog, This is My Truth Now, and follow him on Social Media (links below):

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I hope you enjoyed this post and will visit this blog again.  Feel free to drop a note in the comments section. 

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Happiness Challenge: 12 Principles to Improve Your Life

Sunday, March 4, 2018


During the process of trying to de-clutter my home, I ended up finding an old book called "The Happiness Project".  I know, it sounds silly, and it seems like just another project to add to my ever-growing to-do list.  I'm very reluctant to let go of my books, so before doing so, I decided to go through it once again and see if  maybe, who knows, I could adapt it to fit my own life/happiness style.

The thing that struck me the most about finding the book was the fact that I had been thinking of starting a 21 day challenge to detox my mind and change/improve a few habits.  I mean, who couldn't benefit from a few improvements, right?

As a full-time mom, my daily schedule consists of work deadlines, driving to soccer practices, the eventual visit to the physical therapist, all of this while trying to squeeze a gym class to preserve my sanity.

March being my birthday month, it makes perfect sense to start this Life/Happiness Challenge, so I came up with a list of 12 principles to improve my life:

1. Inspiration.  Start a gratitude journal.  Jot down in one word what I'm grateful for everyday.

2. Don't criticize the people around me.  Dare to see the glass half full.

3. Health watch.  Take a 30 min walk every day.

4. Talk it out.  Share it during family dinner.

5. Find more joy.  Make plans to have coffee or a drink with a friend and follow through with it.

6. Do something new.  Either a new computer skill, interior design, learn to knit, endless choices.

7. Reach out.  Take a few minutes to call someone I haven't talked to in a while.

8. Write. Write. Write. Blog. Journal.

9. Volunteer.  Help out at a local food bank.  Sign-up for a charity event.

10. Be Humble. Compliment others. Write a Thank You card.

11. Be adventurous.  I love wearing black, but it's time to add some colorful shoes or accessories.  Baby steps. Baby steps.

12. Count my blessings and achievements.  Pat myself in the back.

Happy Improving!

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