Today, it is my great pleasure to welcome author of family drama and mystery genres, book reviewer, and enthusiastic supporter of the writing community James J. Cudney to my blog.
Jay is sharing some fascinating insights into his writing life. And Jay’s books are on promo during May! (So whatever you do don’t miss out on the offer links towards the end of the interview.)
In my interviewer mode I sometimes like to call myself MJ… So, donning my MJ superpowers… Lol. Let us begin.
MJ: I’d love it if you could tell me a little about yourself and your writing journey.
Jay: Writing has always been part of my life, but it went on the backburner after graduating from college. I’d jot a few lines down here and there… everyone at work would send me their documents to proof or fix. Friends would ask for advice on how to summarize a situation or meeting. Then I worked for 15 years in a complex corporate and technology role. I had no time to write, but when I left in 2016, I decided to explore my passion again. Three years later, I have eight books. I seriously don’t know how it happened… I mean I do… but really… it feels like someone else lived this life and now that I’m back in a corporate technology role, figuring out how to balance both of these versions of me at the same time is almost impossible. The one thing I do know: I am thrilled to be a part of the literary book world, and I will never leave it again!
MJ: I’d love to find out more about you. Where are you from? What anecdotes would you like to share? What makes you tick?
Jay: I was born in Fort Myers, Florida in the USA. Various ancestors immigrated to the US between 1750 and 1900 from Germany, England, Ireland, and Scotland. Three of thirty-two branches seem to have arrived before 1750 but I cannot be certain when. The last person to emigrate was in 1910, so we’ve been here for a very long time. They mostly settled in the PA-NY region, and my immediate family all grew up on Long Island, the suburbs of New York City and not too far from the Hamptons. Although I lived a 45-minute drive or train ride from NYC, I only visited a handful of times before I turned twenty-one years old. My parents weren’t big fans of the city, and as an only-child, I didn’t get out very much. It’s amusing that I now live here, and my parents visit at least one Sunday a month for brunch and to wander around a new neighborhood with me. I also like to learn about new cultures and visit different parts of the world. I’ve been to Europe, Asia, and South America. I’ve been to Canada and Mexico numerous times, and 35 / 50 states. I would love to get to Africa and Australia this decade. I much prefer colder weather, so I’m even open to a trip to Antarctica and the Arctic Circle.
MJ: Some ‘marketing experts’ advise that you should have one photo of yourself on all of your social media. I notice you have several, and one with a very fetching bow tie. What are your thoughts on this? (I tend to think it is nice to have more than one photo as it gives an indication of aspects of the author’s personality.)
Jay: I agree with you 100%. When I think of a single picture, I think of fake advertising. It’s a specific pose to reach a specific audience. I have one professional picture which was taken on my last day at a prior job, so I could use it on LinkedIn for future networking. I like having different looks so my personality shines through. I love the bow tie photo – it’s from a wedding I went to in Florida three years ago… for… the narrator I mentioned earlier! Thank you for the compliment. That’s pretty much my natural everyday look… okay, joking… it’s definitely not the normal me, but I do like to have a bit of fun in my photos.
MJ: Yes, why not and we both like avatars! Here’s yours!
MJ: I’ve never been to New York, or to the USA. Sigh. As we are confined to our homes during this time it would be lovely if you describe your favourite view from your home? Or a favourite place you enjoy going to.
Jay: Quarantine is definitely an experience we shall not forget. I don’t mind it much because I’m a homebody, but I do miss getting out to see friends or eating at restaurants. I’m lucky in that I have a large one-bedroom apartment in a safe and quiet part of the city. It also has a seven-hundred-square-foot terrace and I’m on the top floor, so I can see great horizons and look upon parts of the East River. I have flowerboxes and large trees on the terrace, including a small arbor and several bushes, as well as a dining area and a lounging area.
When I feel trapped, I can step onto the terrace and experience a bit of nature and the sounds of the city. Sometimes it’s too windy, but it’s usable from March thru November, as long as the temperature stays above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. I spent a good part of this morning assembling a raised flower bed to grow vegetables this summer. Tonight, we’ll eat outside. It’s a bit of a magical place.
MJ: How delightful. I love your colour scheme and how nature joins you on your terrace.
MJ: You read and review so many books. I’m in awe. Do you believe that all authors should read extensively/review? How important do you think it is for an author to read in multiple genres?
Jay: I am a lucky guy, and I am grateful for all that I have been given. I live with my partner, but we do not have children. We have a rambunctious two-year-old shiba inu dog named Baxter.
Other than those two, and my job, and visiting family and friends, my time is pretty much my own. I am able to prioritize non-work hours to focus on writing, reading, and blogging. Up until three years ago, I didn’t have a blog nor had I written a book, so my reading choices came from book series I’d come to enjoy and finding new books at the store. Suddenly, when my blog took off and I published my debut novel, my reading choices skyrocketed. I was getting books from publishers for free, subscribing to NetGalley, and meeting bunches of indie authors who wanted to share book reviews. I made it a priority to get to know them, as it helped my own book marketing skills and I built a network of amazing people around the world. Now, I feel guilty because I’ve met so many wonderful authors yet I cannot find the time to read all their books. I split my reading in half now. Fifty percent comes from series or authors I enjoy reading, and the remaining half comes from indie authors I’ve met or new authors I occasionally try to help when time permits. I do think authors should read in all genres they write in, plus a few others to learn how to blur the lines. It’s hard to review when I’m writing or editing, so I need to balance those pieces. It’s important for authors to know their limits and not spread themselves too thin. It’s also important to make connections and help others just as we’ve been helped in the past.
MJ: We’re on the same page. I’ve had so much help in this writing journey so I love to pay it forward by helping other authors too. It is all about community. I love your dog – so cute!
MJ: How do you manage your time? I believe you returned to full-time work recently. I also work full-time (but for now I am on furlough.) Generally, I find it difficult to find the time to do what I want… But, you seem to smash it, what’s your secret?
Jay: Thank you – that means a lot. I do pride myself of multi-tasking and achieving a lot in a brief amount of time. I’m super-organized and keep an Excel document with a list of tasks and a list of posts planned for my blog going out for 3 months. I have several ‘open’ spots for when something new comes up, but it contains all my marketing plans for my own books, all my blog segments, and all the books I plan to read. I fill in once a week with something new that comes up… that way, when someone asks if I can share a post on them, I sometimes can make it work. I also know when I am tapped out and can’t do anything else, given my schedule.
I get up 2 hours before I start work so that I can spend 90 minutes clearing my email and social media accounts. I want to start work with confidence that I’m not already behind. I run through it again at night, balance cooking, the gym, and errands, and then I make time to read for an hour or so before bed. I keep to a routine, and I ask myself every morning – what are my priorities today? Nothing changes them, short of an emergency or better method of accomplishing a task… I’m dedicated to keeping this running smoothly, and when I need the downtime, I take it. That’s the only real advice I have in this realm, but it works for me.
The new job after three years has been difficult to adapt to. I lost ten hours a day, which basically equates to reading 2 books per week and writing 10 chapters per week. So… I knocked my Goodreads Reading Challenge down from 208 to 104 this year, and I will publish only 2 books instead of 3, as originally planned. I’m sorry about the work situation for you. I hope things change quickly… it’s a little scary what the future could bring, but maybe it will turn around faster than we expect.
MJ: Yes, it is scary. I hope the turn around is faster Jay. Thank you so much for your kind words. Luckily, I’m at that stage in my life when writing full-time is my end goal. Perhaps that goal post might be brought nearer than I originally expected.
MJ: What are your favourite authors and books. What have they taught you?
Jay: I’m a big fan of Agatha Christie, Ken Follett, Kate Morton, Edgar Allan Poe, and Henry James. Although I’m not nearly as talented, I’m probably a combination of all five of these amazing authors. They’ve taught me how to balance the detail and depth of a character with letting readers have their own imagination. Often a review will say I’ve added too much to the picture, but I think there’s always room for creativity, and what I project might be different from what the reader perceives.
MJ: How did you find your recent video interview experience with Valentina?
Valentina is so easy to work with, and I actually relaxed more than I expected. Two years ago, I was on a radio show, and I spoke too quickly and softly. I was better this time, but I still felt like I could be more personable and outgoing than I come across. I recommend all authors do something like this, then learn how you’re perceived. It helps you create your image and figure out how to interact with others in a way that makes you shine. You should give it a try, then we can learn more about you too. 😊
MJ: Oh, how terrifying! I am considering starting a Youtube channel but will need to get some practice in before I dare to chat with Valentina.
MJ: If you could introduce me to one of your favourite characters what would they say to me.
Jay: Help! He’s making me do things I never thought I’d do. Please, I’ll pay you to stop him from controlling my actions. (Ah, there’s my humor coming out…)
MJ: Love it! Every book needs at least one funny character.
MJ: Finish and edit this sentence to reflect you, the day to day Jay: Each day one of my socks goes missing… (This happens to me all the time!)
Hmm… did the washer or dryer eat them? Each day one of my socks goes missing… Baxter has an unhealthy fetish for fabric, and he is vicious about socks. If there’s ever a sock that falls from the drawer or the laundry basket, he steals it. Aggressively, then he growls when I try to take it back. It’s nuts. He’s the sweetest dog until socks are involved. I find half eaten socks all over the apartment. I’ve threatened to make him pay for the replacements out of his dog food allowance.
MJ: Now I know who the culprit is. Baxter has been teleporting here to eat our socks too. Naughty doggy!
MJ: How do you decide on the titles for your books.
The titles in the Braxton Campus Mysteries are a play on words. The 1st and the 2nd word mean one thing together, and then 2nd and the 3rd mean something entirely different. Take the latest: Frozen Stiff Drink. Frozen Stiff means you’ve got a dead body. Stiff Drink means you need something to relax. Not only are those the two themes to the book, but it’s a clue to the murder weapon in this mystery. It’s the same setup for the first five in the series too, except Academic Curveball is only two words. Here’s where I messed up… I honestly thought curveball was two words, so the title was Academic Curve Ball, meaning Academic Curve and Curve Ball… the book was about grades being changed on the baseball team, so it was a cool title… then a beta reader pointed out that it was one word. I was heartbroken for days and thought of different titles… couldn’t work it out!
MJ: Giveaways of books, got any tips?
Jay: Rafflecopter has some free options. I like doing random comment winners on a blog post. Ultimately, people want free stuff, so you have to do them… but then shipping can be expensive for physical books. I usually focus on audiobooks or Kindle editions. I participated in the Goodreads giveaways when they were free, but when they went to over $100, I didn’t see the value in getting your money back, so I stopped doing those. Instagram has become very popular for them.
MJ: How do your family and friends respond to your writing career? Are they supportive?
Jay: They are supportive. My mom and a few other relatives read all the books. Some haven’t said anything, and occasionally… it bugs me. I’d happily give them to them for free, but I don’t like pushing my work on others either. Friends have surprised me. Some haven’t offered to help in any way, shape, or form. Others who weren’t that close have been super supportive. I think it just comes down to those who like books read them, those who aren’t readers ignore it! I am totally okay with it because everyone has their own online stores or products and services. I can’t or haven’t done tons to help them either… it’s impossible to keep up, and with friends, you always know they’d be there if you really needed them to be. For the most part, they all think it’s cool. I hardly ever bring it up around others tho, as I feel weird about it. It’s not a secret, but I tend not to discuss my writing career with friends and family unless they ask me questions.
MJ: Do you plot a little, or a lot? Or not at all?
Jay: 100% start with a plot and detailed outline that notes 2 or 3 scenes and the key things to happen in them. But it might only say something like “Kellan goes to the diner and overhears a conversation that provides him a clue about the time of the murder. Involves Character A and this location.” As I’m writing the beginning of the scene, I decide who else should appear in it from the supporting cast, so that I can share side stories and keep the feel of a wonderful small community. I try to include 3 or 4 of these in each book so I can have a larger series in development over time.
MJ: What do you think of social media? Any tips for managing the time suck that it is.
Jay: I absolutely hate it. But it’s absolutely necessary. Routine is best. I have one for all sites I’m on. I follow it in the morning and again when I’m done with work. If I let myself go on again before bed, it’s more casual and I’ll just randomly check for tags or people that I’m curious about. It’s important to limit your time, otherwise you’re going down the rabbit hole. Two hours max a day for me, and then I force myself to switch to genealogy, Spades, or random Wikipedia reads.
MJ: Tell us about your audio book journey. How did you set about transferring your writing so it could be listened to in audio form. Are you a keen audio book fan?
Jay: This one is interesting. I do not like audiobooks. I am a quick reader, and I often read a book in less time than the average reader. This is only because I’ve read over a thousand books this decade, so it’s just become the norm to me. Listening to an audiobook is generally 4 times as long for me. I don’t have that amount of time, plus I like to imagine my own voices for the characters. So… big reveal… shocking, I know, but I don’t actually listen to audiobooks. I also get distracted too easily. If I have headphones or earbuds, I can walk around the apartment. I find myself making coffee and cleaning something, then 10 minutes have gone by and I tuned out of the book! So… I can’t listen to one. I’ve listened to most of mine, because that’s the right thing to do. My publisher handles the selection process, and then the narrator will reach out to me for any tips. I’ve never picked my own narrator… too bad, a good friend of mine is a narrator and I would’ve loved to give him the book! But I’m glad for those who have been selected, and they all bring something extra to the story and the setting.
MJ: It’s great to see that you have your books translated into other languages. How did you arrange this, was it a complex process?
Jay: Oh! This is another one my publisher handled. They told me they were beginning the process, and I had to provide some guidance. A month later, I saw the ad for a book I wrote in Spanish, and I didn’t even know it was done. Shocked, I say! So… I wish I could help there, but I wasn’t directly involved. I’ve now got 5 in different languages, so I’m eagerly figuring out to market them and learning German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish so I can share new types of posts. I’m someone fluent in Spanish, but only in conversation, not in book marketing!
MJ: Have you got any pearls of wisdom for a new writer?
Jay: Know your goals. If you want fame, money, influence, etc. If you just write because you want to write and have no plan or thought about where to go, you won’t (in 99% of the cases) be successful. Be sure to have a 6-month, 1-year, 2-year plan so you can pace yourself and see modest wins in the beginning. Adjust and adapt. Re-baseline. Always think about the future needs and plans.
MJ: Would you ever consider doing a Tik Tok video? Or do you prefer not to.
Jay: Umm… I’ve heard of it. I’ve seen a few. I’m so inundated with everything I have to do now, I can’t take on anything new! LOL I supposed I should learn it at some point tho, right?
MJ: I’m tempted, but… it might embarrass my kids. Not that that would stop me!
MJ: Share a funny story to cheer us all up in Lockdown.
Jay: I wear glasses and contacts. Before quarantine, I wore contacts to work every day. Now that I’m home all the time, I tend to wear my glasses. I try not to wear contacts much now unless I have an important work meeting and need to go on video chat. When I’m walking Baxter in my mask, and it’s a glasses day, they fog up. I’ve almost stepped into traffic, bumped into signs, and had to stop in the middle a sidewalk simply to be able to see and not fall down. It’s embarrassing, and I now put a tissue at the top of the mask. Someone once stopped on the street, about six feet away, and said, “Are you okay, do you need me to call an ambulance?” I must’ve looked like such a fool just staring into space waiting for my glasses to clear up. I mumbled something like “all good, just waiting for my spectacles to defog, ma’am.” As the person walked by making an odd noise, he said, “Actually, I’m a sir.” Lord, I shouldn’t ever talk to people. I’m a mess.
MJ: Lol. That happens to me all the time! No, not being called Ma’am or Sir, my glasses fogging up!
Jay’s books are on promo during May. This week its his debut 2017 novel Watching Glass Shatter, Download the Kindle format here as it’s only .99 from 5/17 thru 5/21.
Frozen Stiff Drink: Death at Danby Landing, the 6th book in the Braxton Campus Mysteries, will be available as a .99 Kindle download. via Amazon.
The 3rd book in the Braxton Campus Mysteries series Flower Power Trip is on sale for only .99 cents from 5/20 thru 5/24. You can download it to your Kindle here
The 4th book in the Braxton Campus Mysteries, Mistaken Identity Crisis, is available for only .99 as a Kindle download from May 21st thru 25th. If you haven’t experienced this mystery and family drama, get it now via Amazon.
Not only were many of the books in the Braxton Campus Mysteries discounted to .99 this week, but the 5th book, Haunted House Ghost, is also available as a Kindle download for only .99 from 5/29 thru 6/2. To take advantage of this discount, visit Amazon via this link..
Father Figure is a .99 Kindle download from 5/23 thru 5/27 – help yourselves! Thank you so much for your support in sharing, downloading, reading, and reviewing. I appreciate it! You should pick it up before the virtual book club coming up soon… check it out @ Download @ http://mybook.to/FatherFigure for only .99 this week.
James is my given name, but most folks call me Jay. I live in New York City, grew up on Long Island, and graduated from Moravian College, an historic but small liberal arts school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with a degree in English literature and minors in Education,Business and Spanish. After college, I accepted a technical writing position for a telecommunications company during Y2K and spent the last ~20 years building a career in technology & business operations in the retail, sports, media and entertainment industries.
Throughout those years, I wrote some short stories, poems and various beginnings to the “Great American Novel,” but I was so focused on my career in technology and business that writing became a hobby. In 2016, I refocused some of my energies toward reinvigorating a second career in reading, writing and publishing.
I write in the family drama and mystery genres. My first two books are Watching Glass Shatter (2017) and Father Figure (2018). Both are contemporary fiction and focus on the dynamics between parents and children and between siblings. I’m currently writing the sequel to Watching Glass Shatter. I also have a light mystery series called the Braxton Campus Mysteries. There are six books currently available in multiple formats: Kindle, physical print, large print paperback, and audiobook. Some are also translated into foreign languages such as Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and German. The books are Academic Curveball, Broken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, Mistaken Identity Crisis, Haunted House Ghost, and Frozen Stiff Drink.
Websites & Blog
Next Chapter Pub: https://www.nextchapter.pub/authors/james-j-cudney
Social Media Links
My review of Academic Curveball: https://mjmallon.com/2020/03/08/book-review-academic-curveball-by-james-j-cudney-murder-mystery/
Thank you so much for being my guest Jay. It has been so much fun. Say hello to New York for me. One day I hope to visit. <3 x
Keep smiling, reading, writing and reviewing.
Authors Website: https://mjmallon.com
Authors Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/M-J-Mallon/e/B074CGNK4L
Twitter: @Marjorie_Mallon and @curseof_time Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mjmallonauthor/
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