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Interview with John W. Wells III

He is a native of San Diego, Ca. He loves the beach, tacos, his two dogs, and all things supernatural. As a child, John had a vivid imagination and often found himself lost inside his own daydreams. So it was only fitting that he became a storyteller.

John is the author of The Last Angel Warrior and The Heir of Ambrose. In addition to writing books, John also acts, produces, and owns a small theatre company in San Diego.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?
For a brief moment, during a safari in Kenya, I was in danger of being charged by an elephant. The driver didn’t realize until we left that there was a baby elephant in the bushes, and the mother thought we were a threat and began to position herself between the baby and us. The driver then informed us that it was time to go.

Q.2 Are we going to read more from you in the near future? Any new project you’re working on?
Yes! I have a short story coming soon called They Call Him Destroyer, and my next book, The Invisible City, will be published at the end of this year!

Q.3 What inspired you to write The Kalib Andrews Chronicles?
When I was a kid, I LOVED fantasy. Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, and even the Percy Jackson series (though I was a little older when that came out). But the one thing I never saw as a kid was a hero that looked like me. 

As an African American, I wanted kids to see heroes that looked like them among the myriad of Eurocentric protagonists. I wanted BIPOC kids to know that they are more than just the sidekick. So I wrote one. When people tell me they read my books, they tell me that they were inspired by the diversity represented in my books. And this inspires me to keep writing.

Q.4 What is the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
When I write characters of the opposite sex, I try to write them truthfully and honestly, rather than the “male” portrayal of what a woman should be.

So what does that look like? I try to pay attention to my female friends and family, ask questions, and treat my female characters as people and not just objects to push my male protagonists' plot. Sometimes this could be difficult considering my protagonist is male, and he is the plot. But, ultimately, I try to write well-rounded characters with dreams and aspirations of their own.

Q.5 Do you plan out your book before you start writing, or do you just write and see where it takes you?
I tried just writing and seeing where it took me, but it didn't get me very far. So, now, I plan out all of my books in detail before I even start writing.

Q.6 How long, on average it takes you to write a book?
My first book took WAY too long to complete. Ten Years! My second, which only took a year to complete, still took more time than I anticipated. However, I believe that my third will have the quickest turnaround time. As I have refined my process of outlining and writing, I estimate this book will take me approximately six to eight weeks to complete.

Q.7 What was your hardest scene to write?
A scene in my second book brought my writing to a complete standstill. I had already written a third of the book, and suddenly I had no idea where to take the scene. 
Finally, after many hours of musing over the story and exploring why I had become so stuck, I realized that I was writing the wrong book! 

That is to say, the focus that I had just spent the previous one hundred pages writing about was incorrect. And the shift of direction resulted in what is now the title of the book The Heir of Ambrose.

Q.8 Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
There is no future where I am no longer telling stories. It is who I’ve always been and is at the very core of my nature. That being said, storytelling is done in many ways and in various mediums. I have a degree in theatre and have worked professionally, both as an actor and producer. I believe that if I were no longer writing, I would still be creating art in some form.

Q.9 How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?
I have written two books and two short stories. Out of the four titles I have completed, I believe that The Heir of Ambrose is my favorite.

Q.10 Is it vital to get exposure and target the right readers for your writing, tell us about your marketing campaign?
Yes, it is vital to get exposure for my book and find and target the correct audience. I do my best to get my book covers and titles seen in as many ways and places as possible. However, exposure to the “correct audience” is key. While marketing, I try to be as specific about my story and genre as possible. 
For example, I have ads running on Facebook and Amazon. I target those who enjoy fantasy and titles like Magnus Chase and Legendborne. Aside from the obvious title Harry Potter and Percy Jackson

In addition to ads, I participate in blog and podcast tours to build awareness about myself and my books. I also have a newsletter where I keep my subscribers informed about all things writing. As a part of my marketing plan, I wrote the short story The Forbidden World, which I gave away in exchange for newsletter subscriptions. The most recent development in my marketing plan is my author TikTok account, where I release videos to elicit interest in my books.

I’ve had the honor to enter several book award contests this year. Book Awards not only allow my book to gain superlatives that may invoke a reader to buy the book. But each award then advertises the books to all of their followers. This is a great way to build exposure to hundreds, maybe even thousands of people without breaking the bank on paid ads. 

And finally, I must mention the first way that I got exposure for my books. I taught elementary school for several years as a long-term substitute. I was able to parlay that experience into several speaking engagements after I left and became a full-time author. I have spoken and am still available to talk to any grade level from Pre-K through college about the writing process, my books, and my journey as an author.

Q.11 If you could be a member of any fantasy race, which would you choose and why?
I once played a half-elf in a DnD campaign, and I rather liked that. I would love to spend several more lifetimes in his shoes.

Q.12 If you could invite one character to dinner from your books at home, who would it be and why?
I would either invite Caliyah Jones or Rafi Delafuente. They are both two of my favorite characters that I have written, and I believe that we would relate to each other-Caliyah with her strength, honesty, and fight. And Rafi with his wit and courage. But, perhaps, it’s less of a relating to and more of an admiration. I think I would admire both of them.

Q.13 What three things a reader can expect from your books?
When reading my books, a reader can expect adventure, suspense, and engaging characters.

Q.14 Among all the supporting characters in your books, who is dear to you and why?
Since I already spoke about Caliyah and Rafi, I will bring another character to the forefront. One that most people might overlook. But Brandon Tahm is also very dear to me. 

He is quiet and is mostly in the background. He does not like to be in the limelight, but I enjoy writing him. He is what I would call a sleeper character. No one pays attention to him, but he is smart and witty, and when all is said and done, he uses more than just his abilities to solve problems.

Q.15 Who designed your book cover? How do you select them?
My first book cover was designed by Hampton Lamerouex, who I found on Reedsy. My second book cover was designed by MIBLArt, whom I will also commission to design my third.

Q.16 How do you select the name of your characters?
I am someone who pays attention to names. Therefore, I spend a lot of time thinking about what names mean.

Q.17 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
I do read my book reviews. I want to continue to get better and on the off chance that a review is constructive, I try to keep an open mind when it comes to reviews. Of course, that open-mindedness goes both ways. When I receive a good review as well as a bad one, I take it with a grain of salt. But I keep the kernels that I believe would be helpful for my continued growth.

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
Lin Manuel Miranda! Lin wrote his own dream into reality. He saw a need on Broadway so he created it. He never waited for someone to give him a seat at the table he built his own table. And that is the kind of artist I want to be.

Q.19 What is your favorite book from other authors and why?
Currently, my favorite book series is The Magnus Chase Series. I am a huge fan of Rick Riordan and how he tries to include ALL people in his writing. Some of his earlier books were near misses, but I believe that in the Magnus Chase Series, he captured the essence of culture, gender, and sexuality. This is why the series is my current favorite.

Q.20 Share the experience of your writing journey so far?
I received my first writing assignment as a teenager. My best friend invited me to write two scenes for an ambitious film script he was attempting to complete. Unfortunately, his lofty aspirations for the script never materialized, but the experience was enjoyable and helped me realize that writing as a career was a possibility for me. 

So, a year later, in 2008, at the age of twenty, I began my journey as an author. I’ve always been a fan of fantasy. It was definitely my first love. So, I came up with a concept for a fantasy book and started the long process of developing characters, detailing their backstories, creating a universe, and researching other authors in the fantasy genre. It took me ten years to complete the first draft of my book. I stopped and started several times during that decade. I suffer from ADHD, and I am easily distracted. 

However, I must admit that my distractions occurred most often when I was unsure where my story was headed. Every time I stopped, I would take a break for a few weeks, months, or even years, before returning to the story. And when I did, I would start at the beginning, make improvements, and then push a little further until I was stuck again. And that process would repeat time and time again. 

Finally, in 2015, after seven years on the same hamster wheel, I got a breakthrough. I became a long-term substitute teacher at an elementary school. After lunch, when it was “storytime,” I began reading my unfinished book to my students. They really enjoyed the process, as I would solicit suggestions from them as to where the story could go next and ask them questions about which characters they liked and why. They were a captive and enthusiastic audience. But when they discovered that the book was unfinished, they began to push me to complete my work. Their love for the world I’d created, and their sincere interest in the fate of the characters that populated it, served as the inspiration I needed to complete my work. 

In 2018, I finally had the first complete draft of my book, The Last Angel Warrior. Excited at my accomplishment, I hired an editor to complete what I thought would be the final phase before publishing. I was fortunate in my choice because this editor taught me a great deal about the conventions of “story” from a writer’s standpoint. I had been an actor for several years and was used to telling stories on a stage, primarily using my voice and body language to enhance my character. However, I had a lot to learn about using only words for world-building and depending on only description to set a scene. I worked with him for a year and a half, and my book grew considerably in those areas. I completed my journey with him and finished my second draft toward the end of 2019. 

At that point, I solicited beta readers and simultaneously found a developmental editor. Surprisingly, I discovered that I was getting better feedback from my beta readers than from this particular editor, so I took their suggestions and began to work on my third and final draft. As I neared completion of my third draft, I found a copy editor and a proofreader and prepared to publish in the fall of 2020. 

Now, I must pause to acknowledge the final ingredient that I believe helped me achieve the goals that I had set for myself way back in 2008. At my father's suggestion, I met with a family friend who works with professional writers in the movie industry, helping them get their works to the finish line to get them produced. He read my “work in progress” and consented to help me with the finishing touches. His notes, insight, and suggestions were invaluable to making my story everything I had envisioned. His gift is assisting writers in locating and digging up the “treasure” of a story buried within that writer’s soul and then pushing the writer to tell it the best way possible. 

He became a mentor and advisor on my second book, The Heir of Ambrose, then my two short stories, and he’s agreed to advise me on the third book in my series, The Invisible City. It has been quite a journey since 2008. Fourteen years of trial and error, stops and starts, discoveries and reversals. But the joy I’ve found in seeing my vision realized on the printed page has been unmatched by anything else I’ve done creatively in my life so far. I encourage others to take the journey and see where it leads. It’s definitely worth the ride.

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1 comment:

  1. Congratulations! Keep producing those dreams!