Sit Down Saturday
Today I’m grabbing a latte and sitting down with Alex Jones, author of Broken Wings, and a fellow Rebel like me!
Thanks for stopping over, Alex! Let’s get started!
Me: What inspired you to write your first book?
Alex: I wrote Drown when I was a junior/senior in high school. I am a very intense person, but also very quiet, and writing was my way of getting all that intensity out. One day I just started writing it, and the story grew over time. Writing was my hobby and my coping mechanism… It still is! But Drown dealt heavily with issues I was facing myself at the time – faith and hate, love and shame.
Me: Do you have a specific writing style?
Alex: I think the key feature of my writing is intense emotion. I write in several different genres, but the thing that unites all my stories are complex characters and high-stakes plots. That’s the fun of writing romance, though. I get to promise my characters a happy ending, even if the road to it is difficult.
Me: How did you come up with the title?
Alex: Drown’s title came directly from a line in the book: “Dominic returned to his Bible and Damion returned to his blade, and both drowned in the words of their gods.”
Me: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Alex: The message/theme in Drown is self-empowerment, being responsible for your own happiness and sense of value. Both of my main characters struggle with self-esteem for different reasons, and their lesson to learn is that they have value independent of what others think—even each other.
Me: How much of the book is realistic?
Alex: Drown is a modern romance, and doesn’t have any paranormal events. It is written a bit in the vein of literary fiction, though, so I chose my focus very intentionally. Every scene has a purpose, and I throw a bit of symbolism in.
Me: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
A;ex: Damion and Dom both face challenges I did – I grew up in a Christian home the way Damion did, and I struggled with depression and self-harm. I also fought to define myself as a bisexual Christian the way Dom does. The events in the book aren’t based literally on my experiences, but the thematic elements and the internal conflicts within Dom and Damion both ring very true to me.
Me: What books have most influenced your life most?
Alex: J.R.R. Tolkien’s works have influenced me the most, hands down! His writing has influenced mine, and his stories have been a part of my life since I was young.
Me: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Alex: Honestly, my husband Anthony Gillis has been my mentor in many ways. He writes fantasy, sci-fi and historical adventure novels. He has a more analytical mind than I do, so he often finds the stray holes in my writing (world-building, etc) that my intuitive mind has failed to consider. I call him my compass: when I lose my way, he’s always there to help me find my way home.
Me: What book are you reading now?
Alex: Right now I’m reading The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian.
Me: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Alex: I’ve really enjoyed reading the Nevermore series by Kelly Creagh. I also adore R. Cooper’s works!
Me: What are your current projects?
Alex: My current big romance project is Rook, the second book in my Knights of Amaranth series. I’m also working on an epic fantasy story collection called Ere the Dawn, a fantasy romance called Serpent, and a modern romance called Losing the Shore. I like to multitask!
Me: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Alex: Rebel Ink Press has been an incredible home for me over the last year. I’m so grateful for everything they’ve done, and all the hard work they’ve put in to cover, market and promote my books. They’re amazing.
Me: Do you see writing as a career?
Alex: It’s my career and my hobby. I love language and storytelling, and I put my heart into every story I write. It’s what I’m meant to do, whether for an audience or not. I’ve been fortunate to be able to begin my writing career so young, and I’m going to stick with it!
Me: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Alex: If left to my own devices, I would go through a hundred drafts of a story to get it “just right”. So, another twenty rounds of editing! But really, there’s a point I know I have to let it go and begin work on the next story… So I suppose it’s a good thing.
Me: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Alex: I’ve always loved stories – I was the bookworm devouring multiple books a week in middle school. That grew into telling my own stories. I think there were just so many characters in my head, I needed to get them out!
Me: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Of course! This comes from my paranormal sci-fi romance novella, Broken Wings:
But Adrian’s mind was whirring with machinations—the sight of the dead bird on the kitchen floor evoked both fear and cold understanding. “That was you. The bird on the floor,” he breathed. “…It was you. You are an animal.”
Cassius shook his head. “We… My kind… We are both animal and other. I didn’t know where I was or why. Or who you were…” He looked up suddenly. “Who are you?”
Adrian resented being put on the spot. “Adrian Kelt. And I have no idea who the hell you are or what you’re doing here. Was that you, in the kitchen just a minute ago? Were you watching me as a bird?”
Cassius shifted uncomfortably, and his wings flexed in closely to his body. “You don’t understand—we are not supposed to be seen by humans. If we were known, it would mean a witch hunt, like in the old days. They would search us out and kill us.”
Adrian couldn’t stomach much more. “You still haven’t told me who we is! There are more people like you?” The aggression of that statement hit him guiltily. “I mean… people with wings?”
“We aren’t just people with wings,” Cassius growled. He looked as if he wanted to rise and pace, but the wound in his leg kept him grounded. His wings fluttered slightly instead. “We are people of the clouds and birds of the ground. We’re the crossovers. The last time you people knew about us, you hunted us almost to extinction. Even now, there are so few of us left we live more often as birds than our true selves.”
The information battered Adrian with more mystery. “Are you telling me you’re a bird?”
He sighed restlessly. “We can become birds. It is a dichotomy in us. I am in my true form now, but if necessary, I can become a bird in appearance. It has always been that way…”
Me: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Alex: Finding the right names for my characters. Sometimes the name just comes to me, but when it doesn’t, I have to cycle through three or four per character to find just the right one.
Me: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Alex: My favorite author is J.R.R. Tolkien, who wrote The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I loved LotR, but my favorite work by him would be The Silmarillion, which is like a history and legend book for his world. His characters are simultaneously epic and tragic, and I loved the grandness of it all. I take my copy of the Silmarillion with me on every trip and adventure, just in case.
Me: Do you have to travel much concerning your books?
Alex: I haven’t done any traveling for my writing, yet. I hope someday to visit Europe and some of the museums, castles and monuments there (especially in the UK!) but haven’t made it yet.
Me: Who designed the covers?
Alex: Carl J. Franklin at Rebel Ink Press designs my covers. He’s really amazing!
Me: Isn’t he amazing! He did my cover for The Last Alive and OMG I cried! It was perfect!
Me: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Alex: Starting it, definitely. Once I get rolling, I can push myself just to see it through. But the blank Word Doc is my mortal enemy!
Me: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Alex: I think I learn something about myself from every book I write. Seeing how my characters develop, and the lessons they learn, are as much my journey as the readers’. It’s wonderful to see them grow and win through to the happily ever after.
Me: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Alex: I would say to read – read quality fiction – as much and as often as you can. Read the classics, the great writers, and the obscure geniuses you love. Challenge yourself to write as well as they do. Like the saying goes, “Shoot for the moon, because even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” The higher you aim, the better your work will be in the end, whether you win any awards or acknowledgment or not.
Me: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Alex: Thank you – thank you a hundred times over. I’m so grateful to everyone who’s picked up one of my stories. I’m still blown away by the fact I’m a published author, and you all make that possible. Thank you J
Me: What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?
Alex: The books that have given me the most challenges are my Knights of Amaranth series. I rewrote a significant part of Remain (Book One), and now I’m knee-deep in Book Two, Rook, and I just decided to restructure a main character again to improve the story. It’s a lot of work rewriting and reshuffling the plot, but I think it will be worth it in the end.
Fear. It was the twitch in his subconscious, like a word stuck in his throat he could never quite say.
Adrian’s life is simple: go to work, come home, look no one in the eye. If you don’t take risks, you won’t die. That’s what life has taught him, and in the urban sprawl of the industrial Oregon coast, it’s kept him alive. He hasn’t had a panic attack in months.
Then one night, a winged man named Cassius makes a crash landing on his doorstep. Out of fear of the government Adrian hides him. But Cassius is more than he seems and when the winged shifter’s haunted past comes knocking, Adrian learns the true meaning of fear. He must find the courage to face the darkness or risk losing the man he has grown to love.