Today, I am excited to welcome back one of my favourite guests. He was featured a while ago on my blog, and I thought that it would be great to catch up with him and chat further. Please welcome James J. Cudney everyone!
Hello! It’s wonderful to be back again. I enjoyed visiting with you last time. Being able to catch up each year on what we’ve both accomplished is always fun and interesting. I can’t wait to see what you’ve got in store for me today.
Hi Jay. I’m so pleased to be able to feature you and your books on my blog again. It has been quite a while since we last chatted here about your work.
I think you had just released your book about living in a nunnery! I loved reading all about that experience. You’ve got another one that’s coming out too, which I can’t wait to order. I think I was writing the first book in the Braxton Campus Mysteries back then when we last chatted on our blogs together…
When I last spoke to you, it was really near the start of your writing career. So much has changed since then. It feels like you have been a one-man whirlwind of books, and more books. Congratulations on doing so well with your writing.
It’s been a phenomenal experience. Although I have a publisher, much of the marketing and promotions are up to me. Next Chapter handles all the work with Amazon, and they frequently share promotions on BookBub and Facebook. They’re doing a fantastic job, as I’ve hit #1 on many of the Amazon charts in the last two years. I spend several hours each day marketing and promoting my books via social media. I love meeting new people, interacting with fans, and talking about books and writing. Thank you so much for being part of that world.
I hear that you have Braxton’s Fall Festival coming up. Can you tell us more about that?
Yes, I’d love to. Autumn is my favorite season of the year. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. When I wrote Haunted House Ghost, I was insanely excited to launch the book on schedule to ensure readers could celebrate this wonderful time of year with the tale in their hands and a chilled fright in the air. For the entire month of October 2019, we are celebrating three events: (1) Autumn, (2) Halloween, (3) Haunted House Ghost, the fifth book released in the Braxton Campus Mysteries. We’ve even added scary and humorous animated graphics to the blog this morning. As part of the October 1st book launch, I will share a post each day to get readers and fans in the spooky spirit. Throughout the 31 days, we will have guest posts, excerpts, giveaways, contests, videos, blog tours, and other surprises. You can currently purchase the book from Amazon as a Kindle or a physical copy. In the near future, it will be available in large print and as an audiobook. To learn more, fans can sign up for my quarterly newsletter and follow me on the site below or any of my social media profiles listed on the ‘About the Author’ page.
That sounds great. So where do you get the ideas for your books Jay?
I wish I had an easy answer. I’m an avid mystery fan and have been reading in this genre for over thirty years. I watch shows like ‘Midsomer Murders’ and ‘Murder, She Wrote’ all the time. It’s a natural, comfortable environment for my mind to relax in, no matter what else I’m doing. Ideas percolate, connect with something new that inspires me… suddenly I have the beginnings of a plot lurking about the cobwebs inside my head. When I figure out the premise of a murder, I write the key facts about the scene, then build a story around it. With Haunted House Ghost, I knew it was going to be Halloween-themed. I enjoy reading about witches, skeletons, and other paranormal creatures, but I’m not ready to write about them. Ghosts have always fascinated me, so it made sense that I’d latch on to a character who might or might not be real. I also love autumn, so I pictured all the autumn scenes and events I’ve experienced, then turned them into key plot points and settings. Suddenly, I had an entire outline written and dove into the story details.
It happens like this for most books, but in the Braxton Campus Mysteries, I’ve created a world of people, places, and things. I’ve only written 5 books, but I have hundreds of character bios, descriptions, etc. I’ve thought this series out like a television show. I hope to sell it to a network one day in the next couple of years. I think it would make a great series on Hallmark or Netflix.
Are you a full-time writer now?
Yes, but not the way I should be. I’ve only been writing for two years. Before I left my corporate technology role, I saved a lot of money to allow myself to focus on writing as a career. I don’t leave my apartment to go to an office, but I occasionally take short-term consulting roles to earn income. Writing alone, especially living in New York City, will never be something that I can afford to do forever. I have a defined time period in mind, and if I move to a more inexpensive location in the future, I hope to make writing my permanent full-time career. For now, it’s a mix of both, but the majority is spent on writing, marketing, and networking in the publishing industry.
Do you carry a notebook with you for when idea come into your head, or do they only really come to you when you are ready to sit and write?
Not anymore. I use the Notes app on my mobile phone. If I think of something while out-and-about or when I wake up during the middle of the night, I grab my phone and type a few lines. As soon as I am home or awake with my laptop, I’ll expand upon the idea so that I have enough to begin writing from it when the time is right. Ideas rarely come to me when I sit and write. I’m a planner by nature, so sometimes, I’m writing a story point that might’ve crossed my mind or phone several days or weeks earlier.
You have been really prolific with your writing Jay. How many hours a week would you say that you actually spend writing?
I feel like it’s not enough! I just published my 7th book in two years. The first two, stand-alone family dramas, took six months each. The 5 from the Braxton series were written in the last year. Once I have an outline, I write 2 chapters per day at this point, which is usually five hours. My books are ~20 chapters long, so it takes me 2 to 3 weeks to write a book. It sounds way too short, yet I acknowledge I’m a very quick writer. The first draft is never strong enough, but once it’s on paper, I can edit. I’m currently at about 6 weeks to write a full book before I send it to an alpha reader. When I’m writing, my day tends to go like this in some way, shape, or form:
7 – 9: Coffee, email, blog, social media marketing
9 – 10: Walk the dog, run errands, eat breakfast
10 – 12: Write 1st chapter (or edit)
12 – 1:30: Gym, shower, lunch
1:30 – 4: Write 2nd chapter (or edit)
4 – 5: Social media marketing
5 – 6:30 Read & write book reviews or author spotlights on my blog
6:30 – 8: Cook, eat, catch up with partner
8 – 10: Relax, socialize, etc.
10 – 11: Read, then bed
What is the most embarrassing thing about yourself that you are willing to admit?
I had to think about that for a while. I’m a binge-eater and a health nut, completely opposite of each other. For the most part, I eat balanced meals and exercise every day. If I’m grouchy or stressed, the first things that goes out the proverbial door are my eating and drinking habits. There are nights where I eat an entire box of chocolate chop cookies and drink a whole bottle of champagne myself (like last night – oops!). Sometimes, it’s ½ a cake and 3 whiskies and ginger ale. It’ll go on like that for a few days until I notice my gym shorts are a wee snug. Then, I rant for hours to my other half about it… stop drinking or eating desserts for a week… and work out twice a day. I am a control freak, but there are moments when I just can’t handle it!
I know you like watching musical theatre. Is performing on stage something we are likely to see you do?
Interesting question. I did perform on stage in high school and college. I was in 6 or 7 shows, but never a musical. Or at least nothing where I sang lead. Directors have asked me to mouth the words if I was in a chorus scene. I have the absolute worst singing voice because I am tone deaf. I don’t sing anywhere because I scare myself when I try. I’d love to act again, but it takes too much time, which I don’t have given everything else I am trying to accomplish. Instead, we go to a show every two weeks, so that I can feel like I’m part of the business. Life’s about compromise… and I try to follow the rules. 😊
You have a lovely roof top garden. Do you ever write out there?
I have tried, but it’s a little too windy. I’m on the 12th floor and near the river. I also have a dog who likes to think that he’s a digger, weeder, and a lawnmower. Unfortunately, Baxter doesn’t distinguish between weeds and flowers. He also likes to scoop all dirt out of the planters, then eat it in the living room. He also bites the bark on the planted trees and buries it in the bedroom pillows. So… he’s only allowed outside if I’m out there with him to monitor his behavior. He gets very angry when I don’t let him out, and then he takes it out on me (play bites my legs as I am walking). Therefore, logic dictates (since he controls my life) that I can only go outside if I am paying close attention to him. Instead, I write in the dining room, which overlooks the terrace!
I’m sure that you would agree that if your body is healthy then your mind will hopefully be so too. What do you do to keep fit?
I definitely agree. I partially answered this question earlier, but I can definitely go into more details. Since Baxter needs to go on daily walks around New York City to get his exercise too, I get in at least a 40-minute walk with him every morning. On the days I get to the gym, I alternate between cardio and weights. I use the elliptical machine for about 40 minutes and do 100 sit-ups one day, then I switch between various floor exercises and 6 free weight exercises for about 50 minutes. I mostly work on arms, chest and shoulder, as my legs get the workouts from walking the dog. He’s 25 pounds, but it’s often an obstacle course to avoid other dogs, trash on the street that he tries to eat, and baby carriages he wants to jump in (he loves to snuggle with babies). Oh yeah, trying to avoid traffic is a full-time job too.
In terms of my mind, I wish I knew. I sometimes just stare at a wall for 15 minutes. Ideas float in and out, but it’s my download time where I don’t record or keep track of anything. It’s kind of stream of consciousness. Sometimes, it happens when I’m out with friends for dinner. They look at me like I’m a little nutty, but I can’t help it. My brain just hits a point where it can’t think, and it needs silence. So, I tune out. I can’t nap, but this is like my version of a nap.
Do you have a favourite book in your Braxton Campus Series, and if so, why?
Each new one becomes my favorite. Haunted House Ghost is that one right now… partially because I love Halloween, but also because my writing improves with each book. I learn by doing, not by studying, in most cases. In book one, I made some mistakes with grammatical style. I fixed those in book two, but while editing, I learned better ways to set a scene. It’s a process, and so with each new release, I figure out what I need to do better and how to make my writing quality even stronger.
So what’s next in your writing career Jay?
I have three things I’m working on right now. Braxton #6 is in outline format, and I will reveal the title and summary at the end of this month. I am writing the sequel to Watching Glass Shatter, my debut, which will be released in 2020. I am also developing the structure and detailed outlines for a new series, which I’ll reveal in late 2019. My goal is to write a book in every major genre… but it means I have to vary my reading more, so that’s taking some time. I think the focus and sub-genre of the new series will be a shock to my regular readers and fans, but it will at its core, always contain family drama – that’s the area of storytelling I most admire and enjoy.
Thank you so much for talking to us today Jay. It has been great to catch up with you. I’m sure that anyone reading this interview will be keen to buy more of your books now. It is always a pleasure to talk to you, so please do keep us informed of any new books you write too.
Absolutely. This was a wonderful opportunity to just chat about things without any formal guidelines. You had open-ended questions, and I just went for it. Thank you so much!