Thanks for taking the time to stop by and be here with us today, Jardonn. Why don’t we start by having you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
Thank you for asking me, Lisa. Believe it or not, you are the first who has.
No drama in my background. Raised a WASP by parents madly in love with life and each other. They sent me to college, but I hated it and dropped after one semester. I joined the workforce, which has run the gamut from truck lines and railroads to retail, newspaper and construction. Along the way I did the college myself, after I’d matured enough to appreciate and retain what was being taught.
When did you discover your passion for writing?
My passion is for storytelling. The writing part I find tedious, but once I’ve reached the end the fun begins. Rewriting, removing all the crap I wrangled over which didn’t need to be there in the first place, is when the characters take charge and we make it into a story.
As for when, soon after a pal replaced his computer and gave me his old one for my first. Late ’90’s I think it was. Typing long-held fantasies into a text document, freestyle with no thought that anyone else would ever read my words, became my addiction. These days it is difficult for me to do, but only by revisiting my original mindset can I get from beginning to end on an initial draft for a story.
Was there someone in particular who encouraged and inspired your love of storytelling?
No one in particular, but musicians have always stirred my blood. Songwriters must get to the point quickly with language concise. Plus, they’ve got to make it rhyme… plus, plus, their song better have a good melody or nobody will listen to their story. It’s a tall order. I’ve tried it myself and still do, so when I hear a song like, say, Merle Haggard’s Mama Tried, or Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, I figure if I can come up with something in a word story one/one-hundredth as powerful, I’ve accomplished something.
What was your first published story?
Triumvirate. It also was the first fantasy I ever put to keyboard. Very kinky. Tough guy on a stretch rack, but somewhere between first write and first publish it got changed from being a queen and her female consort working the guy over to a king and his men. Recently, I’ve rewritten and changed it back, self-published it for e-books and put my Jasper McCutcheon pen name to it. I also recorded an audio version which is free for listening at my web site.
To date, how many books have you written and published?
E-book shorts and paperbacks, around 25, I think.
How long does it typically take you to write a book, then see it through the publishing process?
Three to five months.
Do the titles of your books generally come to you as you’re writing, or do you know what they’ll be called before the writing process begins?
The title is there from the beginning. It might change as the story progresses, but I carry a little notebook wherever I go and jot down ideas when they come to me, including titles.
Asking this question might be a bit like asking you to choose one child over another, but of all the characters you’ve created, do you have one who stands out among the others as a favorite? If so, who and why?
Boris Keressos from Danube Divide. As a mature man, he talks of his younger days, and of the mature men who taught him the essentials of living, culture and knowledge, and how to treat others. Throughout the story he teaches his young lover all he has learned from others and on his own. To me, that’s what keeps humanity thriving and improving. Collecting knowledge from older generations, and sharing what we’ve learned with those who will follow us.
When someone reads one of your books for the first time, what do you hope s/he takes away from the experience?
Mostly, I hope they get turned on. I also hope they learn something they didn’t know, and meet people they can call friends.
How much creative input do you have in the cover design of your books?
I have self-published and created some myself, but if a publisher handles it, I stay out of it. One time I did request a different font because I couldn’t read the title without straining my eyes, but otherwise I think the artist should have free reign to create their own vision of the story.
Do you prefer writing in one sub-genre over others? Say, historical vs. contemporary, for example.
Not really. Wherever my characters live and whatever they want to do, I want to be there with them.
What sorts of research do you do for your historical titles? What resources do you use?
First-hand accounts are my favorite, say, an airman from WWII telling of his bombing missions. Those can come from personal web sites or the public library. Second stop, university web sites. Third, government, museum and memorial web sites. Cross reference all those sources and I’m satisfied the accuracy is proper for a fictional story.
Do you prefer writing in the 1st or the 3rd person? What advantages do you see in writing in one POV vs. the other?
I prefer 1st person for storytelling. He or she will cut to the gist of the action, speak in everyday language and not bother with excessive descriptions of surroundings unless essential to the plot.
How does the creative process differ when collaborating with another author as opposed to writing on your own?
I’ve only done it once, with William Maltese when we wrote GRIT for MLR Press. Not much changed creatively. My characters are railroaders, his are unemployed men riding the rails during the Great Depression. William and I wrote our own stories, worked out details of when our characters crossed paths, and the tale was told. Key to ease of project was working with a pro like William whose interest focused on the quality of our story, not the sanctity of our egos.
Is a successful writing day for you measured in word count or time spent at the computer?
No. Some days I don’t feel like writing. Other times nothing’s abuzz in my head and writing a single paragraph takes forever, so I stop. Better for me to leave it and get other things done than to waste my time typing drivel. When it’s ready to flow, I will know and the fingers will fly.
Do you typically outline your plots before you begin the writing process, or do you write in a more freestyle fashion?
I just type and try to keep moving without thinking too much. Rewriting is when it comes together. New ideas added. Different directions taken. Clutter cut.
How much do your characters resemble you and/or the people you know?
One hundred percent. I can research peripherals, but personalities have to come from those I know or have known, all of whom have shaped me as well.
How much do you draw upon your own life experiences in your writing?
Fifty-fifty, I suppose, but again, regardless of the activity, my characters react and interact based on people I’ve known. They speak and respond accordingly.
Are you surprised by the ever growing female fan-base of Male/Male fiction?
Not really. Men are fascinating creatures, especially men who speak with actions more than words. It is only natural women would enjoy tales of two manly men getting it on emotionally and physically.
Now, having asked that question, let me ask you this: I’ve seen plenty of books that were dismissed for everything from no happily-ever-after to not enough sex to too much sex. Do you think there needs to be a better distinction in the M/M genre between what is “romance” and what is “gay fiction” for readers who prefer a more purely romantic read?
I don’t believe dismissing a book because of its ending is valid. Characters in fiction, like those in real life, must go their own directions toward happiness.
As to sex, readers deciding on what next to buy would benefit from heat levels on the books. A 1-to-5 scale should do, based not on number of scenes, but on graphic descriptions of scenes. I think publishers of m/m romance and gay fiction should consistently and (key word here) honestly label their books, so potential purchasers can decide same as they would between a G, PG or R rated film.
What was the best piece of advice you’ve ever received with respect to the art of writing? How did it change the way you approach your craft?
Please yourself. It’s true with all artistic projects and was given to me long before I started writing. Ricky Nelson said it, “You can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself.” – Garden Party, 1972.
If you were to offer a word of advice to a new author just starting out, what would it be?
Stay off the internet! Seriously, set yourself a time limit for web activities (other than research for a book) and stick to it. None of that promotion is important if you don’t write, write, write.
If time travel were possible, what time period(s) would you most like to visit? Why?
Hmm… books and movies are time travel. Right? To choose one, the 1950’s in the United States seem a very romantic, male-dominated period. They’d won the war, come home to raise their families and reshape the world. Autos were huge, artistic sculptures floating on new superhighways, with radios blasting melodic love songs or love-gone-wrong songs, or foot-stomping/skirt-twirling rockabilly songs.
Television took all the best writers and actors from radio and wowed people in their homes with hilarious comedies and thought-provoking dramas. Industry, finance, entertainment, the United States was number one, and although I’m sure not all was what it seems, that’s the image we get, so yeah, take me there.
Do you have a favorite personal mantra, quote, or saying that describes your outlook on life and the way you approach each day?
“Adversity is the best time to dull your pride and sharpen your skills.” Came from a magazine article written by Peter Reese.
Of all the modern conveniences, which one would you most likely say you couldn’t live without?
Is television still considered modern? It’s the box that keeps on giving. Takes me all over the world. Teaches me about places, animals, and people I’ll never meet. Makes me laugh and cry and contemplate with programs and movies made one hundred years ago or yesterday. And sports. I can watch football or what have you without waiting in line to urinate or freezing or sweating or getting soaked in spilled beer from the rowdy behind me. I prefer to spill my own, thank you, while watching replays and close-ups of action on the field.
Do you have any new projects/works-in-progress you’d care to share with us?
Just finished a WWII short which will be part of an MLR Press 25 Days of Christmas project. Has to do with U.S. Airmen in a Stalag prison camp and dogs that howl for unusual reasons. It’s called The Good Shepherd.
I’ve got a full-length that’s been languishing with a publisher for six months. One of those deals where they said they want it but have yet to offer a contract, so guess I better follow up one more time and request they either put up or give it back. There’s another bit of advice for new authors: don’t expect everything to happen rapid-fire.
Thanks again for spending some time with us, Jardonn. It’s been great having you here. Will you tell us where we can find you on the Internet?
And we’d love if you’d consider sharing a favorite excerpt from one of your books with us.
Love is a difficult emotion to describe, but this snippet from my short story collection, Suspicious Diagnosis, sums up my take on the deal.
Thanks again, Lisa and staff here at Top2BottomReviews, for letting me share a bit of myself with followers of your site.
I blame him. I thank him. I love him because he makes me secure. Hate him because he makes me vulnerable to my loving him so much. I shudder at the thought of losing him. Tremble with the notion of him leaving me. For upheaval. For a change of scenery. For anything, or another. I recognize fear as the price for keeping him, but I’d prefer to use plastic. A credit card, a pay-as-you-go, a lay-away plan, a time share. Time erodes doubts, but never fully eradicates. My only consolation is my suspicion that he suffers same as I do. I hope he suffers.