I’d like to take a moment to personally introduce a great friend of mine. He’s not just your typical hi and bye type friend to me, he’s a true real friend who takes a moment every single day to say hello and ask how I am…and we chat and chat, when we have a moment. He lives on the other side of the pond and we both work…so, we don’t get to gab as often as we’d like, but when we do, we get at it.
Mr. B.J. Sheppard is more than your average Englishman. He’s witty, funny, warm, caring, and very very talented. He’s an author and a cover designer! He has connections with editors and beta readers. He’s well-connected. But that’s not what drew me to him. The fact that he reached out to offer a hand when I needed it, did. I don’t chase people, as you are well aware, but when one pops up and holds out a hand, I’ll grab it and keep that hand warm and safe.
Well, we got to talking, I ended up talking about River and I needed a back cover for it in the worst way…River of Tears that is…I, with BJ’s help brought it to print! But that’s not what I’m here for. When he did that spine and back cover, and I saw it, held it in my hands, I teared up. Not because it’s my baby, but because that cover is amazing! Thanks to Zathyn Priest who did the front cover and to BJ who did the spine and back cover. He matched the coloring with ease. Then I went off to his site and I found the talent! You can see some below. He has pre-made ones, he’ll also create covers to match your needs…Personalization is big with him and with most writers. Just ask and he’ll deliver.
Anywhoot, I asked him if he’d mind if I exploited him and he blushed! I know he did. I didn’t see him but I knew. He accepted at my insistence and my ability to bug the hell out of people to get them to help me promote them. That’s what I do. Help others promo their art….So, without further delay, here’s my friend, BJ!
Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, BJ, please come on in and make yourself at home.
Thanks for having me.
It’s my pleasure! Have a seat while I grab us something to drink and a snack. I know you must be tired after that long flight over!
Here we go. I couldn’t decide on which one, so I grabbed a bit of each.
Now that we’re all settled, lets begin. Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Well I started writing when I was very young, but only took it up properly about three years ago. I love telling stories, and I have studied writing at a higher learning institute here in the UK. Around about the time my second book was released, I got very interested in design as well, so I now run a cover design and formatting service for self-published authors.
And I can attest to that! I have very little free time on my hands and I needed to get River of Tears formatted for Createspace and Smashwords. I asked BJ and guess what he did? YES…and let me tell you he did a professional outstanding job!
Tell us, what was your first book and how long did it take to get it published?
My first book was a novella called ‘Always Have, Always Will’. It was a bit of a crazy book as far as publishing goes. I sent it to one of the big M/M publishers initially, but it wasn’t as fluffy and sex filled as they like, so they took a pass on it. I then got signed to the now defunct Silver Publishing, which was a bad error. They went bust and I got the rights back without it ever seeing the light of day. Just when I was getting ready to give in on sending it out, Wilde City Press picked it up and published it for me.
I understand the frustrations all too well. Glad to see I’m not alone in this. And when did you start writing gay fiction? What about this genre interested you the most?
I first started reviewing books, after I found a few mainstream novels with strong gay characters. I was heavily moved by books by David Levithan, Michael Cunningham, Steve Kluger and Michael Chabon. From there it wasn’t long until I discovered the M/M Romance genre existed. I started a small review blog of my own, and was quickly offered a slot reviewing at the Novel Approach book review site. I wrote reviews for them for a year before giving that up to focus on my writing.
We are very aware of that site. If you all remember Lisa from a couple of years ago? She used to run the show here and then decided to start-up her own review site. We are happy to see she chose perfection in a reviewer! Glad to see you’re flying on your own now. More covers and more stories! So, how many books have you written this far?
In my head I have written dozens…in reality, 1 short story, 2 collections of short stories, a novella, and three novels.
I’m guessing your head sees this?
Do you write full-time?
Ha! I wish. No one really knows who I am, so I don’t make enough money to do this full-time. Much like every other author though, it is the dream to be able to work on my characters all day long.
I don’t know of many people who can stay home and make a living off of writing or reviewing for that matter. Those who do are few and far between. And have to be machines! It takes me a minute to get a story done and people pump out one a month. Is there a magic writing program I haven’t heard of yet? ANYWAYS…lets move on…what do you say we go and sit down at the pool?
So much better. The breeze is perfect. Now don’t you nod off on me, we’re talking here. Looking back was there something in particular that helped you to decide to become a writer? Did you choose it or did the profession choose you?
It chose me. Given the choice, I would probably not bother, and do something that rakes in unhealthy amounts of cash and buy myself that plastic surgery I have been wanting for a while now. But, alas, the writing chose me. No going back now.
Plastic surgery? What on earth for? You don’t need to cover the beauty! On a typical writing day, how do you spend your time?
Mainly fretting, thinking I’m rubbish and deleting things from my manuscripts. Then I’ll have a short burst of inspiration, crack out about 2000 words and have a nap.
I see your eyes drooping! No nap for you right now. Oh, wait until I show you your room! Here, have a snack.
When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?
I do a main overall plot, but then when I start writing, it’s a very organic process. I just see what happens and go where the story takes me.
What kind of research do you do before and during a new book?
I set most of my stories in fictional cities, so I can make up stuff that will help to drive the plot. As far as illnesses and professions go, I try to read a lot about it beforehand and use that as a guideline. I think in cases of this, it’s important to focus on the character as opposed to the minutiae of their traits though. Feelings over fact and all that.
What’s your favorite snack to eat while you’re sitting behind the computer and trying to describe what scenes are going on in your head?
Cigarettes (Oh you’re such a rebel! I love it! Me too! And for those who do not smoke, we’ve already heard every reason why we need to quit. And since we’re not kissing you, please keep all remarks to yourselves. Thanks.)
I recently learned that you’re also a very talented cover artist. How did you get started with that?
Trial by fire really. I just practiced and practiced until I figured out what looked good and what was needed. From there it was just a case of putting together a portfolio and trying desperately to pimp my business out…still a work in progress.
I have to say, your trial by fire thing works very well for you! I mean, let me show everyone what you did!
Talk about talent! I’m still in awe of this cover!
Is there a special technique to making the lovely covers shown on your site?
It’s a bit like writing really. I tend to let the creativity do what it wants. I don’t tend to stifle any urges to not do things. It’s a quick fix if I do something wrong and want to get rid of it, so I test out lots of different looks and see what sticks.
A quick fix he says. And tell us, where do you get your ideas for your pre-made covers?
God only knows. I just added one where half the page was covered in butterflies, because it looked pretty. No one is going to buy that unless there is a huge market for lepidopterist erotica. You never know. Still, it’s pretty and I liked it, so it made the cut.
How would you describe your sense of humor? Who and what makes you laugh?
I have a pretty dark sense of humor. I like to be sarcastic and play with that when writing. I have a character called Liam Adams in my Rainbow Connection stories, who is just unapologetic and obscene. He says the things I don’t have the balls to say.
I think most writers have a character or two that allows them to be free, or should I say, which allows us to get away with saying what we normally can’t? I am guilty.
We’ve had all of our drinks, our snacks, what do you think about a cup of java? And speaking of drinks, what are your favorites?
Coffee, Beer, Fanta Zero. Not all at once.
What are you working on now?
Just trying to get my design business off the ground really. And a secret writing project that is a secret….shhhhhhh!
When it comes to promotion, what lengths have you gone to in order to increase reader-awareness of your work?
I’m pretty terrible at promotion. I don’t feel comfortable bigging myself up really. (To those of you who aren’t sure what ‘bigging’ means, it’s like tooting your own horn so to speak. OR bragging, or patting ones own back.) I send out review copies of my books and share the reviews. I post on Facebook and Twitter. Asides from that, I’m not really very active with promotion.
Yeah, me either. I write, release, and mention it and then go to the next. I’m better at helping others do promotion. We have a lot in common! What kind of books do you like to read?
I like speculative and transgressive fiction stories. My favorite authors are Chuck Palahnuik, Douglas Coupland, Augusten Burroughs, Michaels Cunningham and Chabon. I’m pretty open to new suggestions. Have you read John Saul, John Hart? Couple of my favs. No I haven’t. I’ll look them up.
If you weren’t a writer or cover artist what would you be?
I’d probably be a mortuary technician…for a while there, that was a serious consideration.
WOW…you’re a brave one! That’s a creepy career. When it comes to the covers of your books, what do you like or dislike about them?
This is promotion right….uh, I like all things about my books covers. I’m very good 😛
Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing?
I like music, movies, going on adventures with my lovely fiancé, Si. May I say that you two are perfect together?! Yes, I said it.
I know you’re exhausted! C’mon, I’ll show you to your room.
Before I leave you in peace, can you share any special projects coming out that we should watch for?
There is a sale on until the end of February at my site, all book covers are down to $35 per ebook cover. Please go here to get yours before time and covers run out! Covers
Oh, the shower is here! AYE! That’s Marvin, your personal assistant while you’re here…I have no idea why he’s…I mean he knows you’re taken but he’s a..oh nevermind, anyway, let me get him out of there and while I’m doing that, can you please tell us where we can find you, your books and your covers? And while you’re at it, what are your fees? I know I’ve fallen in love with a few of your covers, mainly two titled Bad Boys and The Message. I personally cannot wait to get the stories done! And now I’m eyeing Fractured! Well done, BJ!
Okay, so there is a sub-page on my author page that tells you all about my new design business, BJS Cover Design and Formatting (original name, I know). That’s where you can find a bundle of pre-made covers on sale for $35. There is also a good explanation of my fees there, which basically equate to this:
Pre-made covers – $35
Commissioned covers – on an hourly rate. First hour is $30, and every subsequent hour is $25. More can be charged for harder projects, more stock photos or more concept designs.
Formatting (ebooks and paperbacks) – the same hourly rate as above applies.
You can find my site at: http://bjsheppardauthor.weebly.com
My cover design and formatting site at: http://bjsheppardauthor.weebly.com/bjs-cover-design–formatting.html
My Facebook links:
Author page: https://www.facebook.com/BJSheppardauthor/
Design page: https://www.facebook.com/BJSheppardCoverDesign/
Thanks for having me!
Examples to use throughout of my work:
Thank you for visiting BJ! Come again soon!!