It’s time for another Starving Review alumni to step up to the interview plate and dish on their writing knowledge! Today, we have J. A. Cipriano, who has been through the pantry twice so far, with Kill It With Magic and The Hatter is Mad. Delve into the mind behind the over-the-top action!
- Please introduce yourself to my literary foodies!
Hi, I’m J.A. Cipriano. I’m an urban fantasy writer who laughs in the face of having too much action. My motto is, would this make Michael Bay proud?
- Do you do any work outside of the writing kitchen? Any non-work interests?
I’m an engineer by trade. It’s not terribly interesting.
- What is your latest dish to be served up? Are there any past pieces of literary cuisine you think we should take a bite out of?
I’m currently working on the third book in my Meet Abby Banks series, Spy for the Spiers. It is a Spy thriller that seems to be going over pretty well. I just finished up All Wrapped Up my second Werewolves vs. Mummies book. (Yes, you read that right.) My editor swears up and down that series is my best one, by a huge margin.
- What made you want to put on the chef’s hat and whip up your own books?
I’ve been writing stories since third or 4th grade maybe? I have no idea, but I was really little. I wrote my first novel in high school. (I’d actually written like 4 by the end of high school.)
My grandma was always a big reader so I’ve always read a ton of books and I guess I just graduated into wanting to make my own stories.
- Do you have a genre of specialty or do you dabble? Why?
I mostly write urban fantasy and always have. I never really got too much into space or epic fantasy middle ages stuff. I live in this time period and it’s awesome. It’d be more awesome with werewolves, though.
- Style! Every literary chef aspires to have their own unique one! What do you think sets yours apart and why?
I think I’m funny =D I also do action really well, or so I’ve been told.
- Even the best of us find inspiration is the dishes of others. Do you have any literary inspirations, heroes, and influences?
I wrote my first Lillim Callina book after reading the Dresden files books. I just loved the crap out of them. This was in 2007 or so. I guess he can count himself as an influence. I also really enjoy John Scalzi’s work and have a deep, dark space in my heart for Dean Koontz. I grew up on Koontz and have read almost everything he has written. I still have flashbacks to Bad Seed, Door to December, and Bad Place.
- Let’s get into the meat and potatoes: the art and craft of writing itself! Do you have a preference of points-of-view when you write?
I prefer writing in first person because it is easier for me personally. It gives me a straight ahead roadmap I can follow because I don’t have to worry about what other characters are doing off camera so much.
That said, I enjoy dabbling in third person because I can write chapters about other characters doing stuff, but I tend to write my third person from a specific character’s point of view because, again, that is easier for me.
I write in past tense because I cannot stand present tense writing.
Strangely though, I hate reading first person, but I love listening to first person in audio book. I can’t really deal with third person in audiobook but enjoy reading it more. Weird, eh?
- Sparse or wordy, how do you like your descriptions served up? Are you a Hemmingway man or do you like some saucy adjectives with your nouns?
I hate wordiness and extra description. I’m much more a Hemmingway, I guess. I don’t care how many veins were in each leaf touching each blade of grass next to each shadow and whatever. I also don’t care what color shoes the characters are wearing and all that. You know what that stuff is to me? Stuff you should be cutting so you can blow shit up.
- Picking off the menu of base literary conflicts, what’s your favorite and why?
I’ll be honest. I had no idea what you meant by this question so I looked it up on Storyboard that. Link
I don’t actually have a preference because most of my books sort of encompass all of these things. That said, I guess I’d prefer Man vs. Man or man vs. horrible monster thing because it is easier for me to write stories with clear antagonists and villains. If I know who my villain is, I can write how he will thwart my hero better. If it’s just a faceless entity, that becomes much harder for me to do.
- What do you think is more important to your recipes, plot or characterization? Why?
I write mostly first person so my character and his/her voice is super important. If the reader doesn’t enjoy my character’s voice, I’m pretty much screwed. That said, I like cool plots. My characters aren’t super introspective types. They are more I’m going to go punch the bad guy in the face.
- We all know that the first taste means the most! What do you do to get that first bite hook with your readers?
I try to write awesome first lines like John Scalzi does. I want my first line to punch you in the face. If it doesn’t do that, I’ve failed.
I cannot tell you how many books I’ve stopped reading because I wasn’t hooked in the first line, paragraph, page. Lots of them. Many of them I’m told “get better.” No. I just can’t.
- The most important of questions: Cake or pie?
Pie. I don’t really like cake and I hate frosting. But I love pie. So much.
- Finally, if you could give one piece of advice to aspiring literary chefs out there, what would it be?
Your first book sucks. Your fifteenth book will suck. But, you know what? It will suck less than book one. I wrote close to two million words before I wrote something that almost didn’t suck. And you know what, it’s still terrible, but it’s better than when I started.
I guess I’m trying to say that you need to keep writing. Keep learning. Don’t keep polishing your first book. Write it, do whatever on it, and write another one. Always be writing another one.
If you want to level up your writing as quickly as possible, just write books and throw them in a drawer and write another one. When you hit something like a million words, go back and read that first book. Eye opener, it will be.