The 2010 TWCS Original Fiction Contest winner for best young adult story, JD Watts, began tiptoeing into the world of creative writing by building on books, movies, and television shows, thinking of alternative endings for the beloved characters.
As an adult, she indulged her creative whims, eventually getting involved in an online community of amateur writers who supported her stories. It is through both the encouragement of her friends and family, as well as her friends through the online community, that she journeyed into her own imagination and penned her first novel in her new series: Children of Creation: Convergence. The Children of Creation Series will have three novels. The second book, Induction, is scheduled to release September 2011.
JD holds a degree in Christian Education through Lincoln Christian College, as well as a degree in Psychology through the University of Illinois at Springfield.
In addition to her love of writing, JD loves movies, music, reading, and spending time with her loved ones. She lives in Central Illinois where she is a wife and stay at home mother of a young son and daughter.

 

* Where are you from?

I was born in Southeast Missouri, in the bottom eastern corner of that little bit that drops down into Arkansas known as the bootheel. I lived there until I was a few months shy of 13 when we moved to central Illinois, where I’ve remained to this day. I currently live within an hour of the small town we moved to (Clinton), in the Peoria, Illinois area.

* As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

I had a whole host of things I wanted to do ranging from an FBI Agent to a Dancer, and for a long time I considered becoming a Doctor, but didn’t think I could handle being in school for that long. Ironically, being an author was never on the list for me, as I didn’t think I was talented in that way.

* What do you do to unwind and relax?

I love watching TV and going to the movies and spending time with my family, but a lot of times I find writing very cathartic and choose to do that during most of my free time.

Tell us a bit about your family.

I am an only child, now married for the past soon to be eight years. We now have two beautiful children, my son who is soon to be 6 is in kindergarten, and my daughter who is 2 ½ and is getting excited to start preschool next fall. My extended family is also so wonderful and supportive. I have been blessed with an awesome Mom and Mother-in-law who are very willing to help with the kids to give me some longer stretches of quiet time, and my husband’s aunts were one of the first in line to buy copies of Convergence when they went on sale. I’m very blessed by an awesome family.

What is your favorite food?

I love chocolate, unless it’s mint chocolate and then I pass.

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Tell us your latest news.

I’ve been working hard on getting my second book in the Children of Creation series done in the next few months in preparation of its September Release. Induction, as I have decided to call it, will have a slightly different focus as the relationship between our main characters develops further. We also start to see and learn a lot more about the Nephilim in the second book.

When and why did you begin writing?

Most of the big ideas for stories I have had started off in dreams. In 2005, not long after my son was born, I had a dream that sparked an idea, but when I started to write it down it just didn’t flow and all seemed to fall apart. I finally gave up on it, and more or less forgot about it for a time. I have yet to go back to it, although I’m considering looking at it again after I complete the Children of Creation series. I didn’t try to write again until three years later, after my daughter was born. It was then that I read the Twilight series and started having little ideas that came to me that I mused over. Eventually a friend encouraged me to write them down and post them online. My first attemps were rough and riddled with errors, but I really enjoyed being creative again, as I didn’t have many creative outlets. One story turned into two and so on, and the more I wrote the more my writing evolved. Eventually I started getting a little braver and decided I wanted to try to write my own story based on another dream I had. Not long after making that decision, I read about the Original Fiction Contest on The Writer’s Coffee Shop site and decided to enter Convergence. It was there that I won best young adult story and the process of getting Convergence out into the world began.

What genre are you most comfortable writing?

I’ve experimented with several different genres in my online postings, but I think I am definitely most at home in the romance/supernatural romance genre. I always tend to throw in a little humor and some drama too, but I think I probably fit more completely under that general umbrella.

How did you come up with the title for your book(s)?

The Series Title came to me immediately due to the subject matter of the book, as the Angels, humans, and Guardians are all different beings of The Master’s Creation. The individual book titles were a little more of a stretch until I started seeing a theme running through the novels. In book one, Convergence is a multilayered theme relating to not only the coming battle between all three children of creation, but also Dani herself as she finds out truths about herself that she never knew. The same is true of the story I’m working on now, Induction. While I don’t want to give away all of the secrets by saying too much, I think it’s pretty self explanatory to say one these is Dani’s complete integration and induction into a world of which she once only knew bits and pieces.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

I used a lot of symbolism in this story, but my overall goal was to help people to see that forgiveness is available for those who truly desire it. I have come under a little fire for my use of forgiveness in this story and to whom the forgiveness was grated, but in my mind, it was more a symbol of those who feel they are beyond forgiveness than anything else. It’s always dangerous when writing a story like this, balancing the line between offending people and the use of your creative license. I hope that my story was written in a way that appealed to people without bringing offense.

Are your works based on someone you know or events in your life?

There are little bits and pieces of the story that come from my life. The rural setting of the story is where I’ve lived and felt comfortable starting off with as I built the world of my novel from scratch. Also little things were thrown in, such as Dani drives the car my Mom’s had when I was in high school, and they make recipes that are some of our family favorites. As for the main themes, they are based more on my own imaginings of how things might work in the world around us that we don’t see.

What are your current projects?

My primary focus right now is Induction and I’ve already written a few chapters for the final book in the series, that I have yet to nail down a name for. In addition, I’m still posting online just for fun. I find those stories are my real stress relief because there’s no pressure as they’re just for entertainment only with no real major expectations from me.

Can you share a little of your current work with us?

Induction is my primary focus right now and I was told that if I wanted I could share a short snippet with you. J Please keep in mind that this might change slightly during editing before the copy goes to print… Dani became anxious as she started feeling a strange tingling sensation starting in her toes and moving up her body. It was a new sensation, but it didn’t really feel like it had felt when the Celestials had transported her. When that happened, it was sensation-less, like floating in nothingness. The only warning that the transition was about to occur was the feeling of weightlessness just before the world disappeared. She had never translocated with a Guardian though, and wondered if their differing biology created other sensations within them when they performed the skill. Feeling hopeful that she was accomplishing something, Dani lifted her face to the sky as she focused on where she wanted to be. She saw the exact details of the clearing and where she would want to find herself when she arrived, being careful to position herself a safe distance from the nearby cliff. She heard the door of the lodge open behind her, but ignored it. The picture in her mind grew crystal clear, so clear that she thought she might actually be standing there seconds before a wave of exhaustion flooded her body. She felt her knees buckle, but the world had gone completely black and silent before Dani’s body found the ground.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

I think that the hardest part for me is developing the world my characters are in from scratch and making sure that the readers can see it as everything progresses, while not overwhelming them with too many details. It’s a fine line between providing the frame of reference and boring them to death with every little nuance.

Where do you hope to take your writing in the future?

I hope to finish this series and then I’m considering either returning to that story I tried to write when my son was a baby or starting with something else that’s been teasing at my brain. It’s a little more of a comedy, so I’m not sure how well I can pull it off, but I always enjoy a challenge.

What is the hardest part of writing?

Lately I’ve found the hardest part for me is finding time to write when the creative juices are flowing. I am a stay at home mom, but that doesn’t mean that I have all day every day to write. I’m a very linear writer, and if I get interrupted too much I start getting frustrated because I lose my rhythm in the story. That being said, I do most of my writing either after the kids are in bed at night, or during my daughter’s nap time while my son is at school. Needless to say, there are days that I’m too exhausted or just not feeling in that creative mood when I actually do get to sit down and try to write.

What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

My biggest piece of advice is just keep writing and reading. If I’d given up after my first failed attempt and after my first online story, which is almost painful for me to read now, I never would have learned from my mistakes and developed my writing. It’s not always easy, but the most important thing is to never give up.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

Yes, I had a major bout of it writing Convergence and an even worse one a few weeks back when working on Induction. I have two methods of getting through it. Ironically, my first method is more writing, either writing a scene somewhere else in the story that might be coming to me more easily or working with something completely unrelated. My online stories kept my juices flowing and my stress level down when I was fighting with parts of Convergence. If that doesn’t work, I step away from the computer completely and just read for a while or watch TV, something to put myself in another world separate from the work I’m stuck on. It might take a little time, but usually, I can push past it relatively quickly.

Who is your favorite author and why?

I have a hard time choosing just one. Lately I have had a penchant for Young Adult Books. Most recently, I’ve been drawn to a lot of the supernatural stories like those of Cassandra Clare, JK Rowling, and Richelle Meade. I also loved Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series.

What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

For me, character development and motivations for the things they do are very crucial. If you don’t understand why a character does something then it takes away from the whole rest of the story. I think good pacing is also important to keep the story moving.

How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?

I tried a time or two to be more structured in my work, but it was an abysmal failure. Right or wrong, I am a very organic writer. I have a general outline in my head that I go by. I know where I am and where I want to be, but a lot of my subplots seem to emerge and integrate themselves as I go. In the same way, my characters seem to mature as I write, along with the plot.

What were your feelings when your first novel was accepted/when you first saw the cover of the finished product?

The whole process felt so surreal and to hold my first copy of Convergence in my hands was just so cool. I don’t think I actually cried, but I was really close to it. It’s still so amazing to be able to say that I wrote a book that is in print.

Any recent appearances that you would like to share with us about/any upcoming ones?

I’ve had two appearances so far. The first was part of a Holiday fundraiser at a local elementary school where $3 from every book sold went to the school to help replace their gym floor. The second was at a library in the small town of Yates City, IL. What was impressive about that signing was how many people came out to see me for such a small town. It truly was a delight. In the next few months, I am looking forward to more appearances, though the dates have not been solidified yet. In April, I will be speaking at an area school on career day and am looking forward to another fundraising event at a local church where the profits will go to their missions program. I’m very excited about these upcoming events as well as more signings in the works for this spring and summer.

How long does it take you to write a book?

For Convergence, it took me around seven months to complete the book from start to finish.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Bedtime in our house is 7pm, but in all honesty, it’s usually more like 7:30 or 8 by the time everyone is tucked in and down for the night. I usually sit down then and start writing until I start getting too sleepy to continue or I make myself stop knowing that the kids will have me up again around 6 the next morning. I do my best to sit down and write every night if I can, even if it’s just a little bit. As long as my brain cooperates, I can get a good chunk written in that timeframe.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

My husband is constantly walking through the room asking me what I’m smiling about or what I’m frowning at, so I guess to use a pretty pathetic pun, the emotions I’m writing are written all over my face. I’ve also been known to break out in random dancing when my playlist gets particularly peppy or I’ve cranked out an important chapter and feel like I’ve nailed it.

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

I get most of my ideas from my overactive imagination and my dreams. One of my most recent ideas was inspired by overhearing a part of a movie my kids were watching while on a car ride. I never know when or where inspiration will strike, but it’s a little funny sometimes the things that can inspire me.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

When not writing, I usually find myself spending time with my kids and my family and friends.

What does your family think of your writing?

They’ve been really awesome about it. My husband’s aunts have been some of my loudest cheerleaders, one of them buying several copies to hand out as Christmas gifts. I think half the copies sold in my first month were purchased by my husband’s family alone. My husband has been very supportive and even made a sign to hang up on his desk at work letting people know and telling them to ask him about getting a copy, and my kids recognize my book if they see it out somewhere. The last time was at my Mom’s house. They saw it on her coffee table and started pointing at it saying “That’s Mommy’s book.” It was really cute. I’m not sure they really get it besides knowing that black book with the girl on the front is mine, but it’s still fun.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in writing your books?

That I spent way too many years writing papers in college, and now tend to repeat myself…a lot…lol I about died when I realized that during editing, we ended up cutting five thousand words from my original manuscript. I never realized quite how wordy I really was until then. Reading Questions

What are you reading now?

The last book I finished was I Am Number Four, because I’m one who always tries to read the book before I watch the movie. I’ve recently started reading the Vampire Diaries series by L.J. Smith because I enjoy the show and thought I’d see what the books were like.

Do you think Americans are reading less than they have before? Why or why not?

I do think that reading has probably dropped with the proliferation of television, movies, streaming, gaming, etc, so in comparison to the decades before we had all those mediums, I would definitely say that American’s read less, but I don’t think it’s quite as dramatic as one might think. I think the advent of the ebook is going to lead to a resurgence in reading in this techie generation.

Do you see writing as a long- or short-term career?

I would absolutely love for it to be a long-term career for me. I’ve found such a fulfillment in writing that I’ve never experienced elsewhere and I would love for it to be a part of my life for many, many years to come.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

To be honest that changes from year to year, but right now I absolutely LOVE Cassandra Clare’s novels. She does such an amazing job sculpting the worlds of her novels, particularly the Mortal Instrument Series. I’m waiting anxiously for both of her novels coming soon, both City of Fallen Angels, and The Clockwork Prince.

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