Why do you write fiction?
I write fiction because I have a deep-seated passion for it. It’s a way to convey ideas and emotions that can’t be communicated any other way. Both reading and writing fiction forces me to consider alternative points of view and helps me empathize with others. Also, stories, images and characters have always presented themselves to me in my mind for as long as I remember. I would think “what if?” I would follow those thoughts and extrapolate into scenarios and events. I enjoy putting these things on paper, working through the plots and arcs, filling in the details and showing them. It’s a part of me that wants to touch others.
Please tell us about your book. What ideas or images inspired this novel?
Hearts in Ruin is about two archaeologists that meet in an academic setting and clash over, among other things, a controversial theory of very early North American culture. They are both driven and dedicated to archaeology in their own way. I know people like this, with sincere passions that runs deep. I can be like that myself. But the interesting thing is, when our passions collide, we’re often more like each other than we admit. So that’s the conflict at the heart of the main characters. I love the untouched beauty of New Mexico with its unavoidable air of ancient wonder — a perfect place for the dig. And the theory over which they clash comes straight from my own musings about the hundreds of thousands of years of human existence on this planet before the invention of writing and agriculture. Our knowledge of what occurred is largely speculative. We presume a steady growth and cultural evolution toward eventual civilization. But how steady was it? How many times did humanity move forward and then fall back from what we call civilization? And what of the people and the lovers that filled those countless millennia? I suspect they were more like us than we imagine.
Do you have an ideal reader in mind when you write? If so, please describe that reader.
No. This story is not targeted to a particular readership. I think the characters have universal flaws and conflicts, and the story has something for everyone. It’s a love story. It’s a story of passion and dedication. It has a speculative sub-story. It’s a tale of secret plots and the constant struggle between progress and its profits, on the one hand, and knowledge and its sacrifices, on the other. The story is fun and fast paced. The philosophical underpinnings are subtle but accessible. And there is, throughout, a mystery that both resolves satisfactorily for the story, but leaves a sense of wonder in its wake.
Please describe your writing routine.
I wish I had a routine. Lately I write in streaks. I have a day job and a family, so I do not always have an opportunity to write. But there is a general approach that’s been working for me. Before I tackle a first draft I take notes, do research, and draft sample scenes for myself. These all give me an idea of where my story is going and how it should feel. When I feel ready, I create a schedule to pound out a first draft in four to six weeks. That is more do-able than it might seem, once the idea of a story is solidly planted in my psyche. But the first drafts are very rough—sometimes jumping the rail and going a different direction entirely halfway through. I accept that at this stage of writing. When it happens, the jumped rail is usually the story I didn’t realize I was trying to write. When that very rough first draft is done, I put it away and work on something else for a couple of weeks or so, then I return to the draft, outline or re-outline it, take notes, do more research, decide whether the story arc is right, and, once I’ve thought these things through, dive in again—sometimes starting with the end and then revising the beginning, other times starting revisions from the start. It depends on the story and what I learned in the first draft. That revised draft is where the story takes shape. The number of revisions after that depends on the demands of the story. I go back and forth between outline and text, keeping the details consistent with the big picture and teasing out better ways to say the same thing, changing characters, points of view, scenes, etc. The third or fourth revision is usually readable. That’s when I test it on others, put it away again, let it simmer, come back and polish, and see if I’ve got something I want to share.
What advice do you give new writers just starting out?
Write and read and write and read. Re-read what you like. Consider why you like it and how it was done so well. Beyond that, I think every new writer has his or her own set of particular challenges. It’s important for anyone that wants to write to identify areas of growth and pursue them. A very common hurdle is sensitivity to criticism. If you study your craft, you will get better as you go. That means that often something you write today will not come close to something you write several years from now. Get used to the idea that some of your work will not meet everyone’s “standards.” Learn to accept critique without feeling attacked, and learn to sort through criticisms without losing your voice. I also think that every new writer is a potential new success story whose methods and approach are nothing like what might be taught or advised by the experienced writers of the day. So learn everything you can, but make your own decisions.
More about Hearts in Ruin:
Andrea Hollister seeks a quiet career as a mainstream archaeologist — nothing more or less — and she’s one dig, and an ancient secret, away. So when Andrea must join super-hot prodigy Daniel Fuchs on a New Mexico dig, her smartest move is to secretly undermine his unconventional theories, despite growing attraction and guilt.
But what if Daniel is right? Two betrayals and a devastating court order later, Andrea and Daniel find their careers, and their shaky relationship, threatened. To survive professionally and emotionally, Andrea must come clean and save Daniel’s dig. But can she do so in time, with bulldozers poised to level the site?
How to connect with J.C.:
Author’s website: http://jcconway.com
Buy Link: Available for preorder at: http://www.lsbooks.com/pre-order-coming-soon-romance-books-c322.php
Beginning May 5, 2014, readers can purchase it at: http://www.lsbooks.com/hearts-in-ruin-p904.php