Last week, we took time to look at JD Penley’s relaunched book, No Peace in Death, the first volume in his Book of the Immortals series. Today, take a peek behind the curtain, and see what goes into bringing Penley’s narrative to life.
Tellest: Hi there JD. Thanks for the opportunity to talk with you today. I know that with a new book having just released, you’re likely spending all your time figuring out new ways to get eyes on it, so I appreciate your time!
JD Penley: Thanks for having me, it’s a pleasure talking with you.
T: So, the first thing I’ll come out and say is that you’re a bit of an enigma! I typically can accomplish a fair amount of research prior to one of these interviews, but it was hard to dig up a great deal of information on you, so a lot of today is going to be spent getting to know you. We’re trying to see what makes you tick, so we’ve got some ground to cover.
First off, I like to ask people what inspired them to start their writing journey. Did you have a favorite book growing up that sparked an interest, or perhaps a family member who told great stories?
JDP: I didn’t have a favorite book, but rather a few books sparked my interest. I’m a big fan of Anne Rice and Charlaine Harris, and I’m a sucker for vampires. As for family members, my late grandmother was the storyteller. She was part of the reason I decided it was time to stop procrastinating and write a book.
T: How do the rest of your family feel knowing you’ve picked up her mantle?
JDP: It’s not something we’ve really talked about, and sadly I don’t know their thoughts on my writing. I don’t know that any of them have actually read the book yet.
T: I’m sure with time you’ll have something good to show for all your work and then they won’t want to stop chatting you up about it!
What gave you the idea for your book, No Peace in Death, and the Book of the Immortals series?
JDP: It was a combination of things. While I’m a fan of vampires, I always hated that there was never one that I could relate to. There was always a whiner like Louis in Interview with The Vampire who hated killing and essentially hated being immortal. Then there was Twilight and sparkly vampires that seemed emo, and while I liked the story, I hated this idea that vampires have to constantly be in the shadows. They seem to be portrayed as monsters or loners, and I couldn’t relate to them outside of enjoying the genre. So, after way too many late nights alone, with nothing but my thoughts, Lucas was born. He came at a time in my life when I was in sort of a rut. I was just out of a divorce; a single dad and I was down on my luck. I had just gotten laid off months prior to starting the first book of the series and I think Lucas was born out of a darkness that I was facing at the time. His journey leading to his becoming a vampire echoed a lot of what I was feeling back then. Lucas essentially helped me through a period of my life where I was ready to give up.
T: I’m assuming that you’re experiencing brighter times now. How has Lucas changed since he initially helped you out?
JDP: Much like Lucas, I found a way out of the darkness. I reconnected with my best friend of 15 years, and we finally told each other how we felt back before we went our separate ways. It was a classic “the one that got away” scenario for both of us. We’ve been together ever since, and we have a beautiful baby boy together.
T: What would you tell other people who might be struggling about how to best endure the hard times and be ready for a pivot back to better times?
JDP: Everything is momentary, both the good and the bad in life. We can be here one day and gone the next. The key I’ve found to weathering any storm or navigating through the darkness is to remember that even in the darkest times you can always find the light if you’re willing to search for it. Sometimes it’s easy to find, others the hardest part is learning to close your eyes and hang on through the storm, and when it’s over you will have either found the light you need or you’ve come out on the other side of it. The most important thing I can say, is that no matter what you’re facing…Never Give Up! Life is always worth living. Even the worst situation isn’t permanent, unless you choose it to be. You can always change it, take a different path. Even if you think no one would miss you if you were gone, always remember that even the smallest ripple can travel a measurable distance after it starts.
T: What serves as your muse for your writing? Do you talk out your scenes with anyone, or do you get inspiration from music, movies or games?
JDP: A few things actually. My wife and kids, my friends and family, are a big influence at times. I don’t talk out scenes, at least not out loud with anyone. It’s more of an internal process where I ask myself how I would feel if I were reading the book instead of writing it. As far as inspiration, it comes from so many places, and sometimes its completely random. I love vampires, so I draw from books, video games (Vampyr I’m looking at you), or tv shows (Vampire Diaries, Originals).
T: So, the first time anyone sees the thoughts that come out of your head and hits the paper, so to speak, is when your first draft is done. What kind of feedback do you get? What kind of challenges do you face when you’re writing?
JDP: I usually have my wife look at things when I finish writing a certain section, and she’s a big help as I write. When I was writing the first book, she was reading it as fast as I could write it. She was essentially my alpha reader. The biggest challenge these days is time itself. Unlike Lucas I unfortunately have to sleep and work so getting time to sit down and work on things is difficult at times.
T: What kind of tools do you use to help you write or market? I’m thinking things like Scrivener, BookFunnel, those kinds of things.
JDP: I used to write in Word, but I recent made the switch to using the Reedsy free editor, and I like the way it allows me to manage my projects. I looked at Scrivener, but I didn’t really like the feel, so I switched. As for marketing, I use social media as best as possible, and Goodreads.
T: You’ve also been working on the follow up to No Peace in Death. A sequel called Undying Love is on the way. How far along would you say you are with that, and is there anything you can tell us about it?
JDP: The book is written, and I’m in the process of editing and doing my obsessive nitpicking of the book. Reading it again myself and tweaking different elements if I find I don’t like something on another read through. I’m working with my artist on the cover art and writing the blurb for the back, so overall its coming together nicely. My goal is to have it ready for release later this year, possibly for the holidays.
T: And you also have a third book that you’re hoping to release next year, correct?
JDP: Yes! Book 3 of the series “A World on Fire” is on my to do list. I’ve already started writing part of it, so I just have to finish it, do my editing and have my artist create a cover for it. It’s a busy time right now. As long as everything stays on track, book 3 should be ready before next summer.
T: Who would you say are your biggest fans, and what are their favorite parts of the book so far?
JDP: I like to think my wife is the biggest fan, and I’m sure if I let my daughter read it, she would be number 2. I couldn’t tell you their favorite part, but I like to think it’s towards the end where the cliffhanger leading to book 2 is. That’s when a special character gets to make an appearance.
T: Does your wife ever advise you on characters or storylines she’d like to see?
JDP: From time to time she gives her input, but most of the time I write and then have her read as I go along. She gives feedback and lets me know how the story feels. She’s essentially my cheerleader, alpha/beta reader, editor, and my inspiration. I don’t know what I would do without her.
T: Your about the author in the back matter of your book says that you’re also a writer of science fiction. Is there anything coming out soon that you want to talk about?
JDP: So, there is a project I’m kicking around in my head that I’m planning on putting to paper in the future. Its partially inspired by my late father-in-law. It’s a story about a soldier who returns from deep space exploration to find that the research base on Mars has become deserted with not even a body left in sight, and he must discover what happened to his friends.
T: Oh, so on top of a science-fiction, also a bit of a mystery. Nice. Very interesting.
JDP: I like to keep things interesting. As much as I love writing about vampires, I have to branch out and enter other realms of fiction to keep my writing varied.
T: Where can readers find you if they want to learn more about you and your books?
JDP: I’m on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as far as social media goes. The book is on Amazon, Google Play, Apple Books, Smashwords, and I’m waiting for the all clear for Barnes and Noble and Bookbub. I also have an ARC copy available for those wanting to try to get a chance to grab the ebook for free. All they have to do is grab a copy on Booksprout and leave a review once they finish reading. They have to move fast though, there are only 20 copies up for grabs and 3 were already claimed as of today!
T: Thank you again for taking the time to participate in this interview. Best of luck with your further writing, and I hope you start to see an uptick in attention and sales as you push forward with your marketing!
JDP: Thanks for having me. It was a pleasure talking to you! Hopefully I’ll be back again after book 2 is launched.
Once again, I’d like to thank JD Penley for spending time with us to talk about his book, and about his upcoming projects. If you’d like to support this budding author, check out No Peace in Death: Book of the Immortals Volume I on Amazon today!