Author Interview – John Darr

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Jonah Blackstone just turned thirteen when life gave him the worst gift he could imagine, losing his parents in a mysterious accident. Now he’s been whisked off to live with relatives in a small town in Georgia, where his troubles continue.

Jonah’s harassed by a local bully, encounters Reapers, and pursued by supernatural canines, all while learning to use his growing powers. He eventually discovers why his parents died. They refused to reveal the location of a powerful ancient artifact: The Protector’s Ring.

With the enemy closing in, Jonah must locate the ring to avoid the same grim fate.

I’m excited to announce that the lovely John Darr who has beta-read both my books (and whose feedback made them so much better) has recently released a new novel.

The Protector’s Ring is a YA novel featuring half-Reaper Jonah Blackstone, and is the beginning of what promises to be an exciting new series. The sequel to The Protector’s Ring is  due to be released mid-2015.

John kindly agreed to come along and answer some questions about his writing and what is next for Jonah Blackstone.

What attracts you to writing fantasy and the YA genre in particular? 

I’ve always loved fantasy novels and I’ve read my fair share of YA novels. I particularly like ones that don’t play down to kids or treat them like a grown-up’s idea of what snotty kids are. One reason I’m drawn to the YA genre is because I’m still a kid at heart. As someone who’s discovering his voice in adulthood, I can identify with the quest to discover oneself that many protagonists face in YA novels.

 When did you decide to become a writer?

Professionally I write scripts, both for my own films, and for my work. So I’ve always been interested in telling a story. I supposed my decision to write novels came about 6 years ago. In the quest to write my own original series, I began chaff at the limitations in script writing. I wanted to get the full story and universe down on paper, first. That led me to toying around with writing my ideas in novel form.

My first full novel was for another series, Omega Quest. I used my outline for a two-hour pilot and wrote the novel during National Novel Writing Month (NANOWRIMO). After that, I knew I had to continue and a year later I had the first draft of the Protector’s Ring completed.

While at dinner with a friend, he pointed out that most people focus on either scriptwriting or novels. He wanted to know which I preferred. My reply was I wanted to tell stories. At this moment, the novel allows me the freedom to let my mind go and create the worlds I envision.

 The Jonah Blackstone series has a rich supernatural world with a myriad of supernatural creatures. What made you focus on the Afterworld and Reapers?

I’m a spiritual person and I believe we, humans are more than the physical characteristics. I believe we have a soul and spirit that can connect us in ways you never imagined. And, of course, I’ve wondered about what happens next. I’ve never been a big fan of passing on and reclining on clouds cushy clouds while strumming a harp.

I think we humans have a brighter future and destiny, another reason I like true sci-fi and fantasy books. And so, this idea started as a short story, about a Reaper who rebelled and refused to reap a soul. When I set out to the novel, I originally focused on Jonah’s dad, the rebellious Reaper. But I changed that to his son so the readers could learn along with Jonah.

 Can we have a sneak peek into what’s coming next for Jonah?

Not only will Jonah continue to grow in his abilities, but he and the readers will discover more about the supernatural world.

In the next book, The Seeker’s Compass, Jonah discovers the hidden secret of the birthday gift his parents left him. In the process, he’s introduce to another ruler of the Afterworld, The Grand Oracle, a being just as evil and powerful as the Grim Reaper.

I’m working on a third novel, The Ankh of Life. In it, Jonah will finally recover the blocked memory alluded to toward the end of The Protector’s Ring. In doing so, he’ll discover an enemy very close to home. The Egyptian Wraith returns and provides unexpected aid.

If all things pan out, the fourth novel, The Destiny Medallion, will see Jonah entering formal training to use his powers by going off to a special camp.  While there he’ll meet other young people with various powers and will come face-to-face to with the Alliance Council, the group to which his godfather Marcus belongs.

My future plans also include Jonah meeting the final player from the Afterworld, the Wraith King. He’s mentioned briefly in The Protector’s Ring. So, there’s plenty more to come.

 Who are your favourite authors, and how do you think they have influenced your work?

I like some of the old warhorses like Asimov and Frank Herbert. Today’s authors? Jim Butcher. I loved his Harry Dresden series. Although I’m not a YA Paranormal Romance fan, I actually liked Beautiful Creatures series by Kami Garcia and a Margaret Stohl. Of course, I read the Harry Potter books and made it through most of the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris. The Harper Connelly series is a favorite of mine.  Again, as a television producer, I tend to favor series over stand-alone books.

If I have been influenced, it’s in the richness of the worlds and the characters’ journeys. I want to capture and produce a same level of depth in the Jonah Blackstone novels.

 What are three things you can’t live without and why?

  1. My creativity and imagination. It’s such a part of me that I’d feel like there was a hole in my very being.
  2. My mobile devices. (Laptop, iPad) In this day and age, I find myself using them more and more to add in my creativity.
  3. Supportive friends. Without them, I wouldn’t be here, doing this interview. They keep me grounded while at the same time prodding me to step into the spotlight. Without them, I would retreat into the safety of anonymity.

Were any of the characters based on real people?

Hmmm.  First of all, Jonah is not based on me. I get that question all the time. : ) In terms of characterization, Jonah’s twin cousins, Robert and Lynn, were based on real twins that lived next door to me, as a child. Aunt Imma was based on a woman from the church I attended. Shhh, don’t tell her.

The physical attributes of some of the other characters are based on real people. Mike’s look and smarts is based on a former student. Something about the oatmeal complexion against a jet black short Afro struck me.

Omar & Marcus: Even though I had Omar’s look, when I saw a stranger who, while walking through the mall concourse, caused everyone to stop to stare, I was floored. Not only was this individual a tall, bald African male, like Omar, but also he dressed like a model. I think that point I gave Omar his day-job as a model.

My own sister, an attorney, influenced my giving Marcus a day-job as an attorney. She reviews many of the estate and child custody issues in the books.

You can find out more about John Darr on his website, or chat to him on twitter.  

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John also offers a Dedicated Reader Service where he will provide constructive feedback on your work. John has beta read both my books, and they are all the better for his insightful comments. I am very happy to recommend him.  You can find out more about this service here

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