J. Walt Layne lives in Springfield, Ohio. He is a veteran of the US Army, a married father of three, and a voracious reader. A prolific writer, he is the author of Frank Testimony a legal thriller set in Bedford, Mississippi in the 1950s. He is also the author and creator of The Champion City Series of pulp detective stories to be published exclusively by Pro Se Press (March 2013). He has written a laundry list of articles for Backwoodsman Magazine and is the former Op-Ed columnist for The Albany Journal (Albany, Georgia). You can catch up with him on Facebook as Author J Walt Layne.tom
Interview with J. Walt Layne author of Breathless: A Tale from Champion City 5/22/2015
Thank you for inviting me to your blog. (Looking around) Nice digs…
What is your current release and (without spoilers) tell us about the new book or series.
Ha… No spoilers? I have a number of things in the pipe, One from Pro Se, one from Airship 27, late this year maybe a little something for those who follow my outdoor, How-to and DIY work. Earlier this year the first volume of my Pro Se Single Shot- from the Pen of J. Walt Layne, Hard Up! was published and My first horror/ adventure The Wendigo of Black Lake was published in Monster Aces 2. I have a story in Airship 27’s upcoming Secret Agent X Vol. 5. So much exciting stuff going on this year. I think the project I am most excited about right now is the Secret Agent X. This was my first attempt at writing X… I enjoyed it very much because X’s legacy isn’t as vague as some of the classic characters which made research a joy. I started with reading all the classic stuff that was available on Project Gutenberg and finished with two volumes of the Airship 27 Secret Agent X to me sure I got the flavor and texture right… My story is set in New York and I tried to maintain that turn of the century, innocent pursuit of a new life membrane, stretched thin over a sinister framework. Keep an eye out for Dead Men Don’t Lie in Secret Agent X Volume 5, coming soon from Airship 27.
What is the usual process for your writing? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
It really depends on what I am writing… If I am writing a short story for an anthology I use a more strict approach than for a novel. I’m most comfortable telling a 90,000 word story, but the small presses shy away from 320 page books… When I am writing articles or projects I’m very strict and have a template I developed to keep me on track. However, aside from an abstract that I write to get the idea for a novel fleshed out a bit, I generally write novels without restriction. Flying by the seat of my pants is a good way to put it…
Once you have an idea that sparks your imagination do you research your idea or do any world-building exercises, or do you just begin to write and see where the Muse takes you?
I hate to repeat myself, but it depends. Sometimes I sit down and the story literally overflows and I fight to keep up. Other times when I want to try something new, or I’ll sign on to write for an anthology that is something out of my comfort zone. This way I can learn something new, I always say I’m a storyteller learning to be a writer.
Are you a full time writer? If so when did you make the decision and what factors led to the decision. If you are not a full time writer…Is your plan to one day being a full time writer?
Yes, I do write full time, matter of fact until January of this year I worked eight hours a day, six days a week. I’ve had some health stuff come up and frankly I’ve slowed down to a point where the one book a year crowd might call me a loafer. For me, I’ve always been a writer, I was a soldier and I have done just about every crappy job there is. My wife and I were in business and when the economy crashed we were out of business and unemployed. My coming home to write full time really came out of necessity to be here for our children. I always wanted to write fiction, but I started selling outdoor articles right off. If I hadn’t met Tommy Hancock who I both thank and blame for any success I might have, we might not be having this conversation.
What is your daily writing time like?
In the summer I hit it early so that I can have a respectable amount of work done by time the kids are up and ready to go to the pool, hiking or read and complain while I try to fish. From September to May I have days to myself while everyone is at work or school, so I try to make diligent use of the time. I don’t aim for a specific word count. It used to be important, but I’d rather tell a story you can’t put down than hit a word count exactly and have 20 percent filler. I like music sometimes, sometimes quiet. I like drinking my coffee on the balcony in the morning and hammering off a couple of thousand words. I don’t drink alcohol anymore so I can’t say if it hurt or helped.
Can you tell us about your publishing experience? Are you Indie, Traditional, or do a bit of both?
I self-published back when it was still a stigma. I had an adversarial mentor who did a lot in the way of discouraging my efforts and by the time I got an approving word a decade later, she was already terminally ill. I’ve assisted others in self-publishing, done some formatting and packaging, but frankly I just want to tell stories. I learned being in business that if I work hard then I don’t have to work with people I don’t like. I love the publishers I work with currently. I recently fired one who made me a lot of promises that turned out to be fiction. I keep thinking about starting a small publishing concern, but I don’t have the patience.
Everyone likes to know where an author gets their ideas from, but what I want to know is what is the strangest thing to inspire one of your stories?
Geez, do you want me to tell you where I hid the bodies, or just show you the shovel… I find inspiration in often depressing places. A military funeral, the report of the death of Princess Diana and newspaper articles following a string of unsolved murders. The strangest, I’d have to say is when I was trying to write a first ten submission script for an Indiana Jones film festival. My script, Indiana Jones and The Tree of Life was lousy, because I ran aground on historical research that would later become a pet project I can’t tell you about yet.
Can you tell us about some of your other writing (fiction or nonfiction) and any appearances or signings that you have planned?
I have a dozen unpublished projects in the drawer. Probably research for 50 more… I’m a polymath so research is fun for me… I have lots of things going. Last fall I did a writing workshop, some of my students still contact me from time to time. I have a signing coming up at the new bookstore in town but the calendar is loose. I had the year completely scripted, but that all sort of changed.
As an author what inspiration or advice would you give to a writer who is working to make the transition to Author?
Never quit. Never stop learning. People who discourage you make great villains and victims in your story. Submit far and wide, you don’t know where your first break will come from. Read the work of your peers. If you haven’t inked a four book deal with a seven figure advance, you might want to listen to an editor’s criticism.
Who is your favorite author? Tell us what makes this author stand out in your mind, and what book would you recommend to someone new to that author?
I have a lot of favorites, but I’ve learned a lot of writing by reading David Morrell. His style is direct and no nonsense. I’ve never read anything of his that left me with that feeling that I should have spent my time watching paint dry. I could recommend a lot of his books, you can’t go wrong with Morrell. If I have to select a title, I’ll suggest The Spy Who Came for Christmas, It doesn’t continue anywhere else and is a very fun read. From there you can decide what to read next, he has some excellent series and breathtaking stand alone works.