January Featured Guest: John Alexander (USA)

 

1.) Your writing palette includes mystery/suspense, children’s chapter books, poetry, and most recently, children’s picture book. Does your degree in Physics and Math, as well as your experience developing innovative communication systems, provided you with the skills and discipline to become a multiple genre author?

As with any endeavor, writing takes both discipline and tenacity. Taking a book from conception to completion is much like any project. In my case, much like developing communication systems, I thoroughly enjoyed the process of seeing a concept become a reality. I got my first taste of the process by co-authoring a technical book, Call Manager Fundamentals, first in 2001, followed by a second edition in 2004. I discovered that I enjoyed writing but found that I enjoyed fiction more than writing about technical details that had to be verified in the lab.

2.) Since each genre is unique in style, motivation, and targeted audience, we will begin our journey with John, the mystery/suspense author. What was the biggest challenge in writing your mystery/suspense novel, The Enclave (2010): the plot, the setting, the character development, or the end?

I began writing what would eventually become The Enclave one weekend just to see if I could write fiction and if would enjoy it as much as I enjoyed reading it. I began with mystery/suspense because that’s a genre I enjoyed reading. I sat down to write and got so engrossed in the story that when I stopped, I discovered that six hours had passed and realized that I loved to write. Over the course of the months that followed, I wrote a lot of the story on plane trips. I’d always stop at a point where I was eager to find out what happened next. I’d get back on the return flight a few days later, begin writing again, and find out what happened next. The plot and about six different subplots came fairly easily as did the characters themselves and the multiple settings in which events unfolded. The characters seemed to take on a life of their own and sometimes took the story in a different direction that I had initially planned. The ending was a bit more difficult as I wanted to bring this story to complete closure while at the same time leaving open the main characters and a few of the other characters to be ripe for perhaps another mystery some day in the future.

3.) In 2014 you took a leap of faith by leaving the high-tech world to pursue full-time your writing passion. What events in your life have a pivotal effect on that decision?  Do you recommend this career shift to other authors?

I was fortunate in that I was able to retire comfortably from the technology field and pursue writing as a creative outlet to keep me busy, not as a needed stream of income. Although many authors make a good income from writing, there are many more who write without the expectation of a high dollar income. My recommendation to budding authors is to write from your passion to write but keep your day job.

4.) The next challenge in your writing journey took you to the adventurous children’s chapter book genre with the release of the  Amber-Autumn Mystery Series. Why the shifting to children’s chapter books? 

When I first retired from the technology field, I had much more time to pursue other interests. I enjoyed reading mystery stories as a youngster and I always had a children’s mystery book in the back of my mind. I began writing what became The Christmas Garden soon after my last day of “work”. The story evolved fairly quickly, and I was able to complete it in a matter of months. I enjoyed writing it and decided to write another story with the same two sisters solving another mystery and The Amber-Autumn Mystery series was born. I must admit that I had an inside track, because I based the two sisters in the book on my granddaughters. I was able to easily decide how they would respond and interact in the situations which came about in each of the books.

5.) You published four books in the series:  Christmas Garden, Grandfather’s Blessing, Golden Campout,  and  The Secret Room. Please share with our readers a summary of each book.

 

 

Christmas GardenTwo sisters, Amber (4th grade) and Autumn (3rd grade), investigate wild rumors of a witch in a haunted house. The story is told from the younger sister Autumn’s point of view. The story begins as the sisters hear the haunted house rumors as Halloween approaches. Autumn investigates staying safely outside the fence while Amber wants no part of it. The story chronicles their exploits as the sisters discover the truth, concluding at Christmas bringing the whole town together in the process.

Grandfather’s BlessingIn this second chapter book, Amber and Autumn go to an estate sale and discover a secret room in the library. They purchase an ornate chest they find in the room and later discover its hidden mysteries that lead them on an adventure they won’t soon forget.

Golden CampoutIn the third Amber-Autumn mystery chapter book, Amber and Autumn enjoy a spring break on a farm. Intrigued by the host couple’s stories of a bank robber’s hidden gold and ghost sightings, the girls explore the attic and follow leads provided by the farmer. Find out what they discover with the help of Charlie Brown, their Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

The Secret RoomDuring their stay at a bed and breakfast in historic Jefferson, Texas, the girls discover a long-forgotten room in the attic. Their quest to uncover its secrets takes the girls on a journey through Jefferson history, including a cemetery, a riverboat tour, and an evening ghost walk.

6.) Later on, you team up with the Middle School Art Department of the Legacy Christian Academy to illustrate books 1-3 on the series. How did you choose the illustrations to showcase in each book?

As I thought about illustrations for the first three books in the series, I was reminded of some of my most memorable MBA courses which involved working with real business and doing real projects. They were much more meaningful than just academic course work. I met with the middle grade art teacher and discussed my idea of having her students do art that would actually be used in my books. At first reluctant, the teacher warmed up to the idea, read all three books, and came up with a meaningful object to be drawn to reflect each chapter of the book. The students welcomed the assignment and the opportunity to have their work actually appear in a real book. After collecting all the permission forms from parents, which turned out to be the most difficult part of the process, each of the students did a great job on their assigned drawing and I was able to incorporate 69 drawings, one for each student, into the books. We had a book signing party as I presented each student a copy of the book in which their work appeared. It was a fun experience, and I enjoyed the interaction with the students and the staff.

7.) In 2017 you discovered poetry and fell in love with rhyming verses. This new genre took your journey into a place of quietness and solitude which inspired the following books:  Timeless Tales (2018), Quiet Time Rhymes: Peace in the Pandemic (2020),  and  Quiet Time Rhymes: Into the Light (2021) and Daily Reflections: 365 Lyrical Poems (2021).  Do you consider this straight curve was necessary to recharge your creativity? Do they share a common theme? Who is your targeted audience?

 

My journey into writing in rhyme began rather abruptly in early 2017, sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room as my wife was going through a long series of troubling medical issues. As I sat there feeling sorry for her, feeling she’d been “dumped on”, and realizing I was unable to control the garbage falling in the form of medical issues, the image of a mouse in a dumpster came to me. I began writing a story of that little mouse, and I wrote it in rhyme. I’m not sure why, but that’s the way it came to me, and writing the story about a little mouse, who had joy in spite of the steady stream of garbage that fell on her, helped both of us to cope and realize that joy does not come from circumstances, it comes from within. That little mouse in the dumpster began my journey into rhyme. I continued writing rhymes and in early 2020 I began writing poems as part of my quiet time most mornings. My wife encouraged me to share them with others, so I began sharing them on my web site, QuietTimeRhymes.com.

The rhymes include children’s stories as well as rhymes for adults to share my journey of faith and offer hope and inspiration to others.

8.) Furthermore, the oasis of rhymes rekindled your creativity and maneuvered your journey back to write children’s books. During that spark, you penned:    Words That Soar  (first place winner at the 2019 North Texas Book Festival),  The Christmas Gift (2019, finalist in the 2020 North Texas Book Festival, and your latest release,  The Young Artist. How were you able to joggle these two different genres while writing award-winning stories? 

The picture books, Words That Soar  and The Christmas Gift and The Christmas Gift Coloring Book grew out of my initial stories in rhyme written to inspire children at an early age to enjoy the gift of reading. The Young Artist came into existence as a result of discovering a young artist after the chance encounter with her drawing scribbled on a notepad. I met with the mom and her young artist in a coffee shop and saw art that this then ten-year-old artist had produced since preschool. I wrote the story about her and published an unillustrated picture book to encourage other young artists to do their own illustrations.

9.) Why do you describe your latest release,  The Young Artist,  as an “Unpicture” book to inspire young artists?

I used the term “unpicture book” to denote that it is a picture book, but it is not yet illustrated. Anyone, and any level of skill, with any level of tools, can illustrate the picture book and add their name inside the cover in the Illustrated by: section. I hope to encourage children and/or adults to use their own imagination to create pictures for each page as the story unfolds.

10.) What is your vision and mission as a multiple genre author?

My vision and mission is multi-faceted. I write to provide adults with stories which reignite their love of reading, stories for children to discover early in life that reading is fun and inspiring, and poetry to share my journey and my faith and to inspire others on their journey through life.

11.) How can our readers contact you and buy your books?

My books are most easily accessible on Amazon and I have links to all of my books on my web site: QuietTimeRhymes.com under the Books tab.

12. A word of advice to writers and/or wannabe authors who want to take their writing from a hobby into a profession.

Regardless of whether you are writing as a hobby or professionally, make sure you always enjoy the journey and never lose the passion for what you’re doing.