Q1. Hello, J.M. Butler, and welcome to my blog! How about we begin with you telling us a little bit about yourself? How and when did you start writing?
Hello and thank you for having me!
Well, I’m an author, attorney, adventurer, and I have been writing for as long as I can remember. My grandfather started me early on myths and legends, and I quickly took to writing stories of a more fantastical nature. I used to even do my own illustrations, abysmal though they were. That fell off when I turned fourteen and opened up my own little freelance business. And it’s been a lot of little and grand adventures since.
Q2. Who are your favorite authors and do you think they’ve influenced your work?
Tolkien is probably hands down one of my favorite authors, and he most certainly influenced my work. It was after reading The Hobbit that I wanted to create my own fantasy world. I was so delighted to find out that Tolkien had written more books that my grandfather held The Lord of the Rings hostage until I read three of Shakespeare’s plays.
Unfortunately for me, I tried to bluff my way through Cymbeline (hint: you have already failed if in your oral summary you claim Cymbeline is a woman), and so my grandfather assigned all the rest of Shakespeare’s plays before I could even touch Fellowship of the Ring (not that I didn’t try to find some loophole or ladder). And for about five more plays, I despised him, but then in the end, I fell in love and forgave Shakespeare for being so difficult to read. Obviously that had a tremendous impact on my writing as did C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy and Chronicles of Narnia, The Prose Edda,The Poetic Edda, Alexandre Dumas’s Three Musketeers, and George MacDonald’s Phantastes among many others.
In a sense, I think every book and movie I uncover has some impact on me, either in encouraging me in what to do or showing me something to avoid.
Q3. Good point! Now, tell us, what are your biggest achievements? You can include professional and personal ones.
In some respects, I’d have to say that what feels like the biggest achievement is finishing this book. When I started on it, I was very young. Just about five years old, and it grew out of a love for fantasy and storytelling, and I wanted to tell a story of my own. At the time, it was significantly smaller. Just a single book about a girl, a red dragon, a vicious shapeshifter, and a portal to other worlds. I have worked on some part of the series or worldbuilding daily since then and rewritten Identity Revealed dozens of times. There were points when I wondered if it would ever feel finished, if I would ever feel satisfied.
And I am happy to say that finally, after twenty-six years and countless hours, it feels finished. I know that there are flaws and it is not perfect, but I know that it is what it is supposed to be. And I feel content with it, which is a sensation I never quite expected to feel. I am not sure what I’m going to do now that I can’t totally rewrite Identity Revealed as part of my New Year’s resolution.
Q4. The book is coming out soon, right? Tell us about it. When can we expect it? What kind of audience is it aimed at?
Identity Revealed comes out January 11, 2018, and it is the fantasy story I always wanted but never found. It grew along with me to include dragons, shapeshifters, interdimensional portals, mindreaders, elementalists, beast talkers, passionate romance, uncomfortable romance, twists and surprises, monsters, and more. Of course it also features a woman as the protagonist, but I didn’t want her to just be a “strong woman.” I wanted her journey to be one that is not only about discovering herself, but an embracing of her femininity while also fighting monsters. She is a slightly older woman than the average eighteen-year-old protagonist as she spends twenty-five years in exile, and she is a woman with ailments she does not yet fully understand.
Identity Revealed‘s core audience is likely women between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five, at least according to my polling research. Amelia’s journey is not so much one of coming of age as it is coming into her own strength and identity beyond that initial discovery. What she initially believes to be her weaknesses she must learn how to use while also coming to understand who she is in light of the challenges ahead. She is absolutely outmatched and, despite her best efforts, unprepared for what she has to face, but she refuses to give up.
Q5. What can we expect from you in the future? Fantasy, some other genre?
Oh, there shall always be fantasy! I have a large number of books moving through the editing process, and there are several novellas that have been and will be released that revolve around The Tue-Rah Chronicles. Currently, Locked and Alone are both live, and Cursed will be released in December. Some of them will have infusions of other genres such as horror and romance, but fantasy is generally at the core.
Q6. Who is your biggest supporter and what would you like to say to them?
There have been so many incredible people who have supported me throughout this project, but the one who I probably have to say the biggest thank you to is my husband, James.
Now, alas, poor James, he did not really understand what I meant when I said I was working on a fantasy epic and I loved writing when we were dating. In his mind, this was just a hobby, something I did in whatever spare moments I had rather than an all-consuming passion. He soon found out though when he told me “You can talk to me about Tue-Rah as much as you want” while we were in the car on a ten hour drive to Georgia. I looked at him rather incredulously and said, “Even if it takes the whole trip?” He just laughed and said, “Sure, if you can talk that long.”
He has never made that exact offer again.
However, he has been supportive in many other ways. He does listen for set times, and he helps me act out scenes to test their workability and the overall sound. He discusses potential plot problems and points out flaws and weaknesses. He also regularly proposes ways to shorten the series. And he didn’t freak out when he asked me “So, who do you base your characters off of?” and I said, “Oh, they’re all based a little bit off me.”
“Even the villains?”
“Even the villains.”
Q7. So your husband is something like your Beta reader? That’s cool! Now, if you could give other authors one piece of advice, be it about writing, editing, promoting or increasing their audience, what would it be?
Your journey is your journey. I used to feel like a failure because mine wasn’t stacking up or playing out the way that I thought that it should. I wrote all the time. I scrapped and restarted, and I always found places I needed to improve. My goal initially was to be a best-selling author when I was sixteen, then twenty-one, then twenty-five. When my thirtieth birthday rolled around, I was incredibly depressed. Over the years, I had been published in many other places. The freelancing side of writing had helped support me through difficult times, and I had never stopped writing. I had even received some traditional publishing house offers for publication of the Tue-Rah Chronicles, but the contractual terms and other matters made it impossible to proceed.
But those little successes didn’t matter much to me because I was focusing on the place that I wasn’t. The place I wanted to be.
Then I realized that all this time, with every failure, harsh rejection letter, missed typo, and new redraft, I was living out my journey as an author. It wasn’t like others I envied. But I wasn’t those people so why should my journey be like theirs?
Your journey is going to be all your own. Comparing yourself to others should only be something you do if it will result in you spurring yourself to do better without depressing yourself or compromising your own excitement at your achievements.
You are the only one who can truly tell stories or create art like you do. So whether it is happening faster or slower than you intended, realize that this is what you’re moving toward, and all of these little stopovers and mini celebrations and losses are as important as where you ultimately wind up.
Q8. I couldn’t have said it better! Being twenty-seven and seeing the success of people younger than me sometimes makes me think that I’m too old to achieve my dreams and that’s a mindset no one needs. Thank you for giving me this interview! Before we part, tell us where we can find you.
Thank you so much for the offer! It is my pleasure. Feel free to get in touch with me any time. I love chatting about stories. If you join my reader group, I’ll be hosting lots of advance news there as well as fun chats and conversations. Have a blessed and beautiful day!
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