J. Sears is the author of The Shadow Over Lone Oak, a horror thriller, as well as the “Tales from Lone Oak – The Lives & Lies of a Small Town” short story collection. He graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree of Arts in Creative Writing from Arkansas Tech University. C. J. is an avid writer and gamer whose interests are diversified among multiple genres. He runs a weekly blog at impromptugameof52.wordpress.com with topics ranging from writing to wrestling to life’s perils. C. J. is a Christian and currently resides in the American South where he spends time with his father and two pets – a goofy Jack Russell Terrier named Maisie and a tagalong calico cat called Sissy.
There’s not much to tell, honestly. But if you like random factoids, I’ve got plenty to share. I’m 26. My favorite film is Jurassic Park and I can recite the dialogue from memory as it plays on television. Resident Evil 4 is, in my opinion, the greatest video game of all time and I’ve memorized its B-movie script almost as well as Jurassic Park’s. What else? I was overweight for a decade before I lost almost ninety pounds. I earned several medals as part of a school swim team when I was a kid. I once accidentally swallowed shards of plastic. I could go on, but then we’d never get to the juicy stuff!
What inspired you to write?
Nothing in particular inspired me, but I wouldn’t have started without my love of Michael Crichton, J. K. Rowling, and other authors I’ve read over the years. Reading wonderful stories in worlds both familiar in strange compelled me to take up the pen myself. I started writing fanfiction (under the pseudonym of TyrannosaurusCerato) when I was thirteen and progressed from there.
What is your latest book about?
The Shadow Over Lone Oak is a horror thriller set in an isolated town in the American South. A young woman is murdered and there are signs of ritual sacrifice. Llewyn Finch, a special agent working for an undisclosed organization, is dispatched to solve the case. He works with Sheriff Willow Donahue to discover the truth. While tracking down a killer and combatting bootleggers, Finch and Donahue stumble onto a sinister reality: what lurks in Lone Oak is much more terrifying and widespread than a simple cult operation…
Where and how do you write?
I work mainly from home and on my computer. I’m not the coffee shop type and traveling to exotic locations personally is beyond my pay grade.
For me, the plot weaves its way around the character’s actions. In the case of The Shadow Over Lone Oak, I had only the barest idea of a plot when I started writing. I let my characters lead me where they wanted to go and built the story around them. For the sequel, which is currently under development, I’ve outlined a skeleton plot and created a three paragraph synopsis to work from as I craft the narrative.
Do you have an editing strategy and what is it?
Generally speaking, I edit as I go. But that doesn’t catch every mistake. In order to seek out and eliminate stylistic problems (such as the overuse of a word or phrase) I currently employ the program ProWritingAid. It has done wonders for condensing and differentiating my prose.
What does your family think of your writing?
I haven’t heard feedback from everyone yet, but they’re very supportive. They’ve known I’ve wanted to write for a living before I even started so they’re my first customers. I’m grateful to be surrounded by loved ones who care a great deal about my success.
How hard was it to get your book out there?
Once it was finished, edited, and polished, all I had to do was press a button. Before that, I wanted to gauge reader interest (and potentially win a contract) so I tried submitting to Kindle Scout. I ran a good campaign with 1500+ page views but was ultimately not selected. I don’t regret the experience because it has helped me realize how difficult marketing is for a self-published author.
What do you think is the hardest part of writing a novel?
Consistency. Maintaining a coherent plot while making sure it stays thrilling and eventful is the most arduous task I can think of when writing a novel. If one part contradicts another, the reader WILL notice and rake you over the coals for it
What do you think makes a great story?
First and foremost, it has to be entertaining. You can write a master class in character study and pathos, but if I’m not entertained by what you’ve delivered you can say bye to my interest. The characters have to be likeable and the plot has to be engaging. Beyond that, what I would call a great story varies between genres. What works for horror doesn’t work for fantasy, etc.
Looking back, what would you have done differently or why wouldn’t you?
I wish I’d planned more of the sequel in advance of writing The Shadow Over Lone Oak, but at the time I didn’t know it would require further explorations of its themes and characters. I just wanted to tell a good story with eccentric people. I think I succeeded on that front.
Where do you get your inspiration?
The inspiration for my first novel, believe it or not, came from a dream I had about two years ago. As I’ve noted, I’m a big fan of Resident Evil and have often thought about what a game with my vision behind it might look. In my dream, one character in an older time period investigates a frightening incident in a small town. His fate is unknown. Years later, in a modern era, another protagonist arrives on the scene and travels down the same road, eventually discovering the truth and what happened to the first character.
Later, I saw the entirety of the television series Twin Peaks and became enamored with its offbeat narrative and characters. Once that happened, the narrative morphed into what is now the finished product known as The Shadow Over Lone Oak.
How do you handle writer’s block?
I hold to the philosophy that if you can’t write, you simply don’t. I’d argue there’s no point in forcing words or page count if you have nothing to say. What usually gets me out of a funk is absorbing other media and utilizing that inspiration as a point for progress.
What are your top three tips for people who want to start writing?
- Start early and keep at it. If you want to write, then write. You won’t know you have the talent unless you try.
- Listen to your peers, but don’t default to their views. Writing is a solitary hobby, but there are other people in similar positions to you. Teach and help each other to become better word craftsmen and craftswomen. That said, others don’t always know what’s best for your story, so keep that in mind.
- Success is not overnight. With few exceptions, most authors don’t become sensations out of the gate. I’m not (yet). Realize that there are millions of writers competing for reader attention. Chances are your niche is riddled with more books and stories than you think. There are no guarantees of success, but the only way to obtain recognition is to keep on trucking.
Where would people be able to find you online?
You can find me on Amazon, Goodreads, Bookbub, Facebook, Twitter, and, of course, my wordpress.com blog.