1.    You’re a prolific writer with—how many?—books to your credit? Did you set out to be a writer?

Ten have been published, one of which is now out of print–that’s just as well.  It was a book Taylor Reese and I were coauthors on.  Yes, we wrote it, but our names are not on it or in it except on the Acknowledgments page.  We were paid writers—we were the ghost writers—for the “author” that appears on the cover.

2.    How long have you been writing and publishing?

I’ve written since I could hold a pencil.  At eight or nine I got a toy typewriter with a circular keyboard.  You put a finger on the letter, brought it around and punched it down. Undaunted, I put out a neighborhood newspaper—one letter at a time, one issue at a time. That was the end of my first career.  After World War II, I was secretary to a well-known writer, Jan Struther, who wrote “Mrs. Miniver,” later made into a movie with Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon.  Yes, because of this connection, I had one of the best literary agencies in New York for my work, but young people don’t like to be criticized, and when Edith suggested I rewrite something I made short work of her. I continued to write on an on-and-off basis, but I sent nothing out.  About twenty-five years ago, I got braver.  After a few articles and short stories were accepted for publication, I finally completed the first book.  Since then, I finish what I start and the result is at least heartening.

3.    You write in various genres. How would you characterize your writing, not necessarily by types, but by tone and appeal to readers?

Except for the “moon books,” coauthored with Taylor Reese, my books appeal more to women than to men.  This is not a deliberate effort on my part.  When a strong character comes into my mind, with an interesting story to tell, I feel compelled to write the words that I’ve already read in my mind.  I think of myself as a storyteller—writing is the way I get the story told. 

4.    You and Taylor Reese have produced two books together. How does the co-authoring process work for you?

Two or more strong personalities are sure to cause friction, but, since we come from similar backgrounds, and since we both grew up with families that used the “moon signs,” the farmers’ almanac, these two books were possible.  Our contributions were about equal, our idea for the books compatible, so we were able to steer clear of many of the snags that might have occurred in other circumstances.  For my novels, I would not consider working with a coauthor, but for “You and the Man in the Moon” and “Raising with the Moon.” it was a good combination.


5.    Are you your own editor?

I can’t imagine being your own editor.  When you read your own work, you know what you intended to say, even if you didn’t do it well, so you read it as it should have been written.  You need an editor—you need a fresh eye, you need an unbiased opinion.  Yes, it may be your option to follow the corrections and advice you are given.  Dot Jackson, a great editor, a wonderful person and the best friend a writer ever had, edited “The Sound of Distant Thunder.”  Before you criticize her work on this book, remember it was my option to follow her suggestions or ignore them.  She cleaned up details, she made me remove a great amount of purple prose, and she told me I had to have a chapter where the dead boy’s parents learned of his demise.  I did part of what she suggested.  I fixed things, I chopped some of the over-blown phrasing, but I did not add the chapter—not until I saw the galleys.  How right she was.  The chapter, although short, had to be there. 

6.    What is your current project?

I’m not writing a new novel right now.  I am doing a few short pieces, but most of my time now is taken up with submitting the books I have to Kindle and eventually to Nook and any other e-publisher that seems to have it right.  Is this taking longer than it should?  Very likely, but I’m a loner who wants to do it “my way,” so you can still see the young man who thought he could do well without Curtis-Brown.

 7.    What aspect of the writing process is most appealing and which is the most arduous for you?

Oh, that’s easy.  I like having written.  That’s far and away the most appealing.  The most arduous part of writing, at least to me, is that the process of writing a novel requires patience and persistence.  I’m a lazy writer, I’m a quitter, and I don’t take discipline well, even from myself.  So I have a rule:  Write it all.  You can stop only when you write “the end.”  You cannot edit as you go, you can review only a page or two in the morning when you begin work.

8.    What are your feelings about the electronic direction of the publishing world and how it impacts writers?

eBooks are the best thing that has happened to the “wanna-be” writer in my memory.  In the past, getting published was like ramming your head against a brick wall.  You were an unknown quantity.  The agent or the publisher were wary of gambling their reputations on a “pretender”.  As is true in all commerce, it was more who you knew than what you knew.  Yes, there will be some really miserable things published in this “open” market, but commerce will take care of it: good books will find readers; bad books will wither and die.

9.    Any words of wisdom or writing tips for beginning or continuing writers?

Just do it.  This malarkey about “when I have time,” “when I retire,” “when the kids are grown,” is just that, malarkey.  If you really want to do it, you’ll find the time.  And if you don’t, maybe you should reconsider your aims.  Do you want to write, or do you just want to have written?

10.    Do you identify or set your stories and novels in any specific place? Do you consider yourself a “regional” writer?

Some people seem to think “regional writer” is made up of at least one dirty word.  I don’t.  Yes, I have written of the region, but I’m not limited to it.  My published work is varied.  I’m an irascible old man who writes what he wants to write.  I’ve written fiction and non-fiction–everything from the moon books to young adult, to historical. to murder and mayhem, and two of them were Appalachian.  One of those two, “The Sound of Distant Thunder,” was even Appalachian Book of the Year, an award won by Robert Morgan and Sharyn McCrumb in previous years.

To find out more about Jack and his books visit his website at http://pylereesebooks.tripod.com/index.html