The next author in our Reading Glasses Author Interview Series by Steampunk Granny Marie Gilbert is J. Keller Ford. J (short for Jenny) is the author of “The Passing of Millie Hudson,” in which an elderly spinster returns to her childhood home to attend her sister’s funeral, and encounters touching memories and ghosts from her past.
Reading Glasses will be released on September 2, 2014.
Marie Gilbert: Jenny, I’ve been following your blog for some time, and I truly enjoy your writing. Welcome and would you tell us a bit about yourself? What is the inspiration that drew you to writing?
J. Keller Ford: Where do I begin? Would it make sense if I said I was born writing? I really can’t pinpoint one thing that inspired me to write. It’s always been a part of me like breathing. I can’t remember a time I wasn’t writing. Of course, my parents influenced me a lot. My mom always read to me and my dad would tell me fantastical stories of brave and gallant knights. Ever since I can remember, I’ve always been around books. In fact, one of my favorite outings as a child was going to the library (shh, it still is).
Being surrounded by books has always been a magical event for me. There wasn’t a single place I couldn’t go, whether to a deserted island, a space colony, or up and down the Mississippi River on a riverboat. I spent time with a certain Velveteen Rabbit. I discovered the well kept secrets of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh. I soared high with Jonathan Livingston Seagull, saw the future in 1984 and I shipwrecked on Treasure Island. Of course, living in Germany and traveling around to all the castles contributed to my love for fantasy and dragons. I guess you could say my inspiration for writing comes from everywhere: my own experiences, my family, life, and the deep-down desire to tell a tale that hasn’t yet been told.
MG: What type of stories do you like to write and why?
JKF: I’ve written tons of stories, but I seem to gravitate toward Young Adult, primarily fantasy, whether it is urban or epic, or as is the case with “The Passing of Millie Hudson,” paranormal. I think my brain goes that direction because after dealing with the realities of life on a daily basis, I want to write something that is in no way connected. I have always wanted to create my own reality, my own spaces where things work out the way I want them to. I also like the Y.A. aspect because I can finally vicariously do all the things I wanted to do as a teen through my characters and settings. It gives me a chance to let go of that ‘conservative’ side of me and just let go.
JKF: Right now, I’m putting a hundred percent effort into my Y.A. Chronicles of Fallhollow trilogy. The first novel, IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING, was just picked up by Month9Books for publication in the Spring/Summer 2016 and I am currently writing on books 2 and 3 in the series.
MG: What is the first novel about?
JKF: A seventeen-year-old squire with knightly ambitions reluctantly joins forces with a sixteen-year-old overachiever to slay a dragon, save a realm from ultimate destruction, and maybe even win the forbidden girl in the process.
MG: I enjoy reading your blog and would like your opinion on why blogging is important for writers in all stages of their career?
JKF: Blogging is a great way to connect with people. I am amazed sometimes when I think of all the people my blog has touched all over the world. I love talking to people. I love sharing things with people. I see comments all the time like “OMGosh, I didn’t think you’d really answer!” The 30 seconds of time the author took to answer that fan or reader does amazing things for the author and his or her ‘brand’. That reader will now go and tell everyone about that personal interaction, and we all know what word of mouth does.There is no better way to grow an online presence or create a brand than by helping others and being nice. That’s why you’ll see a lot of cover reveals, blog posts by other authors, and book reviews on my blog.
Blogging isn’t all about yacking about ourselves. It’s about connecting on a personal level with others. Sometimes we fail. Sometimes we succeed. The main thing to remember is to be yourself and have fun. The rest will follow with time.
MG: What convinced you to submit to this anthology?
JKF: One of my fave author buddies and dear friend, Jennifer M. Eaton, told me about the anthology. She’d read “The Passing of Millie Hudson” before and suggested I submit it, seeing as the SJWG had opened up the submissions to everyone. Since Millie Hudson is one of my favorite short stories I’ve written, I thought, “Why not?” I was thrilled when Amy and Jessica informed me that it had been accepted for inclusion out of close to a hundred submissions.
MG: Do you belong to a writers’ group?
JKF: I belong to a local writers group and also to a writers group at Scribophile.com called The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pens. Both groups are awesome in different ways. The local writers group is set up in such a way that everyone reads from their latest work in progress and gets immediate, live feedback. It’s a great way to meet other authors, personally get to know them. Put a name to a face. It’s live interaction. It’s positive, and it helps to grow a local fan base. It’s a great way to team up with other authors for meet and greets, book signings, panel discussions, etc. The online writer group is filled with the most supportive group of women I’ve ever known. They are all in different stages of publishing. Some have been published by big name publishers, some by Indies, some self-published. We all pour out our hearts over achievements, disappointments. We rant and rave over personal and professional issues. There is a wealth of information and some of the best beta readers EVER! And if you think you don’t need beta readers, think again. These gals have been through the publishing scene with professional publishers. They know what to look for. They aren’t just writers to me. They are my friends. I have already met one in person and plan on meeting many more.
MG: Would you consider the route of self-publishing one of your books?
JKF: At this time, the answer would be no. For one, I don’t have the funds and it can be quite expensive to produce your own book. Another reason is I’m simply not marketing savvy. I’m learning but I’m such a novice, I wouldn’t know where to begin. I don’t have the connections to get me where I want to be. I dream of NYT best-seller lists. I dream of movie deals for my novels, with action figures. I don’t know how to do any of it except set up blog tours and promote book covers. Besides, I like having my work vetted by publishers. It’s so easy to think our work is awesome and amazing. It adds a whole new level when a highly sought after publisher likes your story enough to pick it up and say they want to publish it. For me, that makes me very, very happy. That’s not to say that someday I won’t publish a book of my poetry or a collection of my short stories, but for now, I’ll leave the publishing and marketing to the big guys so I can focus on writing the best stories I can write.
MG: I want to thank you for your time, Jenny and I know our readers will love your story just as much as I did.
About the interviewer:
Marie Gilbert is a ghost-hunting, zombie-fighting, steampunk comic book superhero in disguise as a grandma from South Philadelphia. She blogs about television and film for Biff Bam Pop and Go Jane News, and served as co-editor of Tall Tales and Short Stories from South Jersey. Her book Roof Oasis, first in a series of apocalyptic tales with a twist, is now available. You can read more about her adventures at her not-so-top-secret online HQ, Gilbert Curiosities.