29 March, 2012

Author Interview: J.M. Surra of Angels and Their Hourglasses




Book Summary from Goodreads:

Stranded in 1929, a time traveler struggles to convince a sleepy country that America must prepare to defend itself against its friends, the Japanese, in 1941.
Eighty years in the past, Ben Ryan must start again. He learns to live and love, and he plans for a future nobody wants to hear about. He meets Howard Hughes, who believes him and forms a consortium comprised of fellow industrialists. They prepare in every way they can without the backing of the US government. 
The Japanese learn of their efforts, and move up their plans to attack Pearl Harbor in December 1939, two years earlier than the original history. The consortium learns this, but they’re still short of planes, supplies, and pilots. 
Was all their work for nothing? 
The race is on.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Angels and Their Hourglasses is the Winner of the 2011 Global Award in the popular Fiction category. 


INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOUR

DDS: What got you into writing?
JMS: I wrote from a very early age, and continued to write throughout my life. I only recently got into writing as a professional, which would make me a poorly-paid professional. But a happy one.

DDS: Tell us all about your book!
JMS: A surly archangel is “called on the carpet” and told he must transport a young man named Benjamin Ryan back to 1929, and  task him with correcting historical errors. He is to observe the young man through every minute of the rest of his life, and never turn away. There’s always a catch, of course. He can’t tell Ben what errors, or how he’s supposed to accomplish this. That’s up to Ben to determine.  We don’t see the angel much throughout the story except as a bystander, as he’s an observer, and not a participant. The story is how Ben grows, matures, and the imagination and resourcefulness he displays as he decides upon his goals, and how he plans to correct them.

DDS: Why Time Travelling?
JMS: Great question. Let ask you this: Can you think of any other single action which affords such incredible potential for change? Good change, bad change, it’s all there to be brought about if events are properly manipulated.  Anything goes. It’s almost too easy, if you have a vivid imagination.

DDS: What was the hardest part while writing this book?
JMS: Stopping myself after 12 to 18 hours of writing and going to sleep was very difficult. I wanted to keep writing, but a writer needs sleep like anybody else. Even then, I was jumping up from my sleep in the middle of the night and scribbling scenes that just HAD to be in the book! I think I dreamt the entire story 45 times over while writing it.  Probably just as hard was cutting 40,000 words out of it during editing, to make it a manageable size.

DDS: Tell us about your favourite character (one of your own creation)
JMS: Granny Granville, also known by his name of Zantford Granville. The real Granny died in 1934, so young that as the writer I was really able to take him places. Some places he had planned on going, and others where my story took him.

DDS: What are your writing pet peeves?
JMS: Phones ringing, chores to do. Anything that takes me away from my keyboard. As far as the writing itself, few things bother me. It’s been a wonderful experience, and my editor has been my own personal Mister Myagi (or rather Ms. Myagi!), teaching me about what to do and what not to do. More than just the rules of proper English; I already knew most of those. She taught me about a hundred little details that go into the formatting of a book during its preparation for publishing, and she taught me that you never stop learning your craft. Not many writers get excited when they know they’re going to have some quality time alone with their keyboard, with nothing pending on their docket but pure writing time. I’m one of the few that do!

DDS: Who is your personal favourite author? 
JMS: Hard to say, I don’t have precisely one author, or one genre, for that matter. My no-good-reason-for-it-but-I-love-her-stuff-anyway author is Jean M. Auel, and her Earth’s children series with Ayla. Don’t tell anybody, it’ll just be our secret, but I’m a sucker for reading a good strong female character. I’ve read the series five times.  I’m hoping to write a few stories with strong female leads.

In horror, I’d have to say Stephen King, who has scared me for many decades. Like him, I’m from Bangor, Maine, so I’m a bit biased about him. He’s a personal hero of mine for many good reasons (the guy builds hospital wings for the children), and I’ve even bumped into him occasionally over the years. He’s a very nice guy.

Techno-thrillers, Tom Clancy. Regular suspense thrillers, Nicholas Sparks. Flowery writing that’s just inimitable, Dean Koontz. Anything John Grisham, he’s a big favorite of mine. Huge.

DDS: What is your favourite genre and book?
JMS: To read, I’ve have to go with Grisham’s books, most of which are legal-based fiction. Nobody really wants to be a lawyer, so for somebody to be able to write about it, make it interesting to the reader, and make them want to read more, that’s impressive.  He can write a lawyer on the cutting edge in a courtroom, and then the next chapter he can have the character sitting on a porch sipping lemonade and saying, “aww, shucks’”, and make it all so believable.

DDS: Tell us three random facts about your book that you have not mentioned anywhere else.
JMS: 1. My book features the Red-Tails , the famous Tuskegee Airmen as characters. 
2. My protagonist is a sucker for a certain redhead.  
3. My protagonist walks with a cane.  

DDS: What do you hope readers will take away from this book? 
JMS: I know I’ve most enjoyed a book when I close it at the end, and feel like I’ve just watched a movie in my mind. If I could hope for anything, it would be that my readers experience just that when they read it. I’ve been told by many that they’ve done just that.

DDS: What’s next? 
JMS: I’ll be releasing another time-travel novel next year titled TITOR. Very hush-hush.


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