Blog by VONNIE DAVIS -- International, Award-Winning Romance Author: Adventurous...Humorous...Amorous.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

J. BUTLER COX -- Author

Have I got a treat for you today. My visitor is one of the men in my writers' group here in Lynchburg, Virginia. His debut novel, Providence of Mercy, is out in eBook and available for pre-order in paperback until its release on the 15th of this month. Jim often rides his bike to our weekly writers' meetings, his prose neatly tucked beneath his jacket. We love it when he reads because he has a charming Southern drawl--just a slight one, mind you--and a dry wit that flavors both his stories and his verbal interactions.

Jim is new to this whole blogging, promotional thing, so when I offered to interview him his eyes rolled back in his head as if he were hunting for a polite way to refuse being on a romance writer's blog. I snatched his helmet from his grip, tucked it under my arm and waited with one eyebrow arched in a silent challenge. "Oh, all right," he exclaimed on a huff of air. "But be gentle with me. And don't make it a 'girly interview.' I'm no romance reader, nor writer." I bit the inside of my cheek to keep from laughing...

Jim, with a child and an outside job, writing time must be at a premium. How do you carve out time to write?

I absolutely do not want my son to grow up with memories of a father who was too busy on the computer to spend time with him. I usually save my writing time until after he is in bed. I wrote one chapter of a book in the waiting room at a garage while my vehicle was being worked on. Occasionally I will sneak off to a library to write; Ray Bradbury wrote the entire manuscript of “Fahrenheit 451” in the basement of the Los Angeles Public Library on coin-operated typewriters.

You talk a lot about "seculative fiction." In fact, that seems to be your bag as far as writing. Could you give us your definition?

Speculative fiction, to me, starts with a “what if” premise: What if the South won the Civil War, what if the Nazis won the Second World War, what if you lived in a society where books were banned and firemen burned books instead of putting out fires?

Which is hardest for you to write? Characters, emotions or plot?

Plot. My characters lead the way, often taking me down corridors and discovering plotlines that didn’t exist just five minutes earlier. As they discover these previously uncharted subplots, they can’t help but react to them. I don’t like to read overly plotted stories where the characters simply run around like rats in a maze, randomly hitting buttons to get more cheese.

What part of writing gives you the most pleasure? The most angst?

I love it when the magic flows from my fingertips to the keyboard and the vaguest premise evolves into a fully realized scene because the characters whisper, “Let us do this.” Unfortunately, sometimes these are the very scenes that have to be cut because they do not advance the story sufficiently to justify leaving them in. Removing a well-crafted scene can be painful.

What writers have influenced you?

Ray Bradbury, Woody Allen, Stephen King, Arthur C. Clarke, W.P. Kinsella.

Ah, and your favorite romance writer would be??? (Bats eyes innocently.)

(Jim gives a pained expression and slowly shakes his head.) I should have known better than to agree to this. (He exhales an audible sigh.) You know I don't read romance. All right, yes, my hero does tear the dress off his soon-to-be-wife in a moment of passion and there are a few hotel scenes that scorch the mattress, but that's life. Right?

Just asking, Jim. No need to get testy. Which college writing classes most improved your writing?

I think any sort of serious writing can help you improve. I learned more from on-the-job training as a newspaper reporter — under the guidance of a dedicated editor — than in seven years of undergraduate and graduate classes.

What project are you working on now?

I have a number of premises begging for attention. At this point I’m not sure which one has the legs to carry itself into a full-blown story.

Let's talk about Providence of Mercy. If you were casting your novel, who would you want to play your protagonist?

Johnny Depp, simply because he has such amazing depth and the ability to disappear into any role.

Oh, I do love Johnny Depp. Can you share your back cover blurb?

Jeremiah Townsend didn't ask for the gift of healing. When he's called upon to save a dying criminal, the life he knows is forever wrenched from him and his choices are called into question by a world that seeks to exploit his talents. As his own life collapses into chaos, a new threat emerges in the form of a doomsday cult with a frighteningly lethal weapon.

Trying to come to grips with his own mistakes and betrayals, Jeremiah struggles to save his wife and unborn child. Can he heal the emptiness in his own soul in time to save a world which feeds off his pain? Will be finally be able to choose who must live and who, in the end...must die?

Share an excerpt with us, Jim.

The ride ended at the helipad at Lynchburg General Hospital, where the rotors on an orange and white Bell owned and operated by the Virginia State Police were already beginning to turn.
“Hope your head gets better,” Devon said, as a pair of troopers pulled me into the helicopter. “There’s no room for me, so I’m driving on up.”
The pilot, a light-skinned black man who appeared to be in his early thirties, flashed me a quick grin under his headphones. “There’s going to be quite a bit of turbulence until we get above some of this, so you’d better hold on. Ever been in a helicopter before?”
I nodded—such rides were almost becoming part of the job—but I nearly lost my breakfast as we lurched into the air. The second officer, a Latino whom I later learned was the paramedic, briefed me as best he could on the situation over the drone of the rotors. The radio rasped and spat with emergency chatter, though it was hard to make anything out above the drone of the rotors.
The story of Emily Devon’s kidnapping had been in the news for weeks. There were few leads in the case until an overzealous rookie cop spotted the suspect, a former carnival worker turned drifter, trying to buy beer at a convenience store in Albemarle County, just outside Charlottesville.
“Instead of calling for backup, he tried to be a hero.” The paramedic shook his head. “He didn’t realize what a psycho this guy was. The desperate ones, they got nothin’ to lose, you know. The cop and a customer in the store wound up dead, the suspect shot full of holes and unable to tell anybody where the girl was.”
 At UVA, about fifteen minutes away by air, another pair of cops grabbed me by each arm and virtually threw me into the ER where the star of the show was flatlining and the shock-paddles were smoking. I had to have one of the officers physically remove the head trauma tech so I could get to the gurney where our boy was breathing his last breath.


Vonnie Davis said...

Thanks for being my guest and for allowing me to torture you just a tad. Wishing you great sales.

Krissy said...

Great interview, Jim and Vonnie! I love your definition of "seculative fiction." Good luck with your book!!

Jim said...

Thanks, Krissy. And thank you, Vonnie, for allowing a Gentile (non-romance reader/writer) a spot on your very pink blog site!

Mona Risk said...

Hello Jim, great excerpt. I love your voice, crisp and straight to the point. Good job, Vonnie, this was cetainly not a girlie interview!

Jerrie Alexander said...

Great post Jim and Vonnie! Nice job being gentle with Jim on his first venture into blogging.

Karen Cote said...

Vonnie, only you could pull something like this off. Who could say no to you? And were extremely gentle with some adorable little teasing. Great interview Jim and your excerpt is engaging. Did you read Stephen King's book, On Writing? What a growth that was. Helped me to publication plus I learned a lot about the man himself. He's a good one to model. Thank you for sharing today. BTW...I think I detected a bit of romance in your writing style...hehehe. Vonnie, thank you for bringing such a delightful guest to us.

Susan Macatee said...

Loved the interview! I devoured books by Stephen King and Arthur C. Clark when I was young.

Never thought I'd be a romance writer either. I always wanted to write mysteries, suspense and even science fiction at one point.

Your book sounds wonderful! Something I'd love to read!

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Nice meeting you today, Jim. You survived your first interview very well. Enjoyed reading your excerpt and wish you well with all of your writing.

LaVerne Clark said...

Hi Jim and Vonnie.

That was a fun interview! And from the blurb and excerpt, this sounds like my kind of book! I can't write true thrillers to save my life - but I love to read other's efforts! :) Jim, your voice is compelling and drew me in. Putting this on my TBR list - now to carve out some time to read it!

All the best with sales!

Misty Dietz said...

Hi Vonnie! Hi Jim! Great interview...welcome to online promo! :) I LOVE this:
"Johnny Depp, simply because he has such amazing depth and the ability to disappear into any role."

Calisa Rhose said...

Ok, biting the inside of my cheeks DOES NOT WORK! I laughed all the way through this 'He-Man' interview. But, Jim... your fave romance author? I'll guess it begins with a V.

This is a great interview though, even if Vonnie had to twist your... helmet to get it. I enjoyed the excerpt, I'd buy off it! But then, I like books with guts- even man guts. Especially when Johnny is the role model! Very intriguing scene.

Jim said...

Thanks to everyone. Vonnie is absolutely, without a doubt, my favorite romance writer ever ("but I say nothing."). And yes, Karen, my cousin bought me a copy of Stephen King's "On Writing" several years ago. It is the most helpful writing book I've ever read. My advice is to skip the first half of the book, where he describes his alcoholism, and just jump into the second half. It contains bare bones, basic info about motivation and goal setting without the esoteric fluff of a lot of other books throw at you.

Kylie Frost said...

Great interview Jim (and Vonnie), loved hearing about Bradbury writing in the basement of the library on coin-operated typewriters. Wow - now that's drive. Your book sounds very interesting - like your style.

P.L. Parker said...

Great interview - even without Johnny Depp!

Isabella Macotte said...

Loved your interview. Much success with your latest!

Jim said...

Thanks, ladies. Glad you took a few moments to read the interview. Ray Bradbury does indeed have drive. He's written every day since 1932. At 91 he's still at it (I did my master's thesis on his career).