Author, Books, Writing

Q&A with Author, J.D.R. Hawkins – @JDRHawkins

Hello, bloggers!

We are one step closer to the weekend and we’re in for some crazy weather. Thinking about all of those that are being impacted by the storms. Positive thoughts and prayers are coming your way!!

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We have a guest joining us today, entertaining us with a delightful interview. Please help me welcome Author, J.D.R. Hawkins to the site.

After David Summers enlists with the Confederate cavalry, his delusion of chivalry is soon crushed when he witnesses the horrors of battle. Shot by a Union picket, he winds up at a stranger’s farm. Four girls compassionately nurse him back to health. David learns his comrades have deserted him in Pennsylvania following the Battle of Gettysburg, but his dilemma becomes much worse. He falls in love with the older sister, Anna, who entices him with a proposition. To his dismay, he must make a decision. Should he stay and help Anna with her underhanded plan, or return to the army and risk capture?

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Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I was born in Sioux City, Iowa. My family moved to Phoenix when I was a baby and lived there for several years before returning to Iowa. I attended Iowa State University, where I earned a degree in journalism and met my husband of 35 years. We have two grown sons, a daughter-in-law, and a grandson.

What were you like at school?
I was an introvert. Art was my thing, and I originally wanted to major in that, but changed it to journalism during my sophomore year.

Were you good at English?
Yes, but I wasn’t very interested in reading. I was more interested in creating and writing my own stories.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?
To become a best-selling author and win more awards. I would also like to be known as an authority in my field.

Which writers inspire you?
I have always loved
Gone With the Wind, so Margaret Mitchell is right up there. I also like Geraldine Brooks, J.K. Rowling, Robert Hicks, and John Jakes.

So, what have you written?
I have written articles for many different publications, hundreds of songs, and several poems. My publishing credits also include three novels, which are part of the
Renegade Series. The books are award winners, and the third book in the series, A Rebel Among Us, was just published. I also write a blog about current events, the Civil War, and writing in general.

Where can we buy or see them?

Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
David Summers enlists with the Confederate cavalry after his father is killed at the Battle of Fredericksburg. He participates in numerous battles and loses his best friend. Following the Battle of Gettysburg, he is wounded and ends up at a local farm, where he is nursed back to health. But the girls assisting him are interested in using him for their own benefit.

What are you working on at the minute?
A nonfiction book.

What’s it about?
Confederate horses, equines, and camels. These animals were as brave as their masters and displayed unparalleled loyalty during battles.

What genre are your books?
Historical fiction for the most part.

What draws you to this genre?
I have always had an interest in the Victorian era and the Civil War. After visiting the Gettysburg battlefield, I was inspired to write a novel about a typical Southern soldier. This grew into four books, and I intend to write a fifth.

Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
Liam Hemsworth, if he can pull off the accent.

How much research do you do?
I conduct extensive research. Not only do I look online, but I go through old books, journals, and basically, anything I can get my hands on to add dimension and clarity to my characters.

Have you written any other novels in collaboration with other writers?

When did you decide to become a writer?
I didn’t necessary decide to become a writer. It just sort of happened. I have been writing nearly all my life, and started with poetry and songs at a very early age.

Why do you write?
After researching the Southern side of the Civil War, I wanted to write a story about a typical soldier who didn’t own slaves and wasn’t an officer. Many people today don’t know what really took place and led up to the war.

What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?
After giving it much thought, I put a plot together, and then started writing.

Do you write full-time or part-time?
Part-time at the moment.

Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
I usually like to write around three or four in the afternoon and keep going until I reach a good stopping point.

Do you write every day, 5 days a week or as and when?
I try to write every day, but usually end up giving myself a day off on the weekends to spend with my family.

Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?
My average is about 3-4 pages a day.

Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand?

Where do your ideas come from?
They come from lots of places. I get ideas from television, newspaper articles, books, blogs, from people telling me stories – pretty much from everywhere.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
I prefer to use an outline.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
I have definitely evolved in dialect and dialogue. I also feel that I have become better at description and scene flow.

What is the hardest thing about writing?
Sticking with it. It’s easy to justify taking a break in the middle, but to me, persistence is key.

What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
Reading about the terrible hardships Confederate soldiers had to endure in prison camps, and describing that in my book.

What is the easiest thing about writing?
To me, it is storytelling. Once I get started, the characters come to life and take on their own personas. Some have changed the plot a few times.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Six months.

Do you ever get writer’s Block?
On occasion, but it usually doesn’t last long.

Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
Give yourself challenges and wordplay. First, pick a scene, then pick a location, and then pick a protagonist and an antagonist. What are their situations? How do they interact? Is there a romance element, or suspense, or mystery? Start with a seed and watch it grow.

If this book is part of a series, tell us a little about it?
Renegade Series is about a family from north Alabama and how the Civil War impacts them. The first book in the series, A Beautiful Glittering Lie, tells the story of David Summers’ father, who enlists in the 4th Alabama Infantry Regiment. The second book, A Beckoning Hellfire, describes how David enlists with the Confederate cavalry, and the third book, A Rebel Among Us, takes up where the previous book left off, with David being wounded at Gettysburg.

What are your thoughts on writing a book series?
I originally intended to write only one book and never planned on writing a series. But the story was so complex that it begged to be made into a series.

Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors?
I try to read when I can, and try to keep up with current bestsellers. I have to admit that I am a bit behind, though, so frequently, I end up watching the movies instead.

For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
I prefer traditional books, although I read e-books as well.

What book/s are you reading at present?
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Do you proofread/edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?
I hire people to do that for me, but I also do it myself before I send the books off.

Do you let the book stew – leave it for a month and then come back to it to edit?
Yes. I find this helpful, because when I come back to it, I notice things I overlooked before.

Who edited your book and how did you select him/her?
Cheri Norwood edited
A Rebel Among Us. I chose her through another publishing company, but when that company folded, Foundations, LLC picked my book up and kept Cheri on as the editor.

Tell us about the cover/s and how it/they came about.
Foundations, LLC found an artist who got ideas from me about what I wanted it to look like and came up with an awesome representation.

Who designed your book cover/s?
Dawné Dominique designed the cover for A Rebel Among Us. Don Troini’s painting is on the cover of A Beautiful Glittering Lie, and Dan Nance’s painting is on the cover of A Beckoning Hellfire.

Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
I think it is essential. It’s the first thing people see before they pick up the book, so it is crucial.

How are you publishing this book and why?
This book is being published traditionally but is also a print-on-demand publication.

What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?
Self-publishing gives you more freedom to do what you want, but being published traditionally gives you the opportunity to have an entire team working for you, and you aren’t completely responsible for all the marketing, editing, etc.

How do you market your books?
Through local retail outlets and online.

Why did you choose this route?
I feel that there are more possibilities online and through social media, but it’s fun to do local signings just to get my name out there and enable customers to associate a face with the product.

Would you or do you use a PR agency?
My publisher provides a PR representative.

Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?
Try every outlet available. There are an infinite number of websites that can market your book. Don’t be afraid to approach local media as well.

What part of your writing time do you devote to marketing your book?
Since I just released a book, most of my time right now is being spent marketing.

What do you do to get book reviews?
Invite people through Goodreads, send the book to reputable reviewers, and ask friends and relatives to post a review.

How successful has your quest for reviews been so far?
Fairly successful. I need to be more persistent in requesting reviews.

What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
To me, reviews are basically opinions. I have only had one bad review so far, and it’s because the reader obviously didn’t get past the first page. They even went so far as to criticize my handwriting!

Any amusing story about marketing books that happened to you?
At my first book signing in Tennessee, a local museum curator offered to have her friends attend. The friends showed up attired in reenactment garb. It was awesome!

What’s your views on social media for marketing?
I think social media is effective if used in conjunction with other tools.

Which social network worked best for you?
Facebook works the best for me, but I also use Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, to name a few.

Any tips on what to do and what not to do?
Make friends first, because if you just go tooting your own horn, people will get turned off right away and un-friend you.

Did you do a press release, Goodreads book launch or anything else to promote your work and did it work?
That is all in the works because the book is brand new.

Is there any marketing technique you used that had an immediate impact on your sales figures?
Sponsoring a giveaway.

Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in future?
I should have just given an e-book or two away for starters.

Why do you think that other well written books just don’t sell?
People don’t know about them, and they base their opinions on Amazon ratings.

What do you think of “trailers” for books?
I’m a big fan. My new book,
A Rebel Among Us, has a trailer.

Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book/s?
See above. I also have a trailer for my first two books:

Do you think that giving books away free works and why?
To a degree. It helps draw attention, but doesn’t always get reviews.

Did you format your own book?

In what formats is your book available?
E-book, paperback, and hardcover.

If formatted by someone else, how did you select them and what was your experience?
I selected Foundations, LLC because they were interested in publishing Southern literature.

How do you relax?
I take my two dachshunds, Dixie and Sadie, for walks. We live in Colorado Springs, so taking in the beautiful scenery really helps me relax. I also like to go to the mountains with my husband and visit the quaint mountain towns.

What is your favourite motivational phrase?
Think positive and positive things will happen.

What is your favourite positive saying?
Every accomplishment begins with a decision to try.

What is your favourite book and why?
I love The Yearling. It’s so bittersweet and beautiful.

What is your favourite quote?
“May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing to you.” – Psalms 19:14

Where can you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
A bestseller and respected authority in my field.

What is your favourite movie and why?
I love
Raiders of the Lost Ark and Back to the Future. They are both historical and so much fun!

What advice would you give to your younger self?
Never doubt yourself.

Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
I would love to meet General Robert E. Lee. He was such a compassionate and deeply religious man. It must have been extremely difficult for him to withdraw from the U.S. military because he chose to defend his home state of Virginia.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Always strive to be better, learn more, and write often.

Where do you see publishing going in the future?
I think self-published books are becoming more respected, and I think, because of it, the big five will have to reinvent themselves in order to compete (some already are).

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Amazon Author Page:
Book Links: (* American, UK, etc.)


Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.

Thanks so much for stopping by!! Please lend your support to today’s guest by liking, sharing and commenting below.

Until next time………………………………Happy Reading & Reviewing!!

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