Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed author Justin Reed about his life, his career, and what inspired him to write his new book; However Long The Day.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
My name is Justin Reed. I live in Boise, ID, USA with my wife and four children. Writing is my second career, the first being software engineering. I enjoy reading, writing, programming, fly fishing, hiking, basketball, Wolverhampton Wanderers, serving in my church, movies/TV/streaming, and playing games with my family and friends.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
Eighth grade (~13 years old). Creative writing assignments were nonexistent in my schooling, but that year we were given free rein to develop a short story. That prompt was the first time I remember being excited during the process of writing.
When did you take a step to start writing?
I dabbled on and off from Eighth grade onward. English (Creative Writing) was my first field of study at university. After some introspection about my goals, I switched to Computer Science and pursued a career in programming. Despite that change, I never abandoned the dream of writing. I wrote on and off during my programming career, but nothing of substance.
During my first career, my wife and I established a plan by which I could return to writing on a full-time basis. In 2019, after fifteen years of technology, we were able to execute the final part of the plan. I left a comfortable job with benefits to venture into the wild, unforgiving world of authorhood.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
It will be released on February 15, 2022, at which point it will be twenty months since the first inkling of the story.
What were your biggest challenges with writing However Long The Day?
Discovering the story’s purpose. Once I found the purpose of the story—what I was really trying to communicate—many of the other issues I had with character, plot, and theme fell into place.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist? Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?
The direct answer to these questions is an Instagram user. In May 2020 I was in a writing funk. I wanted something different to occupy my time, so I solicited my Instagram followers for short story prompts. I called them Quarantine Tales or something similar. The hope was to entertain people in lockdown while at the same time diverting my mind.
One of the prompts—An alien and a boy switch places, like the Parent Trap but with aliens—sparked something inside me. I discovered, after 4,000 words, I had written a great first chapter rather than a whole short story.
It’s important to note that I tried my best to wriggle out of the creative boxes into which these story prompts attempted to place me. In the case of the aforementioned prompt, I played with the definition and historical usage of the word alien. In that one prompt was born my protagonist—an Irish immigrant (an alien, in the parlance of the day) newly arrived in 1918 New York City—and my antagonist—a rich ne’er-do-well from Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
The indirect answer to these questions is me. As I wrote the first draft, I poured more and more of one part of myself into my Protagonist, and more and more of another part of myself into my Antagonist. I had no explanation for this at the time. It was just something I noticed..
I let someone I trust read the first draft and discussed with them what worked and what didn’t. I realized during that discussion I didn’t know the purpose of the story. That’s when I realized why I had imparted so much of myself into the two main characters.
What is the inciting incident of However Long The Day?
When the Protagonist and the Antagonist meet. The Antagonist (Frederick) realizes the Protagonist (Niall) is his doppelgänger. Frederick, for reasons of his own, bribes Niall to switch places with him, telling Niall “…I’ll be the prince, you be the pauper,” and that it will be the easiest money Niall’s ever made. Niall relents and their lives become entwined in ways neither expects.
What is the main conflict of However Long The Day?
Niall’s goals are at odds with Frederick’s and vice versa. As they work to secure what they think they want, they pull against each other.
Did you plot However Long The Day in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
I pantsed the first draft, which was exhilarating. I came to understand the characters in a deep and meaningful way. I comprehended the settings, the major plot elements, and some themes. However, the first draft fell apart toward the end, and didn’t have a clear purpose (from my perspective, not my reader’s).
I plantsed the second draft. Armed with a new realization of purpose, as well as an understanding of characters, plot, and themes, I re-outlined the entire novel. This was a high-level outline. I still learned things and incorporated them into the story as I wrote the second and subsequent drafts.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did However Long The Day need?
Yes, and lots. Some of the editors were paid, and some of them were volunteers. This novel had a muse, as well as beta readers. The helped me with a host of developmental editing notes. I hired a professional copy editor to review the third draft of the manuscript. She provided some developmental suggestions, and reams of corrections. Every subsequent reader has found one or two additional issues. Even the audiobook production company got in on the act. The final interior files are now quite clean.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
While it is wise to learn from others, never allow anyone else to dictate your writing process.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
Always a dangerous question! I’m working on a cross between Animal Farm and The Lion King. I’m also toying with a piece of contemporary fantasy.
And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
Unabashed yes to both questions.
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