Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed author Theron Maynard about his life, what inspires him, and the creative process behind his debut novel, Live And Let Die.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
My name is Theron Maynard; I’m 20 and the author of Live and Let Die (2020). I suffered a nearly life-ending traumatic brain injury (TBI) when I was 13 in the spring of 2015. During the years that followed, I found purpose and meaning in words. I wrote down my pain, life, love, and soul through poems, short stories, and screenplays. Writing was more than a hobby to me. I found a way to understand my situation through the words I wrote. Now that I’m older and an author with published work, I think the path was already there for me to become who I am today.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I wanted to write a book after I saw the reaction people had to Live and Let Die in the early stages. Being only seventeen at the time, I felt a strong obligation that I needed to further the story. I also saw it as a daunting task because I didn’t know how to write a full novel. I then looked to a former teacher by the name of Evan Lancia. I saw him as an authority due to the fact he had already self-published two collections of poetry. When I told him that I wanted to turn Live and Let Die into a book; he encouraged me to do so. Through the process of writing the story, I decided to dedicate the published novel to him.
When did you take a step to start writing?
I started Live and Let Die as a school assignment for my former creative writing class. Once I decided to turn it into a book, I picked it back up in college about a year later. Taking what I had written in high school and building on that with a more mature mind put me in an exciting place as a writer. I decided not to change anything from the original story, and by doing that, I had the fictional characters mature along with me as a person.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
I started the book in high school around the tail-end of 2018. Two years later, I published it as a novel in December of 2020. The two years it took me to write was the most fascinating and maddening time of my life so far. I graduated high school, moved into college, and lived in a world with an ongoing pandemic. I had a lot of time to focus on the story and write my authorship into existence. If things didn’t go the way they did, I don’t think that I would have published Live and Let Die when I did.
What made you want to write Live And Let Die?
I wanted to write this book because I wanted to write a human story. To me, Live and Let Die is not only a love story but a human one. The story is one of redemption, heartbreak, the fragile nature of life, and the most prominent being, love. I wanted to make this my story and not a cheap imitation posing as something else. I found much more merit in making something out of nothing and drawing on my own life to create an entirely fictional story.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Live And Let Die?
The biggest challenge with writing Live and Let Die was staying true to myself. Though I knew I could write, I had this small part of myself telling me that the story isn’t good, people won’t like it, and much more noise. Once I stopped listening to that doubt, I wrote the best possible story that I could, and I fell in love with it. In retrospect, those doubts didn’t matter as people have loved my book.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?
I wouldn’t say that a definitive person inspired the protagonist in my book. I wrote both Shawn and Taylor as reflections of myself, if you will. I mean this by seeing those characters as pieces of me, good and bad. I used my pain and sadness as a muse to Shawn and Taylor’s character arcs. This gave me a lot of dark instances to draw on and flip into my fictional story.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?
As with some romance/love stories, there is no antagonist in my book. I see Shawn and Taylor as being their own worst enemies at times. Oddly, love is the antagonist of the book. The idea and feeling of love lead both main characters down their respective paths, but also, the surrounding personas are influenced by love.
What is the inciting incident of Live And Let Die?
It all starts with a simple picture of love. The issue that arises is another seemingly “simple” factor, which is a breakup. This breakup is the catalyst to what ensues later in the story. This separates Shawn and Taylor. The inciting incident of the book is where Taylor goes down a dark path of self-destruction. Shawn collides with her again as you are taken on this journey to see if they will form a new bond, for better or for worse.
What is the main conflict of Live And Let Die?
The central conflict of my book would have to be the trying path both Shawn and Taylor go on for two years due to their breakup at the beginning of the book. I find it hard to find one main conflict other than to say that love is the main conflict. Love breaks Shawn and Taylor, and it builds them back up too. I see it more as a feeling that influenced the book’s direction rather than saying love is the only/central conflict. There are many things to pull from the whole story, but love is the root of everything.
Did you plot Live And Let Die in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
I did both. At first, I wrote without any pre-thought-out ideas before the book becoming a book. Once I started writing the novel, I had a “story-board” of sorts where I wrote down every idea I had for Live & Let Die. This ended up being twelve pages long by the time I finished the manuscript. Being organized made my workflow more efficient and easier to manage as a writer.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Live And Let Die need?
I hired a copy editor per a professional recommendation. Since my novel was already organized, the only editing was for grammar and punctuation. I made minor tweaks to the story, but nothing dramatically changed what it already was. I think this was incredibly useful because they assured me that the novel was ready to be published. I will do this with all future works because I know that there is no way I can spot all the errors.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
Write with your authentic self. By doing so, any good writer will write their best story. A mentor once told me to write my truth, resulting in what Live and Let Die is as a published book. Too many writers write intending to be like someone else, but that is a fool’s path. I never like to hear someone say that they want to be the next big thing as they insert a notable name as to who they want to be. Yet, I can’t see the value in wanting to be like someone else. I, as an author, do not want to be the next J.K Rowling, Stephen Chobosky, or Walt Whitman. I only want to be Theron Maynard and walk my path along with the greats who inspired me but didn’t create me.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I can give you a hint that a few or more books, among other creative endeavors, are planned, but the official word to what those plans are will have to wait. I don’t put my talent with writing into one box. I say this because true and talented writers are versatile and can adhere to many outlets. I’d love to adapt Live and Let Die into a screenplay as that was an idea from day one of writing. I have a lot of projects that consist of unfinished scripts, manuscripts, and more. The possibilities for the next project are endless, and I’m always working on something, but Live and Let Die is still my biggest priority.
And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
I always answer this question with, saying that I’m proud undersells how I truly feel. I am continuously in awe of what I accomplished. Writing this book was one thing; releasing it and all the other moving parts that go along with that have been great, but I’m more excited about what the future holds. I’m only 20, and I have a book that I wrote and published myself on my resume. I waited and worked for a long time to see this book as a published work, and I did it myself. Through the highs and lows of everything, it was well worth the effort because now I get to plant the seeds for the rest of my life, and that’s a blessing if I must say so.
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