Questions and Answers

J. M. LeDuc answers questions readers would like to ask him.

What question are you asked the most?

The question most often asked is where do you get your subject matter? For example, in SIN the main plot involved human trafficking. In hindsight, it would be easy to say the media played a big role in choosing that plot line, but in reality, I started writing that book before human trafficking was main-stream media. In that instance, it happened to be a sermon at church that triggered my curiosity. From there, it was a matter of research to find out as much as I could about the subject.

Like SIN, all my books have a jumping off point; something that interests me that I think will also interest my readers. With all my books, the plot line I start with is not necessarily what I end up with. That’s the beauty of writing and reading; you never know where the story is going to take you.

Who are your favorite authors?

I have so many. In no particular order: R.J. Ellory, Tess Gerritsen, John Hart, Peter James, Paul Kemprecos, Sarah J. Maas, Victoria Aveyard. Historically, it’s much easier to pick a favorite. That would be Fyodor Dostoevsky. There are more, but I could go on all day.

Why did you start writing?

I began writing as a cathartic activity. I had undergone multiple surgeries over a fairly prolonged period of time (14 years), and with each procedure, I became more depressed. I started putting my feelings down on paper as a way of clearing my head. During that process, I started thinking about characters I’d like to see in a book and possible plotlines I’d like to read about. Before I knew it, these characters and plots started to manifest themselves on paper.

What books have most influenced your life most?

On my life as a whole, The Bible.

Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” was the biggest influence on my writing life. It’s such a great psychological thriller. The perfect crime ruined by the moral fortitude of the assailant. It’s the only book I’ve ever read where the protagonist is also the antagonist. Genius.

What is the hardest part about writing?

The hardest part, for me, is finding the time. I work full time as an assistant academic dean at a nursing college and as a chiropractor, so my time is limited.

Do you have a favorite place to write?

That all depends on the day and my mood. There are days when I just want to hibernate at home and write, but there are others where my creative juices flow better in a noisy and/or busy environment, like a coffee shop or library.

What is your process of writing? Do you write long hand on paper? Do you use an outline?

My first book was entirely written long hand. I wasn’t able to get my imagination to engage when sitting in front of a keyboard. Since then, I’ve learned to turn on that switch (thank God) and write almost exclusively on a computer. As far as an outline is concerned, no I don’t use what most people would consider an outline. I always know where I will begin a novel; although, that beginning will morph numerous times before the manuscript is complete. I start with an idea and a protagonist. I think I know where I want the novel to end and who the antagonist will be, but I’m seldom correct. Many writing instructors will tell you that writing this way is a time waster, and for the most part, they’re right. Without a strict outline to follow, the process takes longer. Every time I change my ending or main protagonist, I need to go back and rewrite and fill in the blanks. I need to make sure my plot is tight and that there are no “holes” in the story. By that I mean no coincidences. Every twist and turn in the plot needs to make sense and have a backstory. This takes a lot of time and effort, but I think it’s worth it.

Do you use ballpoint, fiber tip, gel, uniball or fountain pen?

When using a pen, I prefer to use a fountain pen. There is something “organic” about it. I tend to choose my words more carefully when I use a fountain pen.

How many hours a day do you write?

During the week, I try to at least carve out an hour or two a day to write. The weekend is a different story. I can easily write for 10-12 hours a day on the weekend.

How do your characters come to you?

I have no idea. I hear it often said that the characters in a novel are an extension of the writer—in some way, part of their personality. The first few years I wrote, I thought that was nonsense, but now I believe it. I think I share at least some personality traits with all my protagonists. I choose them based on different reasons. Sinclair O’Malley was chosen because I wanted to write a strong yet flawed female lead. She has become my favorite character.

How do you select the names of your characters?

As I write and develop the idea for a novel, the character’s names just come. Sometimes, I have an image in my head and I choose a name that I think matches the image. Other times, I can hear the character speak with an accent, so I choose a name from that ethnicity.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Learn the craft. I knew nothing about how to write a novel when I began writing. I loved to read so I figured I could write. Not so. With every word I write, I learn more and more. I spend most of my time driving to and from work listening to “how to” lectures from today’s greatest thriller writers. It’s a constant process, but I wish I had started earlier. It would have made the first few years more productive, and it definitely would have made my first few books much better.

What book are your reading now?

I just finished reading an ARC, Consumed by J.D. Ward and started reading Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin. There is never any downtime between books. As soon as I finish one or two, I pick up another. My to-be-read is ever-growing. (I will link them to my other site.)

Copyright J.M. LeDuc