Name John Darryl Winston
Where are you from
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
Hmmm … let me see. I’ll work backwards. I’m a middle school teacher with the Detroit Public Schools (pray for me). Teaching is a second career for me with recording artist being the first. I was one half of the group Kiara: a late eighty’s, early ninety’s duo signed to Arista Records (Whitney Houston [RIP] label mates) that released two albums which included 3 top ten singles and the number one record “This Time”: a duet with Shanice Wilson. During my music career, I also had the opportunity to produce and write songs for a number of other recording artists, most notably Gerald Levert (RIP) on his biggest selling album “Groove On” for which I received a gold and platinum record.
Before the music industry I graduated from The Recording Institute of Detroit (RID) and The Motion Picture Institute of Michigan (MIP). Before that I was a saxophone player in the army band, and since that time I’ve received my BA in education from Wayne State University and my MA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University. I am currently enrolled in the MFA Creative Writing program at Wilkes University and am piloting a program I developed called Adopt an Author with the mission to connect published authors with young readers for the purpose of creating an environment where all children learn to love reading and writing. I live in Michigan with my daughter Marquette and intend to acquire an African Grey parrot one day when I conquer my irrational fear of birds.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I’m currently working on a partner publishing deal with Blue Mantis Press to publish the sequel in the IA series which is currently being edited. I’ve also been invited to present at the National Writers’ Convention in Las Vegas which I consider an honor and am excited about.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve been writing as far back as I can remember, usually in notebooks that I ended up losing or throwing away by accident. I started writing poetry and lyrics in high school, and then more formally with short stories at Wayne State University and screenplays at MPI. I didn’t actually commit to novel writing until about 4 years ago, and now I’m committed for life.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
After I finished the final chapters of my first manuscript, I read one part in particular to my daughter, a sad part. I’ve never seen her cry like that before, and I knew then I was given something that I in turn had to give to others in the form of my words.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I guess at the end of the day, I expand on what I see on the big screen. That’s what usually does it for me. I have a place in my heart for the origin story. I was never a fan of Superman until I saw the movie with Christopher Reeve and learned the origin of it all. That did it for me. I like a robust tale, like Star Wars, with a flawed hero or heroine that achieves in the end against overwhelming odds, cliché, I know. My stories always start from that vantage point and then the muse takes over.
In the case of the IA series, I simply wanted to write a mainstream story on a grand scale with a black protagonist that everyone would relate to.
I contacted a reader on Goodreads, who had written one of the many positive reviews IA: Initiate had received, to thank her and ask her why she chose my book over the countless others out there and she replied:
“I often read first what I want my twin grandsons to read. I had been hoping to find a “Harry Potter” type book and series where the main character is African American and I believe ‘IA: Initiate’ fills that. Additionally, I look for “Super Hero” type books for them where the super hero is also African American. My grandsons delight in these characters on TV with European features, white skin and flowing Blond hair who don’t look like them.”
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I don’t know about a particular style per se, but I do tend to favor character-driven or plot-based storytelling. I have these flawed characters in my mind, and I put them through the ringer and see what they do. It’s actually fun. That seems more authentic to me, real life. If I just come up with a plot and try to fit characters inside the story, it feels disingenuous somehow. I heard that I write a sort of Literary YA. I like that.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Naz Andersen is a hero in the making so I started with his first and last initials (the reader does actually learn his real name until book 2). As the story progressed in my writing, those initials took on a life of their own and other meanings emerged organically and it just worked. So the title and subtitle have at least two meanings which are revealed in the story.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes, that the subtle science fiction depicted in the novel may not be fiction after all, and that the power of the mind is unlimited, and we all possess more inside than we know.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
From a conceptual standpoint, how much of the book is realistic depends on the individual reader’s belief in the metaphysical. If you have a strong belief in the power of the mind, then you will read it and believe. If you are a skeptic about such things and only believe the dogma of religion, what you grew up with, or only what the five senses can experience, then not so much.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
These are experiences and events that happened in my life, more or less. The characters are near and dear to me, and I grew up in the settings.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
The Harry Potter series, The Hunger Games Trilogy, and Carrie. My Wilke’s University Creative Writing mentor, author of The Ginseng Hunter and The Pearl Diver had a huge influence on my writing.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m never just reading one book. Right now I reading, Broken Heels by Chiara Atoyebi, Deception by Dan Lawton, Two Worlds by R.B. Anderson, and The Seer by Shannon Reber
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I’m partial to Lola Allen for her rawness and authentic characters.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I’m working on the sequel of the IA series, a partner publishing deal with Blue Mantis Press, a MFA analytical paper on how authors handle race in literature, and two workshops I’ve been asked to conduct at the 2016 National Writers’ Conference in Las Vegas
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My fiancé and publishing partner Dominique Wilson. She is my champion.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I definitely see writing as a career, and I’m obsessed with making that so.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I’m a perfectionist, so yes, I’m always changing something every time I go to the printer. Initiate is going on its third edition, but never anything major. I was meticulous in what I wanted and what the universe had given to me. I wrote the book that I aimed to write.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
It originated in the desire to read a story that no one had written yet, or a least I hadn’t found yet. That desire grew when I found many of my students in the same predicament.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
“The last working streetlight on his block, thirty feet away on the corner to his right, sputtered out, catching his eye and signaling the night’s submission to the day. Twisting a tendril of his hair, Naz looked down on his street that never seemed to stop moving day or night and all of a sudden, this place called the Exclave began to take on a life of its own. There was a jiggle of his doorknob followed by a knock, and he knew it was time to go.”
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
What I find most challenging is interpreting what I see so clearly in a way that my reader will see it just as vividly, whether it’s a setting, a fighting sequence, or a basketball scene. I don’t want to insult my readers by giving them to much information or confuse them by not giving enough. It’s a fine line, a tightrope of sorts.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I’m going to go with a combination of Stephen King and J.K. Rowling, because the intricacy of which the build their universes. I love how King uses real life branding and techniques like interviews to give his fiction a non fiction quality, and Rowling leaves no stone unturned in creating a world that’s never existed before, rich in intricate description and backstory.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I’ve only traveled to Chicago so far, but I intend to go any and everywhere to get my story out there. I’ll go off planet if I have to.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The cover design started with a young graphic artist name Deon Mixon who was a freshman at Western University at the time. He was a high school friend of my son’s. I asked if he wanted to give it go, and he did. The first time around he came up with a good design, but too abstract. For the next pass we told him we wanted something more concrete, and gave him some ideas with the chess board. He took it from there. We then hired an artist from a company called Video Explainers, and they took from there.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The hardest part about writing my book was getting starting. I eventually went on a cruise all by my not-so-lonesome and wrested the 1st three chapters from the waters of the Western Caribbean. The last two chapter were also very difficult and I took a trip up north in Michigan to wrap up those extremely emotional chapters.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned that I never seem to get it all right, but at the same time, the more I write, the better I get at it. I was a much better writer when I finished than when I started which inspires me to write on.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Become a sponge. read, Read, READ, and then read some more. A good friend once told me that writing gave birth to reading, which makes sense, but I think it’s a circle that can’t be broken now and being a veracious reader leads to being the writer that you want to be … whoever that is. Read good books, bad books, hard books, easy books, read any and everything you can get your hands on. And of course write as often as you can, but there’s one more thing: listen. Listen to people in conversation wherever you go. Eavesdrop whenever you get a chance to, not just what people say, but how they say it, and take notes. This will increase the authenticity of your dialogue, which is huge.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I want my readers to know I put my heart and soul into this work. It was well-thought out and many years in the making, and if they give the IA series a chance, I promise to take them places inside themselves they’ve never been before.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
The first book I ever read was “One On One” by Jerry Segal. It was a basketball movie about a college basketball player named Henry Steele. Robbie Benson played Henry Steele in a film version. I remember liking it because I loved basketball at the time.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
The scene in Mulan when the song “Make A Man Out Of You” and Mulan is an utter failure when the song starts, but then by the song’s end, she succeeds. That always does it for me. If the protagonist can overcome overwhelming, but realistic odds and win in a big way, and it’s done right, I’m gonna need a box of tissue.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
Abraham Lincoln, because he fought for something very unpopular that he didn’t have to fight for, and it cost him his life. I’d like to ask him why? And where did find the strength and resolve to push on?
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
Here lies John Darryl Winston. He always tried to do the right thing.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Music and sports are my divided loves, and both with always play a part in stories I write.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Smallville, 24, Walking Dead, and Breaking Bad
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
My favorite food is Italian. My favorite dish is fried catfish. My favorite color is Royal Blue. My favorite music is classic Motown, and my favorite song of all-time is “Reach Out I’ll Be There” by the Four Tops.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I would have love to become a film director.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?