Name Jack Gannon & Cyndi Williams-Barnier (J&C Wordsmiths, LLC)
Age Both 54 (but one month out of the year Jack gets to be a year older!)
Where are you from Beaufort, SC (Cyndi was born and raised here, Jack moved here via Navy family transfer in 1975)
A little about yourself i.e. your education Family life etc.:
Jack- My father was career US Navy Medical Service Corps; despite all the transfers, we never left the United States for an overseas duty station. Dad was transferred to Parris Island Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Beaufort, SC, and in my high school junior year I sat behind this cute blonde girl. We shared dreams of writing novels when we graduated high school and college, but after high school we lost track of each other, seemingly forever… I graduated from Winthrop College in Rock Hill, SC, with a B.A. in Communications, and worked 24 years for The Beaufort Gazette & Island Packet here in Beaufort County. May 2011 was my last month at the newspapers, and that same month that cute high school blonde girl found me on Facebook…
Cyndi-I’m just someone who’s had a difficult life, tough times, worked hard, yet somehow had the tenacity to push forward and try to make things better despite the odds. Other than that, grew up around law enforcement, worked in government, somehow lived through the end of desegregation, still liberating, and trying to fine-tune a character in a book that exists somewhere between being a narcissist and an introvert. It’s complicated.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
We have several book signings coming up across South Carolina between now and summer, including two days in Birmingham, AL, and a planning session in Atlanta. We also hope to have two more books self-published in our “Task Force” and “InSpectre” series by spring.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
We both have always enjoyed storytelling and writing, since childhood. When we became friends in high school we realized we had the same dream, and then started sharing stories and drawings with each other with a plan to graduate college and write the next best-seller novel and retire as millionaires before we were 25. What youthful ignorance! In true southern tradition we finally got around to it 35 years later. We revisited all those stories we talked about in high school as though no time had passed, brought them up to date for the 21st Century, and self-published our first book a year later. We have so many stories to tell…
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Jack- in military school my daily English assignment was to write in a journal. The repetition of “here’s what I did in drill or parade today” got boring real fast, so I started writing fiction stories based on characters I read in books.
Cyndi-The moment my mother caught me scribbling on the walls in crayon when I was a toddler. It looked like a story to me!
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Our reunion dinner at Cyndi’s house when we reunited after 32 years apart – we were ready to write again!
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
Depends on the story, or the specific plot line or even story arc, occasionally even based on the character… and whether we have bourbon or gin or tequila in our writing office.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
We were taking writing classes after we got this idea to finally write our first novel together. Jack conceived of introducing a hero who immediately crossed paths with a psycho killer who had an OCD with the numbers 2 and 3. There was a mass murder in this chapter. After he shared the story in class, a student in the class actually coined the title “Death By Twos and Threes”, which later became “Murder In Twos and Threes” after we fully fleshed out our villain.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel(s) that you want readers to grasp?
There is always good versus evil in life. Even within ourselves we struggle with doing good or evil. Look on the news or in newspapers, there is evil spreading across the Mideast and into Europe and even into our borders, and the good has to fight it back. So in our stories we have good versus evil, and the evil is very evil indeed in order to challenge the good to be victorious. Good will win, but it’s a hard-won victory, and not always without consequences and repercussions going forward. Good must always fight on…
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
Our Task Force Series stories are set in real time. We use our reality to establish the conflicts our characters have to endure and hopefully overcome, with a few left turns and creative twists in that series. Our InSpectre series may be set in present day but is definitely more supernatural in theme and includes gently-implied life-lessons to our readers; our hero has incredible powers and fights demons and dark agents from below. We have a Sci-Fi story Jack wrote and submitted to Isaac Asimov’s anthology magazine back in 1983, which was rejected for having excellent characters but “not enough science fiction”. We’ll be dusting that one off soon, and since it features a sentient android we definitely left reality on that one, too!
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Our main hero in our Task Force Series, Mark Jason / “The Spy”, is absolutely an amalgram of both our fathers. As for the rest… our heroes are slightly based on navy medics Jack met in all his father’s duty stations, and our victims are frequently based on people who may have… yeah, ticked us off at one time or another… and our villains are complete character constructs designed to challenge our heroes, because a book’s hero is only as good as the villain is compelling and sympathetic to the reader… and Cyndi can really write a pretty frightening villain! (When she’s on a roll with a villain, Jack sits back with a tumbler of bourbon…)
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? A mentor?
Jack- I’ve been a fan of JRR Tolkien since the 5th grade, when “The Hobbit” was required reading. “The Caine Mutiny” is my favorite war novel, and “Gerald’s Game” is my favorite Stephen King novel. And of course my favorite comic strip is “Peanuts”, and the classic Bugs Bunny cartoons are the absolute best!
Cyndi-I have to admit that I’m a bit of a pushover for anything psychological. At the age of ten, the first grown-up book I ever read was one penned by Sigmund Freud! I was hooked. If I had to pick a favorite book or author it would probably be Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris. However, books by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Jeffery Deaver and the like are my favorites. Even stepping back in time, I recall the stories of Vincent Price, Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poiroit, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and just about anything from Alfred Hitchcock.
Fiona: What book are you reading now? J
ack- I’m between books at present while dealing with family demands in my spare time.
Cyndi-I just bought an old copy of John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men,” and loving it. I can’t believe that I’ve never read it, nor was it required reading in our school—it should have been!
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
We’ve met so many new (to us) authors at all the book signings and festivals we’ve been attending the last few years… so there are a few hundred, yes!
Fiona: What are your current projects?
We’re currently working on “The Latrodectus Murders” and “Murder By Executive Order” in our Task Force chronological series, “Trail of The Hunter” and a couple more shorts in the Task Force stand-alone novelette series; we’re working on the next two books in the “InSpectre” series; and we’re already working on our annual fall Lowcountry Arts and Literary Festival held at historic Frampton Plantation in Yemassee, SC.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
The staff of the South Carolina Lowcountry Tourism Commission based at Frampton Plantation. They have taken us in almost as part of the staff, giving us a home to set up book signings anytime we wish, greeting new visitors off the interstate highway every day. They also eagerly accepted us and our fall festival when we needed a new location after our second year in another town.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career? It’s our retirement career, yes. We’re living our dreams. It’s not so much about money or prestige that moves us forward, but rather we enjoy what we’re doing. We write for ourselves first, which we think in turn makes our books a better read for everyone else. And we’ll never turn down a sale!
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Very funny you should ask that question! In “Murder By Executive Order,” we wrapped up the carryover storyline from “The Latrodectus Murders” as planned… and then we started talking about the bulk of the new novel and are redoing basically the whole structure to challenge our characters with a possible unexpected death… or two…
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Jack- as I said earlier, it was in my military school English class.
Cyndi- As a kid, I had a chalkboard, and chalk, and an invisible English class in my house. I really cracked the whip on those invisible kids.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Right now, we are concentrating on “Trail of The Hunter” in the Task Force series. We already said that our stories are based in reality, and “Task Force” is the main follower of that rule. So, of course, in this story we follow one of our hero characters, who is a very logical, no-nonsense agent, and who is thrust into a mission which finds her hand-in-hand with a paranormal (?) entity she cannot accept or believe.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
It’s usually when we disagree about a particular plotline or where we envision a character’s next step (or more than one character). Then we start plotting the disagreement on the big white board in our office. If we still can’t resolve it, out comes the bourbon or scotch! It eventually gets resolved.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Jack- Tolkien. He created a complex world with Middle Earth that spanned not just four novels but several short stories and the “Middle Earth Bible” his son finished from his notes, “The Silmarillion.” I use that all as a guide as we expand our “Task Force” and “InSpectre” universes with each book, for the importance of remembering where our characters have been and the secondary and tertiary characters we introduce; in the case of the “InSpectre” series, we utilize some uncanny timelines in these stories, which gives Cyndi no end of migraines!
Cyndi- Now you know why Jack keeps his bourbon in the office!
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
No, the vast amount of research we have to do is done online or at the library. Gas prices! However, we are garnering more and more book signings as the years pass by, and we’re also taking in more conferences and conventions, so traveling for reasons other than research are indeed taking off.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
It’s a joint effort at all times. Neither they, nor the stories, are considered finished until we both agree.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Arthritis in the hands! All hail voice-to-text computer software!!!
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
We couldn’t have written them when we were younger. We had to live our lives, with all the pain and anguish, successes and failures, good times and bad, to give all our characters their base in reality.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Start writing while you’re in grade school, high school, college… even after you are graduated and are working for an employer; write in the evenings or weekends. One day you’ll know when it’s time to submit your work to a publisher. Challenge yourself; you may prefer to write in one genre, but force yourself to write in others as well. You’ll have a better appreciation for your efforts and may find that you’re interested in something that you thought would never interest you.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
We look forward to you entering our fictional universes and welcoming our characters into the movie theatres of your minds.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Jack- I think it was a Hardy Boys novel???…
Cyndi-That book by Sigmund Freud! Before that, yep, Grimm’s Tales and Aesop’s Fables – of course. (And everyone wonders why I write the way I do. It wasn’t my fault that the Big Bad Wolf ate grandma & they had to slash its belly open to save grandma! What a great story for kids!)
Jack- Cyndi keeps showing me up. Where’s the bourbon???
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Jack- “The Big Bang Theory” usually hits my funny bone. Visiting my parents’ grave on their special dates doesn’t usually make me cry unless I’ve had some recent bad days.
Cyndi-I both laugh and cry at the perfectionist in me. The id is in control for sure.
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
Jack- I had two: Ronald Reagan and John Wayne. But we’ve had the honor of not only meeting but becoming friends with John Wayne’s grandson, John T. Wayne, himself an author and speaker, so that filled one of my two dream persons. I’ll meet The Gipper one day many years from now.
Cyndi-God, for my own obvious reasons. I’d like to meet Morgan Freeman—I think he portrays God pretty well!
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
Jack- “Remember when I made you laugh.” A good writer can turn a double entendre without effort and make people laugh. If anything, I’d like to be remembered for spreading smiles and humor.
Cyndi-“YBR.” It’s an inside joke between me and Jack. J (I always tell Jack to follow the Yellow Brick Road “YBR.” If you stay on the path it will always take you where you’re meant to be). Perhaps I should have some yellow bricks leading up to the headstone!
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
Jack- I’m content to putter around the house and tend to my Pomeranian, Tasia, until my wife gets home from work, then relax with some dinner and TV.
Cyndi-Life is my hobby. Writing is my life.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Jack- I enjoy genre shows, because after a day of news and politics on TV I need as much Sci-Fi as possible to cleanse my mind. Star Trek (all series and movies), Arrow & The Flash & Legends of Tomorrow & Supergirl, and the Marvel Movies & Agents of Shield & Agent Carter, most any series on the SyFy Channel… you get my drift…
Cyndi-Any movie where the character dies, but the family pet BETTER live!
Jack- I need a bourbon refill now…
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Jack- I like modern country, classical music, and big band. I tend toward black and blue and gray. And serve me a medium-rare Porterhouse steak and a glass of wine any time!
Cyndi-Become well versed in all things. No reason we can’t listen to Disturbed while drinking a $150 bottle of Chianti and eating chicken wings on my favorite green beanbag.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
Jack- I would have bought an RV and just travel the country. Visit museums all over. I like trips where I learn things.
Cyndi-I would like to have been a better person and made a bigger difference. Perhaps I could have been a homeless millionaire living in a cardboard box, making donations to homeless people and animals.
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