Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Hi, y’all. I write under the nom de plume G.K. Jurrens, but you can call me Gene. My age? That’s not so important, is it? Age yields experience, and inspiration. I’m sixty-eight, going on thirty-nine. Why thirty-nine? Because I ooze with thirty-something ideas, all the time. And that was a relatively pain-free period of my life.
My thirties were memorable. I was a sky-diver, a scuba-diver but not a dumpster-diver. I’ve been blessed. Since then, I’ve enjoyed back surgery, kayaking, amateur radio, and sailing. We cruised on a sailboat in the Florida Keys, the Eastern Caribbean, the US Pacific Northwest, and the Aegean Sea.
Kay and I still both ride big noisy ridiculous motorcycles. And yes, we love leather. For the last two years, the two of us have been traveling aboard a 43’ bus-style motor-home, wandering North America, living and loving our waking-state dream. As my age advances so does my sense of urgency to complete, well, everything.
Fiona: Where are you from?
In my young life, I’ve only lived in the US: in Iowa, Minnesota, California, Texas, New York, Michigan and Florida, my state of residence for the past twelve years; although, we just arrived here after living on the road for the last two years.
My wife and I have lived in thirty+ different states in the US during that time for two to eight weeks in each place. I’ve lost count. While working at my career with IBM, I had employees in a dozen or more countries and travelled to all of them now and then.
I grew up in Minnesota, but not sure where I’m from anymore, other than from this pale blue dot we call Earth. Of that, I am almost certain.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I’m the oldest of two litters, with two sisters and a brother (now passed) at least ten years older than me. I believe I was an accident. My mother was forty-two. She bore my younger brother at age forty-five so I wouldn’t be lonely. A stout farm wife.
While studying Liberal Arts at a Technical College in Rochester, Minnesota, my teenage wife challenged me to earn a degree that would yield a decent-paying job. Overnight, I switched to a business major. I then earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business and a graduate degree in Management of Technology from the University of Minnesota. That was early during my thirty-two-year detour through the technology industry (IBM). After retiring at 58 in 2008, I returned to a creative path of light and hope. Huzzah!
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I’ve been writing non-fiction most of my adult life, but my latest and biggest news is that I just published my debut novel, “Tarnished–Surviving the American Dream”.
“Tarnished” is now available worldwide on Amazon, Kobo, and Goodreads. I could use some reviews, dear readers. Tells the story of two protagonists. Both are adventurous and aging (sound familiar?). The first, a workaholic and alcoholic, drives himself to become an executive within a multinational corporation, only to get drawn into the orbit of an international conspiracy. Our second hero is a retired US intelligence executive drawn back into active service by a senior White House official. This unlikely duo achieves some improbable but plausible feats of heroism and patriotism. It’s a lighter read than it sounds despite the murder and mayhem.
Like any serious writer, two more novels now seem to be writing themselves. First, a thriller sequel to “Tarnished”, predictably entitled, “Varnished – Exploring the American Dream”, and the other is pure unadulterated Science Fiction, the first draft of which won me the title of “winner” at NaNoWriMo 2017. The working title is, “Onliners – The Battle for All Beings’ Rights”. I’m also assembling a comprehensive short story anthology. 2018 will be a year of insanity for me as an author and independent publisher. I am grateful.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Until a year ago, most of my writing was either general non-fiction or later, business writing (technical journal articles, software patents, justifying budget numbers, i.e., quasi-fiction…), and later, a personal travelogue, followed by a book on yacht restoration. I’m also a dedicated blogger. Within the last year, however, I stretched my legs toward fiction, and I find that most gratifying. I write for one reason: I can’t imagine not writing. It is indeed that simple.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I don’t understand the question, Fiona. I came out of Mother’s womb drafting my first memo about inadequate culinary choices in the nursery that dreary day. A born critic. I could find nobody to transcribe that draft, however. Sadly, never published.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Two motivators. First, I wrote my first book because I wanted something to read about my own life once I had descended into the dark abyss of Dementia or Alzheimer’s in my later years—far in the future, I’m hoping. My memory is already worsening, or maybe it was always poor. Can’t remember. Second, I wanted to leave some sort of legacy behind for my loved ones after my body has given up on me. My attempt at mortality? Perhaps. I have an epic ego, obviously.
Fiona: How did you come up with the titles for your books?
My first book, “Moving a Boat & Her Crew – A Slice of Retirement, Seasoned with Purpose and Adventure,” was a travelogue of living and traveling aboard a large pilothouse motorsailer. Sojourn was a most comfortable little fifty-one foot ship. Mostly we sailed her where she should never have gone. As a licensed US Coast Guard Captain, I had moved (relocated) a few boats for clients. Then I decided to retire and move (voyage) my own boat from Minnesota, where I was working at the time, to Southwest Florida and points south. My wife and I found this to be an emotionally moving experience that made a spicy transition from corporate executive to itinerant vagabond for this old author; hence, the title. The good ship Sojourn, by the way, also became a beloved character in “Tarnished” (I’m an old brass polisher from way back).
My second book, “Restoring a Boat & Her Crew – Transforming an Old Yacht & Her Tenders”, involved an extensive restoration of our magnificent Sojourn to her former glory. After voyaging for a time, both the boat and her crew were exhausted – physically and emotionally. The process of this massive restoration project, while documenting that process, positively transformed both the boat and those tending to her every whim, even though the project was financially all-consuming. In retrospect, that book was heart-warming but painfully boring. The pictures are nice.
And my latest book, “Tarnished” was also a restorative tale of a tired executive who seeks and finds redemption and honor despite detours along an uphill crooked path. I’d call this one four of five stars. I like it, but I’m biased.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
If I were to use one word to represent my style, it would probably be casual. Or perhaps, conversational. I break rules and am not apologetic.
I’m still seeking my own personal sweet spot, however, but I’m finding that I emulate some of my favorite best-selling authors, including Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child, John Sandford, Brad Thor, and James Patterson. I’m exploring several genres including mystery, thriller, science fiction and fantasy. I also find the idea of writing a memoir at some point appealing.
My most significant challenges in writing fiction include continuity, pacing, and flow, as well as the challenge of limiting the scope of a book to cater to a specific readership.
I mostly write to please myself, and if others enjoy what I write, well, that’s splendid. If not, that’s okay too. I’m happy to report that most who read what I write either enjoy my work or are superb liars.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
My non-fiction is just that–factual as interpreted through my personal lenses. Did I embellish? Probably a bit. I find that fiction has revealed my true identity. I’m safer writing fiction as I have discovered that making stuff up is exhilarating. Pathological liars make great authors of plausible fiction. Not that I’m that, of course.
It is said every author’s first novel is more autobiographical than not, and is “fictionalized” from that starting point. That’s true of “Tarnished”. I base most characters, including my psychopathic antagonist, on real people in my life. From there, though, I exercise aggressive artistic license. For example, my bad guy isn’t just a bipolar disgruntled employee and stalker whom I actually fired. My fictional lens observes him devolving into a serial murderer bent on brutal and out-of-focus revenge. In the process, he commits countless acts of high treason. The storyline is a sprawling brawl from board room to bar room to war room, from Minneapolis to Moscow, by way of Miami, with a few stops at the White House in Washington, D.C. Well, you get the idea. I think it’s a fun read that pays irreverent homage to several steaming contemporary social issues in the real world… at least part of it with which I’m familiar. I might characterize this book as “faction”, but I wouldn’t dream of this without an ironclad disclaimer.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
It’s sort of the other way around, Fiona. I travel all the time. I do find inspiration for my writing from my wandering lifestyle. Since my home is a 300 square foot bus, 43 feet long, storage is at a premium and life is reduced to the essentials. As a consequence, I’m a paperless author. I do whatever is necessary to continue to write despite my minuscule nomadic domicile. My workflow includes my 27” iMac, an iPad, and the use of K.M. Weiland’s “Outlining Your Novel” software. I use this with a writing application from Literature & Latte called “Scrivener”. To date, my fiction is in Kindle Direct Publishing eBooks, although my process continues to evolve. So I challenge myself to write given I live on the road. It seems to work.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
A very talented photographer and digital artist designs all my covers. His name is G.K. Jurrens. Yes, I’m the guilty party. Remember when I warned you that I possessed an ego of epic proportions? Still do. Now maybe you’ll believe me, Fiona. I’ve invested in tools I’ve used for years as a serious amateur photographer. Then, as a digital artist, cover design seemed a natural. I was once a marketing executive. We’ll see how they’re received. And, of course, there’s Canva.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Not sure what “new” means. While she’s been at it for awhile, I truly enjoy Katie Weiland’s speculative fiction. She’s an ace at world building and an artist at applying almost all technical aspects of story telling in a natural and appealing manner. She keeps me guessing and in wonder. Her character arcs and relationships draw me in. Some of her stuff is outrageous, but always engaging.
Fiona: Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
Wow. Tough question. There are so many favorites. If I want a quick and easy read, I’ll turn to Clive Cussler or Janet Evanovich. If I want a more challenging read, I’ll turn to Preston & Child. If I want to flirt with lunacy, I’ll consume Neal Stephenson. But a good bedtime read for me is good old John Sandford. Because his books take place in Minnesota, where I grew up, it’s fun to see how he weaves real world settings with which I’m familiar into his police procedural genre. I also enjoy a few classics like Thoreau and Emerson. I used to spend more time embracing the classic philosophers like Nietzsche and Camus, but realized I was reading that stuff more to impress others how smart I was than for my own enjoyment and edification. I’m finished with that phase of my life. I guess I grew up. Sort of.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Judy Howard of Judy Howard Publishing has been my mentor ever since I attended her writing seminars in Arizona a year ago. She never flags in her support of me. She was the one who finally spurred me into action to write fiction. Other authors helping other authors that have also inspired me include K.M. Weiland, Angela Ackerman and Beth Puglisi and their thesauri series. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t also give a nod to the NaNoWriMo organization that contributes so much inspiration to young and old writers alike.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I love the writer’s life. I retired comfortably ten years ago. Now, the word career evokes something different for me than for someone younger or with fewer financial options. If I make money from my writing, my wife will be delighted. I just want to write.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Of course! Every time I re-read something I’ve written, I want to edit it. Isn’t that natural? I was still learning about story structure while writing “Tarnished”, so I might jiggle this or juggle that, but as my mentor, Judy Howard said (she’s published five novels, and counting), “just publish the damn thing, Gene! This is your kindergarten, not grad school. You’ll improve, and when you do, you’ll use your first novel as your yardstick. Just get on with it.” I love that attitude.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent books?
Oh, my. Where do I start? Yes, I devoured every book on writing well that I could find: online, in libraries, and in used book stores. Let me see… story structure was a biggie. I still struggle with three acts, strategically-placed plot points, compelling pinch points, haunting subtext, dialogue provocatively balanced with narrative, and introducing sufficient conflict early enough to hook the reader by the throat before they have a chance to even smell the digital paper. I tend to come up short on setting detail, but shower too much attention on plot and character development. Like most authors, I “tell” too much and “show” not enough. I’m evolving along with my books, though. Thankfully. Climax and resolution are easy for me. Sometimes I introduce characters and then forget about them for a hundred pages. I’ve solved that one though through my disciplined use of the Scrivener software.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Me, of course. Oh wait, I’m not an actor, and my face isn’t all that camera-friendly. Besides, acting isn’t writing, so maybe not me. Maybe some lesser known or grittier actor who’s been rode hard and put away wet. I know… Daniel Craig, the latest James Bond! Yeah, that could work. Except for the British accent (my lead was an American kid from the wrong side of the tracks), but he did away with his lovely accent in that abominable film, “Cowboys and Aliens”, didn’t he?
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Always work to improve your mastery of the craft, and then break the rules whenever it advances the state of your own art. I use a framework for my own writing represented by the acronym ALIVE (Copyright G.K. Jurrens, 2017):
- A = Anticipate (what I want out of writing);
- L = Learn (the craft of writing, tools of the trade, sources of inspiration, pathways to fame);
- I = Invest (in myself… time, some money, emotional energy);
- V = Verify (my feelings, my facts, i.e., proper research);
- E = Emulate (writers I most admire – style, work ethic, genre)
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
You honor all authors whose books you read, believing in their characters, appreciating their messages, sharing in their dream. It’s all for you. We authors like to believe we can help change the world, at least a little.
Above all else, keep reading! And should you enjoy what you read, support your favorite authors with online reviews of their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords… Remember, you make a difference in authors’ lives as you enrich your own.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
“Broken Prey” by John Sanford (again) and “Making a Literary Life” by Carolyn See (also again).
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Nope. That was well over half six decades ago. I struggle to recall my phone number; however, I do remember the first book that broke me out of the mold of late teenage conventional (boring) thinking was a book of poetry by ee cummings (1904-1962). Brave soul. experiMENTAL. I read this while living in San Francisco for a short time in 1969 (yeah, do the math… remember Haight-Ashbury & People’s Park? Never mind, Grasshopper). I was very hungry. ee was one of my favorite authors of that time who knew the rules, and how to break them. He inspired me to dare:
“To be nobody but
yourself in a world
which is doing its best day and night to make you like
everybody else means to fight the hardest battle
which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.”
― ee cummings
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I laugh at a good joke, even if it’s politically incorrect. We take ourselves too seriously. I laugh with my grand daughter when she scores the only goal on a hockey team of all boys. I cry during old black and white movie classics when anyone dies, including dogs or horses. I cry at the VA when a young soldier with no legs must hug his young daughter from a wheelchair and can’t get close enough for a proper hug. I’m a disabled veteran myself. I’ve also looked at the world from a wheelchair. I now laugh at how much joy just walking again brings to me and my family. I served. Now I show my gratitude to others who have served… and sacrificed so much more than me. The residual pain can’t diminish that joy. Ever again.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Richard Bach right after he completed “Jonathan Livingstone Seagull”. Why? I’d love to ask him how he approached writing an entire book that is a deeply profound metaphor. Example: “Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding. Find out what you already know and you will see the way to fly.” What? I need to meet this author! Do yourself a favor, dear readers. If you haven’t read this little book, Google, “Jonathan Livingston Seagull Quotes”, and be astounded as you explore.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I watch TV to spend time with my wife, Kay. She enjoys television more than I.
I most enjoy iMax films about the history of creation with a six-story screen and a sound system that make the legs of my jeans vibrate. I do enjoy science fiction films with high budget special effects budgets.
Conversely, on Sunday mornings, Kay and I enjoy watching old Perry Mason shows. Formulaic? Yes. Predictable? Yup. It’s mostly about us being together. Our favorite part? Spotting the same old lady extra in the gallery in just about every episode produced between 1957 and 1960. After that, she must have debuted on that big stage in the sky. Big fun. We laugh. A balm for the spirit.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Food? Any seafood, Ruby Tuesday salad bar, and a good protein shake at 5 a.m. while preparing to launch the first draft of the next chapter. Colors? All ! Music? Ditto.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that it may insanitize me.
Fiona What do you want written on your head stone?
You mean if I decide to not live forever? “He drove me to think.”
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
www.twitter.com/gjurrens1 (profiles in lunacy)
www.GenoWrites.wordpress.com (writing blog)
www.GeneJurrensPhotography.wordpress.com (creative photography)
Possible cover for next book: “Onliners”, concerning computer ‘bots’ with human-like souls, sans bodies:
or an alternative (better? no?):