Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
My name is J. A. Cummings, and I’m 49 years old.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I was born in Flint, Michigan, and have lived in the same state for my entire life. I currently live in Novi.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the Michigan State University Honors College with a degree in history, anthropology and Spanish. The idea was that I would be an archaeologist in Central America, but due to the political climate and the scarcity of archaeology positions in the work force, that never came to pass. I ended up backing into the insurance industry, which has been the basis of my day jobs since then. I currently work full time as a paralegal with a healthcare subrogation company.
I’m single, never married, and have no kids unless you count my cats.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
In March 2019, I released the first book in a 12-book series called Arthur Rex. The first book is called In Principio. The series is an epic retelling of the King Arthur legend, with an LGBT slant.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing when I was four years old. I was driving my mother insane when we were snowed in one Christmas break, and my sister had a school assignment to write a story. Mom saw her chance and sat me down to write one, too. I loved it, and I haven’t stopped since.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
The first time I really considered myself a writer was when my first book was published way back in 1999.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
The very first book I wrote was a terrible little thing called Stranded with Terror. It was for my fourth grade English class, and it ended up being put in a college library for some arcane reason. I think I was inspired by all of the made-for-TV ghost movies that were popular in the 1970s.
What inspired me to write the first book of the Arthur Rex series is a lifelong fascination with the legend of King Arthur. I saw a lot of homoeroticism in the text of Mallory’s Le MorteD’Arthur, and I wanted to explore it. I also wanted to inject a little more historicity into the canon. There’s been so much basing Arthur’s story in a sort of 15th-century milieu that I wanted to return him to his proper time in post-Roman Britain.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I came up with the title In Principio for two reasons: (1) It’s the beginning of the story, and it’s about the beginning of Arthur’s life, so the translation of “In the Beginning” was almost too on the nose; and (2) it’s in Latin to emphasize the recent Roman occupation of Britain, and how Rome’s fingerprints were still all over the island when Arthur grew to manhood.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I’m told that my style is very visual, and that people see the books unfolding in their heads like movies. That’s perfect, because that’s the way I see them while I’m writing. The challenge with writing Arthur is that it’s been written so many ways and by so many extraordinary writers over the years that it’s difficult to contribute anything new. I try not to be derivative of any of the retellings that have come before me.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The current book is based on as much historical accuracy as I could reasonably apply to the story of Arthur, including the Latin names for landmarks and an inclusion of the native Celtic tribes and their interactions. Since it’s a retelling of a fantastic story, there really isn’t much based on people I know or events in my own life, but as with any writer, everything I’ve experienced and everyone I’ve ever met have influenced me and inform the words that I put onto the page.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I don’t have to travel physically, which is a good thing, because I have neither the time nor the money to take trips! I do a lot of research, poring over scholarly treatises on line and in physical form. A lot of that research happened before the process, but I’m jumping into researching fine points all the time while I write.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The cover was designed by the extremely talented Zoe Perdita at Rainbow Danger Designs.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The message in the novel is the message of Arthur: that it’s right to do right for right’s own sake. I’d also like people to realize that the modern conceptualization of homosexuality, bisexuality and polyamory really didn’t exist in the ancient world. I’d like people reading this to open up their minds a little bit to understand more history.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
I struggle with questions like this, because an author might be new to me but not really new. Also, I read so many different books and so many different genres that it’s almost impossible for me to name a favorite writer. I suppose I’ll default to my first favorite writer, William Shakespeare. What strikes me is that for someone whose works are supposed to be highbrow, they’re really bawdy and naughty most of the time. He was a populist, and plays he wrote were for the entertainment of the masses. He was the Spielberg of his age. Also, his sonnets are sheer beauty, and I love poetry.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
My best friend, Sandy Nelson, has been a tireless supporter. She has encouraged me, aided and abetted me, and pushed me when I needed pushing. She’s been there for me for over 30 years, and I truly believe I would never have accomplished what I have without her there in my corner.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I do. I would like to support myself on my writing, but money isn’t the complete definition of a career. I may never get to the point where my writing is my only job, but it will always be the career that I want to promote and develop.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I hate to say this, because it sounds so arrogant, but I’m so happy with my latest book that I wouldn’t change a thing.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I started this project a little afraid of offending the Arthuriana purists, but I learned that purists have their opinions, but they’re also deeply factionalized. I could never please all of them, so I learned to write to please myself instead.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Oh, gosh. It would have to be an unknown, because the main character of Arthur is aged 12 to 15 in this book. I also think that the series, because it’s so long and in depth, would do better as a television series like Game of Thrones than as a single movie.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Do not give up. Even when you’re discouraged, even when things are hard, don’t give up. I wasted 10 years over my discontent with the circumstances of the publication of Nightchild, years spent not writing that I can’t get back. I think now of all of the books I could have written in that time and I just want to choke.
Also, even if you hate it, don’t burn the only copy of your manuscript, especially if it was handwritten on notebook paper. Voice of experience here. What’s ashes can’t be saved.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
I am approachable, and I want to hear from them. I want them to tell me what they like, who they are, how they found my books, and what they think of them. I want to connect.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
The book I’m reading right now is Son of the Morning by Mark Alder. It’s huge and I don’t have much time to read, so it’s taking me a while, but it’s very good.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
The first book I read cover to cover was The Pokey Little Puppy, then a collection of fairy tales, the Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. I was not a normal kid.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I laugh and cry pretty easily. I’m an emotional person. I laugh at word play, my cats’ antics, internet memes, and the general cleverness of my friends. I cry over music, memories, the news (oh, God, the news has been bad) and sometimes out of sheer frustration with things in my personal life. It’s always a wild ride.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
I would love to see my mom just one more time so I could hear her voice again and get one last hug from her. She died in 2003 and I still miss her.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I love to read, of course, and I can’t exist without music. I also enjoy cross stitching.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I like the Marvel MCU, The Thirteenth Warrior, ghost hunting shows and documentaries. I find myself watching a lot of true crime lately, and that’s no doubt going to show up in my newer works.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
My favorite foods are blueberries, chicken tikka masala, burritos with hot sauce, and roasted turkey with cranberry sauce. My favoritecolors are blue, green, red and black. As far as music, I really am a complete musical whore – I listen to anything and everything, with few exceptions. My favorite band right now is Disturbed. My all-time favorite pieces of music, though, are classical: Mozart’s Requiem and Allegri’s Miserere Mei Deus.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I can’t imagine that. I would have to be dead or very near it to stop writing.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
I would call my Dad, my sister and my best friends and tell them what they mean to me and what they can have when they have to clean out my apartment. I would write a last love letter to the world and put it on my blog. Then I would cuddle my cats and listen to music until the clock ticked down.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
“Are you okay?”
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
I do! It’s www.authorjacummings.com, and it’s just getting started. I also have a Facebook group called Cummings’ Crickets.
Amazon Authors page USA https://www.amazon.com/J.-A.-Cummings/e/B006ISDACI/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1
Armen Pogharian said:
The King Arthur tale is truly one that keeps on giving. I mined it myself (mixing it with String Theory – if you can believe that), but yours is the first retelling with an LGBTQ spin. Perhaps originality will help you more than it did me. Best of luck.