K.S. - Hello and welcome to the blog. I am very excited to have you here. Why don’t we start off with a small introduction? Tell us a little about yourself.
J.C.G. - Hi, Katie, and thanks for inviting me. My latest novel is Backstop: A Baseball Love Story in Nine Innings. A resident of Northville, Michigan, I’m also the author of January’s Paradigm, first published in 1998 by Minerva Press. I’m working on a new novel, Cobb’s Conscience, a murder mystery written around baseball legend Ty Cobb and the shooting death of his father by his mother. An all-male jury found her innocent of wrongful death, but the local townspeople always suspected otherwise. If that’s not a storyline worthy of speculation, I don’t know what is! My short fiction, non-fiction and sports writing can be found at a number of Web sites and in print publications. Just Google me.
K.S. - Any interesting writing quirks or stories you would like to share with my readers?
J.C.G. - I don’t know that this qualifies as a quirk, but I find my muse in a good cigar. I think it has to do with routine. As you know, the craft of writing is all about routine, and so is the process of choosing the right cigar based on time of day, what I’m drinking (coffee, beer, scotch), unwrapping it, enjoying the fragrance of the tobacco, snipping the head and lighting the foot, letting the tendrils of smoke envelop me as I settle in for my writing session. Can I write without one? Sure, but it takes me longer to find my stride.
K.S. - When did you realize you wanted to be a writer? What sparked the desire to pen your first novel?
J.C.G. - I was a late bloomer where writing is concerned. I’d done some stage acting in my youth, several murder mysteries where the audience interacts with the actors onstage to solve a murder. My then wife challenged me to write a script—this was when I was in my late 20s—and so I did. The Gig is Up was the result and first introduced the character Joe January to the world. Several years later, after my divorce, I asked a friend what she wanted for her birthday and she insisted that I write a short story. I took up the challenge and while writing the piece I began to envision a much longer text—novel length, and about a year later I commenced January’s Paradigm. To answer your question, January’s Paradigm was sparked by a broken heart. Much of the process was therapeutic; but I also wished to make a statement that men, too, can be hurt as a result of infidelity.
K.S. - What genre do you write?
J.C.G. - I try to stay clear of labels, preferring instead to think of my work as literary fiction. The January series—composed of January’s Paradigm and January’s Penitence—are alternate realities with a dose of science fiction and romance; while Backstop combines baseball and romance; neither, however, is romance in the traditional bodice-ripping sense. Cobb’s Conscience also has a baseball theme, but it’s a murder mystery spanning two centuries and chronicles a man’s efforts to connect with his dying father, a World War II veteran, while coming to terms with impending divorce after an adulterous affair.
K.S. - What would you say has inspired you most in your writing career? Or, who is your favorite author and why?
J.C.G. - What and who are two questions. A desire to connect with others, as well as being a naturally introspective type while being outspoken, inspires me to write. I was named for Joseph Conrad, my dad’s favorite novelist, and I admire Conrad’s work. But when I first started writing fiction, I endeavored to emulate Gene Wolfe, who is quite popular in the science fiction/fantasy genre.
K.S. - What does your family think of your writing?
J.C.G. - Sadly, both my parents are deceased and I have no children. My father knew that January’s Paradigm was going to print, but he was gone before I received my author’s copies. An ex-girlfriend was supportive of my work but also my worst critic. I recently met a woman online who is Dean of English and World Languages at a local community college who likes my work well enough to have suggested Backstop to her book club. I get mixed feedback from my writers group. I don’t write formula, so I’m often criticized for not following the rules of contemporary fiction; that is, to write at a sixth-grade level. I know writers are advised to write for an audience, but I write, first and foremost, to please myself and hope that my audience will find me. It may be the long way to success, but I find it ever so much more gratifying.
K.S. - What was one of the most surprising things you learned while creating your book?
J.C.G. - That I could finish a project of such scope. My father was not very nurturing and often criticized me for not finishing what I started. After I’d crossed the halfway point (about a year) with January’s Paradigm and it became evident that I was likely to finish it, I told him I was writing a novel, and he asked me why I was wasting my time with such an endeavor. I later had the satisfaction, after he’d read the second draft, of hearing him express his pride in my work.
K.S. - What inspired you to write your novel?
J.C.G. - I want to talk about Backstop in response to this question. After finishing the January series, I started to think about my next project. I was 43 when my father passed away (my mother passed away the year before), and losing one’s parents drives home one’s own mortality. We all know that everyone dies; we just don’t think it’ll ever happen to us. I’ve always loved baseball, and my dream to play major league baseball was never achieved, so after I turned 50, it seemed natural for me to write a novel with a baseball theme. In Backstop, I combine my love and knowledge of baseball with romance and the heartbreak of betrayal. Not your typical romance novel, Backstop can perhaps best be described as a literary Bull Durham, sure to appeal to purists of the game as well as those who enjoy a good love story.
K.S. - Can you tell us a little about your novel?
From the back cover: You know Backstop. He plays for any team in any city in America with a major league ball club. You cheer him when he delivers, and boo him when he doesn’t. In what could be his last game after 14 years in the major leagues—the seventh game of the World Series—Backstop chronicles his rookie season, takes the reader to Chicago where he finds romance, and reveals the heartbreak he endured in the aftermath of an adulterous affair.
Rachael Perry, also a Michigan author, wrote of Backstop: “Baseball, like love, is a game of errors and regrets. Pop-outs, ground-outs, strike-outs. A bad swing, a bad throw, a bad hop. But what captivates us most is the possibility of the next at-bat, of the chance for a rally, of an unlikely clutch play that suddenly changes the stakes. This is where J. Conrad Guest meets us in Backstop: in this beautiful, hopeful place closest to our hearts, where we play for the love of the game, and we love with everything we have.”
K.S. - Where can we find your novel?
J.C.G. Backstop: A Baseball Love Story in Nine Innings is now available from Second Wind Publishing as well as Amazon, in both book and Kindle formats.
K.S. - Do you have a website, fan site, or Blog that we can visit?
J.C.G. - I have both a website and a blog. I also have a Facebook page and I Twitter. I invite all visitors to sign my guestbook and to leave comments on my work—I want to know that I’ve connected with you!
K.S. - Do you have any closing advice to aspiring writers?
J.C.G. - Never underestimate the power of editing and rewriting, or perseverance. Many writers stop after the first draft. I never stop rewriting and editing, right up until deadline. Sometimes a rejection letter can give input on a text’s weakness. Too many writers self-publish after a few rejection letters. Just about every notable author cites perseverance as part of the formula to publication. Anyone can self-publish on a credit card; but if your work is good, then it’s worth the effort of pursuing a publisher that doesn’t require you to invest your own money. There are no shortcuts to success.
THE BOOK GIVEAWAY!
J. Conrad has been generous enough give away an autographed copy of Backstop: A Baseball Love Story in Nine Innings. This is limited to U.S. residents only, due to the cost of postage. If you would like a chance to win the book, simply comment and leave your e-mail address. A winner will be selected and announced.