Author: J.R. Handley
JV: Tell me a little about “Team Handley” and how you work together.
JR: I come up with the ideas and flesh them out with my wife and mother. We tweak them so they flow and make sense and lately to ensure continuity. Mostly we do this over lunch at the local Cracker Barrel; we call those our board meetings. My mother helps keep up with my story codex to ensure I don’t contradict anything I’ve already written. I then type the outline and we all agree on it before I jump in and start writing.
My wife and my mother then go behind me to fix the issues of my poor grammar. Then they clean up the complications stemming from my anomic aphasia. I often get words and names confused, so when I don’t remember the words I just describe them. It’s not a dish washer, it’s that dang box that you put your plates in so you can eat on them again. My mother or wife then go back and clean it up, turning my gibberish back into cogent English.
When the story is done, my mother then does a final edit before we turn it over to Corey and Thomas, my editing team. Hopefully this process ends with enjoyable books that have fans coming back for more.
JV: How long have you been fiction writing?
JR: I’ve always liked writing, I tried writing an epic poem and a fantasy novel in high school. Then, academic requirements meant the only thing I was writing were research papers. Then marriage, graduation, war and children got in the way. Fast forward to my PTSD treatment, and a writing as therapy course. I found I liked it, it helped keep the demons at bay by allowing me to disassociate myself from traumatic experiences. I then started my own series and approached Tim C. Taylor about publishing it. He offered me some advice, then turned me down. Instead, he offered me the chance to write some novella’s in his universe. Those novellas grew up into novels and here we are. My first attempt at a novel was around September of 2015, after I signed my first contract with Tim C. Taylor of Human Legion Publications. It’s the first novel in the Sleeping Legion Series, The Legion Awakes.
JV: Who would play you in a movie?
JR: Me? Maybe Fat Bastard of Austin Powers. I honestly don’t know, I tend to care about the stories and most of the time I couldn’t tell you who the actor was.
JV: I’ve been enjoying your blog. What is “world building” Wednesday about?
JR: Basically, it’s my writing process. I know some authors use their blog to dispense writing advice, but I don’t feel that I’m qualified to do that. So instead of telling someone the ‘right’ way to write, I give them my process. I believe it will likely be working itself to an end, as I’ve written almost all of my process. Instead I’ll find other content to keep my blog fun and entertaining for the readers. Ideally, I’d love to use the blog to create a community where we can discuss all things nerdy.
JV: Write at night?
JR: I tend to write at night, though I am trying to shift this towards a more normal schedule. I want to adapt my schedule to my kids, as my youngest son has special needs. As he gets older I need to be fully alert when he’s awake. Plus, I love being with my boys so I’m trying to learn to write while they’re at school. However, there is an allure to night writing as the house is quiet and peaceful. Less distractions, which does tend to add to the word count.
JV: What are you currently working on? (I saw you just released No Marine Left Behind)
JR: I’m writing the fourth novel in the Sleeping Legion Series, Maternal Vengeance. In this novel, we see two armies squaring off for the final battle to control the planet of Tranquility. Then end result will be one army securing the entirety of the solar system, and have consequences that span galaxies.
JV: How would you classify it?
JR: Like everything I’m writing at the moment, they’re military science fiction which would be further sub classified under the ‘space marine’ category by Amazon. I plan on writing in the science fiction realm because I love it, though there are plans to venture into the other SciFy sub genres in the future.
JV: Where is your favorite place to be when you write?
JR: I write at home and my desk is our dining room. Ideally, I would love to have an office where I can sound proof the walls and close the door. This won’t be happening anytime soon, as we aren’t going to be moving until my wife is done with college. She has two years of her bachelor’s degree and then however long her master’s program is. But I can dream, and go there in my head. Imagine all of the cool memorabilia I can display to set the vibe; Storm Troopers helmets, militaria knickknacks, and anything that is just cool nerd goodness.
JV: From your military service, are there habits or skills that you find assist you as a writer?
JR: Hmm, being a grunt (infantryman) doesn’t directly translate into writing skills. I learned my writing skills from reading a lot and my academic training as a historian. However, the discipline transfers over, which does help. And the experiences have flavored the writing, but any life experience would give you the same flavoring for your writing. Everyone writes what they know, my field of reference is just that as a soldier.
JV: I heard Craig Martelle say once on a podcast that he had to DNF a book when the author used a staff sergeant position in a Marine setting. What about you? When reading military sci-fi, are there any sort of pet peeves you have about accuracy or believability?
JR: I will often roll my eyes, but it has to be pretty bad to make me stop reading a book. Likely, that is just a symptom of a larger issue with the author’s process.
I will be the guy counting bullets during gun fights on television, or analyzing the strategies of the futuristic warriors.
I do the same thing when reading stories, but I accept that there has to be a suspension of disbelief when you’re reading. What irks me the most is when the science fiction warriors are merely cardboard cutout tropes, rather than fleshed out characters in their own right.
Soldiers are just regular people, whatever that means for your universe, who are fighting for a cause. They have reasons for being there, and very rarely are they suicidal. They don’t want to die for their countries, they want to go home to their families. In these tropes, there is a tendency to write military science fiction that is devoid of the realities of human nature. Men are afraid, people don’t always act as they’re trained to and war is a dirty, nasty business. And more than that, there is a lot of boredom, sandwiched between moments of extreme action.
I think that what I’m the proudest of is showing that fact, which you see a lot of on the peripheries of my novels. I mean, obviously, we want to entertain, so I focus on the action. But, I do try to show the space marines in my novels as people first and foremost. They get scared, some run from the battlefield, and some really do run to the sound of the guns. Further, nobody is perfect and my main characters make plenty of mistakes along the way. And because it’s military science fiction, and there are consequences for errors on the battlefield, people die as a result. While I try to avoid gratuitous violence, I don’t shy away from letting you know what’s going on.
JV: As a reader, that authenticity is something that I appreciate and I think it resonates with other readers as well!
Give me your links:
Would you like to preview a little bit of your next piece?
JR: Because my novels are in the Kindle Unlimited program, I can’t actually do that. I wish I could, but Amazon has their rules. Their jungle, their rules ya know? What I can do is give you a link to download the prequel novella for free! https://www.instafreebie.com/free/kmM1I
JV: Readers can start with your free novella and then work their way to The Legion Awakes (The Sleeping Legion) (Volume 1)