Ever wondered what a thriller romance featuring baseball would look like? Well look no further. Meet author J.A. Flowers. J. A. writes stories with character driven plots, that showcase life's issues, and how they change us as people. His debut novel titled ' The Clean Up Spot' features baseball, humour, romance, suspense, and a twist you won't see coming. So, lets find out more about the author.
Tell me a bit about yourself
Hello, I’m J.A. Flowers. I live in Waco, Texas (no, I don’t ride a horse or even own a cowboy hat.) But I love the spirit of being a Texan- strong-willed, proud, and friendly! I am a lifelong educator, 20 years as a teacher, campus administrator, and curriculum director, and that influence comes out in my new book. So does my love for baseball! I am an avid baseball fan, especially of the Texas Rangers, which causes me plenty of anxiety and heart-breaking moments. I live this fun-filled, crazy life with my wife, Jamie, and our two sons, who, of course, are handsome and brilliant like their dad!
How long have you been writing?
I began writing short fiction in college and have always loved the flash fiction genre. But most of my writing has been professional, academic articles for the K-12 school audience. I began my quest to write novels about five years ago. I’m very lucky because once I get an idea for a book, the plan comes together quickly for me, so I rarely deal with writer’s block, but like a lot of us, I’m not great at finishing everything I start.
Do you have a favourite book from your childhood?
As a little boy, I loved Beverly Cleary books. 'The Mouse and the Motorcycle' is the first book I imitated as I wrote my first “book” on notebook paper on the living room floor. As a teen, I enjoyed the classic high school assigned reading—'A Separate Peace', 'The Great Gatsby', Shakespeare—so much so, I got my undergrad degree in English.
Your book titled ‘The Clean Up Spot’ involves shattered dreams, relationship and family issues, and baseball. Can you tell me more about it?
I grew up playing baseball and was talented enough to play at a high level, but like most baseball players, I reached a point when I realized that I wasn’t good enough to move on to the best of the best. I had a character in mind that had reached that point, but I wanted his dream of playing taken away from him unjustly, not because he wasn’t good enough, so Ty Burke grew from that idea. I also knew I wanted to establish a conflict between family members and people not being who they portrayed themselves to be (Gatsby's influence), so I drew on my years of seeing that in the churches I have attended. Not that I’m anti-church, it’s just where sinners hang out. Ultimately, I wanted to write a novel with a redemption theme that mimics the choice we all have to get back up after we fall, and baseball is the best example I know that requires that because it is a sport of failure and overcoming the desire to quit.
You describe your book as a Thriller and a Romance. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the story idea?
Humans are flawed creations, and the more we try to fix our flaws on our own, the bigger mess we make, so I wanted a character who changes once he looked beyond himself toward the needs of others. I write a male protagonist who begins arrogant, self-centered, and myopic in his views until he is faced with a problem that tests that. For me, romantic relationships provide the stage for that to work itself out. In the case of 'The Clean Up Spot', the protagonist, Ty Burke, is faced with choices that can lead to regret, revenge, or redemption, all fueled by lies. A good thriller reveals the dark side of the human psyche; a good romance novel reveals the good side of it.
Can you describe your writing process?
I enjoy the character development process. I’ll spend most of my time planning my profiles before I write outlines and story arcs. Once I have a good grasp on my characters, I plot my story in three “acts.” I set up a challenge, throw as many plausible obstacles as I can at my characters, then have them go through a transformation. But I do like to leave a little chaos left in the process's wake. 'The Clean Up Spot' went through three plot versions before it gelled into its final form. I self-revise/edit as I write, taking on 10,000-word chunks to comb through before I move on.
What does literary success look like to you?
This a wonderful question and one all authors need to clearly answer. For me, I like the creative control of the self-publishing process. Let’s be honest, I’m not writing literary, Pulitzer prize books, but I do have marvelous stories to share, so if someone reads it, enjoys it, and smiles at the end, then I consider that a success. Oh, and I’d like to sell 500 copies! LOL!
Who are your favourite authors, and how have they influenced your work?
Loaded question, Hayley! My favorites haven’t necessarily influenced me. Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Atwood are my favorites, but I’m nowhere near that talented. Other talented authors who I read incessantly are John Lescroart, Michael Connelly, Jodi Picoult, and Nicholas Sparks. Recently, I’ve discovered C.J. Box—superb storytellers. Their influence helps me blend thriller-type plotlines with romance influencing my characters’ choices.
Are you working on anything at the moment?
I am! I writing book one of a new series. Former baseball player (imagine that) turned private investigator to have the freedom to look for his autistic brother’s killers. One problem, he blames himself for his brother’s death, so he fights, literally and figuratively, to exorcise that demon with the help of whiskey sours and pain medication. Along the way, he meets a woman who just might be worth straightened up his act for.
What advice would you give a new author?
Nothing earth-shaking here—read and write. Get in shape and build endurance; think reps! Study structure and form, plan for it ahead of time, do it daily, set goals, and track your progress. Nothing can happen until finish your manuscript.
Lastly, what interests do you have outside of writing?
I pretend to be an architect! I practice my craft by playing Legos with my son. I also paint when I have the chance. My wife and I spend our free time driving all over Texas watching our boys play baseball.
Thanks to J.A Flowers for the insight into his work. If you would like to check out his book, click on the links below.