Today, I am bringing you an interview with Aussie author J D Armstrong who describes himself as a single dad first, and a writer second. He is the author of 'Do You Dare' a compilation of dark short stories. Lets find out more.
Tell me about yourself.
Well, I love these questions. Lol. I was born in Victoria, Australia, in 1973. Currently living in Perth, Western Australia. A lot of stuff happened in between. For example, I served in the Australian Navy for 7 years, joining a few weeks out from my 18th birthday.
I've worked in various industries since then until I died in 2015. Obviously, I came back. I then died again in 2017. I came back again. It was shortly after this I published Do You Dare? I had prepared it between the two deaths as I'd realised that would be a major regret. It was around this time I'd come across Amazon self-publishing.
LIVE without regret, so you don't DIE with it.
I am a single father. Two children, a girl and a boy. My daughter (thirteen in August) lives with her mother in Western Australia. My son (seven in October, to a different mother) lives with me 24/7. He's Autistic, so between my injuries and caring for him, life is a bit full on at times.
How long have you been writing?
I started writing when I was nine. However, I began telling stories before that. I'd regale my friends with adventures we would go on had it not been raining, and we couldn't go on adventures. I enjoyed it, so eventually, that translated into writing stories. They could have been better, and it wasn't until I was twenty, I kept anything I wrote. Suffering from Imposter Syndrome, I would read anything I'd written and promptly throw it in the bin. What changed was I stopped reading it. I would type it up on the computer. Save it. Move on to the next. To this day, I have not read any of my stories in full.
What do you like to read?
I was a voracious reader as a child and teenager. Even into my twenties, slowing down in my late twenties. Still, I love to read and will read anything that interests me. Predominantly, it's been horror. I watched a Stephen King double at the drive-in movies when I was seven. Of course, I wasn't meant to be awake. My sister, who was 3, had fallen asleep during the kids' movies beforehand. I had as well, then woke up at the start of Salem's Lot. Followed by 'The Shining'.
That gave me nightmares for about six years. They stopped when I read 'The Shining' when I was thirteen because I'd learnt from other experiences that facing your fears was the way to overcome them. After that, though, I was hooked. I've read a lot of fantasy along the way; David Eddings was a favourite, as well as some sci-fi. When I was desperate, my step-mum's romance books, the bible, the encyclopedia.
Tell me about 'Do You Dare'.
Do You Dare? It is a compilation of ten short stories. As I mentioned earlier, I wrote the first story I kept, 'The Author', one night on a Friday when I was twenty. Then I wrote the second, 'Mirror Mirror', the following night, based on an experience I had one night returning from working at Maccas (McDonald's) when I was fifteen. 'The Sandman' next, inspired by Metallica's song and Hans Christian Anderson's original. 'My Enemy', inspired by a 90's dance song. 'Changes', my favourite, is a vampire story done a little differently. I promise there are no sparkles. 'Dream Web' is something a bit different. 'Mind Rider', I don't know where that idea came from. 'Devil's Halo' was partly inspired by Anne Rice's 'Memnoch the Devil' and partly by 'Chop Suey' by System of the Down. 'The Last', which ironically isn't the last, is about Gargoyles. 'Town Spirit' is the final story, set in a Western Australian town with a different town spirit than you might expect. While these are of the horror genre, I'm not writing gore just for the sake of it, horror writer. I had someone describe my writing as the thinking man's horror writer. I finished writing 'Town Spirit' when I was thirty and didn't write again for nearly 15 years.
What inspired you to write it?
When someone reads my stories, it's always been the thrill of someone's reaction that inspires me. I love interacting with readers and hearing their thoughts. I want honest opinions; not everyone will love my writing, and that's normal. I still want to know either way. My favourite Amazon review says, "..with a little polish, James Armstrong could become a modern-day Edgar Allan Poe." That blew me away, considering I wrote them between 20 and 30 years ago. My writing could have been better, and as I've matured, so has my writing. Another review I got, while not as flattering, was honest in their opinion and said they'd still read anything by me again. Her main issue, from memory, was that many of my stories could be full-length novels, and some felt rushed. That is the plan with many of them, and others will be a series of novellas. One of them I'm thinking of turning into a graphic novel. I also have a fantasy series to write and a children's book, a series to write. More ideas than time. As for some being rushed. That's accurate.
What was your journey to publication?
Interestingly, just before the dot-com bubble popped in the mid-nineties, a lady had an online publishing business. She had come across my first two stories and asked me if I had any more for her to look at. I had just finished 'The Sandman', so I sent her that. She loved it and asked if I could write seven more stories quickly. I wrote five more in a few months, and then the bubble burst, never heard from her again. That disappointed me, but I wrote the last two eventually, and I've mentioned above what happened after that.
What are you working on now?
At the moment, I'm working on 'Double Dare'! The second compilation of 10 short stories. I've written 'Hotel California', based on my interpretation of the song by The Eagles. I've been trying to get the rights so I don't breach copyright law for about eight months. It's crazy just trying to find the right person to talk to. I also wrote one called 'Santa's Snow Globe' for a Christmas short story competition in 2022 on Readl.com. Came equal first place with a friend.
What comes first for you, the plot, or the characters?
I am a pantser through and through. I get a vague concept, an ending, or a beginning. The idea grows in my head, and I start writing. In one instance, my editor returned and said halfway through that I changed the MC's name, so she changed it back to what I started with. I said, nah, obviously, I got his name wrong, and he corrected me. Lol. This will be a challenge when I go back to writing more in-depth work; I know that. The most planning I've ever done was play the song 'Hotel California' while writing the story.
What is your writing kryptonite?
Stress, for one. Distractions are another. My son, I love him, but focusing on anything when he is around that requires any focus is difficult at best. Someone on Twitter, years ago, asked how parents with children get any writing done. I posted a picture of me with my son using me as a jungle gym. He was literally standing on my shoulders as I was sitting. I commented, "I don't know. When you find out, please share."
What advice would you give a first-time author?
Once you have published your work, separate your ego from it. Not easy to do, for sure, but it will protect your mental health. Not everyone will like your work. Some will tell you how much they hate it. If you separate your ego from it, you may agree with something they say and can use it to improve your craft.
Someone reviewing your work is their review of your work. Their opinion. Please don't argue with them; it will not end well. This doesn't count obvious trolls, and Amazon should have something in place to remove those reviews. People who leave a one-star review with no comment. It's obvious they are just out to hurt the Author.
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
I'm a single dad. Lol. Writing is what I do when I'm not doing anything else. Before my accident, I worked out a fair bit, played indoor beach volleyball four nights a week, and loved to go dancing; how I miss it. I'm working on getting back on the dancefloor. I refuse to give up. Just taking longer than I liked. When walking hurts still, it'll take time.
I've done a few courses, have another few coming, and have launched my coaching business. Be Strong, it's called. I'll be focusing on helping victims of domestic violence find themselves again. To heal and find their inner strength. Will also be doing emotional intelligence work. Help people understand and manage their emotions.
I started a newsletter/publication and community with my friend and fellow writer
late last year. It's called WritersWithoutWalls on Twitter .We publish on Substack, Medium, Zirkels, and Paragraph.
Thank you to J D for sharing his story with us. If you would like to check out his work, click on the links below :