Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
My name is Jonathan Kuiper. I present myself as a math teacher during the day and an author when school is out. Writing has been a big part of my life since I wrote a short story back in fourth grade. After dabbling with screenplays in my late teens, early 20s, I switched to books. My most popular book is Luza, the first book of an young adult adventure series. Followed close behind is Running With Vince, a fictional account of losing my twin brother and how our relationship changed after his death. I don’t have a specific genre I focus on. I enjoy creating stories that help people move forward. You can always find out more on my website http://www.jfkwrites.com
What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?
of my books have real life stories behind them. May it be a
character, setting, or even an entire story line I pull from what I
have experienced, seen, and lived. In Luza,
Keira is a combination of different students I have taught from
appearance and demeanor. Likewise, Luza is at times the
quintessential teenagers. The mother and daughter dynamic in My
Sheandoah Love is something I have
observed. Running With Vince,
the personalities are taken from my twin brother and myself. I think
in all of my books too, I go out of my way to put the characters in
real settings. I want the characters to be in Front Royal, Virginia,
the mountains of New Hampshire, or on Interstate 95. Real settings
add so much to the layers I’m attempting to setup. The only book I
didn’t do that with but still felt inspired by the area was Our
Place by the Sea. Even that book, I
based the young couple off my grandparents and their letter exchange
during World War 2. The teacher trying to figure out what he wanted
to do, was loosely based of my decisions on whether I wanted to move
away after college or remain.
What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?
There are several mistakes I can think of. You should not write a book until you fully understand the motivations of your characters or the premise of the story. If you just want to say you are an author and then sit down writing a few pages a day, of course you’ll have something in six months or so. But so what? It doesn’t mean the story works. Is there cohesiveness and purpose? I think the biggest mistake is thinking we have a story to share when in fact the characters, the setting, and the interactions are a mess. Don’t write anything until you have fleshed out the basics.
Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
I usually have a collection of possible titles and then I share those with my extended family, friends, and students for feedback. This is the same for covers. When I actually made my own covers it was a process to get feedback to make sure they were visually appealing. With Luza, I went directly to my readers ie my students and shared possible ideas and prototypes to find the right cover.
How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
I’ll be the first to say that initially it was difficult to deal with some readers who didn’t respond positively to one of my books. I still remember one review for Our Place by the Sea. It was a one star review on how the book was written in the first person and didn’t deal with nature as the reader had hoped. Putting things in perspective, I had to laugh because of course if you don’t like a certain writing style or make an expectation before entering a story, there will be disappointment. That brings up a greater issue for me as a reader and writer. If you can’t get into a book in the first ten or twenty pages, go find something else to read. Likewise, I think realizing every reader has an opinion and it’s not going to match mine, is okay. I’m at peace with that part of the process now. Although I will share that readers who rave about the books but then adjust the rating based off a few typos, is equally comical. To each their own. The point being that as long as I’m going to share my stories to the world, there will be positive and negative feedback. If I can’t roll with the feedback, then I probably shouldn’t be in publishing.
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
This is a great question because in my first drafts it’s always about wherever the characters take the story. I have a general idea what’s going to happen, but then once I get into the writing process, those ideas can sometimes changes based off the interactions with the characters. Knowing this, my level of satisfaction depends more on the outcome of the story and on whether there is resolution for all the characters. Having said that, I know with My Shenandoah Love, I loved the progression of events and what was building. Still I knew, the book would be more for college age women so it was important to give an ending that would appease that demographic while stilling be true to the voices of each character. I think with the Luza series I felt it was important especially in book four to tie things together so the readers could feel satisfied with Keira’s journey. For balancing the two, it really is knowing the audience but also being aware that these characters have experiences unique to the story that will be resolved most appropriately for their growth.
What role do emotions play in creativity?
This question is interesting to me because I think if you can’t get into a certain scene, to feeling what your characters feel, it won’t matter how creative you are and things will fall flat. I knowing in Going Home, the third book in the Vincent Chronicles, I was super involved with the progression of Christian and Vince’s story. I knew they were coming to a point where both characters needed to go it alone for a variety of reasons. It was emotional for me. I sat in the front seat of my car, up at the lake where my twin and I played as little kids, to recreate the emotional bond I wanted to convey in the story. When I had to dive into the brothers going their separate ways, I was able to get into that mood, feeling the actual energy of when it happened in reality. As I wrote not only did I feel an emotional response, the sadness and love that was shared between the two, but the mutual understanding on what needed to be done. That made the creative process and the execution of it effective. On a side note, I was emotionally wiped after writing the scene and had to stop writing for the rest of the day. That’s when I knew it worked.
Do you have any creativity tricks?
I wish I had some creatively tricks to share. Truth be told, most of my stories come out of the blue. I jot them down on a notepad, then I let the stories sit in my head for a year until the words are ready to flow. I don’t believe in writing to write. I think when I’m ready to create, the words are overflowing and thus the actual writing process is quick when it happens. Forcing stories is simply a writing activity and I don’t necessarily like to experience that type of writing. My advice, live life and you’ll get inspiration which will allow stories to form and be put to paper.
What are your plans for future books?
More Luza books, more adult fiction books, just more writing.