Friday 20 April 2012


What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarise it in less than 20 words what would you say?
"Life in Pieces," tells the story of an unemployed stay-at-home-dad who wakes up one morning and reads the paper only to find out he is running for congress. The unlikely candidate's thoughts serve as a pointed satire of politics and the economy, as well as a moving love story about the strength and importance of family.
In the second "piece" of the story, Michael Langley, a college freshman, struggles to find his place in a new setting that doesn't make much sense to him. When he finally meets a group of friends that make him feel at home, he realizes that if he is to build a life with what might be the woman of his dreams, he'll have to give up everything he thought he ever wanted.
And somewhere, a crazy old man couldn't care less about either of these stories. This last "piece" follows two old lovers who have figured out a way to ignore the struggles of the world around them and be comforted only by their love as they reach the end of their earthly lives together, and resolve the conflicts of their past.
In "Life in Pieces," all these stories come gracefully together to show that we are never too old to come of age.

When did you first consider yourself as a "writer"?
I really don’t know if I even consider myself a writer yet.  I’ve been writing for all of my adult life, but “Life in Pieces” is my first novel.  I think that’s why so many of the characters in it are at the beginning of some big change in their lives, because that’s a lot of what I’m trying to work through as well.  I mean, you have one character who has just gone off to college and is struggling to find his identity, make friends, and fall in love, another who has just gotten married and started a family, and yet another dealing with the loss of his wife and his family.  All of these are major life changes that there’s no easy way of dealing with.  In a way, I guess accepting the fact that you’ve become a writer is just as difficult.

Do you work another job as well as your writing work?
Like my main character in “Life in Pieces,” I am a stay at home dad.  I teach writing classes on nights and weekends at a community college, but I consider my main job being a parent.  Like the character in the book, it has been a struggle for me to find time to write while working at home and taking care of two kids, but I think that I’ve come to some of the same realizations that he does in the book.  If my life wasn’t as stressful as it sometimes feels, I don’t think I’d like it as much as I do.  Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I go through a lot of the frustration and anger that this character does, I actually think it was a bit of a release for me to write him.  But, overall, with this book, I’ve found a way to take that frustration and turn it into something positive.

How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?
Having just turned 30, “Life in Pieces” was three decades in the making.  When I finished writing it, I remember saying to my wife, “This is everything I’ve wanted to say about everything for a long time.”  It addresses a lot of issues about family, getting married, having kids, but also the typical coming of age themes of finding yourself and your own identity, and it deals a lot with the plans we make and the goals we set for ourselves and how we get there.  In the end, I think the point “Life in Pieces” makes is that you can set all the goals you want, but life’s going to happen the way it wants no matter what.  The only way to really be happy is to be willing to let go of yourself a little.

Do you have plans for a new book? Is this book part of a series?
“Life in Pieces” is not part of a series, it’s actually kind of a series in itself, in the sense that it’s made up of three different parts, or “pieces,” that don’t at first seem connected, but slowly begin to overlap and come together.

How do you come up with the Title and Cover Designs for your book/books?Who designed the Cover of your books?
I did the cover design myself, with some help and final approval by my wife.  I actually struggled with the cover image a lot.  There is a scene in the book when the old man character is sitting by the side of a busy road in a beach chair, relaxing and enjoying life while the rest of the world speeds to wherever it thinks it needs to go.  I thought that image would make a good cover, but I couldn’t make it happen.  Then I thought I’d put together some pictures from political rallies, but again, like I said, it’s not really a political book, so that didn’t seem to work.  Finally, after thinking through these more complex ideas, I decided to keep it simple.  No picture, just the title on a stark red background.  I liked the font because it made the words, “Life in Pieces” look like actual pieces, then they were spaced so they didn’t immediately look like they fit together.  I thought about spacing out the letters, but then it started to get complicated again.
 As far as the title goes, “Life in Pieces” is sort of like one big story with all the smaller pieces all jumbled up.  At one point I considered A Man in Pieces for the title, but I didn’t like it nearly as much.  It put too much emphasis on the character, on the person, and I didn’t want “Life in Pieces” to be seen as a character study because that’s not really what it is.  It’s more a look at life in general, and the way or lives are really just made up of moments, pieces, that come together to define our time in the world.

Is there a certain Author that influenced you in writing?
 As a reader, I’ve always been a huge fan of stories that aren’t told in chronological order, or any kind of logical order really.  Books where there are two or three, or more even, threads, and it isn’t until the end that the reader really gets any sense of how they all fit together.  Any of the Jonathan Safran Foer or Nicole Krauss books are exactly what I’m talking about here, especially Nicole Krauss’s “Great House.”
 That kind of disjointed storytelling is very intriguing to me, and that’s why “Life in Pieces” is told the way it is, in flashbacks and narrators that sometimes seem to overlap and sometimes seem to not be connected in any way at all.  In the end though, the reader can see how it all adds up to one unified story, and to me that makes the climax even more emotional.
 I also like writers who are able to comment on their times.  Recently, to help promote “Life in Pieces,” I sponsored a short story contest for stories dealing with some of the issues addressed in the book.  Since one of the characters is dealing with being unemployed and trying to support a family, I called for stories dealing with issues of unemployment and economic hardship.  The winners are posted on my website,, but as I was reading these stories, I was reminded of the role writers can play in a world dealing with some of the issues that we are today.  Authors may not be able to solve the economic problems we’re facing, but I think they play a big role in understanding them.  Think about a lot of the writing out of the depression era, “Grapes of Wrath” comes to mind first, but there are hundreds of examples.  I’m not comparing myself to John Steinbeck, I’m just saying that we sometimes overlook the importance of writers in making sense out of the nonsensical things that happen in the world every day.  My hope is that after people read “Life in Pieces,” they feel like they’re in a little better position to deal with the craziness of their lives.

What do you think about book trailers?
I have a book trailer on my website ( and on youtube (  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with book trailers.  I heard a story on NPR recently that was kind of making fun of them, but I don’t really understand that.  It seems like a perfectly natural and logical way to promote a book.  I think there are people out there who want to keep literature pure and artistic, but they forget that Charles Dickens’ books are so long because he got paid by the word.

Who is your publisher? or do you self publish?
 I am proud to be an independent writer.  As part of the release of “Life in Pieces,” I hosted a radio show about the pros and cons of self publishing vs. traditional publishing.  You can listen to it here (  To me, there’s something exciting about doing this outside of traditional means.  There’s a stigma about it, but that seems silly to me.  When there was an explosion of independent movies in the 1990’s I didn’t hear people saying the people who made them weren’t real filmmakers, or that they were only doing it themselves because they weren’t good enough to do it with the backing of a major studio.  Yet you hear this about indie authors all the time.  It seems like a double standard to me, and I think it comes from the fact that a vocal minority of people, most of whom work or study in university English departments, think that books need to be stuffy and traditional, and there’s no room to do anything differently.  I disagree, not only on the content and writing style side of things, but also on the business side.

 What piece of advice would you give to a new writer?
My advice for other writers is to trust yourself.  The best advice I ever got was that a story will often write itself, and a good writer will let it rather than force the story to be what he or she wants it to be.  It took me a long time to be able to do that, but my writing was so much better when I did.  It’s very good life advice too, to just let go and not force things to be the way you want them to be.  That’s one of the major themes in “Life in Pieces.”

Where can readers follow you?

Your blog details?
Your web site ?
Your facebook page?
Your Goodreads author page?
Your Twitter details? @ProfetaChrisJ


  1. I think indie writers all struggle with the stigma they feel comes with independent publishing. My daughter, aggravated by some of the less-than-positive comments made by my peers, said "Mom, you aren't writing for writers; you're writing for readers, and they don't care who published it if they like the story." She was right, of course. I look forward to reading your book. If you get time and inclination, check out my web page and book at Good luck!

  2. Thank you so much. I will check out your website right now!