What is your name, where were you born and where do you live now?
Jelani: Hi! My name is Jelani Sims. I was born and raised in Houston, Texas. Now I live in Norman, OK.
Kyle: My name is Kyle West, I was born in the town of Lake Jackson, Texas, located near the Gulf Coast south of Houston. I now live in Oklahoma City.
Did you always want to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
Jelani: I have wanted to be a writer since I was a little kid. I would read Goosebumps by R. L. Stine and try to imitate his writing style and write my own novels. I also had dreams of being a doctor and a scientist, but writing eventually took over as my dominant passion.
Kyle: As a kid, I wanted to be many things – an architect was one of them for a while. It was only when I started reading sixth grade that stared wanting to be a writer. I started writing stories when I was eight or nine. I’ve always been a voracious reader, and read above my reading level – which is a pretty common among writers.
When did you first consider yourself as a "writer"?
Jelani: Honestly, my consideration of myself as a writer goes back and forth from day to day. I believe a writer is someone who doesn't just want to write; they need to write. A writer finds it painful to go a full day without writing. They also are willing to write anything, any time, anywhere. I am constantly working towards this mentality. Whenever I find myself writing each day, and successfully adapting to new styles and ways of expressing myself, I consider myself a writer. The battle is always to stay productive and continue producing.
Kyle: I think I first thought of myself as a writer when I took Creative Writing in high school. I took the class as an elective for a couple of years, and learned my first lessons of the craft from my teacher, Ron Rozelle, who is an excellent Texas author. If I hadn’t had his influence, I would be a different person today. In that class I discovered I had a talent. People were always excited to read my stories and always seemed to get really into them. It was probably the first time I received lots of positive attention for something I could do well. The same teacher told me on my last day of class that I had a gift for writing, and that I shouldn’t give up. That was all I needed to hear.
Which of your books were easier/harder to write than the others?
Jelani: Writing Night of the Necromancer was definitely the most difficult task I've done so far. Writing the same scene over and over with a few alterations each time can become very laborious and tedious. Formatting and organizing such a book (thanks Kyle West) is even more difficult. I'd say if anyone wants a real challenge, try writing a complex choose-your-own-adventure book.
Did it take a long time to get your first book published?
Kyle: My first book, Night of the Necromancer, took two years to write. That is entirely too long to write a book, at least for me. I’ve gotten progressively better at writing as time has gone on. My second book, which is unpublished so I sometimes forget about it, probably took three to four months to write. My third took about the same, and it is now published on Amazon under the title of The Wasteland Chronicles: Apocalypse. My most recent book, currently untitled, took just a few weeks to write, though the last two are only novellas. I think I’m getting better at completing books as time goes on.
What can we expect from you in the future? ie More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
Jelani: I've loved the horror genre ever since I was a little kid, so readers can expect more of that from me in the future. Although, every story that enters my head isn't strictly horror, and I plan on writing those too. I imagine that my body of work in 20 years will be very diverse in genre and types of stories.
Kyle: I love zombies, and I always will. I may revisit the genre later, but now I’m more into science fiction and fantasy. I’m also experimenting with adding more romance to my stories. I really enjoy love stories, and adding a romance element to other genres such as sci-fi or fantasy always makes the story richer and more interesting.
Do you have plans for a new book? Is this book part of a series?
Kyle: I’m working on two series concurrently. The first is The Wasteland Chronicles, a sci-fi trilogy set in the Mojave Desert in California in 2060, thirty years following the impact of a meteor. The other series has a working title of Dark Prophecies. It is a dark fantasy set in a world full of wars, empires, dark magic, and suchlike things. I’m planning on doing short stories more often. I have an idea for a short story featuring zombies and unicorns that is quite amusing to me.
Do you have a favourite character from your books? and why are they your favourite?
Kyle: I’ve fallen in love with several of my characters. I love the character of Regina from Night of the Necromancer. She’s prissy, spoiled, whiny, yet beautiful. She is the kind of character that people love to hate. Maybe that’s why I like her? I’m also a fan of Makara from The Wasteland Chronicles. I’ve always loved strong female characters that kick butt, and she does just that.
How long have you been writing?, and who or what inspired you to write?
Jelani: I was writing little stories and poems as a child. Although, I didn't start writing seriously until I was around the age of 18 or 19. As mentioned before, reading R.L. Stine's children's books were a huge influence on me wanting to write. Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and J. K. Rowling are also great influences on me.
Do you have a certain routine for writing? ie You listen to music, sit in a certain chair?
Jelani: Whenever I'm writing, I like to create an atmosphere that allows me to "trance out" and focus on nothing else around me but what is on the page. I love listening to music, particularly one song on repeat, because it helps me go to that zone where I can focus and be productive.
Kyle: No music. I try to write every single day. I like to wake up early in the morning first thing to write, preferably at 5:30 a.m or earlier. I like to eat breakfast, and have a cup of coffee nearby. There is something magic about that hour for some reason. During my daylight hours, I will go to work, and in the evening I will promote if I’m not too tired. I use weekends to promote, as well as relax some.
Do you have anybody read your books and give you reviews before you officially release them? ie. Your partner, children, friends, reviewers you know?
Kyle: My dad and my writing professor are my beta readers. I’m on the lookout for more. It’s hard to find someone to read your books, not because they don’t want to read them, but because life is busy. I think with this last one, my friends have liked it enough to request more, and they ask me eagerly when the next one is coming out, which makes me feel quite peachy.
What was the toughest/best review you have ever had?
Kyle: The hardest reviews for me are the 3 star ones. This is someone who read your book, had something intelligent to say about it (the fact they gave you three stars signifies this, it wasn’t given out of hatred or anything), and just did not care for it. And usually, their criticisms are valuable. Usually I’ll find something to learn in these reviews. If you get anything lower than three stars, then usually the reviewer just had an axe to grind.
Would you ever ask a reviewer to change their review if it was not all positive about your book/books?
Kyle: Absolutely not. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and the reviewer is often right in their criticisms (though maybe sometimes not). And as a writer you have to get used to criticism. I have thick skin, though if everyone said my book sucked that would affect me. I hope that never happens, haha. That’s what beta readers are for.
Have you ever suffered from a "writer's block"? What did you do to get past the "block"?
Kyle: I have had this before. Usually it happens when I’m too busy/distracted with things other than writing. Sometimes, it happens for no reason. You just push through it and hope for the best. Write whatever you can, and do whatever you can to get words on the page.
What do you do to unwind and relax? Do you have a hobby?
Kyle: I’m a runner. I’m training for a half-marathon, and running is a good way to blow off steam. I also like to read, watch TV, and play video games, though I don’t really have time for the latter two so much anymore.
Which format of book do you prefer, ebook, hardback, or paperback?
Jelani: As time goes on, I am starting to prefer reading in the ebook format. It's easier to carry around a tablet and it helps me to read faster. I never have a problem with my eyes from staring at the screen too long. I find great comfort out of ebooks.
Kyle: Though I write in e-book format, I always prefer physical copies – hardback when I can get it. Still, I read e-books more often because of reasons of price and convenience. I also try to make sure a physical format of my own books are available in print through CreateSpace. I plan on making a physical copy for The Wasteland Chronicles.
What are you currently reading? Are you enjoying it? What format is it? (ebook, hardback or paperback)
Jelani: I am currently reading 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill, and am enjoying it immensely. He really knows how to create an atmospheric story, and I would love to be able to harness a little bit of the skills he has in my own craft. I am reading the book in e-book form on my iPad. I'm definitely sold on reading in new formats!
Kyle: I am reading The Dark Tower by Stephen King, all paperbacks. I just started book one. It’s something I’ve always wanted to read, but just haven’t gotten around to yet. I am also sorta reading War and Peace (also paperback) but have got stuck on the last 20 percent of the book. They were a little wordy back then.
Do you think ebooks will ever totally replace printed books?
Jelani: It definitely seems that ebooks will replace hard copy books. People are indeed starting to say that the "new ink" is behind the computer screen. I don't think this change is a bad thing; it is just different. The forms in which we communicate have changed throughout the ages and this is just a continuation of that change. I still love hard copy books, and I believe that they will go on existing in independent bookstore establishments in the future. I love independent bookstores, so this prospect excites me as well.
Kyle: There will always be a demand for print books. I might be in the minority, but I think some of the big publishers will adapt and change. I think e-books will eventually have the largest share of the book market by the end of the decade for sure, if not much sooner. I’m still learning about e-publishing myself (as is everyone else).
Do you think children at schools these days are encouraged enough to read? and/or do Imaginative writing?
Jelani: Sadly, I don't think that children are encouraged enough at school to read. There have been attempts to do so, sure, but those attempts need to be larger in scale in a digital, televised, and internet obsessed world where there are thousands of alternatives to sitting down in a comfy chair with a book and mug of tea/coffee. There definitely needs to be a concerted focus to encourage reading amongst our generation and the one behind ours.
Kyle: I am a little worried that as video games become more popular and immersive, novels might be on the way out. I don’t think that will happen any time soon, but I am worried that there might be a future where stories are not told in novel format, but maybe in an immersive video game format. After all, the novel itself is only about four hundred years old as a story telling medium. Hopefully it will still be around four hundred years more. I’ve often thought about what is so magic about books that TV, video games, and other mediums can’t get you. Last week, I think I arrived at the answer: books force you to use your imagination more. The author’s words are more like the canvas, and the reader’s imagination is the pain. The book shapes what the imagination does, but in the end, the reader supplies most of the details. There is nothing that exists outside of books that can give us an experience like that. There have been studies showing that readers of fiction often have higher than average emotional intelligence. I think if you can create a lifelong reader, you can create a lifelong learner/generally good person. Series like Harry Potter have given me hope that kids still read. All it takes, ultimately, is for one book to change a kid’s mindset forever.
How does the writing process work with two authors?
Jelani: Writing with another author is, in a way, less daunting than writing on your own. There are two brains plotting instead of one, and the word count is divided up between two people. The process of outlining and writing is just the same, the only difference is you have constant outside help and encouragement along the way.
Do you ever disagree on the direction of a character or the plot?
Jelani: When writing Night of the Necromancer, Kyle and I each came up with characters that we wanted to create and we always honored the integrity of those characters during the process. We were quite in tune, and never had difficulty or disputes over the characters.
Kyle: On this one, I don’t think we disagreed. We planned to a tee what the plot was, as well as developed all our characters. I think if you are working together on a book, this is the way you have to go…everyone involved has to be on the same page as far as characters and plot go.
How do you decide who writes which part of the book?
Kyle: We split up the scenes, and wrote them separately. With novels this would be a nightmare, but with a choose your own adventure, it was like we were writing separate stories sometimes, only with the same characters. We just had to keep the main things consistent between the stories (like, the weapons they were carrying, the clothes they were wearing, who had died)…
If there's a disagreement, say about plot, title, cover etc how do you solve it?
Kyle: We’d usually talk it out. If we were too tired for that on those long nights of trying to put the final book form together, we’d just talk about it the next day.
Do you enjoy writing with another author more than writing alone?
Kyle: Writing with a co-author does present some challenges, but at the same time you have someone to bounce ideas off of.
How do you find your perfect author partner to write with?
Jelani: I think that authors happen to find each other. In my case, Kyle and I were unified over the idea and were perfect matches for each other in that aspect. Any two authors can write together as long as they can come to a cohesive, unified vision for the project.
Who decides which name goes first on the book?
Jelani: The author who had the initial vision for the story gets to put his or her name first. That's only fair!