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  • J.A.Willoughby



"For me, I would rather read a good book, from a contented author. I don't really care what it takes to produce that." - Neil Gaiman

Deadline, schmeadline...I missed another one. It was to be “mid-July” for my latest book release, the second in the DEATH SENTENCE! series. The deadline was self-imposed, which doesn't make it less important than one that would be dictated to me, but does make it a bit more flexible -- since I am the one who also has to create the consequences for the lack of punctuality.

No, I don’t kneel in a darkened room and self-flagellate. But I do swear a lot at no one in particular.

I impose deadlines on myself on a daily basis: get the emails done by 10:00, package the books and have them in the mail before 11:00 (that’s the Post Office’s deadline for pickup – sometimes), have lunch by…whenever I’m hungry, have the garage cleaned up for a video shoot by three o’clock, get the dishwasher loaded before my wife gets home, the grass mowed by…you get the idea. It’s a self-employed thing. Without that self-discipline I’d be sitting around the pool every day in the summer and not getting much of anything accomplished. If I miss any of those things, well, there’s always... tomorrow.

That bothers me. Why? Because philosophically speaking, “tomorrow” isn’t guaranteed. Okay, that’s a pretty heavy self-imposing kind of thought. It’s also true. And it forms the backbone, the very structure for my self-discipline.

In this particular case, it’s a trade-off: I missed the deadline (and no one actually died) because I added more things to the story to make the writing better. More research (fascinating stuff!) from the Joan Of Arc and Giles Corey executions have found its way into my laptop. That makes for greater detail in the storytelling. Not a bad thing - AND I'm revealing the book cover. That's a good thing, too.

The main character in “Joan Of Arc,” Allison Jolie, is new and introduced to the reader for the first time, having only been mentioned in passing in a previous story, “A Beautiful Day For An Execution.” There were guidelines there that needed to be followed with respect to events that happened to her and her future. But overall, she needed to be created completely and in great detail. That amount of detailing is something that is new to this series because, well, the main characters up to this point have been one dimensional, stereotypical of the future broadcasting industry to which they belong.

"What? You are criticizing your own writing by saying that your characters are one dimensional?"

No, I am not criticizing my writing. I’ll let the reviewers do that. The characters are one dimensional because they are supposed to be. Read on…

The Director, for instance, doesn’t have a name. He never did. (No Reviewer caught that, by the way) Both he and the engineer are nameless and faceless (there are no physical descriptions of them) because they perpetuate the industry’s doctrine. They could be *anybody* from one show to the next, one season after another, ad infinitum. They are literally behind the scenes and are industrial. The onscreen personalities, James Banyon, Lorraine Brockton, Jason Harker, have names and faces because they connect with the audience. But even they speak and act the way we expect them to (most of the time), which is a major point of this series’ writing. (I exclude Michelangelo “Mikey” Romano, the cameraman, from this list of one dimensional characters because he proves himself to be most creative, story after story).

Allison Jolie is different. Even though she is the star of the Time Travel Reality Show, she is a real person in a literary sense. Real people need details in their lives. They have ideas and memories, quirks and beliefs, likes and dislikes, goals and disappointments. They need time to “grow” in my head and even more time to live and evolve in the pages I create. Just last night, Allison did something that surprised me. I had no idea why she did what she did until I went back and read my writing this morning. Now I know and it worked well.

“How is that possible? You are the person making her do those things?! How could you not know what she is going to do?”

My writer friends will get it. The character evolved, went beyond those initial basic guidelines for “existence” and did something that was spontaneous but that fit within those parameters. She did something she “felt” at that moment and it really worked as a detail in the story, connecting her impulsive action to a larger event later in the story, and at the same time resolving an emotional issue. That’s a human thing.

There is a study of contrasts within the story. Allison needed to rise above the others in such a way that her presence is not only unmistakably human and adored by millions, but ‘perfectly’ flawed at the same time. We get inside her head on a very personal level. We get to know who she is and at the same time, she doesn’t give us everything. There are some things that are left unexplained, are mysterious and maybe even complicated -- just like real people. Most people I know aren’t completely transparent and neither is she. She allows you to see what she wants you to see – up to a point – but she still retains some secrets for herself.


The gender is a rare writing assignment for me, having written only one other story from the point of view of a teenage girl, which is something that I have never had the distinction of being, either (“And Then…” -- THIS SIDE OF CENTER / ENCORE).

Introducing Allison Jolie in a few weeks - or maybe not if I miss another self-imposed deadline. Either way, because of the delay(s) you can count on this to be true: The character is alive! The story works well because of that fact. The book is late only because I say it is.

And a new DEATH SENTENCE! character, an interesting, intelligent woman, is born and lives in the pages and tells us her unique story. And, if I may be so bold, I think the series and the readership will benefit from it. ~ JW And a new DEATH SENTENCE! character, an interesting, intelligent woman, is born and lives in the pages and tells us her unique story. And, if I may be so bold, I think the series and the readership will benefit from it. ~ JW

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