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  • J.A.Willoughby

Q & A About My New Book and the Reason Behind Writing The Series

The following is a composite interview (questions I have received from different sources and conversations I've had with people) about my DEATH SENTENCE! series and the latest book in that series.


A: DEATH SENTENCE is the name of my book series which is also the name of a fictional time travel reality TV show that broadcasts executions throughout history, LIVE as they happened. In the book, it is the most viewed show in the history of broadcasting and the time travel technology is proprietary and exclusive to The Network which broadcasts the show.

Q: Why did you choose to write about such a morbid thing? Why executions?

A: To draw attention to the fact that is what the media puts in front of our faces every day and sells advertising around it. The most outrageous things they can find get our attention for all the wrong reasons. We don’t notice it because we’ve become jaded. Murders, beheadings, wars, violence and abuse are all on the news with ads for cars, computers and beauty products scrolling through around it on the screens. They get rich selling to our sense of morbidity and curiosity about things that are normally inappropriate for conversation at a dinner table. That is a question I pose in the series' preface: it is an innate or ingrained sense in us to explore those things by nature and they sell to that. In the meantime, that becomes reinforced by daily or hourly exposure and morphs into brainwashing, and a conditioned response. We become numb to it because it's all around us. This is nothing new: Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling complained about it fifty years ago when he talked about breaking away to commercials during his shows to sell toilet paper. It has become more blatant and graphic now. It's a problem that my grandchildren will have to endure possibly with psychological implications unless we do something about it and change things.

Q: Okay, I see your point. How would we change that?

A: Boycotts seem to be a trending thing now. That would be a place to start. It's all about the money, isn't it?

Q: By boycotting the advertisers or the networks or shows, like CNN or CBS?

A: Both, all of the above and Hollywood. Movie stars implicate themselves by their public actions and opinions versus their roles in movies that often contradicts that. For example shooting things up all through a movie and then whining about gun control at a televised or political event. When they realize their network ratings and box office are down they will change how they handle their opinions in a public forum or they won’t get paid. The public watches the shows and buys the tickets at the theatre. Same with advertisers on networks. Boycotts work. They're used politically to control a country's actions. Why not with the media?

Q: It’s just that simple?

A: I think so. More so now than it has been in the past. You can start a response to something that could go viral – around the world – overnight or in a matter of hours. It’s easier now than say fifty years ago, because we have more efficient tools with which to do it. In earlier days there would have been letter writing campaigns and picketing outside on the sidewalks of stores or companies. On the downside of that is that anyone with a computer who has a website or blog becomes a source of information, and are collecting money from advertisers, too, and they are aren’t always credible sources, but that is another point.

Q: So, your stories are pointing this bombardment of immorality an unethical standards out to the reader, how exactly?

A: Well, how about cutting to an ad for self-popping popcorn seconds before someone’s head is chopped off in Merry Old England? Does that kind of sum it up for you? Yeah, it’s drastic but that’s what’s happening now.

Q: And you made it a time travel thing because…?

A: It gives me a large canvas, all of history, to work with and the brutality and the public's familiarity with the past or our world history has a lot to do with it, too. I like learning and teaching things about history, too. The stories themselves are researched heavily so the historical content is based on fact. I'd like to say this about the production team: The Director and Engineer, especially, represent the industry and don’t even have names because they could be anyone sitting in those chairs propagating the Networks’ doctrine. The on-camera personalities communicate with us as viewers of the show, and are more relevant to our understanding of what is happening in a given moment in time, but are still part of the industry. That sometimes creates conflicts and emotional problems, and that makes them very easy to relate to. They are the human side of the business, people we can get in touch with. I'm also fascinated with the juxtaposition of our society's tech over a past culture and what that would be like. And there's all this behind-the-scenes stuff too, with some really cool sci-fi gizmos and technology that I needed to invent in order for it all to work. (laughs)

Q: In this latest book you introduce a new character, Allison Jolie. What are some of the things that you draw attention to with regards to her character that are part of the problem, so to speak?

A: Well, technically she is not “new”. Allison was mentioned in the first book. And there is another story in the book called, "The Pressing Of Giles Corey," which is about a man who refused to be bullied to the point that it killed him. He has also inspired artists, musicians, films. "Joan of Arc" gives you Allison's entire story. I pay close attention to the fact that she’s a strong woman in a competitive and male dominated business. She is also very human; she’s intelligent, wealthy, famous, adored by literally billions of people because the show is broadcast all over the world, but she doesn’t like being told what to do. She’s independent so in a world of “required” hyper-publicity through social media, she remains elusive, less obvious to the public. She’s also trying to find a truly meaningful thing in her life. Fame, fortune and admiration are fine things but to her they can be the problem, as well. She wants something that goes deeper than that. Don’t we all?

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