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  • J.A.Willoughby

Six Years Ago I Had An Idea...

It occurred to me while I was riding my Cub Cadet, cutting the grass and listening to the Beatles’ White album playing in my earbuds. The time was a day in August, 2013.

“What if,” I thought, as I made another pass around the pool, “The Beatles history hadn’t gone down like it did? What if some things had been altered, changing key events in the band members’ personal lives and band history? What if they never got famous and led the British Invasion?” Then, my life would different, too.

The subject fascinated me. The thought of creating an alternate history based on fact, and making it seem credible, was like a mind-enhancing drug. Thinking about it became a creative addiction.

I heavily researched their history using my worn 1968 copy of Hunter Davies’ biography, “The Beatles”. I sought out key turning points throughout their time together. A day later, I started writing the idea that popped into my head and when I finished it, I called it, appropriately enough, “Across The Universe”. With my love for Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone series, I twisted the ending as was his style, literally in the last paragraph. As a dedicated Beatles fan, however, the twist was necessary and gave it an ironic sort of “hopefulness”, one that in its own way, set everything right again.

That story eventually led to another, a personally relatable and semi-autobiographical short story (co-written with my wife) called, “Snapshot – Love for the Moment”. By the following summer, I had on my hard drive a collection of life lessons in the form of allegories, and a preface that was in itself an autobiography of some of my most meaningful memories and favorite personal insights. It was my first time at taking writing seriously, so I needed help to put it all together. Luckily, I married an English professor – one who also has creative abilities. She agreed to contribute a few of her own stories to the mix which added a variety and a pleasant unique perspective.

Then, on December 8, 2014 (the 34th anniversary of John Lennon’s death), I released my first book, This Side Of Center, a collection of fifteen short stories. In 2016, I published a second edition of that book, in what is now a growing anthology.

Now, nine books - three series, a novella, two nonfiction books - and five years later, I continue to write and tell stories, sitting, spinning and falling asleep late at night in my office chair. Some are imagined, some true, some are indelible memories, used as details in fictional works. All have meaning for me, and hopefully for you because they are all things I have learned and applied in my life. And I will continue to tell them “so long as the voices in my head remain louder than the ringing in my ears.”

Here’s to the years ahead and the many more books as yet to be written! Thank you for your support, your readership and thank you for coming along for the adventure!

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