Author Interview: J. Kilburn

About the author:
J. Kilburn's narrative style has been compared to those of Joyce Carol Oates, Virginia Wolfe, D.H. Lawrence, Hunter S. Thompson, and Nell Zink. His subjects and almost cinematic descriptions of setting have earned his work comparison to movies and television shows like Sons of Anarchy, Tin Star, Twin Peaks, and Thelma and Louise. Prior to Heaven's Door, a Novel and BEFORE, Kilburn's other published work was a feature-length investigative news article that got the whole page in his community newspaper.

Kilburn lives a quiet and private life on the shore of America's sixth Great Lake. He has lived and worked in Vermont, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Minnesota. During these travels, Kilburn has dabbled in law enforcement, private security, emergency medicine, truck driving, and horse-logging. Other occupations have included at-risk youth mentor, big-city process server, park ranger, and industrial wastewater treatment operator. Along the way, he's pedaled to 14,000 feet above sea-level in a major bicycle race, been marooned overnight on a deserted island, ridden a motorcycle from Chicago to Thunder Bay, and hiked Vermont's highest peaks to watch sunsets on both the longest and coldest days of the year. He currently maintains plastics processing machinery for a major manufacturing company. When not at work he and his wife enjoy life around a little urban farm complete with greenhouse, garden, and mini-barn. Their current flock is composed of four chickens and a cat named Sierra Feral.

What inspires you to write romantic fiction?
I wanted to write the story of a fallen law officer – how he got to that terrible, horror-filled moment in time when he met Death on the side of a rural Vermont road. But then I realized that there was so much that happened before – so I gave the man family, friends, loved ones, romance…. Eventually I realized there was a stand-alone story right there. A nice one.

Tell us about how you write.
I rough things out on a legal pad for about ten years, then do a whole bunch of research to flesh things out, then sit back and watch as the characters themselves create a story that has nothing to do with what I thought I was writing. That's it in a nutshell! I am very lucky – these characters are so well-rounded, so fleshed-out that eventually they grabbed the pen out of my hands and began their own dance across the pages with it. They introduced drama, conflict, romance. They invited a few of their friends into the story. They came up with some mischief of their own making. In the end, they gave me a whole community of context for a man that loses his life while serving the Greater Good.

Do you listen to or talk to to your characters?
See above! My job was mostly to keep the printer tray fed with paper and get out of the way of the characters… stuff that I never imagined was spilling out of there! I think that's why it's such a nice romance – these are very well-fleshed-out characters, each of whom has a life of their own. As they dance and weave in and out of each others' lives they create many stories in one book – each story is fascinating and entertaining on its own. The sum of the stories, as they interplay and collide… the stuff of writer's dreams! My characters have become a COMMUNITY – one that readers will fondly remember, and maybe even count as "old friends" of a sort, long after they've finished the book.

What advice would you give other romance writers?
The minute you think of something, pen the short story. Not part of your arc or outline? Don't worry about it – just hang on to them and let them weave themselves together into one larger story as they ferment in your imagination.

How did you decide how to publish your books?
Covid. My wife and I were isolated in separate ends of the home with funny lung symptoms right in the beginning of it. She got better right away. I didn't – some scary stuff was going on. Remember: there were a lot of unknowns… it was pretty scary times! I thought: what do I want to accomplish before I die? What do I want to do? The first thing I did was reach out to some people who I hadn't talked to in years; people who mattered to me, who I should have stayed in touch with. The second thing I did was to reach under the bed, pull out a box, and dust off a manuscript that I'd been sitting on for almost twenty years. That manuscript was published as an E-book on Smashwords two weeks later. I went E-book 'cause I wanted QUICK. None of us knew what the future held. That E-book was my first novel: Heaven's Door. This coming-of-age romance is my second book, and properly starts the story with the tale of what happened before.

What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think we'd all better get busy promoting reading and literacy… and quickly!

How do you save a Zombie?
Grab its smart-phone, throw it on the sidewalk, and smash it with your foot. They'll wake up eventually.

That's germaine… the ease with which we can access digital entertainment, gaming, movies, social media… people have a lot less idle time and young people have a lot less perceived need for literacy than even twenty years ago. Think about how much time you spend on social media – that was idle time twenty-five years ago. A lot of people spent that time with a book or a magazine. Not anymore!

Keep reading germaine… promote books you enjoy on your social media posts. Mention authors who you think have made a difference in the world. Throw out some reading choices that other people maybe haven't stumbled across. Example? Every couple of months, I'll do a very short book or movie review on my Facebook page. People have to be reminded that there are other choices for their leisure time – some of them the traditional ones like reading or being social in person.

Which romance sub-genere(s) fit your stories best?
Oooo…. that's tough. I thought I was writing crime fiction, but it's turned into so much more!

My books are available in the following formats:
eBook, Print

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