Daily Archives: January 15, 2009

Guest Author ~ MJ Sullivan

Today my special guest is author M.J.Sullivan. MJ is an established sports journalist who currently covers high school and college basketball recruiting for the Fox Sports-owned website Scout.com. MJ’s new novel, Necessary Heartbreak is set in first century Jerusalem during the tumultuous last week of Christ’s life. Necessary Heartbreak is a story about Michael Stewart, who faces alot of difficulties in raising his daughter Elizabeth, a precocious girl who’s growing up much too fast. Michael is all too aware of time lost, and time still slipping away. But fate has other plans for Michael.

MJ, please tell us a little about your latest novel and when and where we can get it.

The novel is called Necessary Heartbreak. It’s the first book in the When Time Forgets trilogy. The second book is called Heard On A Mountain. This book is almost done. And the last book in the series is called The Manger.

Necessary Heartbreak recaptures some true childhood and adult experiences while incorporating characters in a time travel journey to first-century Jerusalem in the last week of Christ’s life. It also focuses on the struggles a single father faces while trying to raise a teenage daughter in the modern world, and how difficult it is to release the pains of the past.

I started writing my thoughts and emotions of my childhood when I was homeless back in 1984. I rode the E train in New York City at night to get out of the cold January air. I had a green plastic bag with my belongings, and my notebook and pen. Writing was the only way I could keep myself from mentally collapsing back then.

I was rescued off the train by an aunt and uncle on Long Island. My novel was put aside so I could focus on paying some rent. Then I got married and had two wonderful daughters. Now that they are older, I decided to return to the idea I originally had.

The book can be ordered on Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com, or from almost any book distributor.

How do you balance the creative process of writing with the demands of public appearances, maintenance of your web site, and your family?

It is extremely hard since I am at home most of the time caring for my two daughters. I have just started to book some public appearances but I do so at the convenience of my family.

Give us an example of a day in the writing life of. Do you stick to a schedule of X amount of hours writing, editing, answering email, etc.?

I don’t have the discipline I would prefer, but that’s in part due to the other responsibilities I have. I’m also a sports writer and cover high school and college sports for Scout.com. (hsnewyork.scout.com is my personal web site).

I’ve very fortunate to have a great editor in Jenn Kujawski. She has helped me throughout the process of the book.

But it’s a juggling act each day. When I’m able to fulfill all of these tasks, I sleep very well at night.

About the great ‘rule’ debate: we are told you can’t do this and you can’t write that. But it is stepping outside the lines that gets many authors noticed and eventually published. What are your opinions on the rules?

I think it depends upon your target audience. My book is geared toward inspirational readers, those who have been knocked around in life, and those who enjoy time travel and a decent love story.

I’ve been told by a few people that some of the language I used could be more mellow. I was stunned. I consider my book PG at worst. I don’t use profanity but there are some very stressful events that happen in the main character’s life. He also says the word “hell” a few times. But it’s done in the context of the scene.

What music do you listen to when you write?

I could listen to any music. I love the soft beauty of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra’s voices. I love the serious Christmas songs. I’ll even listen to them year round. But I really admire the work of Bruce Springsteen. I mention a true event in the book in which a priest is telling the main character he needs to leave the house, his father wants him out. It’s there I reference the song “Independence Day.”

Springsteen’s music helped me make sense of what happened to me during that time. It made me understand the conflicts between a father and son. Bruce’s music kept me strong, made me believe in a better world, and helped me face this sometimes cruel life with courage.

Has a song inspired you to write?

I’d always wanted to write before I really got into music. I was writing poems about girls that broke my heart or when I lost a friend who died at a young age. It was my way of releasing emotions that weren’t allowed to be expressed in the house that I grew up in.

Do you have a favorite show on TV that helps in moving your muse?

I am an old TV fan. I spend most of my time watching DVD’s from shows that were on in the 1970’s (The Odd Couple, Mary Tyler Moore, MASH, Bob Newhart). I find most of today’s TV unappealing. There’s very little I find inspirational or funny. Occasionally, I’ll watch “House.”

If you could collaborate with any author, living or dead, who would it be and why?

Any of the apostles, particularly Paul given all the letters he wrote back in the day. I would have a bunch of questions for him about Jesus and the moment he first knew that he was God’s son. But I’m also very interested in how a common person can reconcile his faith with the cruelty and tragedy of the world around him, and still write such inspirational material.

What are your thoughts on promotion for books?

Since I have gone the self publishing way, I have no choice. I prefer to spend more time on the writing part of the process. But I do recognize that if I want this series to be successful, I must reach out to an audience. The key is to find that audience, and the Internet has provided unparalleled and unique ways to do this. I’ve contacted book groups on-line, have readerships forming as far away from NY as Australia and Japan, and am able to converse with readers directly.

What advice do you have for authors who haven’t quite gotten their manuscript to the next level, which for most is publishing?

It depends upon your goals. I didn’t want to wait around several years, just hoping my manuscript would be published. So I hired a designer, an editor and a public relations friend to help me along with the process. My goals are clear — to reach as big an audience as I can. I’m totally confident in my work and the story I have to tell. I believe someday it will be recognized as an inspirational story and will hold the test of time.

If you don’t have the necessary tools to be published, keep plugging away. Don’t let anyone tell you to give up your dream. Surround yourself with positive people. Negative people are only there to hurt you and to provide some little security to their own lives.

Many things are expected by an author when writing, publishing and promoting their book. What, if any, are some of the unexpected things that you have noticed or experienced during this journey?

There are several. I thought that my closest friends would be my biggest supporters. I found out this to be disappointing. The positive part of this is I met some people along the way who have become part of my strength in this process, including several reviewers on Amazon.com.

When you self publish, make sure you understand every step of the way. You have to remember this is your baby. They are dealing with thousands of babies every year so you’re just a number to them. I was fortunate to have people in the business guide me through the process.

Would you like to add any final thoughts?

I hope everyone decides to give the first book a chance. It’s a quick read. But it was done this way to introduce the characters and reach as many people as possible, including reluctant readers. I was one of the reluctant readers growing up and thick bulky books always intimidated me.

The second book is more extensive and book three will come in around 400 pages. I’m looking forward to putting the entire story out there.

An excerpt of MJ’s new novel can be found here.

MJ, thank you for being my guest today. We look forward to having you back real soon.


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