J.D. Richards is the author of the space opera The Blue Jewel. He works with his wife Corina Richards, founder of Macska Designs, who illustrates the book covers and chapter headings.
Sci-Fi Author J.D. Richards
Can you tell us about what you're currently working on?
I’ve been working on a noir-esque novel called The Emerald Princess. It's set in the same universe as The Blue Jewel, though several years later in the timeline and not meant to be a direct sequel. I’m not ready to put my little characters into harm’s way again just yet!
Do you write under a pen name? If so, can you tell us why?
I write under the pen name J. D. Richards, though my full name is Jeffrey David Richards. I’m a systems engineer by profession, and have always signed engineering drawings and technical reports as J. D., so writing fiction as J. D. felt natural.
Have you ever written characters that you truly despise? Why or why not?
I’m treading deeper into those waters with The Emerald Princess. There are some true villains in The Blue Jewel, but to write about someone truly despicable requires more of an examination of their inner id which is uncomfortable in general. I feel there is more room for that in a gloomy noir-style of writing as opposed to a more upbeat space opera such as The Blue Jewel.
What do you like best about the books you read? What do you like least?
I like to read books that challenge my perspective, especially those that explore a character’s dramatic transformation. I love reading about what motivates people, and investigating the cause-and-effect of their lives. If a character is acting contrary to their persona for no reason or without incentive I end up putting the book down. As a writer I try to make a character’s actions and persona congruent over their story-arc.
Where did the idea of your story come from?
The overarching conflict in The Blue Jewel is rooted in the time period just before the Spanish-American War, but with the story told from the perspective of the Cuban rebels. I love to learn about history, and the late 1800’s / early 1900’s time period is fascinating to me. So much of the post-colonialism era still shapes how our modern world functions - everything from the poor disaster response after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, to Brexit, to the simmering hostility between the US and Iran. The stories remain human, and they remain relevant.
What did you edit out of your book?
In an early draft I made the mistake of having my main character announce in the beginning of Act III to the other characters what they planned on doing to solve all the world’s problems. My editor was wise to point out that is a good way to write a crummy book. Once my embarrassment subsided, I cleaned up Act III and let the MC’s plan simply unfold step by step to keep the reader in suspense. The book shines a lot brighter now, and Act III is much more fun. Man I felt like an idiot when I got my editor’s markups, but that bit of editing made all the difference.
Everyone feels like an idiot once their editor gets done with them. That's what editors do.
If you were to write a non-fiction book, what might it be about? Why?
I would like to research how the perception of responsibility is shifting contrary to reality with respect to humans and artificial intelligence. It is easy to think that with all the progress in self-driving cars and smart bots like Siri or Alexa we can let the robots do all the work, but we do such a crummy job now of taking care of the dumb machines we already have! How many miles over do we go before finally getting that oil changed? When was the last time we actually checked on the smoke detector battery, or cleaned out our automatic water heater in our house? We still can’t even seem to keep our cell phones charged when we need them. The more we ask our machines to do, the more care and maintenance is required (ever have a dirty back-up camera lens on your car?), but the more I’m afraid the maintenance will go neglected. Maybe I will write about that topic. . . .
So, basically a "Here's why the robot uprising is going to happen" textbook. Fun times...
A lot of authors are frustrated by readers who don’t understand how important reviews are. What would you say to a reader who doesn’t think his or her review matters?
Writers don’t write for the money. Writing is about communicating a private thought with the reader, and being hungry for reviews isn’t about wanting positive affirmation but rather a desire to deepen the connection with the reader. Sending out messages in a bottle is fun, but occasionally getting one back is nice too, even if the ocean between us is big. Even a small review can go a long way to keep the fire burning for the writer.
What, in your opinion, is the worst mistake an author can make?
Do not assume your imagination as a writer is deeper than that of your reader. Only write what you need to connect with the reader and tell your story. The fun in reading is for the reader to do the rest.
If you could have a dinner with one fictional person, who would it be? Why?
I would like to have dinner with Arthur Dent from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. I feel like we have the same energy and would get along pretty well.
If you could have one (real life) skill that you don’t currently have, what would it be? Why? How would you use it?
I would like to compose music and write songs. I love playing the guitar, but don’t really consider myself a musician. I just plink along to someone else’s songs, but would love to write my own.
What might we be surprised to know about you?
I used to be licensed to transport nuclear waste in the State of Texas.
What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?
1) Show some grace.
2) Seek to develop empathy.
3) Be more forgiving.
J. D. Richards lives in southern Arizona with his wife, their son, and their two Russian Blue cats. When he is not writing, he enjoys playing guitar, riding bikes, and watching college basketball.
You can connect with him on his website here, and you can purchase his book The Blue Jewel on Amazon here.
The first Dragons, Zombies and Aliens blog was started in 2015. Somewhere between college coursework, paying rent with door-to-door sales, and keeping up with my sorority sisters, I wrote reviews, rants and commentaries on books, TV shows, and movies. Now, this blog has moved, improved, and the sky's the limit!