About J.M. Pierce
J.M. Pierce is a simple midwestern man with a creative side who has found writing as his primary outlet. He lives happily with his wife and two children in rural Kansas and finds happiness in a good cup of coffee, a Kansas sunrise, a good book, the sound of his daughter singing, his son’s laughter, and his wife’s eyes. Everything else is gravy.
3 Questions With J.M.
KindleObsessed: So, JM…I’d like to start off by asking you a few humiliating, I mean personal questions. Is that ok? * completely ignores answer* Awesome! First up, Stephenie Meyer is listed as one of your influences? I’m not judging *looks in mirror to insure judgy face is under control* just surprised. Michael Crichton, J.R.R. Tolkien, Stan Lee (God I love that man) and John Steinbeck make up a pretty impressive group of MEN. Why Stephenie? Were you starting some sort of female pilot integration program or does she really tickle your fancy? (Hmm… ok, maybe tickle and fancy aren’t the right words. Oh well, you get my point.)
JM: Damn! (LOL!) I didn’t think anyone looked at that Goodreads page! Seriously though, I don’t know if telling you why I consider Stephenie an influence without a little foreshadowing would portray it correctly. So, *takes a deep breath* here we go.
I see my life as a series of stages. Every aspect of it was/is a stepping stone for the next. When I was a child, Marvel comics consumed me. I can still close my eyes and feel myself sitting in a hard wood chair, listening Motley Crue’s first album playing while looking through a Black Panther comic. Every book was an adventure and escape. I wanted to be the Hulk. I wanted to be Wolverine. I remember buying my first X-men comic at the Dillons (a local grocery store) and being blown away by how it read. It was different than other comics that I’d read prior. More serious I guess. More…I don’t know…powerful. Stan Lee is my hero—period.
When I got into high school, we were assigned to read Of Mice and Men and I was instantly addicted to Steinbeck. I loved the fact that a great story didn’t have to have a happy ending. It felt more real. I read a ton of Steinbeck that year. He is my favorite to this day.
A little later on in high school, I read The Hobbit for the first time. It was really my first time entering the Epic Fantasy realm. I LOVED it and the world that Tolkien had created. My version of Middle Earth (the one I saw while reading, not the film version) is, to this day, firmly planted in my mind.
When I got out of high school, I started reading a lot of Crichton. The thing with Crichton that got me was how each of his books read like an event that was about to happen. I marvel at the thought of how much research had to have gone into the majority of his work. I stayed on the Crichton kick for years.
I got married to the most awesome woman in my mid-twenties, had two amazing kids, and spent the next ten years working my butt off trying to provide for my family. I worked upwards of 75 hours a week (going into work at 3:00 a.m. and getting off at 5:00 p.m. most days) for months at a time and made myself miserable in the process. In that time, my wife and I had come up with the tradition that we would read to our kids at night before they go to bed. Back then, there were times that I was so tired I couldn’t even make it through that five minute kid’s book. It was horrible. I didn’t have the energy or time to breathe anymore, let alone read. When the economy crashed, people started to get laid off at work and that brought on an entirely new set of worries. I was unraveling and seriously having difficulty coping with life.
One day my wife brought home a book. She’s not a big reader and this was the first time that I can remember she bought a book to read for pleasure. I looked at the cover and saw the book was titled “Twilight”. I didn’t think anything of it and honestly can’t remember if I’d even heard of it before then. What I did notice was that my wife was enthralled. She devoured it and raved about it to me. A couple of weeks passed (all too quickly when all I did was work and sleep) when I found myself with a Saturday morning off of work. I sat on the couch and on the end table was Twilight. I picked it up, started reading, and before I knew it I had rediscovered the joy of reading. I was able to get lost in Forks and forget about the chaos that life had become. You see, when I say that Stephenie Meyer is an influence, it’s not a lie, though she may not be an influence in the traditional sense.
After reading Twilight, I was (and still am) grateful to her for providing me with a desperately needed escape. It was then that I decided that I wanted to do that for other people as well. I hadn’t written in years, but I pulled out my laptop and started losing myself in my own stories. Basically, if Stephenie hadn’t written Twilight, and if my wife hadn’t brought it home, I don’t know if I’d be writing today. So yeah, I will stand behind my influence and be proud.
How’s that for a hella long answer?
KindleObsessed: Whew, question 1 is out of the way!! *pats JM on back* Now on to the important stuff. How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are? If life is so short, why do we do so many things we don’t like and like so many things we don’t do? Have you ever seen insanity where you later saw creativity? Do you push the elevator button more than once? Do you really believe it makes the elevator faster?
The real question…Is there a particular reason your creative juices settled on YA Science Fiction or did you just go where the muse led you?
JM: Okay…I’m a bullet point kind of guy so here goes:
- “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?”
- In truth, I sometimes forget that I’m getting ready to turn the big 4-0. I say that because when I start talking about comics or see a new Marvel movie coming out, I turn into a little kid again. I took my son to the Avengers which was the first time he’d been to a “big kid” movie. Both of us were eight years old while sitting in that theater seat. It was awesome!
- “If life is so short, why do we do so many things we don’t like and like so many things we don’t do?”
- Good question! I think we sometimes spend so much time working towards being able to do the many things that we like to do, that we forfeit the time to even be able to do it. I know I’m guilty of it.
- “Have you ever seen insanity where you later saw creativity?”
- Definitely! When things are going crappy, the desire to get lost in my writing increases. I think that’s relevant to the question. Isn’t it?
- “Do you push the elevator button more than once?”
- Ha! Ask anyone that knows me and they will all tell you that I am the most impatient person on the planet. The answer to this question is a resounding YES!
- “Do you really believe it makes the elevator faster?”
- No, I don’t think pressing the elevator button more than once makes it go faster. What does make it go faster is me focusing my thoughts on the elevator going faster. (Don’t tell anyone that I pretend I’m Charles Xavier now and then!)
On to the “real” question…
It definitely wasn’t a conscious decision to write YA Fantasy/Science Fiction. It’s what I’ve always been in to and what’s done it for me. I think it’s just a culmination of the effect that my influences have had on me. Crichton’s sense of urgency and the inclusion of science, Tolkien’s world building and fantastical element, Steinbeck’s realism and showing that things don’t always end up happily for everyone, and Stan the man’s vision of empowerment and that being different is okay—all of these things have shaped me as a writer.
The Shadow Series is YA while my other books are not; however, they all still fall into the realm of Science Fiction/Fantasy. That’s not to say I won’t write something outside of those genres. I actually have ideas jotted down that aren’t YA. One day I may get to them, but right now I don’t want to alienate my fan base. I get requests for more Shadow Series books fairly often so that’s where my focus is right now. I’m currently working on the second book in my Apocalyptic Science Fiction series (The Chosen) and when it is done I will begin writing the fourth full length installment of the Shadow Series.
KindleObsessed: And last (cue trumpets) would you please tell us a little about your Shadow Series?
JM: The Shadow Series is something (I hope) that people of all ages can connect with even though it’s categorized as YA.
It is centered on the life of Test Davis who is, outwardly, the typical American teen who’s had a rough go of life. Through a series of events, he discovers a power within him that (along with his emotions) is difficult to control. What few friends he has struggle along with him as he tries to deal with his new found gifts. Unfortunately, due to a lack of control that sometimes accompanies youth, things go tragically wrong.
I’ve been contacted by teens that tell me they know exactly how Test feels while in high school, and they connect with the story on that level. I even had a teen come to a book signing, read the back cover of Failing Test, and reply “that’s me”. Talk about an awesome feeling! I’ve been contacted by more mature readers that tell me they love the fact that it deals with “real” issues and struggles, while at the same time providing the Fantasy element that entertains them. It truly is an honor for me to be able to provide people with the escape that I so desperately needed at one point in my life.
Failing Test: Book One of the Shadow Series
An Excerpt from Chapter 12
Trust and Friendship
Test was awakened by a hand on his shoulder, followed by a subtle nudge and an old man’s voice.
“Wake up, kid. This ain’t no hotel, and you ain’t paid for that coffee yet neither.”
Test looked up to see a silver-haired black man with a heavily receding hairline standing beside him. Hanging low on his nose was a pair of thick-lens, black-framed glasses that were millimeters away from sliding off the tip of his nose. Clenched between his teeth rested an unlit cigar that looked as though he’d been chewing on it for days. His name-tag read “Cliff.”
“Let’s go, kid. You can’t stay here less you pay for somethin’,” the old man complained.
Test sat up straight and rubbed his face. “I’ll pay for the coffee,” he replied with a yawn. “I didn’t mean to fall asleep, sir, I’m sorry. I guess I didn’t realize how tired I was.”
“Oh, you kids and your fast lifestyle. Up all night and sleep all day; it’s no wonder the world’s going to hell in a hand basket,” replied Cliff as he pointed his finger accusingly at Test.
Test watched the old man speak. For some reason, he liked him. Even though the old man was yelling at him, he got the feeling that was just how he was, and didn’t necessarily mean to come off as crabby as he did.
“What are you doin’ out this late, young man?” asked Cliff.
Test took a sip of his now-cold coffee. The bitter taste hit his tongue, and his face contorted in disapproval. He choked the cold coffee down and replied, “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
“Try me,” said Cliff as he sat across from Test. “What’s your name, son? You don’t look familiar to me. Don’t recall seein’ you before.”
“Test Davis, sir,” he replied.
“My name is Clifford Johnston. Folks just call me Cliff,” said the old man as he reached out his hand.
Test shook the old man’s hand and replied, “Good to meet you, Mr. Johnston.”
Cliff dipped his head and turned sideways in the booth. “No, no, no. Didn’t I just ask you to call me Cliff? You kids don’t listen well these days neither,” he said gruffly as he pushed his glasses back on his nose. “Now, back to my original question; what are you doin’ out this late?”
Test looked out the window and noticed that it had stopped raining. The parking lot was full of puddles, and the wind had become still. Glancing back to Cliff, Test answered as honestly as he could.
“I had a party to go to tonight. It was really the first night that I was going to hang out with my new girlfriend. Let’s just say that everything didn’t work out as I had hoped.”
Cliff pulled his glasses off his face and let them dangle on a black shoestring that he’d fashioned into a strap. He slapped his hand on the table and looked at Test with his left eye squinted.
“That’s it? You’re either leavin’ out a bunch of stuff, or you are the most boring kid in the state of Nebraska!” he said loudly.
Test smiled and laughed. “Well, I did kind of do some stuff I’m not proud of,” he replied.
“You on drugs? Damn kids always doin’ them drugs!” said Cliff as he slapped his hands on the table.
“No, sir, no that’s not it at all!” replied Test defensively.
“Then what are you talkin’ about?” asked Cliff as he quickly stood up.
Though Test was twice the old man’s size, he cowered in his seat, afraid of what the old man might say next. Now wide awake, Test answered with his hands held up defensively. “There are these two guys and this one girl that were harassing me and my girlfriend. I just wanted them to stop!” he replied.
“Your girlfriend got a name?” asked Cliff.
Test wrinkled his nose. “What does her name have to do with anything? Besides, I don’t know if she wants to be my girlfriend now or not,” he replied.
Cliff stood idly and waited for his answer.
“Okay, if you need to know, her name is Nicole,” replied Test, thinking now that maybe the old man was slightly touched.
“Thank you,” said Cliff as he once again took a seat across from Test. “Okay, so what’d you do to these two guys and this girl that was botherin’ you?” he asked as he aggressively chewed on his cigar.
Knowing what his reaction was going to be, Test was unable to look at the old man. Reluctantly he replied, “I . . . I smashed their truck.”
Shaking his head in disappointment, Cliff looked at Test. “Always violence. Always them damned drugs and violence with kids these days. Ain’t you kids ever talked nothin’ out?”
“I tried, Mr. Johnston,” he stopped himself mid-sentence, “I mean Cliff. Honest I did. I’ve never been mean to anyone in my life.”
Cliff placed his glasses back on his nose, took the cigar from his mouth, and looked at Test with a great intensity. After several moments of silence, he stood and grabbed Test’s cold cup of coffee.
“You know, son, I believe you. I think you’re a good boy. I can tell ’bout most, good or bad that is. You’ve got a shine to you,” said Cliff.
“What do you mean?” asked Test.
Cliff put his hand on Test’s shoulder and replied, “Some people, they just walk around like they walkin’ in the dark, and they’re fine with that. Day after day just livin’; some days good, some days bad, but either way they just keep walking without any desire or any goal. You, son, I see some fire in you.”
Test smiled. If only he knew, he thought.
“A fire huh?” he replied aloud.
“That’s right, a fire; you’re not lettin’ nothin’ get in your way. You push through obstacles and sometimes fly past your original goal. Yes sir, you’ve got a fine shine, son; a fine shine. You just keep pushin’ like you know how, and this will pass as well,” said Cliff with a wink.
“Thank you, sir,” replied Test, surprised at the realization that he was feeling much better.
Cliff looked out the window and noticed a white cargo van pulling into the parking lot. He looked at his watch. It was three o’clock in the morning.
“Ah, right on time. My favorite part of the mornin’,” said Cliff as he looked back down to Test with a smile. “Let me freshen up your coffee, son.”
“That would be great,” replied Test.
As Cliff walked to the coffee pots, the front door opened, and the bells rang. In walked a long-haired thirty-year-old man wearing a hat that reminded Test of something a golfer would wear. Test stared at the man’s long graying beard and small round glasses, wondering what planet this guy was from. And then the two of them made eye contact. The bearded man froze and stared awkwardly. Test quickly looked out the window, trying to hide the fact that he had been staring, and could see the man’s reflection. He remained frozen, and his eyes locked on Test. Uncomfortable and confused, Test struggled to keep his composure. He couldn’t recall ever seeing him before, but the man looked at him as if he knew who he was. Startled by Cliff’s sudden appearance, Test jumped.
“Mornin’, Jacob,” said Cliff as he put Test’s fresh cup of coffee down on the table.
“Good morning, Cliff,” replied Jacob, not taking his eyes off Test.
Cliff looked strangely at Jacob and then down to Test.
“Anything good in there this mornin’?” he asked.
Stepping sideways towards the door, Jacob replied in a nervous and hurried voice, “I gotta go, Cliff. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Without waiting for a reply, he quickly turned and walked briskly out the front door.
“He’s kind of a strange guy, huh, Cliff?” asked Test.
“Nah, he’s all right. Somethin’s got him spooked. He ain’t normally like that,” replied Cliff.
Test looked out the window, expecting to see the van flying out of the parking lot. Instead, the van remained sitting where it had been parked. Inside, he could see Jacob talking on the phone.
Cliff walked over to the pile of papers that Jacob had inexplicably left on the floor. He bent down slowly, knees crackling, and picked them up.
“Don’t know what’s got into him,” said Cliff, groaning as he lifted the papers to the counter. “I hope he . . .”
He froze as he examined the front page.