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Interview with J. Ryan Sommers

About the Author:

J. Ryan Sommers has an MFA in creative writing from Columbia College Chicago. He and his wife recently left the Windy City and relocated in Houston, where Sommers teaches at San Jacinto College and continues to write.

He has published stories in Zoetic Press, So to Speak, Helen Literary Magazine, Storyfile Magazine, Menda City Press, Silhouette Press, and The Paragon Review to mention a few. He also has an upcoming novella, ‘The Second City,’ coming out at the end of 2018.


1: What are your interests other than writing?

I’m a fan of all things pop culture. I’m a huge fan of art, music, TV/movies, comic books, pod casts, and obviously literature. I also play five instruments (Banjo, Guitar, Mandolin, Harmonica, and Ukulele). As well, I used to do a lot of graphic design. I owned a pop culture apparel company before I decided to go back to school for my MFA.

2: What inspires you in life?

Everything! I know that’s not very specific, but literally everything can be a source of inspiration. Architecture, Media, Current Events, my family, life experiences, history. Everything.
3: Do you have a set schedule for writing, or are you one of those who write only when they feel inspired?

Schedules work for some. I’ve tried them. But it’s like going to the gym. If you don’t keep it up, it falls by the way side really quick. Usually I write when I’m inspired. It typically starts with a very general idea for a story, and then I consider all of my different influences and see if I can tie that idea into a story that has something to do with Conduits. If not, maybe it’s something all its own. But when I do get inspired it’s hard for me to stop. When I studied at UCLA I wrote twice the amount that was required for the program. When I got my MFA at Columbia I wrote six times the amount I was supposed to. And all of those stories are what turned into Conduits.

Also Read: Author Interview with Kartikeya Ladha

4: What other genres do you enjoy reading?

I love reading Science Fiction. I’ve tried my hand at it a few times, but still perfecting it. Also I love reading the classics. There are just certain books that everyone NEEDS to have at least a working knowledge of. But non-fiction is also a great thing to read when I want a change of pace or a new source of inspiration.

5: Which of your novels best describes you as a person?

Both “Ballad” and “Death” were written at the same time. They only became those two books after a year of bashing my head against my computer. But because they were written at the same time, both books are very much extensions of myself. Every character (regardless of race, gender, or age) is me in some part. They are all versions of me if my life had gone a little different.

6: Can you tell us about your current projects?

NO! It’s TOP SECRET! Just kidding. I’ve been working on book 3 for Conduits for the past few years. Although it’s not moving as quick as the first two. I plan to explore the life of Jason Big in depth, very much the way I explore the life of Jinx Jenkins in “Death”. But also, I’ll be expanding the story of the Hound and Terrier, their relationship with the Starling, as well as adding a lot of new characters.

7: If you were to change your genre, which one would you choose?

One of the beautiful things about magical realism is that it lends itself to so many different kinds of stories. I can do anything weird or out of the ordinary. But if I were to change it up completely, I’d love to try my hand at straight literary fiction, or possibly even children’s books.

8: What does literary success look like to you?

People actually reading my books instead of just liking IG or FB posts. People having actual opinions of my work (good or bad). I’d love to win an award, or get my stories made into TV or movies, but those are only because I know it would expose my stories to so many more people. I like to think of myself more as a story teller than specifically a writer. Stories come in all shapes and sizes. But my real dream is to publish Conduits in its intended format. Originally I wanted to include artwork and mixed media throughout the books. I think that the advent of the tablet is the biggest step forward for literature since we started printing books (thank you Gutenberg). Because you don’t need to print on paper and everything is electronic, the possibilities are endless. It is up to all storytellers to now take this new technology and push stories into places they’ve never gone before. Literary success for me would be to be part of the vanguard of that change.

9: 5 books that one must read in a lifetime?

All Quiet on the Western Front, Grapes of Wrath, Don Quixote, at least one major work from Shakespeare, and because it was the first book that ever made me feel something, Where the Red Fern Grows (I think I write about dogs as much as I do because of this book).

10: Have you ever written a character based on the real you in some part?

As I said, all of my characters are me in some way. But if I really had to pinpoint it, Puck and Jason Big are both very close to who I am. Puck as far as his personality. Jason Big for his childhood. But where Jason and I diverge is at a decision in which he goes one direction, where as I went another direction.

11: How often do you write?

I try to write as much as I can, but it doesn’t always work out that way. My wife and I just had our first child, so she takes up a lot of my time at the moment. But when I do write it’s in long extended bursts. From when I stopped writing to when I went back for my MFA I didn’t write anything for seven years. But as soon as I started back up, I had a problem with stopping. I get a flood of ideas and know if I don’t get them out, I might never come back to them. But even when I’m not writing, I’m always coming up with new ideas and taking lots of notes.

12: A message for all the readers?

The only way to accomplish anything is to actually sit down and do the work. If that means writing a book, then stop talking about your great idea and actually write it. If that mean starting a business, then get down to business. No one is going to ever tell you, “Okay, start.” You need to make the decision yourself, and have the confidence in yourself to see it through. Even when people tell you it’s stupid or you don’t have the experience to be successful. And always go above and beyond what others have done before you. Doing the same old thing as everyone else will only reap you a limited amount of success. In pushing your field further is where true greatness lies. Be original. Be yourself. And as we say in Houston, “Be Someone.”

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