I recently had the chance to sit down and talk with my friend and author, J.J. Hensley. His first book, the murder mystery RESOLVE, has been garnering great reviews and much anticipation for a follow-up.
Here we discuss his motivation to write, run and use social media as his primary avenue for the promotion of RESOLVE.
Q – You have an interesting background in law enforcement and you’ve mentioned in other interviews the need to stay in shape for your career was in part the reason you began training for and competing in marathons. What advice do you have for people who may be interested in starting to train but aren’t sure how to begin? After all, even the thought of a 5k run for non-runners may seem daunting let alone an entire marathon.
I think the main thing is to not worry about the full 26.2 miles at the outset. It’s too daunting of a task for most of us to comprehend when we are first getting started. First you make sure you can walk or run three miles and then slowly increase from that point. For me, the key was to hang a training plan spreadsheet on the refrigerator on which I listed my anticipated mileage for any given day. I got to the point that if I had 5 miles marked down for a Wednesday and I felt like skipping it, I would walk up to the spreadsheet and start to scratch the number out. Before my pen hit the paper, I felt so guilty I would end up throwing my running shoes on and set off down the road.
The other big thing is to forget about everybody else. We start to get self-conscious when we think about getting passed by people who can run faster than us. Forget about that. Your only competition is yourself and the only person who understands your personal journey is you. Let those super-fast people cruise on by. Take on the mindset that if you end up being out on the course twice as long as someone else, you got more our of your race fee than “Speedy” did.
Q – Did this mindset also impact your writing process at all – did you think, “I have to take this one page / chapter at a time to not get overwhelmed?”
Absolutely. The thought of sitting down and typing out 100,000 words and creating an interesting story is far too much for the mind to handle. Not to mention you can get crushed under all of the weight from the stuff that comes after the initial writing process: multiple revisions, finding a publisher, getting a website, etc. However, I know I can focus on writing one chapter at a time and keep things in perspective. If I focus on closing out one single chapter, or one part of the plotline, then the process isn’t overwhelming at all. In fact, it’s a blast.
Q- Your book is set against the backdrop of the Pittsburgh Marathon, but I know you’ve lived and traveled elsewhere – why Pittsburgh as the backdrop and not another city?
When my wife and I moved to the Pittsburgh area back in 2006, the area immediately impressed us. We had lived in Richmond, VA, Washington, D.C., and traveled throughout the U.S. and oversees, but as far as settings for novels go, Pittsburgh is second to none. I am a lover of the mystery/thriller genre and I get tired of novels and movies always being set in New York or L.A. The distinct neighborhoods, bridges, rivers, and tunnels of Pittsburgh are more interesting to me than the choking streets of New York or the sun-soaked beaches around L.A. Look at the contrasts one sees when traveling from downtown, through the Strip District, and up to Homewood. Pittsburgh can provide a writer with a dozen distinct settings within 5 miles.
Q- So, I love this quote you gave in an interview to the blog “Food and Fitness 4 Real, “I think it’s okay to make time for the rest of life. I should never feel guilty about sitting on the couch and reading a book to my daughter. Story time = recovery.” Would you, when she’s old enough, encourage your daughter to be a runner, as well?
Well, my daughter is already quite the runner. However, she’s less than 2 years old, so the end result of many of her 20-yard “distance runs” is a big crash followed by either giggling or crying. But, do I hope my daughter takes up running as a hobby later in life? Perhaps. I’d be just as happy if she becomes passionate about swimming, tennis, basketball, volleyball, etc. Not because I necessarily want her to be an athlete, but I’m a big believer that we learn a great deal about life through by testing ourselves physically. I want her to know what it feels like to push herself to succeed and then have to deal with those successes and the inevitable moments of failure. I also believe there are enormous psychological benefits that go alone with exercise, so I hope she will experience those as well. However, if she hates sports and prefers to play the piano, learn chess, or write poetry, then that will be fine with her mother and me. As long as she is busy doing something productive and she enjoys doing it, then we will support her all the way.
Q- In 140 characters (or less) tell me about RESOLVE.
RESOLVE is fast-paced, intense, and makes the reader ask the question: “Am I rooting for a murderer?”
Q- You have been using social media a lot in your promotion of RESOLVE, what benefits do you find you get using these outlets that you don’t see using traditional outlets?
Resolve was published through a fairly small, but well-respected publisher in NY. They do what they can, but their ability to market is limited. Social media has been crucial in the marketing of Resolve, as it’s low-cost and allows me to interact directly with readers and potential readers. I think that interactive aspect is something you don’t get with traditional advertising. For instance, if I’m really involved in a discussion thread on Facebook or Goodreads, then I become a real person to the audience, and not a faceless author. Additionally, readers can ask me questions that they might not otherwise think to ask if they simply saw a print ad in the newspaper. I think social media allows authors (and other interested parties) to spread the word about his or her product with the option of targeting a particular demographic.
Q- Facebook or Twitter? Why?
I utilize Facebook, simply because I’m too long-winded to limit anything to 140 characters. For this interview, I was asked to describe Resolve in 140 characters or less. I took a shot at it and felt confident I was appropriately brief and then I ran a character count. I had something like 600 characters! The whittling down process took me about 40 minutes to write less than 140 characters.
Besides, with my odd sense of humor I would write something that would be taken completely out of context and the Internet would blow up on me. At least with Facebook, I can throw in some disclaimers and minimize the damage my sarcasm can cause.
Q -Where can we get a copy of RESOLVE?
Resolve is available on Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, iBooks, iTunes, and multiple independent bookstores including Mystery Lovers Bookshop near Pittsburgh. There are also a limited amount of signed copies available at Mojo Running and Multisport in Seven Fields, PA.
Q -Social Site links. How do we keep in touch with you?
Q- When’s the next book?
A manuscript for another thriller titled Measure Twice is currently in the hands of my literary agent and is being pitched to various publishers. I’m currently in the process of writing a third book (working title: Hedonistic Calculus) that would serve as a sequel to both Resolve and Measure Twice. Publication dates are TBD.