LPTrendsBooks: A Review on J. M. Richardson. By Kathryn Mattingly. A new find in your artist bag of writers that are must reads.
The Apocalypse Mechanism
Brilliant New Orleans Professor James Beauregard’s life is spiraling into complete despair when a startling discovery is made halfway across the globe that requires his expertise. Is there really an ancient machine that could push civilization into the throes of oblivion? As he attempts to unlock the secrets of this waiting apocalypse, Professor Beauregard is hunted by an archaic fundamentalist cult determined to bring about humanity’s end-of-days. Will he find the key to stopping the world’s oldest weapon of mass destruction, or will the cult’s wish to purge all evil be the Earth’s demise?
~The Apocalypse Mechanism by J.M. Richardson
Above is an excerpt from Richardson’s second novel, recently released by WinterGoose Publishing. It’s a nice accomplishment for a young father with a love of teaching and an unquenchable thirst for history. Just like his hero in The Apocalypse Mechanism is looking for an important key, Richardson is looking for a key too – the key to merging a love of history with a love of writing. I think he has found it by becoming a novelist who writes about, well, history of course!
Josh was raised in the small town of Franklinton in southeastern Louisiana where his upbringing was among close-knit family and community. In his early years, Richardson nurtured an interest in the arts, and in developing talents in vocals, guitar, and musical arrangement – along with his need to write ever since an early age and a passion for history that somewhat defines him.
After attending Louisiana State University he began teaching history and sociology in Baton Rouge, LA high schools, because as hard as it was to admit, nothing could compete with his love of history. He married his college sweetheart, Melissa Ware, a literature major and native of Baton Rouge and they moved to the Fort Worth, TX area where Richardson teaches high school history, among a few other subjects, and writes his novels amidst the love and support of his wife and family.
I asked Josh a few questions lately about his budding novelist career and how it came to be.
You’ve been writing your whole life. When did you feel compelled to write that first serious want-to-be-published book?
As far as writing a novel goes, I’ve talked—even joked—about it since college. But I started writing The Apocalypse Mechanism in 2006. I put my mind to it, and didn’t stop until it was done. I tend to write about stuff I know and love—history, society, politics, war. I’m a social studies teacher, so I’m inspired quite a bit by what I teach and what’s going on in the world today.
When did you decide to become a teacher, and where all have you taught? What subjects do you teach?
I decided to become a teacher after a couple of years of college, finding out that I wasn’t very good at what I was in school for, and treading water, trying to figure it all out. I had to have a little heart-to-heart with myself about what I was good at and what I loved. I knew I loved history and loved to talk about history, so it made sense to get paid to do it. I’ve since taught pretty much anything you can think of to do with social studies—world history, US history, economics, sociology, geography, psychology—you name it. I love it all. I started teaching in Baton Rouge, LA, and did that for two years. I’ve been in Keller, TX now for seven years.
What inspires you most about teaching?
I think most teachers (at least the ones that aren’t just in it for summers off) would agree that the biggest pleasure we get out of our work is to watch the little light bulbs click on over these kids’ heads. It’s hard to engage someone with all the media in the world at their fingertips. Knowing you taught someone something they didn’t already know comes with a great deal of satisfaction. And that’s part of the satisfaction I get out of writing. It’s another platform I use to teach. In the classroom, I teach by putting things into a context or into a story. It’s the easiest way to get anyone to learn anything aside from someone learning from experience. So the writing stories thing comes naturally, and I intentionally write things that are either based in reality or reflect reality, even the speculative stories. I don’t just want to entertain my readers or invoke emotion. I want to teach them something either about the world or about themselves.
What do you find most frustrating about your students?
One of the most frustrating things is really more of a social problem than a classroom problem. Somehow, in the United States, the value of working hard for something has been cast to the wayside. My grandfather’s generation worked their butts off and those are the backs that American prosperity is built on. Somehow, American culture has switched to a culture that places more value on gaining fame and fortune with the least possible effort. We’re coasting on previous prosperity. Everyone’s going to get rich on a game show, or win a dancing competition. Everyone’s going to be a rock star or pro athlete. Our culture teaches that and unfortunately, a lot of parents aren’t interested in teaching any different. Fewer households place importance on education. And more of our youth are being taught to take more and earn less. Self-esteem for no good reason. Students expect grades GIVEN to them without much work in return. So we’re seeing less and less effort in the classroom and a DEMAND for high grades to be given for no reason.
How long did it take you to finish your first book and what were some of the challenges with the writing process?
Well, the first book I wrote was the one that was just released, The Apocalypse Mechanism. That one took me the longest. There was a learning curve. They are normal learning experiences; finding my voice, the language I want to use, my style, how much description I want to use, etc. Just finding my identity as an author, really. The biggest challenge that I still deal with is time. Between a day job and a family, it’s hard to find time to write, and now that I do have books published, I also have to find time to market my work and such.
Both of your books seem to be intense, with complex plots. What genre (or genres) would you classify them in and why?
They are intense. I guess at the foundation of it all, I would call them suspense, and probably both could be considered action/adventure. There is a lot of warfare, chases, and danger. I love social and political concepts. I love writing about history, and trying to put together hypothetical alternate history stories. But I have a love for that high pulse rate, nail-biting experience. I appreciate literary fiction—grandeur in a story for the sheer drama of it—but for now, that’s not really what I’m interested in writing.
Who do you read for entertainment and what authors are you inspired by?
I don’t get a lot of time to read for pleasure anymore. I’d love to. There are some great books that I’d love to crack open, but time does not permit. I like Steinbeck and Stephen King. I think they are/were excellent writers and amazing wordsmiths. They are true artists in literature. But my favorite author, I think, is Anne Rice. She writes so elegantly and does such a good job at showing you what’s in her mind’s eye. But even more than that, I admire her ability to create a complex story out of so many seemingly unrelated parts. And it works. She makes it look easy. Everything she writes is epic and beautiful, albeit dark and monstrous. That’s another thing I love about her—the darkness she sees and shows in humankind.
What mentors have you had along the way – whether authors whose work you have studied, classes you have taken and/or friends/loved ones that support your goals and dreams?
I wish I could name an author or two that have taken me under their wing as some sort of protégé, but it really hasn’t happened that way. But there are some people along the way that have given me what I need to grow as an author. My wife has been here throughout the process and has been very supportive. I have a friend who is a huge reader and former librarian. His name is Francis MacFarlane. He’s been wonderfully supportive, and is there to offer help and critique. Of course my publisher, Jessica Kristie, has been a great resource not only on the artistic side, but for the business side of things, too. She’s good at keeping me focused and level through ups and the inevitable downs.
Where did you get the idea for the Apocalypse Mechanism?
The Apocalypse Mechanism’s idea came when I was watching a History Channel story on ancient technology. Adventure and history-related stories intrigue me always, so I started just playing around with a story in my head, and I came up with this idea that the Dark Ages, the collapse of great empires, and eventually the Apocalypse were caused and would be caused by some sort of ancient machine. I began writing this at the height of our wars in the Middle East, so I added an aspect of religious fundamentalism (in a different ancient religion) and a hero, and I was off! An American professor must follow ancient clues to track down an ancient weapon of mass destruction and shut it down, all while a fundamentalist cult hunts him and tries to stop that from happening.
Did The Apocalypse Mechanism have more, less, or just different challenges than The Twenty-Nine?
Writing it first, I had more trouble and obstacles with writing The Apocalypse Mechanism than with The Twenty-Nine. I was inexperienced and slow. I’d go through month-long lulls in writing. I was determined, but not yet committed to following through. I was gaining experience, so I felt like a pro, when I was certainly a novice. Plus, I became a father in the middle of it, and so time constraints increasingly became problematic. So it ended up taking two and a half years to write. Writing The Twenty-Nine after was a cinch—thirteen months. I had honed my style, found my niche, etc.
America is in turmoil. The states are no longer united, and the path of their division may be leading us all to annihilation. When young Derek joined the Marine Corps his intentions were simply to provide himself with a better life. He never dreamed he would be facing combat against fellow Americans, or staring down a mushroom cloud on his own home soil. Americans are beginning to wonder if our differences will be the end of our great nation, or if we will find a way to unite our people and reclaim our freedom.
~The Twenty-Nine by J.M. Richardson
As a history buff, do you enjoy doing a lot of research for your books?
I’m not one of these writers that go into research mode just to find the idea. I like to at least start with something I know. I’d hate to get into a discussion about one of my books, and not really know enough about the subject to hold a comfortable conversation about it. I have a wealth of knowledge about a lot of things from history and economy, to politics and psych. So I have an endless array of ideas for books that I can pull from. And they are all things I can easily discuss. Stuff I teach and stuff I’m just interested in. But when I get into the actual formulation of plots, culture, history, and places that I’m less familiar with, I do have to research a lot, especially with writing about places I’ve never been to. I’ve taught geography for seven years. I know my stuff. But currently, I’m writing about things that takes place in Hyderabad, Pakistan. Google Earth is my friend.
Do you already have the idea in mind for your next book, or do you have a lot of plots floating around in your head, or maybe written down somewhere and you just need to pick one?
When Winter Goose picked up The Twenty-Nine, I was working on a sequel to The Apocalypse Mechanism. I’m forty thousand words into it. But I had to set it aside to write the follow-up to The Twenty-Nine, which is what I’m writing now. So as soon as I get a contract down on A Line in the Sand, I’m going right back to the sequel to The Apocalypse Mechanism. So I’m good for at least two more books. Beyond that, I have at least one more idea for the James Beauregard (The Apocalypse Mechanism) series. And it’s pretty well mapped out. So I’ve literally got ideas for years to come.
The Apocalypse Mechanism is available in paperback through: Barnes & Noble and Amazon * eBook: Kindle and Barnes & Noble * The Twenty-Nine is available in paperback through BarnesNoble and Amazon / Amazon UK * eBook: Kindle You can follow J.M. on Twitter & Facebook and you can keep up with his latest news by following his website.
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