Happy release day to James! This is the second time I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing James. The last time was May 2018, you can read that interview here (rather amusing to this day!). So we’re off to meet New York’s finest again, and doesn’t he look dashing in his trouser braces! It’s a special week as it marks the release of his mystery/family saga novel Hiding Cracked Glass, which I did read an Advanced Reader’s Copy of and I really enjoyed. Let’s go…
Hi James, been a while since we last spoke, thanks for joining me for this interview. Congratulations on the release of Hiding Cracked Glass. 2020 has been a crazy year, New York also faced a lot of challenges mid-year with the pandemic. During this time many of us myself included have been forced to look inward, outward, and all around us, as well as adjust to how we live life. Tell me, 1. What have you learned about yourself or life during 2020? 2. Do you look at life differently in anyway after all the events of 2020?
It has been a while, but I’m glad to be back. Thank you for much for the opportunity. 2020 has definitely been difficult… I’m not even sure if I’ve truly processed it yet. Today, for instance, was a weird step forward and then backward. I’ll try to explain quickly… last year around this time, I went to Maine for ten days and stayed in various coastal towns. I am considering moving there in the near future. So… when things in my apartment building got a bit wacky this summer (construction on the exterior of the building making it impossible to work there with the jackhammers during the week for the entire fall season) and I am not allowed to physically go into my office, I decided to rent a house in Maine for 6+ weeks. I arrived yesterday afternoon, went to the grocery store for the first time in 6 months (everything in NYC was basically delivery), cooked dinner, and went to sleep. Today, I went driving around town (Kennebunkport) which was one of last fall’s primary stops. Walking around brought back so many memories, and this time I brought Baxter (shiba inu dog). We kept getting in and out of the car, walking around the beach, etc. I had to put on my mask and take it off a dozen times (no need to wear in the car). It was just so weird to remember a place I loved and see it through different eyes. So… I think what I’ve learned is that I need to spend more time doing things I love and less times being locked up in a NYC apartment. It’s time to leave New York!
Kim: Good luck with the move. Yep, I do hear you on the experience with being ‘outside again’ I spent an afternoon in the park for the first time since March. It was wonderful!
How have you been keeping yourself well, sane, and full of ‘high vibrations’ and hope in 2020?
Truthfully, I’m a homebody, so it hasn’t been that rough for me. Other than not being able to go out to dinner or see friends, everything has been status quo. I miss the theatre, shopping, and wandering around the city, but I can find fun at home. The big difference was socializing, on occasion… some friends arranged Zoom calls once a week, and I was also able to spend more time writing since my full-time job was less busy (in terms of no commute, more manageable hours). That kept me sane… but I truly hadn’t ventured out of a 4-block radius (walking the dog) for the last six months… until this weekend!
When I read Hiding Cracked Glass (this was the first time I had ever read anything of yours), I was really pleasantly surprised at the amount of variety you created with the characters, and their own little sub-plots. Tell me, was this on purpose? What was your thought process when you created the characters and ‘their dramas’?
Yes, definitely on purpose. Watching Glass Shatter, the first book in this series, was my debut three years ago this week. I had been reading tons of family drama and contemporary fiction books, so it felt like the best first place for me to chance a new career. I don’t like being ordinary, and I like balance more than most others… so figuring out how to bring diversity into my books has been important since the beginning for me. Siblings fascinate me, probably because I’m an only child. I have a bunch of different personalities (in terms of the way I act sometimes, not clinically!)… so there are shades of each of the five Glass brothers in my real-life personality. Unfortunately, I have to make them all work as 1 person, so writing about them is a cathartic process of living through others in a way without having to constantly switch myself on/off in different situations.
Kim: Oh wow, I see an only child. Welp, as the youngest of three you’re right sibling relationships can be challenging at times, but on the other hand lovely. That’s interesting to hear that all the Glass brothers are a layer of Jay. *Raises an eyebrow* mmmmkay. I often wonder what it’s like for only children, my son is also in the same position and really what I notice is that, he really does know how to entertain himself, his teddy bears and action men seem to be good ‘friends’ of his, I often here them all deep in conversation LOL.
What character is really close to your heart from the Glass family, and why?
I think Caleb. His story is the most like my own. While I haven’t adopted a child, I did escape for some time when I wasn’t really comfortable in my own skin. I’m still not comfortable, and neither is Caleb. There will always be apart of him that can’t just relax and be who he is without feeling someone is judging him. While I have amazing friends and family, inside me, something is broken… and I don’t think it’s fixable. Now, please do not ever feel bad for me or think I make this a big thing with others. All it means is that I often struggle with knowing exactly who I am because I share so many versions of myself that the authentic me is now a blend of different parts of my life: who I was as a child, who I am at work, who I was in college, who I was as a single guy, who I am now that I’m half of a couple… my group of friends changes every ten years as I age… sometimes due to location, others due to which part of my personality is shining more strongly. It may seem weird, and I’ve probably said way too much, but that’s just what I’ve dealt with all my life. Caleb is the same, and I like being able to watch his maturity and learn from him.
Kim: I found Caleb’s story a very touching one. I don’t feel sorry for you at all, not in the way you’re probably thinking. I often say we don’t ever really lose friends, people, situations, places in life. We outgrow them, simple. The ‘changes’ reflect that. That’s good! Otherwise we walk around stagnate as people, which no one should aim for.
Let’s talk about Caleb in Hiding Cracked Glass, he is a gay, married, father via adoption. I remember thinking to myself, ‘damn, this is a hot potato in the USA.’ Adoption and LGBTQ areas have been highlighted across the water. What made you feel good, or drawn to creating a controversial character like him? Was this intentional?
Okay, I should’ve heard all the questions before answering each one, or I would’ve changed my prior answer. Ha! But I have a good answer here. I mentioned earlier that I wanted diversity in my books. I also want authenticity. As a white middle-aged male, it is not easy for me to write primary characters who are on different ends of spectrums and scales… even with research, sometimes an author gets it wrong or is called out for stealing from another culture or gender or age, etc. In all my books, there will always be a variety of people, not because that’s what people want or what might sell better… but because it’s how my head thinks. I see the world in so many different shades and versions that differences are innate and fundamental. It’s similar in my other books… Father Figure deals with a lesbian teenager and an interracial relationship. But I’m not the proper writer to dig deep into the issues these characters face… the true experience of what it means to be of different races or ethnicities. Instead, I layer my books with characters from all these aspects, and as a writer and human, to me, it shows the norm of diversity and inclusion without trying to make it so obvious. My Braxton Campus Mysteries which now has over 120 characters includes at least 33% non-Caucasian characters because the world contains at least that many. My goal is to be accurate in terms of what I see around me and represent a society where everything that happens could be regardless of where someone comes from or what they look like. In Hiding Cracked Glass, Caleb is the ‘most normal’ character in terms of marriages; he and Jake fight and cuddle like typical married people where his brothers are the ones doing things that get them in trouble. Okay, off my soapbox!
Kim: Now that’s an insight, glad I asked the question. Given that I have only ever read Hiding Cracked Glass, I had no idea, or even would have guessed that the diversity in your work is so vast. Not because I don’t think you’re capable, I just didn’t think it would have been such an important thing for you. This is really good information for readers and myself to know. Now you put it that way, yes even though Caleb’s life is pretty full on he does seem to be the most ‘normal’ in terms of a relationship’s natural ups and downs.
Oliva in Hiding Cracked Glass at times came across as a bit of an ice maiden , I also felt that sometimes about Matt’s wife Margret too. What this on purpose? It felt to me like Margret was Olivia’s protégée kind of .
Yes! In the debut, Watching Glass Shatter, Olivia is 100% ice witch for 50% of the book… she softens, and some people still end up disliking her, some find her a bit redeemed. In Hiding Cracked Glass, three more months have passed, and she’s now somewhere in the middle. At times, she brings the ice… at others, she brings the warmth. She will never be the perfect mother, but she knows when to control her natural tendencies now. Margaret is just like her, but she’s a generation younger and has learned more from society’s differences. Matt, her husband, has always wanted to be just like his parents… so he’s tried to be his father, and he wanted a wife like his mother, and in the end, it caused his addiction to drugs and anxiety. He’s a classic case of impacts of certain types of upbringings. There are positives and negatives, and without proper attention, it’s so easy to go down the wrong path. Luckily, his brothers want to save him too.
Have you ever been to Italy? I really enjoyed that parts of Hiding Cracked Glass are set here.
Yes! So… about two and half years ago, I was on a two-week vacation in Italy, and the hotel and town mentioned in Hiding Cracked Glass is the exact one I stayed in back then for four days on the Amalfi Coast. I took a few notes to use in a future book, and when Watching Glass Shatter ended, right while I was planning the trip, I even noted that Olivia was leaving for Italy… so I did kind of prepare for it!
Kim: Ah-hah! Nice
Did you have to do a lot of research generally, while writing both books? Which book caused the most fact-checking or research?
Nope! I’m not that kind of writer. Some writers thrive on research and finding the specific details to make something even more realistic and memorable. I rely on my writing style… I also am a bit lazy in terms of research, as often, my plots are a bit intense, so I am already asking readers to suspend some disbelief. I do research a little bit, but rarely do I pick topics that require major analysis or prep work. That said, I definitely did check into a few things. For instance, the adoption rules in Maine were important for Caleb’s situation, as were wills in Connecticut. I had to get true laws correct, but if there is room for subjectivity, I go with it.
Kim: Oh I felt that poke in the ribs. ‘some writers thrive on research’ LOL. Yes I remember when I came to you for the finer details about New York, for my own research. I use real street names and iconic places for the reality you mention. But it takes up a lot of time. But for someone like you, it must really speed up the writing process with less of this kinda detail. I better make a note! Maybe I’d write quicker.
Let’s talk about character development, there are many characters in Hiding Cracked Glass you write the POV of women in their sixties, men in the early to late thirties, women of this age, gay characters, straight characters, drug addicts! And more. Something must have stirred in you during this process over two books… spill the beans on character development and writing Hiding Cracked Glass?
They seem real to me. I picture them when I write. I know who they are, so it’s very easy to share their voices. That’s usually what I spend 3 months on before I write a word of my outline. People navigate the perimeter of my brain while I’m working, eating, showering, exercising, etc. And when enough details formulate to generate the real character, I start assigning relationships and scenes. That’s when I am ready to write the outline. I also live in the most diverse city in the world – New York, so it’s the norm for me to see these characters every day on the street. I might not know the 60s woman is struggling with the death of her husband, but I’ve seen a couple walk together holding hands for months, and then suddenly, I see only her anymore. Something happened. And her story becomes our story… because she inspired it, I captured it in words… and now we are connected.
Okay, let’s flip the script and talk about fun stuff. You look like a man who likes to have fun! What do you do for fun? Be honest.
I will piggyback off something I said earlier. I am a compilation of many different people. It’s even in how people refer to me. Some say ‘James.’ Others use ‘Jay.’ Many just write my initial or call me JJC4. Like my names, my personalities are kinda distinct. One is definitely fun, but he’s dangerous. He doesn’t believe in rules or laws. He is purely out for fun. He mostly stays in the box these days because I am getting older and less in need of the dangerous fun. I’ve swapped the bars for the restaurants, the clubs for the cocktails on the terrace, and the rest kinda goes the same way. I’ve also learned not to drink in parties because that calms me enough to be too fun… whereas if I keep myself in check, I can wake up without saying ‘oh no, you didn’t really do that… did you?’
Kim: *GIGGLES* I knew it. The trouser braces gave your ‘wild side’ away LOL
Okay pick one tea or coffee? Dogs or cats? Coke of Pepsi? Fresh orange juice with or without the pulp bits?
Coffee. Dogs. Coke. With the pulp. That said, I do like tea and cats. I don’t drink soda anymore, but I also went for Coke over Pepsi. And OJ either way is truly okay!
This is my second interview with you in a few years, in the last one I never really got that nosey this time I will, I’m a romance author after all so I have to ask about your love life *Kim giggles* ummm, so like, do you have a girlfriend or boyfriend whatever applies?
Ah, yes, I am quiet about the personal stuff beyond me (I’ve basically revealed everything in my 365 Daily Challenge about myself, the good and the bad). I try to respect people’s privacy in my life, i.e. by not talking names of family or friends, etc. But I’ve definitely shared a bit on random posts about W. You can totally get nosy. W and I have been together nine years this fall. We met through Match.com; he’s an attorney from Louisiana. It’s easy to find him thru some of my social media connections. I just don’t advertise it, rather than intentionally hide it.
What’s your ideal woman or man whatever applies— if you are single?
I can only answer that if I’m single? Oh, that’s no fun. Pure and simple, I’m like you, Kim. Zach! And therein is my biggest problem. If I picked someone like Zach as my significant other, it would be pure bliss for 5 days a week… but then the other two, I’d want to kill him. And I probably would. Then I’d be writing from prison. And well… in the end, that’s probably not a good idea for someone like me who tends to try appease everyone in my life.
Kim: *throws head back giggling* welp, agreed there’s something about Zack (and I already told you this), that does make him appealing as a character and a man. What got me about Zack was when he and his ex-girl friend broke into the store for alcohol, had sex on the counter, forget about the CCTV and had to steal the tape. I was like, ‘oh my days, this is a dangerous man’. I would not have the balls to do something like that, but a younger Kim, with nothing to lose and with a few shots down her may have been ‘encouraged’ into it. *Covers face and laughs.* I really loved his character, not just for that but how he seemed to have grown, taking on the role as a single father out of choice. I respected him a lot for that.
I know that you and my co-author (who is now your co-author too) Didi Oviatt have penned a book together. Tell us about it? What can we expect?
Yes! I hope it’s cool we worked together. Maybe it’ll be a three-way in the future. (Shut your dirty minds, people. I’m not talking about… never mind, I won’t ruin your imagination.) Anyways, it lined up so nicely, given our major differences in writing style and genre. But at the same time, it was like we had a fantastic connection and symbiosis. As an only child and a perfectionist, I expected it would be difficult. But honestly, it was super easy. We kinda agreed on most everything and just kept flipping work back and forth. Weathering Old Souls will release in 2021. We’re talking to a few agents and publishers now, to see how to best handle a collaborative work, but we hope to have an announcement on the date and publication details before early next year. As for the story, oh, it would take pages to explain it, but essentially combine Didi’s amazing ability to write suspenseful thrillers with my complicated mystery plots. Add her brilliant scene descriptions with my shocking character relationships and historical references. Drip in some romance, family drama, natural elements, and a new genre for us both (metaphysical / past lives / the unknown world out there), and you’ve got a rollercoaster. The first part of the book shares Abigail’s childhood and teenage experiences where she’s learning to understand what all these voices and confusing memories are… all the while, news reports tell us about a serial killer torturing people nearby. By midway, Abigail has an accident that changes her forever… and when she figures out the distinct lines and connections from all her past lives, it’s a page-turner where you can’t stop because every scene leads to another stunning revelation.
Kim: I’m rollin’ with laughter, stop! I’d be up for whatever (writing mind you). Nah, it’s cool you’ve worked together it’s great. Didi is SUPER EASY!! And a pleasure to work with. I honestly may say that because our styles are very similar anyway. That’s what shocked me about Didi, the stories in our two books anyone of us could have written. At times, it did freak me out to know there’s someone on the other side of the world, who can mirror me and I can mirror her without even trying, it’s just how we both write without trying, when it comes to thrillers. Now I think it’s really cool and to ‘confuse’ people or let them guess who wrote what, with only American or British spelling as a hint.
From reading your work this week I can see how you and her differ in your writing styles. But like you said if you add both your styles together it would make great reading, but I can see how you may not always agree on everything as I’ve read you both separately and can see the difference. But I love both styles, the details you’ve shared sound like a very interesting plot. I wish you both a lot of luck, love, and good fortune for 2021.
Could you see yourself living anywhere else in the world? Outside of New York?
I’m hoping to buy or build a house in Maine within the next five years. I just need to work out the job situation or make enough money off writing to afford to live there and have healthcare!
Kim: keep manifesting! Good luck.
What are you writing now?
After Hiding Cracked Glass, the co-written book with Didi (Weathering Old Souls) will release in 2021. I am in the process of writing the 7th Braxton Campus Mystery, which will release around April 2021. After that, it’s open. I have a few ideas, but I also need a mini-break, so we’ll see after the holidays when I send the Braxton book to beta readers… that’ll tell me what to focus on. I will say I’m learning toward a paranormal mystery series about characters in the Underworld or a collection of short stories and character studies.
Kim: Sounds good, make sure you come back for your third interview. Maybe next time we could do a live Zoom interview and record it.
Do you think that the dreams of many writers to be household names, rich over night etc are things that need to be balanced in order to reach success?
Yes! It’s like someone who wants to be an actor or a politician or professional sports player. None of those are ever about how talented you are. That’s a given. But you also have to embody what the other person is looking for too… and that’s where people’s dreams get crushed. You can be qualified and have the best odds, but still fail. I always tell new writers… don’t just write. Have goals in mind. Know whether it’s about money, fame, connections, creative expression, etc. If you have something tangible in mind as the short-term goal, you can monitor the long-term goal… then if you meet somewhere in the middle, you can still be happy and proud and feel amazing about the
Thank so much for stopping by today Jay, it was amazing to catch up with you again. I really am proud of the diversity you’re bring to the world of fiction. I honestly look forward to reading more of your individual work.
Grab your Kindles it’s live now, readers! On Amazon
An ominous blackmail letter appears at an inopportune moment. The recipient’s name is accidentally blurred out upon arrival. Which member of the Glass family is the ruthless missive meant for?
In the powerful sequel to Watching Glass Shatter, Olivia is the first to read the nasty threat and assumes it’s meant for her. When the mysterious letter falls into the wrong hands and is read aloud, it throws the entire Glass family into an inescapable trajectory of self-question. Across the span of eight hours, Olivia and her sons contemplate whether to confess their hidden secrets or find a way to bury them forever. Some failed to learn an important lesson last time. Will they determine how to save themselves before it’s too late?
Each chapter’s focus alternates between the various family members and introduces several new and familiar faces with a vested interest in the outcome. As each hour ticks by, the remaining siblings and their mother gradually reveal what’s happened to them in the preceding months, and when the blackmailer makes an appearance at Olivia’s birthday party, the truth brilliantly comes to light.
Although everyone seemed to embrace the healing process at the end of Watching Glass Shatter, there were hidden cracks in the Glass family that couldn’t be mended. Their lives are about to shatter into pieces once again, but this time, the stakes are even higher. Someone wants to teach them a permanent lesson and refuses to stop until success is achieved.
James is my given name; most call me Jay. I grew up on Long Island and currently live in New York City, but I’ve traveled all across the US (and various parts of the world). After college, I began working in technology and business operations in the sports, entertainment, media, retail, and hospitality industries. Although I enjoy my job, I also want to re-focus on my passions: telling stories and connecting people through literature.
In 2017, I published my debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, a contemporary fiction family drama with elements of mystery, suspense, humor, and romance. The sequel, Hiding Cracked Glass, released exactly three years later in 2020. I’ve also written another family drama novel, Father Figure, and created the Braxton Campus Mysteries, a light investigation series about a humorous thirty-something guy dealing with murders and the drama of a small town. I am currently co-authoring a book with a surprise writer and finalizing the next Braxton Campus Mystery, both set to be released in early to mid 2021.
Most of my books are available in hardcover, paperback, electronic, and audiobook formats, as well as in a variety of bookstores. We’ve begun translating into Portuguese, Spanish, German, and Italian for some of the books too. To see samples or receive news from my current and upcoming books, please subscribe with your email address at my website: https://jamesjcudney.com.
Outside of writing, I’m an avid genealogist (discovered 2,500 family members going back about 250 years) and cook (I find it so hard to follow a recipe). I love to read; between Goodreads and my blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, I have over 1,000 book reviews which will give you a full flavor for my voice and style. On my blog, I share several fun features, including the Book Bucket List, Tips & Advice, Author Spotlights & Book Alerts, and the 365 Daily Challenge, where I post a word each day that has some meaning to me, then converse with everyone about life. You’ll find tons of humor, tears, love, friendship, advice and bloopers. Lots of bloopers… where I poke fun at myself all the time. Even my dogs have segments where they complain about me. All these things make up who I am; none of them are very fancy or magnanimous, but they are real and show how I live every day.
A bit of humor: Everything doubles as something else when you live in NYC. For me, it’s the dining room, my favorite space in the apartment, where more than just my cooking is on display! As I look out the windows onto a 12th floor terrace, various parts of nature (trees, bushes, flowers, bugs & animals) inspire me to write. Baxter, a two-year-old shiba inu, constantly tries to stop me from writing so I can play with him and keep him amused. How else can you pen the best story possible without these things by your side?
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