Posted on 08/07/2019 at 08:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
Today we’re interviewing contemporary-fiction author James J. Cudney.
Cudney grew up on Long Island and currently lives in New York City, but he has traveled all across the US (and various parts of the world).
After college, he spent fifteen years working in technology and business operations in the sports, entertainment, and media industries.
Although he enjoyed his job, he left in 2016 to focus on his passion: telling stories and connecting people through words.
He tends to write in the contemporary fiction and family dramas with elements of mystery, suspense, humor, and romance.
Cudney is an avid genealogist who has discovered 3,000 family members going back about 250 years and cook who finds it so hard to follow a recipe.
On his blog, he started the 365 Daily Challenge, where he posts a word each day that has some meaning to him, then converses with everyone about life. There is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice, and bloopers.
SADYE: Tell us something about your writing process that’s unusual or that you haven’t revealed before.
JAMES: In every book thus far, I’ve embedded family stories, names, and locations.
To me, the past is critical to understanding the future. I am a genealogy nut, and I love finding new connections, names, and places.
I use surnames from my family’s past: Glass from Watching Glass Shatter was one of my first relatives to move from Germany, Graeme from Father Figure was one my first relatives to move from Ireland, and Ayr from the Braxton Campus Mysteries is the town we’re from in Scotland and part of Kellan’s last name.
The stories take place in a made-up Pennsylvania town that resembles a combination of where my family originally came from, where I went to college, and where I often visit relatives nowadays.
It’s a way to weave myself into each and every book.
SADYE: Which of your characters would you most and least like to trade places with?
JAMES: Kellan Ayrwick from the Braxton Campus Mysteries is a dream to write for.
50% of him is basically me, so the personality and voice are easy to channel. The other 50% is who I want to be, so I can easily project my interests, desires, and needs into a fun protagonist.
That said, part of me would want to trade places with him because I’d get to solve murder mysteries, come from a huge core family, and work on a college campus.
On the flip side, I would not want to be Amalia Graeme from Father Figure because that poor women suffered so much.
I was cruel to her (as a writer), and although I think she’s my favorite character in terms of depth, emotion, intrigue, and drama, so much of her life was filled with pain.
I would’ve done far worse when it comes to avenging those who hurt me.
SADYE: What period of history would you most like to travel back to / what historical figure would you most like to meet, and why?
JAMES: What a tough question! There are several periods, but no matter which you choose there will also be problems you must address.
If I focus just on the positive reasons, I’d travel back to the 1920s when the mystery genre was entering its golden age and the world was beginning to modernize in terms of communication and travel.
I’d watch Agatha Christie work. I’d take a train across my country and visit all the major areas.
I’d document all the history from my older relatives who’d been born in the mid-19th century (as they’d be in their 60s in the 1920s), so that I had a stronger hold on my ancestry.
I’d be on the cusp of change but not zooming so quickly that I barely had a moment to enjoy the ride.
SADYE: What message or theme would you like readers to take away from your work?
JAMES: Tolerance and an open mind, in any way, shape, or form. When there are over a billion people on our planet, there will always be people we do not like or want to be around.
Rather than intentionally hurt someone or try to make another person’s life difficult, it’s important to mind our own business.
Of course, if people are a danger to themselves or someone else, we should step in to help. Otherwise, we should find a way to accept differences and ignore things that don’t appeal to us.
I usually incorporate this lesson into most characters, hoping to show growth and acceptance as people age or evolve.
Maybe the villain in the murder mystery goes through with a plan to kill someone, but the other characters and readers will always see redemption, punishment, or forgiveness, where appropriate.
SADYE: What advice, as relates to your writing career, would you give your younger self?
JAMES: Fear will be present in your life all the time. It’s more important to address the feelings rather than let them linger.
Rejection happens. Bad reviews will occur. People will intentionally do things to hurt your success. That is just part of life.
If you don’t attempt to push past those emotions, you will never succeed. If you conquer it sooner, you have an improved chance for success.
I waited until I was almost forty to publish my first book because I couldn’t find the time to write or I was afraid of what people would think.
Ultimately, we all have these concerns in our life, so why not prove your strength as soon as you have the opportunity?
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Categories: Author Interview