Welcome to TRB Lounge. Today, I’d like to welcome author J.A. Adams, from Atmosphere Press, for an author interview with The Reading Bud.
About The Author
Author J.A. Adams is retired in Northern Colorado after teaching English for sixteen years at Louisiana State University. This debut novel grew out of observing and becoming enamored with the Cajun culture during those years.
You can connect with author J.A. Adams here:
Welcome to TRB! Please give our readers a brief introduction about yourself before we begin.
I’ve lived in many places in the US. I was born in a small town in Ohio and lived there until I was eighteen. My father’s job took the family to Long Island, then Houston, where I was married. Then my husband’s job took us to California and finally to Louisiana, where I went to LSU, earned my PhD, and taught English for sixteen years.
My experiences in each of the places I’ve lived informed my thinking and broadened my mind, though I was most intrigued by the Louisiana culture. My marriage eventually fell apart, but then I met someone in Louisiana, and we’ve been married for four wonderful years. He inspired me to complete the book I had begun years ago. We both had wanted to move to Colorado, so I was able to make my writing dream come true after retirement. Though I miss the Louisiana culture, I am happy to be nearer to my son, who teaches in Boulder.
Please tell us something about your book other than what we have read in the blurb?
I wanted to capture Louisiana’s unique Cajun culture while also showing how big oil, with its government subsidies, corruption, and greed, was taking a toll on the state. As a starting point, I used an actual disaster, in which a drilling rig drilled a hole in a salt mine, causing its collapse. Then I built my fictional story around that, showing how it affected everyone’s lives in and around New Iberia in southwest Louisiana. Moving through the story, we see how greed and the corruption of corporations and politicians have led to the catastrophe.
‘H’, the son of the drilling company’s owner Harvey, is determined to prove that his father didn’t commit suicide. Along the way he discovers the true cause of the disaster and brings bad actors to justice. Not only does he clear his father’s name of suicide, but he develops a new respect for his father’s honesty and integrity in the face of corruption.
What is that one message that you’re trying to get across to the readers in this book?
I tried to impart two important messages. I wanted to show how the greed of corporations, with the help of dishonest lobbyists and politicians, can negatively impact the employees and the land those employees call home. At the same time, I wanted to show how one man, estranged from his father for years, came back to clear his father’s name, and how he finally developed an awareness about aspects of his father’s life he had not considered. It is a novel of his personal growth from bitterness and cynicism to understanding and appreciation.
Who is your favorite character in this book and why?
My favorite character would have to be H; named after his father Harvey, H never wanted or felt worthy of his father’s full name. H’s mother and baby sister died in childbirth, causing his father to turn away from his two sons and devote his life to his job, while H and Victor were raised by their aunt and uncle. In such a dysfunctional family, H and his brother both grew up with their own neuroses: H always bitterly resented being left and ignored by his father, while Vic turned to gambling, fast cars, and fast women. H found purpose in clearing his father’s name and grew as a result. The same transformation has not happened for Vic, but H remains hopeful that he’ll come around in the future.
What inspired you to write this book? An idea, some anecdote, a dream or something else?
I moved to Louisiana the year of the salt mine disaster, so it was powerful in its effect on the state. The cause was never determined, and though, miraculously, no one was killed in the actual disaster, I decided to write a fictional account of what could have happened, based on my understanding of what big oil and political corruption have done to Louisiana.
How long did it take you to write this particular book?
I started writing shortly after I began teaching at LSU. I could only find the time to work on it between semesters. It wasn’t until I retired that I was able to actually sit down and stick with it until the end. So altogether, I guess it took around sixteen years.
What are your writing ambitions? Where do you see yourself 5 years from today?
I am enjoying writing, and now that I have free time, I’ll continue writing, at least over the next five years. I guess my ultimate ambition, like any other writers’ ambitions, is to sell lots of books. Also, when I have an idea, a concern, an event, that impacts or inspires me, I feel that I have to get it out there in the best form I can.
Are you working on any other story presently?
I’m working on a story about a Ukrainian who emigrated to the US with his family after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, during a time of Russian hostilities, Ukrainian corruption, and a failing economy. Mykola was an impressionable seventeen-year-old, aware of a nuclear bomb that had been lost in a storm from the ship his father was stationed on before his retirement from the Navy. The lost bomb intrigued H, and he determined he would return to Ukraine one day to find it before Ukrainian Separatists, who wanted to take over Ukraine, found it and used it on the Ukrainian Resistance. The Russians were surveilling Mykola during his graduate studies and dissertation about Russian aggression, and especially after he returned to Ukraine and located the bomb’s coordinates. They sent an attractive spy to be a student in his class, seduce him, and discover the coordinates.
I believe the book will be timely now, with Russia rattling its sabers and threatening to invade and take over Ukraine, which it considers the Mother of Russia, so I’m working diligently to finish it.
Why have you chosen this genre? Or do you write in multiple genres?
I find mystery, thrillers, and intrigue to be interesting topics. I enjoy timely topics based on corruption and greed unmasked. I guess Pillars of Salt and my new book are both based on a David and Goliath motif. I will probably continue in that vein.
When did you decide to become a writer? Was it easy for you follow your passion or did you have to make some sacrifices along the way?
I was an avid reader at a very young age. My mother would sometimes make me put down a book to go out and play. I regularly walked the mile to the library to check out books like Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, my favorite, Rebecca, and others. During those impressionable years I dreamed of writing my own book. It just took many years to realize that dream. I realized I needed a degree in English, and two graduate degrees. Then I had to use my degrees to actually teach! Those years of studying, researching, preparing classes, grading papers, etc. were a roadblock to writing for many more years. But finally, I am in a position to follow that childhood dream.
What is your writing ritual? How do you do it?
I’ve read about writing rituals others have. I don’t really have a ritual. I love to write, so whenever I have some free time, I sit down and write, sometimes for hours on end.
How do you prefer to write – computer/laptop, typewriter, dictation or longhand with a pen?
I began writing everything longhand before sitting down at the computer to revise, revise, revise. I’ve become more adept at composing on the laptop, after which I revise, revise, revise.
What are your 5 favourite books? (You can share 5 favourite authors too.)
My first love as a teen, Rebecca, by Daphne de Maurier; the subject of my dissertation, The Awakening, by Kate Chopin; anything by James Lee Burke, whom I consider my mentor on writing Pillars of Salt; Beloved, by Toni Morrison; I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou; anything by Virginia Woolf or Eudora Welty.
In Non-fiction, On Tyranny and The Road to Unfreedom, by Timothy Snyder
How do you deal with Writer’s Block?
Talk to my husband for ideas; research! I finally solved the ending of Pillars by reading an actual account of a political scam.
What advice would you give to aspiring non-fiction writers?
I guess, if you want it bad enough, it will finally happen. Of course, not everyone can take the long route through grad school and teaching that I took. I urge anyone who wants to write to read, read, read, as much as you can get your hands on. Notice how people put words together, being as economic as possible. If you’ve written a long, wordy phrase, see how you can shorten it without losing meaning. Sometimes a precise word can account for many explanatory words.
Thank you, author Adams, for your insightful answers!
About the Book
Pillars Of Salt
Harvey Doucet, a reasonably good Catholic, would never have committed suicide.
His son, Harvey Jr. – H – knows this, so after Doucet Drilling causes the collapse of a salt mine and thirteen deaths, H searches for clues to clear his estranged father’s name. H and his father’s bodyguard, Placide, encounter dangerous cliffhangers, as the pursuers become the pursued. On the way, H exposes greed, fraud, and corruption, leading all the way to the White House.
In Pillars of Salt by J.A. Adams, we experience H’s journey from his original bitterness, angst, and cynicism toward his life and his father, to a place of appreciation and understanding of his father’s integrity. Maybe H will also discover the inherent goodness in people, even when the world seems to be circling the drain.
You can find Pillars Of Salt here:
Amazon | Indie Bound | Barnes & Noble
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