Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Emerald City, A Loose Re-imagining of the Wizard of Oz, Author J.A. Beard VBT Pit Stop Mar 17

 Click on the image to visit the Meet & Greet with J.A. on VBT Cafe

J.A. Beard is a restless soul married to an equally restless soul. His two children are too young yet to discuss whether or not they are restless souls. When he hasn’t been writing, studying history, or making excuses for not writing, he’s tried his hand at several careers including intelligence analysis, programming, and research science. Though he likes to declare himself the Pie Master, he’s yet to prove his worth in the brutal baking show-downs of Celebration, Florida.

Help me give J.A. a warm welcome!
Louise: J.A., thank you for visiting with me today! Please tell us a little about your new release The Emerald City without giving too much of a spoiler away.

JA: When her parents die, teenager Gail Dorjee retreats into an angry, sarcastic shell. She hopes it will ease her pain, but all it gets her is a one-way trip from Kansas to a Seattle boarding school, the elite Osland Academy.

As soon as she arrives, Gail clashes with Diana, the leader of the school's most powerful clique. The Winged make Gail's life hell until she find allies: her airhead roommate; a cowardly fellow victim of the Winged; and, bit by bit, Diana's boyfriend--the seemingly heartless Nick.

Gail soon has bigger problems than Diana. One of her teachers hates her. Glasses shatter and fountains erupt around her. She can't swear no matter how hard she tries. An unseen force is keeping her on campus. And worst of all, she uncovers a plot that will give one person a precious gift at the cost of thousands of lives. Now Gail and her friends must stop the plot--not just to save lives, but to win a brain, the nerve, a heart and a home in this modern urban fantasy take on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Louise: Do you plan all your characters out before you start a story or do they develop as you write?

JA: My main characters are all, for the most part, developed before hand, but often my secondary characters may develop a bit more organically. That being said, even my main characters may end up changed as I proceed with writing. In the initial draft of The Emerald City, Gail had a similar general personality but was a bit of a juvenile delinquent. I toned down her personality a bit to make her less abrasive.

In this loose re-imagining of the Wizard of Oz, Kansas teen Gail Dorjee has tried to escape from the pain of her parents' death by retreating into a hard shell of anger and sarcasm.

When her aunt and uncle ship her off to an elite Seattle boarding school, Osland Academy, she spends her first day making enemies, including the school's most powerful clique, the Winged, and their leader, the ruthless Diana.

Social war and the school's uptight teachers are only mild annoyances. Mysterious phone outages, bizarre behavioral blocks, and strange incidents suggest Osland is focused on something much more sinister than education.

Now Gail has to survive at Osland with a pretty pathetic assortment of potential allies: her airhead roommate, a cowardly victim of the Winged, and Diana's cold but handsome boyfriend, Nick.

Louise: How much research do you do for your books? Have you found any cool tidbits in your research?

JA: This varies wildly. For The Emerald City, I barely did any research other than a little bit on flower arranging (a hobby of one of the characters) and Tibetan myths. There are certain advantages to writing stories set in modern times in a familiar setting such as high school. There’s a scene that takes place at an unusual location in Seattle, but I used that location because I’ve been there before and always had it in the back of my mind for a story at some point.

I have an English Regency paranormal romance that I’m currently editing that required extensive research. Even simple things can trip you up when you delve into historical fiction. For example, the greeting “hello” wasn’t used during the English Regency period.

One of the most interesting things I learned, and which became a key plot element in that book, was that archery was one of the few acceptable sports for English women of that period. There were even co-ed archery societies.

I’m also doing some research for a thriller set in Heian Japan (794-1185 AD). Although almost everything I’ve learned about the period has been fascinating, I think the single most interesting fact I’ve learned is, to this day, many Japanese students pray to Tenjin-sama, a kami (sort of spirit/god) of scholarship that is supposed to be the divine manifestation of a government official who died in disgrace in the period. After some disasters at the imperial capital following his death, the imperial government worried that his angry spirit had cursed them, so they arranged for him to be ritually deified.

Louise: What is your writing process? Do you outline, write by the seat of your pants (Pantser) or a combination of both?

JA: While I don’t write down a formal outline, I do tend to mentally outline my work, at least the key plot points. I’m a “panster” somewhat with the in-between scenes, I suppose. Sometimes the mental outline drifts as new ideas come to me.

Louise: Do you write full time? What did you do before you became a writer or still do?

JA: No, I do not currently write full-time. My income from writing doesn’t currently allow that. Currently, my “day job” is a PhD student in microbiology. I study the effects of vitamin D metabolites on viruses in lung cells.

Louise: Sounds like a very interesting day job. Do you have a ritual when it comes to writing? Example….get coffee, blanket, paper, pen, laptop and a comfy place.

JA: No, not really.

Louise: Describe a typical writing day for you.

JA: Well, between my day job and my family, I tend to write in the late evening and early morning. I’m a big believer in just forcing myself to produce a certain word count and then going back and editing things later. I don’t want to sit there paralyzed over trying to craft the perfect phrase or whatever.  As I generally know where I’m going anyway because of my mental outline, it’s usually not a huge struggle.

Louise: Please give us a sneak peek at your future books. What’s on the horizon?

JA: I'm finishing up edits on two other projects scheduled: A Woman of Proper Accomplishments and Mind Crafter.

AWOPA, as I like to call it, is a slightly alt-sweet Regency paranormal romance (the one that necessitated all the research)

Mind Crafter is a fantasy story focused around a young telepath who gets drawn into a dangerous conspiracy involving a religious cult.

Though I'm also planning the sequels to the above, as I mentioned above, I’m also doing background research for a Heian era thriller.

Louise: Mind Crafter sounds like a book I'd like to read! What is your favorite genre to read and who is your favorite author?

JA: My favorite genre tends to shift depending on my mood. The last few years it has alternated between fantasy and historical fiction. My favorite, author, though is Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I suppose depending on how one wants to define things, many of his books could be considered a sort of fusion of magical realism and historical fiction.

Louise: Where can the readers learn more about you and find your books on the web?

JA:   I'm also on the net at:

The Emerald City purchase links:


“Why are you doing this, Nick?” I called out. “You told me yourself that your girlfriend … that Diana hates my guts. Doesn’t she want you to hate my guts too? Doesn’t she want some freak like Jason to mess me up?”
I needed to know his angle, if only so I could try and protect myself if this was all part of some sort elaborate scheme. Even if he lied, I hoped I could glean something out of what he told me.
He stopped but didn’t turn around. “Diana can hate who she wants. That’s not my business, but I don’t like being annoyed. If people break the rules in a big way, the teachers are going to come down on all of us. I couldn’t care less if people think you sleep around, but I don’t want you running around throwing drinks in people’s faces and getting them so mad they’ll do something stupid. It hurts all of us. Don’t do anything else stupid to cause trouble, Farm Girl.”
I crossed my arms. “Gee, thanks for the advice.” His blunt but honest response made the whole thing even more annoying. I almost would’ve preferred if he told me I was some sort of chess piece in some strange struggle against Diana or Francesca. Chivalry was dead. If he wanted to play the game that way, I’d go along with it.
“You lied to me at lunch,” I said.
Nick turned around, a blank expression on his face. “Huh?”
Handsome or not, I never liked cold guys. A little smile would move the guy from hot to scorching hot.
“I saw you on your cell phone earlier this morning,” I said. “I want to know why yours works and no one else’s does.” It was time to pull another card from the deck and hope it was the one I wanted. “I don’t buy the metals in the ground explanation. Are they jamming us and not telling us?”
I thought about mentioning the cussing or my theory about Francesca being behind the fountain but decided against it. At least with the phone, I had a reason to press him. One step at a time.
A long silence followed before he said, “Who do you want to call?”
“I don’t want to call anyone,” I said. I didn’t care about my uncle by this point. The school probably called him anyway. “I want to know why yours works. Lots of weird things have been happening today, and I think you may have some answers.”
“Guess I’m good with metals in the ground.”
“Not an answer.”
“Sure it is. It’s just not the answer you wanted. Listen to what I said, Farm Girl. Stay out of Diana’s way and don’t make anyone else mad. You’ll be sorry if you do.”
Darn it. Gail: zero, Nick: one.
“I’m not letting your girlfriend push Leandra or anyone else around anymore. Whether it’s her or her lackeys, she’s already ruined my rep. I don’t care about how this school used to be. I have nothing to lose.”
“There’s always something to lose. Get to your club. You’ll worry Brainless.”

 For me in the Wizard of Oz movie, the monkeys were by far the scariest!
Ask JA questions about his work and tell us what scared you in the Wizard of Oz?


  1. JA, thank you for visiting today. I like when authors take a well known titled book and use their imagination to write a spin off fictional.
    Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!

  2. Thank you for hosting JA today :). This books been getting great reviews! Can't wait to read it :)