Author’s Spotlight: Roy L. Pickering Jr. Interview

Roy L. Pickering Jr, author of The Absolutely Amazing Adventures of Ava Appelsawse and others

– First, introduce yourself a bit. What is your name (or pen name) and where are you from?

I am the author of the novels Patches of Grey and Matters of Convenience, plus the novella Feeding the Squirrels. My debut children’s book came out in late 2020. The Absolutely Amazing Adventures of Ava Appelsawse is the first in a planned series of full color illustrated chapter books geared to a young middle grade audience. Ava Appelsawse is a collaborative effort with my talented wife Erin, who provides the artwork. Anthologies that house my short stories include Proverbs for the People, Role Call, The Game: Short Stories About the Life, Prose to be Read Aloud and Forever Travels. Others can be found at my blog A Line A Day which showcases a hodgepodge of my areas of interest. My YouTube channel, Roy’s Book Reviews, features readings of an assortment of children’s books along with my thoughts on books I have read. I am now working on a third novel which has the working title Brothers

– Next, tell us a bit about your most recent work. Is this your first published book? What is it about and what genre would you classify it as?

My most recently published book was Ava Appelsawse. In it, a seven-year old girl discovers from a special homemade gift that along with her ordinary life in this world. She is also the princess of a kingdom reliant on her protection; this means relying on qualities that make her a force to reckon with in any world. The novel I published prior to it was Matters of Convenience, which I categorize as woman-centric contemporary/literary fiction, with male voices of equal weight. It also qualifies as African American fiction, not that it is primarily about race. The protagonist Audrey is faced with a choice between two suitors. One of them seems to be the perfect fit for her heart, whereas it is the other who picks up its broken pieces and supports the pursuit of her ambitions. Which man is the right choice and what are the more acceptable regrets? Matters of Convenience is the story of how Audrey answers these questions. 

– Tell us a bit about your main character; what are they like, how did they come about, and what are some of their strengths and weaknesses?

The main character of the novel I am currently working on is a White police officer who shoots and kills a Black teenager in the line of duty. The shooting is a questionable one that is ruled to be justifiable, so he is not arrested and does not face a criminal trial for his actions. This does not mean that there are no repercussions. Without going into spoiler territory, Brothers is about the aftermath of a racially charged tragedy. It’s about how a man with blood on his hands copes with the public’s demands for accountability, and how his fate becomes further intermingled with the family of the victim despite his attempts to put maximum distance between himself and that terrible day. In writing about dramatic fictional events I am striving to find nuance that tends to go undetected beneath headlines and social media hashtags. Brothers is not a story of good versus evil. I was not interested in examining right versus wrong in stark black and white terms. I’m still wrestling with the tale, its title isn’t even fixed in stone yet. To summarize as best as I can at this stage, it is about regretting what you did and who you were, yet believing that redemption is not only possible – but something we all deserve no matter what our past sins were.

– Did you go the traditional route when publishing your book or did you choose to self-publish?

I am the publisher as well as author of Patches of Grey and Matters of Convenience and The Absolutely Amazing Adventures of Ava Appelsawse. My novella Feeding the Squirrels was initially published exclusively in electronic format, but the rights have since reverted back to me from the original publisher. Rather than making it available for purchase I opted to make it available to readers free of charge. It can be found on my blog A Line A Day and also on Wattpad. Since the Ava Appelsawse series has already begun as a self-published collaborative venture between my wife and I, future books in the series will follow suit. If all goes according to plan, the second one will come out in 2022. As for the novel I’m working on now, that bridge will be crossed upon completion of first draft and however many follow-up drafts are to come. Perhaps I will go through the process of querying literary agents as the start of its path to publication. Then again, with a few self publications already under my belt perhaps I will stick with the route that gets my book in readers’ hands most quickly. 

– Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?

With the exception of my children’s book series, I am a standalone title type of author. Novels that I write are intended to tell the entirety of the story. I don’t have much interest in prequels or sequels. I would rather conceive a brand new set of circumstances and people dealing with them. I may return to certain themes. For example, both Patches of Grey and Brothers (or whatever the final title turns out to be) are examinations of racial tensions in the US. The storylines are completely unrelated, as are the characters. Matters of Convenience focuses on romantic relationships without veering very deeply into matters of race. Patches of Grey borders Young Adult territory. New Adult is probably the more accurate label to place on it as a genre description. The audience for it starts at a younger age than the demographic territory for Matters of Convenience. Of course, reading tastes do not follow strict rules. I was long done with reading YA books and moved on to more mature reading material well before I was officially an adult. And today to a much greater extent than when I was younger, there is a large readership for YA literature made up of people well into their twenties and thirties and beyond. Even with the Ava Appelsawse series my goal is not only for kids to enjoy them, but that they will be entertaining to adults reading them aloud to children not quite old enough to read on their own. So while I cannot say that I am trying to build a body of work with connections between each book, I am trying to build individual bodies of work that each connect with a wide range of readers.

– What are some of your favourite authors and books and what inspired you to become a writer in the first place?

Just as the topics and target audience for my fiction swings widely, so too does my taste in reading material. I’m constantly hopping around from genre to genre when it comes to the novels I pick up to read. I also enjoy biographies and memoirs which have a similar cadence to well written fiction, but contain fewer elements pulled from the thin air of imagination rather than research or recollection. Among my all time favorite novels are The World According to Garp (John Irving), Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel García Márquez), The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Junot Díaz), The Sun Also Rises (Ernest Hemingway), Geek Love (Katharine Dunn), Jazz (Toni Morrison), The Prince of Tides (Pat Conroy), All the Pretty Horses (Cormac McCarthy), Salvage the Bones (Jesmyn Ward), All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr), Brave New World (Aldous Huxley), Kindred (Octavia Butler), American Pastoral (Philip Roth), Half of a Yellow Sun (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie) and The Goldfinch (Donna Tartt). I could easily keep going but that’s a pretty solid group to start with. As for original inspiration to put pen to paper, that came from the writings of Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume, and a little later on when I was ready to tackle books with more ambitious page counts – the novels of Jules Verne. They got me permanently hooked on reading and put the idea in my head to write books of my own someday.

– Do you read reviews of your book and, if so, how do you handle negative feedback?

If I was Stephen King and there were roughly ten billion reviews of my books to be found via Google, I probably would not have the time or inclination to read every last one of them. Since I’m not quite there yet, yes, I certainly do read reviews that people have taken the time to write about my books. And I am greatly appreciative of them. They have mostly been generous, some even praising, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time. One writes in order to be read. If someone takes the time to read one of my books, I am most grateful. If they then choose to leave a review of it somewhere, my gratitude multiplies. If they found some things in my writing that were not to their liking and say so, that is their right as a reader. I won’t take it personally. Or if I do, I certainly won’t reach out to complain. I’ve heard various stories about authors and readers clashing over harsh reviews, but that sounds like awfully uncivilized behavior to me. If you don’t have thick skin then you probably should not be a writer. Or do not publish what you’ve written. Stick it in a drawer, preserve it for your eyes only. Once your words have been produced on paper or on screen or recorded in audio format, authors need to accept that somebody may find something in it that isn’t to their liking. And they may not be particularly polite about expressing their opinion. Agree to disagree. Sometimes find validity and value in criticism that helps you to improve as a writer. Other times, consider it to be rather ridiculous. Either way, keep it moving. 

– What are some of your quirks as a writer? Do you like to plot everything out or do you prefer to just “wing it” and see where the story takes you? Do you listen to music when writing and, if so, what do you listen to?

I am primarily a plotter when it comes to writing a full length novel, but depending on the book I may micromanage it or I may play things pretty loose. With Patches of Grey and Matters of Convenience, I created outlines for each chapter in advance of writing them. I basically made a map of my imaginary landscapes and then followed the directions. My work in progress is coming about in a different manner. It is not broken up into chapters. The individual scenes do not take place in chronological order and aren’t necessarily being written in the sequence that they will ultimately appear. This book is more improvisational than how my first two books were composed. It’s closer to Feeding the Squirrels, which I literally did not know would end up as a cohesive piece of novella length material until I was about halfway through. Somehow my writing project turned into a finished product by the time I reached the end – a happy accident. No matter what type of book I’m writing or how I’ve chosen to write it, silence is fine as backdrop but music is preferable and you can’t go wrong with Miles Davis and a glass of wine to enhance a creative frame of mind.

– Finally, feel free to plug your social media, website, and links to Amazon, GoodReads, and other relevant sites below, and detail any current offers available for your book/s:

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