1st Author Highlight--J.R. Simmons!

Remember my last post when I said I was going to highlight local authors? Ta-dah! Here's the first one. If you're interested in reviews of books I've read, find me on Goodreads!

I am pleased and excited to introduce J.R. Simmons.

His debut novel Ragesong is an elementary reader for grades 4-6. Although, I imagine that kids in junior high would enjoy it, too. Please support our local authors and spread the word. 

You wrote Ragesong pretty fast. What's your writing routine?
To be honest, I don't have one.  Since I have little kids at home, it is more a matter of simply finding the time to sit down and write whenever I get the chance.  Most of my writing time is at night after the kids are in bed.  My wife likes to unwind by watching TV, so it gives me a chance to sit down for an hour or two and write.  The only consistancy I have in my writing right now is that I always have music playing while I am writing (more on that later).

Do you outline the plot first or just jump right in and try to put the pieces together?
Funny that you should ask that.  I have tried things both ways, but more often than not, I simply write and let the chips fall where they may.  With Ragesong: Awakening, I found that most of my favorite parts came when I was simply wriiting and something came to me.  I tried to plot things out, but the plots kept making major leaps based off of what was happening in the moment.  Now, I type notes at the bottom of the manuscript, and go based off of that.
I wasn't even sure how my story was going to end until midway through the second book, and when I found out, it was a bit of a downer.  There is definately something to be said about not knowing the end.  I felt the same let down when I finished Harry Potter series and some of the more epic video games.

Do you write with music playing? If so, what kind of music?
ALWAYS!!  Nothing stirs my imagination more than music!  During the offseason, I had a nice setlist of Peter Hollens, Lindsey Stirling, Glee, Eclipse and other random songs.  But once September hit, it was all Christmas music (don't judge me).  I am partial to Acapella music.  I love to sing and I have sang Acapella a few times (and tried to put together a few Acapella groups) and it always seems to get to me the most.

Where do your story ideas come from?
I started reading fantasy from an early age.  I also have enjoyed playing adventure and RPG (Role Playing) games for a long time.  So my mind has always been geared towards sword fighting and mystical creatures.  But I have put a bit of myself in this book. I am a big gamer, and so are my kids, so Jake's interest in gaming stems from that.  I grew up playing instruments and that is where the idea came to have a couple of musical prodigies as my lead characters.
The funny thing is that the idea for this book came to me years ago, but I set it aside after making some brief notes.  I briefly went back to look at it after returning to the idea fresh and I saw that all of my main characters had changed.  A friend suggested that the original characters make an appearance in the series, and so they have.  It was a lot of fun to see what I had originally planned for the book and what really came out.

What inspired you to become a writer?  Did something specific happen that convinced you?
I've always enjoyed writing.  It was always a way to sit down and escape from reality for a little bit.  There were a couple of things that pushed me from just jotting down ideas and leaving multiple books unfinished to coming up with a finished manuscript.  First of all, it was when an old school friend of mine by the name of Wendy Knight published her first book in the Feudlings series.  The steps to publishing always seemed overwhelming, and when she walked me through them, and offered encouragement.
The second theng that helped me was to have people genuienly interested in reading what I wrote.  I have a friend named Dave Pagano (who has since been dubbed the Fermician Godfadda) that was with me every step of the way.  He eagerly read every chapter and constantly demanded more.  I also had a couple of sisters that helped to assist in a similar fashion.  Having readers eager for what was to come next helped me to continue moving forward and eventually finish the book.  Writing a book is a long process, but it has a most gratifying conclusion.

How did you find your publisher?
There is a group that makes mini musicals for Youtube called AVByte and they have created a song called "Google is your Friend".  It is totally true.  I Googled publishers and agents and came up with a list of about 60. So I created a query letter (what an agonizing experience) and blitzed it out to my list of publishers.  After getting the standard form rejection letters from a number of them, a company by the name of Sharelle Unique Publishing took interest.  I was contacted by Candice Dorsey and she asked for a partial.  Not long after that, I was asked for the full manuscript.  About a week later, she emailed me, saying that she hoped there was a sequel in the works because readers were going to want to know what happened next.
I still remember having to call my wife (she was in the hospital having just given birth to our 4th son, while I was at home taking care of the other three) so I could tell her about it.  I am not a very patient man, so I am sure she was mostly excited that I would not be pestering her anymore about agents and publishers anymore (little did she know that there are many other aspects about publishing that require patience I do not have).  Sharelle Unique Publishing was a pleasure to work with.  They provided an EXCELLENT cover for the book, and a wonderful editor.  It has been so exciting to see my work blossom the way it has.

Tell us about Ragesong:
Though the query letter and description were very difficult to write, I feel that they give an accurate description of my book.
When the peaceful kingdom of Fermicia is enslaved by a power-hungry renegade, its only hope lies in a band of unlikely heroes: two children whose musical abilities allow them to harness the power of Ragesong, and their shape-changing guides.
Jake starts his first day of junior high completely oblivious to the fact that he has been chosen for something incredible. That same afternoon, he learns that he has been marked as one with the power to save an entire kingdom. Through the course of his journey, Jake discovers that his advanced musical abilities are peculiarly connected to a mysterious power known as Ragesong. Joined by a shy, young girl with similar musical talents and two Changelings that hold a fierce loyalty to their homeland and king, Jake must learn to harness this ability in order to survive the dangers of a hostile new world.

Amazon - http://www.amazon.com/Ragesong-Awakening
B&N - http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/ragesong
Kobo - http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/ragesong
Ragesong is also available on iTunes
Amazon - http://www.amazon.com/Ragesong-Paperback

Mini bio:
JR Simmons lives in Northern Utah with his wife and 4 boys. He loves spending time with his family and coaching his kids in all of their different sports. He is an avid gamer and is very excited that his boys are picking up on his hobby. JR was recently introduced to triathlons and has since found that he loves the sport. Most nights he can be found either sitting down with a good game or hunched over his iPad writing.


  1. Nice interview. It was awesome to meet you on Saturday!

  2. This looks awesome!!! Thanks so much Shantal!!

  3. Great job, Shantall! The book looks amazing!


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