Today’s interview is with J.M. Lanham, author of The R.E.M. Precept.
My name is J.M. Lanham (friends call me John), and I’ve lived in north Florida for the last six years (originally from Georgia).
My latest book hit the shelves September 13th, 2019, and is the third and final installment of the REM series titled The R.E.M. Precept. I think the trilogy falls best under the techno-thriller genre, with readers likening it to the sci-fi works of Michael Crichton, Preston & Child, and Douglas E. Richards.
The series follows a ragtag group of clinical-trial volunteers who’ve recently participated in FDA trials for the first ever gene-altering sleeping pill called Ocula: a pill that’s designed to interact with the human genome to deliver the perfect eight-hour sleep cycle. But unlike the thousands of other participants who experienced little more than the best sleep of their lives, these so-called clinical trial outliers experience extraordinary side effects that don’t just threaten Asteria Pharmaceuticals’ bottom line, but also the safety and security of the free world. The series follows the outliers as they go up against Big Pharma and the CIA to expose what could be the greatest psychological weapon ever created.
For as long as I can remember I’ve suffered from insomnia, but on the rare ocassion that I do get a solid night’s worth of sleep I’ll have these incredibly lucid dreams that seem to last for ages. At one point, these dreams became so convincing that I started to question the nature of reality itself. I was also investing in biotech startups at the time I decided to give the whole novelist gig a shot, so I outlined a story about participants in a sleep study having these nightmarish side effects that made them question the nature of their realities. Well, the outlined got shelved for almost five years until early 2016, when I decided to buckle down and write the damn thing. And once I started writing, everything else just kind of fell into place.
Once I made a serious go at it (forcing myself to write daily, no exceptions) it took about a year from start to finish. I also went through a series of rewrites during the first novel that held things up. The next two in the series went a lot faster, but it still took the better part of a year for each one.
Absolutely! In fact, I’ve learned so much over the last three years that it’s tough to pick a starting point. My relatively short stint in the self-publishing world has tough me patience, humility, gratitude … did I mention patience? I’ve learned to temper expectations, find utility in each and every criticism, and to consistently put in the work every single day to (hopefully) become a better writer.
I do. My author website is www.jmlanham.com. There you can find out where to get my books (currently exclusively on Amazon), check out a sample of The R.E.M. Effect audiobook, sign up for my email list, or read up on my blog covering current events in science that I happen to find interesting (I’ve slacked up on this part a bit, but I promise to make an effort to get back into blogging). You can also reach out directly via the website contact form. I try to respond to every email within 48 hours, and I love talking sci-fi, writing, self-publishing, and baseball.
I think the thing that’s helped me the most in writing is actually something I heard about exercising. If you’ve ever tried to commit to going to the gym then you probably know that sinking feeling of dread in your chest the whole way there. And then once you’re there, that’s when the real work begins. It can really suck, but if you’re determined and you stick with it, then after a few weeks you’ll start to wonder how you ever went a day without being active, without running or walking or lifting weights or whatever your new workout routine happens to be.
I think the same goes for writing. Some days I’d get up and stare at that blank page and essentially give up before I even got started. The worst days are the ones where every single sentence you write looks and sounds and feels like garbage, but those are precisely the days you’ve got to push through. Don’t worry about the quality so much; just get something, anything, on the page. Do the work, put in the time, and sooner or later your new writing exercise will become a full-blown routine you can’t live without.
Oh, and read Stephen King’s On Writing. He does this thing where he writes a first draft, stuffs it in a drawer, and doesn’t look at it again for a while (month or two I think), so when he comes back to it, he’s looking at it with fresh eyes. I’ve done that, and I think it’s really helped me. There have even been times where I’d go back over something I wrote months back and wonder, “Who the heck wrote this?”
On cover artists, I think it goes without saying that whether we like it or not, covers sell books. I hired 2FacedDesign (you can find them on Twitter @2FacedDesign) for my first project and I’ve used them ever since. They’ve helped countless authors create professional, eye-catching covers that truly clothe stories, and personally, I wouldn’t use anyone else.
I’ve always been a fan of stories where near-future tech goes terribly wrong, which is what got me hooked on Michael Crichton’s work at an early age (I was in second or third grade the first time I read Jurassic Park and I’ve been a Crichton fan ever since). I’m a huge sucker for techno-thrillers, but I also love horror, mysteries, and suspense. There’s also nothing like a good crime novel (paging Elmore Leonard).
Man, you’re gonna make me pick a favorite? Haha, this is a tough one, but if I had to pick just one I’d probably have to say Nevil Shute’s On The Beach. I’ve certainly been more entertained by others, but I read this one at a very early age and it made a lasting impression on me. Namely, try not to take life so damn seriously and live for the moment because we never know which day is going to be our last (or in this case, when the H-bombs are going to fall).
I have a blue-heeler mix named Luna. My wife and I adopted her from a local shelter when she (Luna, not my wife) was about a year old. I say “mix” because she’s definitely a heeler; we’re just not sure what her other half happens to be (now I’m wondering if they have 23andMe for pets?).
I have a Kindle Fire, and it’s a lot of fun to read on, but I find my self reading more paperbacks these days. It’s a whole process I’ve become accustomed to: I only buy books from my local bookstore (rarely hardcovers unless it’s a must-have and there’s no paperback available) and I usually only read fiction at night when I’m about to go to sleep. I’ve recently made a conscious effort to reduce screen time at night (eReaders, phone, t.v.) and have a pair of blue-light glasses that I feel have really helped me get some of my circadian rhythm back should I decide to read on the Kindle late at night. But, for the most part, I save the devices for daytime hours.