Multi-genre author JD Estrada might currently live in Atlanta, Georgia, but he will always call Puerto Rico home. Author of 13 books with more on the way, Estrada is committed to exploring humanity through fiction and pushing creativity as much as possible. He is a tea enthusiast, sock lover, banana wielding secret agent who is always up for shenanigans and helping others, because why not?
JD, thank you for agreeing to this interview. With multiple books written in multiple genres, you have touched the hearts and minds of readers and writers alike. Why do you think it is important to connect with readers and writers? What value do you find in the relationships for both personal and professional growth?
Firstly, too kind for those words. I honestly do hope my work touches the hearts and minds of readers and writers alike. I put a lot of heart into what I create to have a positive impact, which is so important to me. As for connecting, if we’re honest, connecting is a completely optional experience. You don’t HAVE to connect… but man would you miss out. For me, my writing journey is endlessly richer thanks to the people I’ve connected with in Puerto Rico and throughout the world thanks to the power of social media. I’ve always paid close attention to people’s experiences because that’s their story they’re sharing and there are great lessons to learn every time we listen. I’m all about broadening horizons and although I identify as agnostic and grew up Catholic, I have friends of all faiths who teach me so much just through dialogue. In regards to professional growth, a genuine connection will be 100 times more valuable than standard quid pro quo tactics many people engage in, i.e. like-for-like, review-for-review, you scratch my back I scratch yours. I’ve always tried to be as generous as I can with my experiences and my time because I’ve learned that a minute of your time can improve someone’s day or even save a life. Also, part of the beauty of the indie community is the sense of camaraderie you can nurture depending on who you connect with. Thanks to being who I am and helping others, I’ve been helped by others, I’ve gotten words of support when I want to scream, and I’ve gotten a kick in the ass when I need to get into gear. We’re there for each other in part because we know how hard it can be and that’s golden. Some people are lucky enough to get contacts and have an insider connection to circuits, agents, and countless other things that they often don’t share with others. Good for them. I’ve been fortunate enough to get help when I need it and just by being open to whatever comes my way, I’ve been able to identify several opportunities to do something different and learn something new. Plus, there’s something particularly special when one of your readers reads a recommendation and find their new favorite author.
In May 2018, you released Peace, Love, and Maki Rolls: A Guide to Creative Kindness to give examples in how we might be kinder in our daily lives. How has kindness impacted your life for the positive? What do you feel is the most important tip given in your novel?
Even as a kid I was kind to strangers. Although I never took candy from them, I was always quick to give someone a smile and early on I learned how much a smile can brighten up someone’s day. I am also a strong believer that a kind word can make a huge difference and even put someone on a better path. In Peace, Love, and Maki Rolls I share a lot of life experiences where I saw the value in receiving and giving kindness. It’s not that you can’t get angry, sad, or frustrated, but for a long time, I’ve encouraged people to practice what I call emotional alchemy, which is basically taking a bad thing and using that as fuel to do something good. I think it teaches us to be creative even with what we feel and I’ve known to take a bad day and swing it around to a good one just by helping others or using those feelings to create something. A very important thing to note is that we have to start being kind to ourselves, which is something that’s easy to say but hard to do. Self-doubt and being a harsh self-critic might fuel the fire, but if we don’t love ourselves, how can we love and help others? For me, there are two other recommendations I offer. Firstly: Don’t judge. I don’t think I’ve gotten anything from judging anyone else, so why bother? We don’t know what someone is going through and although we might not like what people do, it is way too easy for too many people to judge others and not extend themselves the same favor. I think it all goes back to casting stones… I don’t think any of us are genuinely qualified to do so and I think there’s endlessly more to learn from hearing someone out and examining ourselves. The second lesson is to “Do Good Damn It!” (Chapter 13). It is way too common for us to think about doing good things and never get around to doing them. If you’re inclined to help someone, then do it. Don’t rationalize. Don’t analyze. Just do good and never, ever keep a receipt for favors or goodwill. Doing good should not be tax deductible and should not be done to gain anything. If there is any interest, it lessens the power of the action. Just do good and good things will follow.
The Human Cycle series, including Only Human and Shadow of a Human gives an interesting take on vampires, therians (werewolves), angels, demons, and more. How are these fantastical creatures different or the same in your series? Should we expect a third book?
Ooohh… don’t call them werewolves… they hate that lol. One of my major goals was to break stereotypes of what a vampire, a therian (from the Greek word therion which means wild animal/beast), an angel, a demon, or a hero should be like. Each living creature has cardinal points, which would be like a hybrid between chakras and pressure points. We can all access power thanks to these points and the more you live, the more you can unlock that untapped potential. So even at a base level, I’m saying that vampires are basically more powerful because they live longer. I also focus a lot on developing characters that are their own person first, before being a vampire. The same goes for all creatures because although they’re different, we ALL have personalities and are all doing our best to survive life the best way we can. The main character, Nathaniel Runnels, is also often reminded about how expendable he is. Sure, he can make the life of everyone trying to save the world easier, but necessary? NO one is necessary. I also enjoy depicting angels as far more complex than what I’ve seen in some works. Think about it, living an average lifespan of about 75 years, look at all the drama we can bring forth. You think that doesn’t get magnified when it turns into decades, centuries, and millennia? I’m also a big fan of several series and rather than a retelling, I love incorporating story elements that are nods to the likes of CS Lewis, Frank Herbert, Neil Gaiman, Tolkien, and beyond. I also make it a point to highlight things from my own life philosophy. For example, the child vampires of the Laius are some of the wisest, because I think the wisdom in a child is an untapped treasure. Kids don’t have filters and sometimes see things clearer than adults. As for the most powerful vampires, that would be the Gerald order… where all of the members of this clan/coven have some sort of disability. From being an amputee to being blind, they have learned to surpass the elite, even with their supposed limitations. And I also love poking fun at established franchises. On one hand, I am cheeky about Dracula while praising Stoker and flip the tables between vampires and therians in the sense that in the Human Cycle, therians are highly organized while vampires are kind of a mismatch and one group differs drastically from another. I also love anthropomorphizing concepts to offer a different perspective, because why not. I love inspiring people to question the status quo and how they think about things in general and if that means that time is not personified as male and is actually a tribute to my mom, then so be it 🙂 As for the third book… it’s in the works and I’m trying to meet a very aggressive deadline, but until I have a clear picture of when it’s doable, I won’t give a date because being the final book in the Human Cycle, there’s a lot at stake in terms of story and I will never put a book out just for the sake of it.
That’s not a fair question, it’s like asking you to pick a favorite among your kids (if there is, please don’t answer lol). I treat each collection like a music album and work real hard to give it a clear identity where most poems would feel out of place in another collection. I like what I’ve achieved with each collection and more than one collection over another, I think there are poems that just resonate more. In Dark Strands there is a poem called The Box, it’s about my experience when my father passed away at his burial. At one convention, someone came up to me with a copy of Dark Strands with a bookmark on that poem. She thanked me because that poem had expressed what she felt when her father passed away and hadn’t found the words to explain. That’s when you choke up and say thank you. In that same collection is my hardest poem, Miranda and the Broken Ghost: 72 lines, 8 stanzas, 9 lines to the stanza and the rhyme scheme ABACADABA… it was a pain to write, but very gratifying. If you go to Between the Tides, the poem The Sea means a lot to me and expresses the sense I make out of life thanks to my relationship with the waves. In Captured Moments, I have hard-hitting poems that talk about equality, racism, the damage of social media, and beyond. In Roulette of Rhymes, I have my longest poem yet. Clocking it at 800 lines in eight 100-line movements, The Madness of Jonathan J George was an intense and very healing write and I’m very proud of that poem and how much it helped me to write it. And then there’s Pensando en Metáforas. My Spanish poetry collection is very special to me because it was what I wrote during days when they were operating on Mama Estrada. It is very personal and honestly, a book I released mainly for her. If anyone reads and enjoys, it’s a bonus, but it’s very special to me for that reason. And with Black Tie Affair, I did my best to embody my inner Bukowski to create a collection that goes best with low lighting and Scotch 😀 So yeah… that’s my very long-winded way of saying I can’t choose a favorite.
Your most recent release was Given to Fly, the first book in the Odventure Novels. Give us a synopsis of the book and what inspired you to write it.
John Rivers is an 11-year old boy whose family moves to the mid-west. When he gets to his new house he discovers that it is completely devoid of magic for one simple reason… because it lives next door. I’ve been a fan of Hayao Miyazaki for a while now and have always enjoyed his movies with Studio Ghibli so I really wanted to write the best book I could that I think would be worthy of being animated. Plus, John is obsessed with flying so cheers Master Miyazaki. The inspiration came the first time I rode the Soarin’ ride at Epcot Center. My wife had given me a beautiful gift of a notebook with the image from the Given to Fly single on its hard cover and I had been wondering what the hell to write that would be worthy of the notebook. Then in the middle of that flight simulator pretty much the entire plot hit me point blank. It’s the most intense single moment of inspiration I’ve ever had and when my wife asked why I was crying, I told her: “I know what the book is going to be about.” In the book I mention so many things that have influenced and inspired me and it is full to the brim with Easter eggs from music, movies, books, and a LOT from my own life. For example, there are several characters inspired by music and artists like Tori Amos, there’s a character based on Noam Chomsky, and two characters in the kitchen are inspired by some of my favorite restaurants from Puerto Rico. I wanted to have a lot of fun and write a book without violence so naturally, I said this will not be a one-off.
What can we expect from you in 2019? Anything else you would like to add?
Book 3 of the Human Cycle, the evolution of my Blanc Comics, and progress on a collaboration with my good friend Cate Evans, a fellow author from the UK. That last book is a black comedy about a serial killer who is bored with his day-to-day job and the women who answers his want ad on the dark web. There are several other projects in store, but no set release date. For fans of poetry, I’m working hard on all future collections being over 100 pages long so it might take a while…. but they’re growing. I’m also working on stories for a Spanish horror collection and in case you’re wondering, yes, that’s the first time I say that publicly. More news on that soon. As for other things… I have no idea how people get bored and I never plan on finding out.
It has been a pleasure, JD! Please tell us where fans can find you online.
The pleasure has been most mutual. Thanks for having me over and here are some links if anyone would like to keep in touch: