"My first novel, January’s Paradigm, was published by Minerva Press, London, England. Current Entertainment Monthly in Ann Arbor, Michigan, wrote of January’s Paradigm, “(readers) will not be able to put it down.” I have two other novels based on the Joe January character, One Hot January and January’s Thaw. Both have been picked up by Second Wind Publishing.
In 2008 I completed Backstop: A Baseball Love Story in Nine Innings, which is now available from Second Wind Publishing, as well as from Amazon in both book and Kindle formats.
Chaotic Theory, a novella that explores the conjecture of how the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil might result in a tornado in Texas, is forthcoming; stay tuned for details. I recently completed my fifth novel, The Cobb Legacy, a murder mystery that spans two centuries written around baseball legend, Ty Cobb, and the shooting death of his father by his mother. Death is considered a universal ideal in fiction writing, so you’ll want to check out my latest project, A Retrospect in Death, which I started just a few months ago and hope to complete by next spring.
My fiction and essays appear in various online and print publications, including Cezanne’s Carrot, Saucy Vox, River Walk Journal, 63 Channels, The Writers Post Journal, Redbridge Review, and Blood and Thunder: Musings on the Art of Medicine. I am also a contributing writer to Impact Times and am co-founder of The Smoking Poet. My sports writing can be found at Bleacher Report."
Official Apex Reviews Interview: J. Conrad Guest (Backstop)
Apex Reviews: Thanks for joining us for this interview, J. Conrad. We're looking forward to sharing more about your book with our readers.
What inspired you to craft this quite compelling human interest story?
JCG: Like Backstop, my dream was to play major league baseball. My parents, like Backstop’s, did their best to dissuade me, fearing (I think) that I might get hurt and also trying to protect me from the disappointment that often comes with failure. In Backstop, I started with that premise, but where I allowed my parents to steer me away from my dream, Backstop ignores his parents’ advice to achieve his. In short, I wrote the autobiography I wish I could’ve written—sans the infidelity part of course!
AR: Precisely why is Backstop so drawn to the game of baseball?
JCG: If you have to ask, you’re obviously not a fan of the game! Seriously, Backstop is artistic. He plays the piano, admires the poetry of Walt Whitman. In baseball he sees art, or as he says himself, “…—the balance, the shifting of weight and rotation of hips, the extension of arms” (in a perfect swing) “—or a center fielder stretch out to rob a batter of an extra base hit in one of the alleys, or a batter, running like a deer, turn a double into a triple with a perfect hook slide. It’s all poetry in motion.” He also notes as part of the game’s beauty is that last night’s goat can be tonight’s hero.
AR: Over the course of his career, Backstop experiences every high and low imaginable. Throughout it all, what is it that keeps him going?
JCG: It’s simple: he’s driven to win his father’s approval. I borrowed this aspect of the story from the life of Tiger great Ty Cobb. Like Cobb, Backstop’s father dies, at age 58, before Backstop can achieve stardom. Of his own father, Cobb once said, “He never got to see me play. Not one game, not an inning. But I knew he was watching me ... and I never let him down. Never.” Backstop is driven to win his father’s approval, even after his death, for the life he chose, the dream he made come true, and also, as Backstop says, “Maybe that’s why I continue to play well into the twilight of my career: to ward off dying young.” This drive for approval also fuels, in part, his need to win back Darlene, her approval, in the aftermath of his indiscretion.
AR: Given how great his love is for Darlene, how does Backstop make such a thoughtless mistake that may end up causing him to lose her forever?
JCG: I think we’re all capable of making such a mistake, for a multitude of reasons and none of them good. Celebrities—and make no mistake, athletes are celebrities—face more opportunities and greater temptation than we mere mortals. Money and fame are powerful aphrodisiacs for the groupie. Backstop looks for the reason for his lapse in judgment: was it the careless remark Darlene makes about an aging athlete being unable to turn the head of a younger woman, making him feel taken for granted? No, he concludes, the sin rests squarely with him, even if the woman who seduced him was a predator.
AR: What kinds of responses have you gotten to the book thus far?
JCG: Backstop has gotten a good response. After its release in January it became my publisher’s number one seller. I did a book event in Winston-Salem at a bookstore owned by Second Wind Publishing, and the event was a success. As a Michigan writer writing about a Michigan born character, Backstop was nominated as a Michigan Notable Book—I’ll know in December whether we’ve been chosen. My publisher has agreed to publisher two more of my novels, written before I wrote Backstop. I posted on my Facebook page an excerpt of my current work in progress and a Michigan bookstore owner, who carries Backstop, queried me as to when that work would be published. All in all, I’ve found it’s a good time to be J. Conrad Guest.
AR: Is there a central message that you’d like readers to take away from the story?
JCG: If you can dream it, you can make it come true. Also, the power of love as well as the redemptive strength in forgiveness. Backstop learns he can’t make it right and that he can’t win back Darlene’s trust alone; if he is to earn it he must forgive himself, while she, too, must forgive him. She must also forget, since forgiveness without forgetting is really not forgiveness at all, and while forgetting is never really possible, she must put behind her his adulterous behavior and close the door on that chapter of their life if they are to regain what they once had.
AR: Please share more with us about your publisher, Second Wind Publishing.
JCG: Second Wind Publishing, LLC is the brainchild of Mike Simpson, a native Oklahoman relocated to Winston-Salem. An independent press, Second Wind produces quality novels by talented authors with readable, distinctive voices. Each author is chosen to be a part of the Second Wind family based on his or her ability to tell a wonderful story. A dozen writers were selected during their first year of operation, and several more have been selected as they enter into their third year. I consider myself fortunate to be one of those as I move my literary career forward.
AR: Please share more with our readers about your debut novel, January’s Paradigm.
JCG: I wrote January’s Paradigm fifteen years ago. It, too, deals with matters of infidelity, but from the male perspective; that is, the male protagonist is the victim of his wife’s duplicity. I’ve come a long way as a writer since then, and if I were writing January’s Paradigm today I’d certainly write it differently; but it holds its rightful place in my body of work and I’m still proud of it. If I can ask you to indulge me in some shameless promotion, January’s Paradigm spawned two more novels based on the Joe January character, One Hot January and January’s Thaw. Both are forthcoming from Second Wind.
AR: What are your long-term writing/publishing aspirations?
JCG: I intend to write, with publication in mind, for as long as I’m inspired and for as long as I continue to improve. I recently came across something Raymond Chandler wrote: “Everything a writer learns about the art or craft of fiction takes just a little away from his need or desire to write at all. In the end he knows all the tricks and has nothing to say.” I just hope I never arrive at that end.
AR: How can our readers learn more about you and your ongoing efforts?
JCG: Readers can stay abreast of my literary world and contact me by visiting my website. Please, sign my guestbook. I promise not to spam you.
AR: Any final thoughts you’d like to share?
JCG: Thank you for this opportunity to reach out to your readers. Writers write, in part, to connect with others, so it’s important to us to feel our work connects with readers. Writing is a very solitary endeavor—unlike sports, we don’t perform before cheering crowds. Although we enjoy the process of creation, our sense of accomplishment in typing The End comes after months, sometimes years, of blood, sweat and tears. After that we must endure a large quantity of rejection as we seek a home for our work—perseverance is a must have tool in any writer’s toolkit. But it’s all worth it when a publisher expresses a desire to accept your work. It’s also very gratifying to see my work on my own bookshelf alongside some of my favorite writers—Chandler, Delaney and Conrad.
AR: Thanks again, J. Conrad, and best of continued success to you in all your endeavors!