As an actor, middle-grade author and playwright, J. Lee Graham dabbles in various types of storytelling. I met him at a small bookshop in Cape May, New Jersey and we had a nice conversation about children’s literature and how essential reading is to success.
I found him to be intelligent and well-versed on a number of topics. He enjoys pursuing his spiritual side through astrology and currently teaches ASL (American Sign Language) and ESL at various schools.
Now that I’ve Introduced you to J. Lee, let’s get to know him a little better.
What inspired you to be a writer?
I have always wanted to be a writer since I was a teenager. I read voraciously when I was young and still do. When, at 13, I announced to my family that I wanted to be a writer; they laughed at me. That stifled that ambition for many years. Luckily, I’m making up for lost time.
How long have you been writing?
For about fifteen years. I had written radio mystery shows when I was younger and that was fun. I also wrote three plays.
How many books have you written?
I have written five books (4 MG and 1 YA) and working on number six for MG.
THE SCULPTURED ROCKS
A time travel trilogy for MG:
IN THE NICK OF TIME
THE TIME OF HIS LIFE
ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD.
One YA book: THE PROMISE OF LIVING
Which genre do you write?
I write mostly for Middle Grade, the upper end of the spectrum, so that would be ages 9-12, although 13- and 14-year-olds can relate to them as well because of the dark nature of the content. I also wrote one YA book, a coming of age novel set on a farm.
What do you find most challenging writing for these genres?
Keeping a balance between writing for that age range and their life experiences while raising the bar on creating good dialogue, challenging vocabulary and a strong connected plot and theme.
What are you working on now?
My new 6th novel is called THE GUARDIANS, another MG novel featuring a 14-year-old boy named Nick.
Where do you find inspiration for your characters?
Life, people one meets, or has met, or simply sees in an airport, or a café, who offer a seed of inspiration. The fun part about inspiration is the running with it, seeing where it takes you!
What has been your most rewarding experience since publishing your work?
Having young readers tell me how affected they were by my novels.
What advice would you give to authors just starting out?
READ the classics! If you only read what other current books are out there in your field, you can’t improve. Write, write, write!
What message are you sharing in your books?
My message always invokes the sense of authenticity and integrity that lies within each of us. For an early teen or pre-teen, that is the challenge: to find and define that authenticity.
In my novels, that involves a trial of some kind, akin to The Hero’s Journey. The protagonist must confront the darkness, be it in the form of a bully, or an awful home life or some kind of experience (time travel, ie) never encountered before.
He/She has to face the obstacle, learn something about their own strengths, and take it back to the tribe, however you define that to be, to share their gifts of what they learned.
What are your favorite books/authors?
I’ll need about 3 pages.
What are your favorite movies, TV shows?
I don’t watch tv.
A movie producer wants to turn your book into a movie and you get to make a cameo. What would you do in the movie?
Be the snarky teacher whom everyone hates!
An elf named 12-25 approaches you. He’s sneezing, wheezing, coughing and there’s a strange tattoo of a snoring dog on his cheek. What do you do?
“What kind of dog is that?”
Do you have a website/Facebook page, etc?
No, I don’t. You can follow me on Instagram: jleegraham79
Where can we find your books?
They are available in both book and Kindle version on Amazon.