PaperBackSwap Blog

Author Interview with J Monkeys


Diane G’s (icesk8tr) interview with J Monkeys, author of The Cordovan Vault


Diane G: What inspired you to write this book?

J: So the question of inspiration is a big one.  I’ve always been a writer, or at least a story creator.  As an undiagnosed ADD kid, I couldn’t sit still and do nothing or focus on stuff that I found boring (can’t even today) and I was labeled a ‘daydreamer’.  I had a very safe, mostly happy childhood, so I began to think up disasters and imagine how I would handle them.  What if that kid walking home from school behind me suddenly turned into an alien?  What would I do if I had Samantha’s powers from Bewitched?  What if there was a huge blizzard and I got stuck at work all alone?  For days.  With no food…what would I do.  Things like that.  I didn’t begin to actually write these things down until I was in college.  And I didn’t develop a full story until I was out of college.

The inspiration for The Cordovan Vault came to me because I was annoyed with my Dad. He was a member of the Masons and even when he dropped out (or whatever they call it) for personal reasons, he still wouldn’t tell me ANYTHING about that secret society.  So I thought, the heck with him, I’ll create my own secret society.  Lur Babsel and Denortus came from there and everything else followed along.


Diane: Quinn and Kayla have an interesting bond and rivalry throughout the book. Does some of this come from your own experiences?

J: I’ve certainly experienced sibling rivalry and had to work with people I didn’t like very much, but no, I’ve never had a relationship quite like Quinn and Kayla’s.  They’ll be the first to tell you that they aren’t related, of course.  And I’m excited to see how their relationship develops over the course of the story.


Diane: There are a lot of puzzles to solve in this book by Kayla, is this something you enjoyed doing as a child?

J: I’m actually not really clever enough to solve puzzles, nor am I patient enough.  I love them in other stories, the DaVinci Code and certainly the Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys books.  I wanted to include them in my story and they’ll continue to be a part of this series.  It’s much easier to solve puzzles that I’ve created or adapted from things I’ve researched than to solve other people’s puzzles.


Diane: I really enjoyed the relationship between Quinn and Kayla, as well as their special advantages. Is there a reason you represented them as being so young throughout the story?

J: Thanks!  I worked hard to make their relationship seem real.  On the one hand they start out already hating each other, for years prior to the book begins, but now things have changed very quickly.  They are stuck living together, and as the story gets going, they have to work together just to stay alive.  At the same time, the story happens quickly; only two weeks pass from page 1 to page 306.  I didn’t want them to suddenly become best of friends in that short time.  That didn’t seem realistic to me.  So they still struggle with their relationship, balancing working together and the traits that have annoyed them about each other for so long.

The Advantages are their ‘super powers’ of course.  I didn’t want them to be magical or superhero-y, but they are a little different from everybody else they know, and so they have a little something extra.  An advantage, if you will.  But they don’t know how to use them, or what they can really do, or even where they come from and that’s a challenge for them.

Originally, Quinn and Kayla were older.  But as the story developed and I got input from agents and other writers, I decided that this story was at it’s heart an adventure story.  That pretty much puts it in the Middle Grade (“MG”) or Young Adult (YA”) genres, but it’s not angst-y enough to be a true YA novel.  It has more subplots than are often seen in MG books, but no drugs or sex like YA can have.  And the onscreen violence is not inappropriate for a MG reader.  So in the end, I decided that this series is in between MG and YA – an old MG or a young YA.

In the post-Harry-Potter world there is more genre-variety than there used to be, but this ‘tweener-genre doesn’t seem to have a name yet.  The ‘tweener audience would be strong 3rd grade readers to kids who are 12-ish.  And kids like to read about characters who are a little older than they are, but not too much older.  Hence, 14-year old characters.  The long answer to a short question is: It’s hard to nail down which genre the series really falls into, because there is so much gray area in defining the genres.  And the character’s age is an important factor of the book genre.  I call this series a YA adventure story with elements of the paranormal that is fit for anyone 9 to 90.  So far, more adults have read it than kids and it’s been well received.


Diane: What’s next? Do you have other books already published, and are you working on  another book?

J: What’s next? Well, lots! The Peacock Tale is Book 2 in the Livingston-Wexford Adventures. It’s a piratey adventure and should be available in September 2011.

There is a novella called The Pirate’s Mysterious Treasure that will be out around Halloween which tells the back-story of Pembroke Peacock (the pirate whose treasure Quinn and Kayla search for in Book 2).

Then The Orange Trade (Book 3) should be out in the spring of 2012 with another novella a few months after that.

I’m also working on an unrelated series of books for kindergarteners. The first of those is out (Dixie and Taco go to Grandmother’s House) and available on Createspace.com and Amazon.com. This book focuses on the sight words that kindergarteners learn – they are in blue text to make them easy to find. I’ve got the 2nd book with the illustrator now, and I’m going to write 3 more.  Then I’ll advance Dixie and Taco to first grade and write a book that relies on that reading curriculum.


Diane: Do you enjoy reading yourself? If so, what author has influenced you?

J: Do I enjoy reading?!  It’s only my very favorite thing to do in the entire world!  One reason I love my Kindle is that now I can read one handed – none of that bothersome page turning.  I have loved to read ever since I learned how to do it.  I always picture myself as the hero/heroine and books let me have the most incredible adventures.  I can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone.  I love to read.

It’s harder to say what authors have influenced me because probably every author of all the books I’ve read in my life has influenced me in some way.  Sometimes the influence comes in the form of specific writing elements that I like and hope to emulate in some way.  Other times the influence comes as a what-not-to-do type of thing.  I can’t wait to read whatever JK Rowling writes next.  I loved the Twilight books and hope Stephenie Meyer continues that story.  I like Rick Riordan’s stories, especially the Red Pyramid series.  I loved the Hardy Boys/ Nancy Drew stories as a kid, and CS Lewis’s Narnia stories.  I read mysteries, crime dramas, romance and a lot of non-fiction history.  Right now, I’m reading Jessica Andersen’s Nightkeeper series.  Loving it!


Diane: Do you have a website / blog?

J: You name it, I’ve got it.  You can find my website here (https://sites.google.com/site/booksbyjmonkeys/) or just Google me.  I’m working on updating the domain name to make it easier to find me.  I’ve got a fan page on Facebook, just search for J Monkeys and like the page.  I love to hear from readers, and that’s the best place to do it.  Leave a comment and I’ll pick one person to name a character in my next book at the end of the month.  I’m launching a new blog, called the Writing Secrets of 7 Scribes (http://secretsof7scribes.wordpress.com/) with six other authors in just a few weeks.  And I’ll be launching a YouTube Channel by the end of the summer.


Thank you Diane and J Monkeys for a great interview!

J Monkeys has generously offer an autographed first edition copy of her book, The Cordovan Vault to a member who comments on this interview. A winner will be chosen at random. Good Luck!

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13 Responses to “Author Interview with J Monkeys”

  1. Diane G. (icesk8tr) , says:

    I also grew up reading Nancy Drew mysteries, and I enjoy a good book. This book was a lot of fun to read and I really enjoyed reading it! I would recommend this book to anyone wanting a good read!! Even if you are an adult, this book is very enjoyable!

  2. Jerelyn H. (I-F-Letty) says:

    Great interview Diane, It so good to see authors of children’s and Y/A included.

  3. Diane G. (icesk8tr) , says:

    Thanks Jerelyn!! This adult enjoyed this book so much, that I do plan on getting the next ones in the series as soon as they are published! 😉

    It was so nice and refreshing to read a book that was full of puzzles that kept you guessing and such whimsy!!

  4. Maria (SassenachD) says:

    Great Interview! This looks like an author to check out. I have already contacted my neices and gf’s to included these books in their summer reading!

  5. […] out this interview from Scribe J Monkeys over at the Paper Back Swap Blog! Go […]

  6. Kristan says:

    Hey, J! Love the sound of the book…or more accurately, my kids love the sound of this book. Good luck with it, and I’ll report back on what my kids thought.

  7. Lori B. says:

    J Monkeys , you seem to be someone with an insatiable curiosity who’s turned it to good use in your writing. I will check out your blog and it’s great to see you at PBS. Thanks, Diane!

  8. Stephanie G. (thestephanieloves) says:

    Loved the interview, Diane!

    J, I can’t wait to read The Cordovan Vault. Welcome to PBS!


  9. Jade K. (Jade4142) says:

    Excellent interview, Diane. I feel like I better run right out and get this book! And anything and everything that follows. You made me feel like I was sitting comfortably chatting with J Monkeys!

  10. Margaret (Yellowdogs1) says:

    Great interview! I can really relate to her comment about being an undiagnosed ADD daydreamer! There is a lack of exciting books for that Tween age and I’m so glad that she’s writing to fill that gap! It looks like a great story.

  11. ANNA S. (SanJoseCa) says:

    This is true story telling, at it’s best!!

  12. Sarah B. says:

    thanks for the interview, these are really nice!

  13. James L. (JimiJam) says:

    Secret societies are just plain fun, whether they’re real or imagined. As a writer who similar hopes to channel unique mental states into his work, I can really identify with Monkey’s drive to create. Fantastic interview, it made for a wonderful introduction to both book and author 🙂

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