Steven J. Byers, Author Spotlight

Nobody said the end of the world would be easy.

In the days before the Great Flood, Noah’s prophecy of impending doom incites opposition wherever he goes.

Although Jayfeth is an unlikely hero, being the son of the doomsday prophet thrusts him into extraordinary adventures and danger. Shunned by their tribe for building the ark, the family is soon ensnared in the palace intrigues of the giant Nephilim. All the while, a growing menace from otherworldly forces in the east devastates the land and its people.

As Jayfeth struggles with his own inner doubts, insidious foes resort to ever more threatening measures to coerce him into abandoning the quest. While he seeks what happiness may be found along this perilous way, even his attempts at finding love seem ill-fated as the disaster foretold draws ever nearer.

Journey with Jayfeth through the final days leading up to the worst catastrophe in the history of the world—a time when taking a stand means risking everything and failure could spell the doom of humankind.

Hello book lovers! Today is a day where I will be writing another author spotlight for a well-accomplished author whose work I have loved. As you know book lovers I love learning about authors and the inspiration behind their work, it fascinates me and adds to the depth of the book because the reader will be able to better understand it. That is how the author spotlights were created because I soon discovered that you lovely readers ALSO love learning about author’s, so I am excited to tell you a little bit more about Steven J. Byers whose book Son of the Doomsday Prophet thrilled and entertained me from start to finish! I personally would recommend this book to all of those that love action and adventure but really the book can be read by anybody as it is flawlessly written and highly enjoyable. With today’s author spotlight, a biography of the author and an interview between me and Steven J. Byers will be shared, and I hope that you book lovers enjoy reading it! To kick this off here is an author bio about the wonderful Steven J. Byers!

Steven Byers is a consultant and writer contemplating the mysteries of life from his off-the-beaten-path home in rural western Missouri. His first novel The Life of Your Time was a Top 10 category pick by the American Library Association’s Booklist magazine, which called it “a highly original, nimble tour de force.”

Byers has spent most his career working in the nonprofit sector trying to make the world a better place. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Anita, spending time with the grandkids and various creative projects.

Now, how wonderful does +sound?! +is a truly exceptional writer and I hope that you lovely readers have a read of the author’s work because you will not regret it! Please see below an interview between me and the author and I hope that you enjoy Steven J. Byers’ answers to my questions, they are incredible and provide some great advice too!

Thank you for joining us today at Red Headed Book Lover! Please tell us more about yourself

I’ve spent my career working in the nonprofit sector trying to make the world a better place. Writing has been a big part of that, but it’s always been nonfiction that paid the bills—grants, newsletters, etc. Still, I’ve always had a passion for fiction and have managed to carve out some time for it between work and family time. Son of the Doomsday Prophet is my most ambitious fiction project to date.

Could you please tell us readers about your book and what inspired you to write your book?

The origin of this book is a surprisingly long story. I wrote the first draft of the manuscript over 20 years ago. But then life happened and other priorities took over, so this project got shelved. In the back of my mind, though, I always had a nagging voice telling me this book deserved a better fate. So I finally heeded that voice, reworked the manuscript and published it.

As far as inspiration, I’ve always been fascinated with all things ancient. At the time, I had been musing on what it would be like to be the only survivors of a planet-wide disaster like the one described in Genesis and what it would be like to endure the run-up to that. We know that Noah was a spiritual giant, but I wondered what the experience would have been like for the rest of his family. That’s when the idea of re-telling and expanding the Flood story from the perspective of one of Noah’s sons came to me. I felt like Shem and Ham already had some preconceptions surrounding them, but Jayfeth was more of a blank slate, so that’s why I chose him. I knew immediately that this idea had a lot of potential. Of course, the idea was the easy part. Then I had to write it.

Son of the Doomsday Prophet, then, is Jayfeth’s story, recounting his experiences from a young boy up until the cataclysm strikes. Apart from the physical demands and risks of building a monumental project like the ark, he and his family face increasing hostility from all sides. What’s worse, Jayfeth struggles with inner doubts about God and even at times his father’s sanity. He’s an ordinary guy thrust into the most extraordinary circumstances imaginable. The crux of the story is journeying with him as he navigates all that and survives to the climactic end.

What would you like readers to take away from the book?

First, that it’s okay to have doubts and struggle with the big questions of life. It’s just part of being human. You’re not alone. Second, there are times when you need to take a stand and do the right thing even when everyone else says you’re wrong. I think that point is even more relevant today than when I first put pen to paper more than two decades ago. Finally, I want it to be an engaging story. That’s what a good book should be, right? I’ve tried to construct a world that people can get completely lost in for a few hours. I’ve always been drawn to escapist fiction—different worlds and different rules—and that’s what I’ve created here.

What would your advice be for aspiring writers?

If your motivation is to get rich and famous and sign a big movie deal, you’re likely to be disappointed. I’m not saying those things can’t happen, but the odds are against it and those goals won’t sustain you when they run into the wall of reality. So really you have to look inside and ask yourself two questions: One, do you have a passion to express yourself through writing? And two, do you have something you feel is important to say. If you can answer yes to both questions, then you have intrinsic motivation that nobody can take away, regardless of your sales figures. So write, write, write, and let the chips fall as they may on fortune and fame.

In your opinion, what is the most important thing about a book? 

I’m torn here between answering character or plot. But if pressed, I would say the most important thing to me about a book is the characters. I remind myself of this in my own writing by calling them CARE-acters, because if the reader doesn’t care about them, they’re not going to care about the story no matter how clever the plot is.

My personal preference is to have a likeable protagonist, or at least one that arcs into a likeable person by the end. Of course, that doesn’t mean they can’t be flawed, because that’s often integral to the story. There are certain subgenres of literature where none of the characters are very likeable. I find not having someone to cheer for a bit disorienting, but that may just be a reflection of my own lack of sophistication. Anyway, if you’re not going to make the characters likeable, at least make them interesting.

All that is not to minimize plot. Having interesting characters wandering around and not doing much probably isn’t going to be a fun read. I guess in great books the characters and plot are inextricably intertwined. Frodo wasn’t an interesting character until he inherited the ring of power and the quest to destroy ring of power wouldn’t have been the same without Frodo. You can’t have one without the other.

What is your writing process like?

I confess to having been somewhat of a “pantser” up to this point—i.e., a writer who flies by the seat of his pants. The process of discovery as you’re writing can be exhilarating. It’s fun to have those aha moments when you say, “Oh, so that’s what happens there.” But that approach can also be very frustrating when you get stuck and don’t know where to go next.

At least with Son of the Doomsday Prophet, I knew how the story was going to end, so that helped immensely. But I sure didn’t know how I was going to get there when I started. Somewhat surprisingly, the first draft came together pretty fast. But then came edits and revisions. I’m not talking a few drafts. I mean dozens and dozens of drafts. In an epic story like this, if you change one thing in one place, it creates a lot of ripples that affect a lot of other places in the story. The timeline spans 100 years and it has a fair number of characters and plot threads, so it was challenging to keep it all straight in my head.

One of my greatest gifts as a writer is the ability to be my own editor. I can step into editor mode almost like an alternate persona and look at what I’ve written pretty objectively. I can see what needs to be fixed and fix it, even if it means painfully cutting something I spent a long time writing. I think that’s hard for most writers to do. I just keep rewriting and rewriting over and over until I perfect it. Well, obviously not perfect, but until I’m confident that it’s as good as I can possibly make it. So the quality of my writing probably owes as much or more to stubborn persistence than innate ability. I just can’t let it go until I’m super happy with it.

As you can imagine, this approach to writing doesn’t lend itself to prodigious output. I’m amazed by authors who produce multiple books per year. I’m trying to learn to be more of plotter than a pantser in the hope that I can speed up my output a bit. But I’ll never sacrifice quality for quantity. If it’s going to have my name on it, I want it to be something I’m really proud of.

Do you have a set schedule for writing, or do you only write when you feel inspired?

Inspiration is over-rated in my opinion. If you wait until you feel inspired to sit down and write, you might be waiting a long time. I think it’s important to develop a discipline of writing regularly, preferably daily. Write and the inspiration will come to you. Writing well is a lot more of a function of hard work than it is inspiration. Some days the words flow and some days you have to work harder. But when I look back later on what I’ve written, I honestly can’t tell the difference between what I wrote on my “inspired” days and what I wrote on my “hard work” days.

Having said all that, since Son of the Doomsday Prophet was released, I’ve had to focus a lot of attention on launching and marketing at the expense of my writing time. I’m looking forward to getting back into a regular routine in the New Year. There’s momentum in writing regularly that’s easy to lose and hard to get back.

Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?

In my younger days, I missed out on reading a lot of the classics. So I made a focused effort to try to make up in that regard. In recent years I’ve read Don Quixote, Les Misérables, Moby Dick, and others along those lines. I don’t say that to impress anyone. In fact, I’m a little embarrassed to admit I got through so much of my life without reading them. But I felt like it was important to read some of those important books that have stood the test of time in order to better myself. The downside was that some of these are massive, dense works as you know. I am a slow reader and like to savor every word, so sometimes it would take me weeks or months to get through one book. So I wasn’t reading a lot of books in a year.

Lately, I’ve been reading more contemporary works. I think the last book I finished was Sky Without Stars by Jessica Brody and Joanne Rendell. It’s Les Mis in space. See, I wouldn’t have gotten the reference if I hadn’t made the effort to read Victor Hugo’s book first! Currently, I’m reading Babel by Rebecca Kuang. She’s a brilliant writer.

As far as my favorite authors, I would have to put J.R.R Tolkien right up there. I know that’s not very original, but I don’t think what he accomplished with The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings will ever be surpassed. I also like C.S. Lewis very much. Of course, everyone loves the Narnia series, but I also really like his Space Trilogy, particularly Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra. I have a lot of his non-fiction books as well and have been very influenced by them.

Lastly, when can we readers expect to read more wonderful books from you?  

I’ve been getting a lot of requests for an audiobook version of the Son of the Doomsday Prophet, so I’m going to try to find a way to make that happen short term. I’m also plotting (not pantsing!) a “sort of” sequel. I say “sort of” because it won’t be what most people might expect. Son of the Doomsday Prophet stands on its own and it’s hard to beat the end of the world for a climax. But I do see space for continuity of the themes it introduces, even though I don’t see picking them up right where the first book leaves off. I even have a pretty good idea of where a third book would go to complete a trilogy. It took me 21 years to go from concept to final completion on the first book, so I’m going to have to pick up the pace or I’ll be 106 by the time I get a trilogy finished!

Its official book lovers, I am obsessed with Steven J. Byers! If you have liked what you have read about the author and are interested in learning more, then please do have a browse of the links below and be sure to have a read of the preview too! You will not regret it.

Goodbye for now book lovers,

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