August 2020 – I bring you another interview, this time with an author who has become a great friend and supporter of my writing career. Where did I meet him? If I tell you to guess and your answer is Twitter, you are correct.
I follow so many wonderful people on Twitter and Facebook. People who continue to inspire and motivate me, while working on their own projects and promotions. I’m curious who they are, where they grew up, and how they handle their writing and creative process and their everyday lives. I also want to know how they got to where they are.
When I found this friend, his profile picture called my attention (see the photo below, and you can see why). As it was evident to me that this young man is Puerto Rican, we began to talk and we have not stopped. I was surprised to find that he is a multifaceted person. He is not only a writer, but he is also a musician, poet, blogger and surfer. As my Papá Neco says “of musician, poet and crazy we all have a little”.
My friend Jorge De Jesús Estrada is Puerto Rican, well, half Cuban since his mother was Cuban. At this moment, he has 14 publications of his authorship. He moved from Puerto Rico to Georgia. Jorge publishes under his pseudonym JD Estrada in honor of his mother, Marietta Estrada. He has expressed his talent by writing poetry, fiction -urban fantasy-, and has also written non-fiction, and lyrics for his music.
So that you know more about Jorge, here is our conversation:
Welcome to Full of Coffee, Jorge! My first question is one we’ve talked about plenty. I know you prefer tea, but I also know you like coffee. So, tell me, what’s your favorite tea and how do you like your coffee?
- Hahaha, thanks so much for having me over for coffee, Nydia. You are very savvy and I’m actually replying to this while I’m having tea BUT I already had my morning coffee. My favorite tea is rooibos or earl grey.
- Long story short, once upon a time I drank way too much coffee because it was free and I was young and woefully ignorant of the value of proper hydration and good eating habits. So one day my stomach went on strike and I switched for health but discovered a profound respect and appreciation for tea. In Puerto Rico, that’s kind of a rarity, but I think that goes perfect with how I am in general. As for coffee, I am like Chief Hopper from Stranger Things and need my morning coffee and contemplation.
- As for how I prefer coffee, café con leche (known to English speakers as a latte), cappuccino or cortadito are my go-to coffees. I do enjoy it a little darker than people but not black. I have also enjoyed café Cubano though only had it in three places that did it jusssst right.
Ah, you have to come visit Florida. You’ll find here many places where to enjoy a perfect cortadito, even a café con leche to make you sigh. As Hispanic/Puerto Rican, you probably started drinking coffee at a young age. Any story about it that you want to share with me?
- You actually guessed wrong, I didn’t get into coffee until I was like 18 or something. As a baby I enjoyed it but then one day, I didn’t like it and then at 18, I came into Puerto Rican adulthood by drinking coffee LOL. What’s curious is how I actually got to drinking coffee. It’s not that I flat out had coffee, that would be much too simple. Nope, I started raiding a pint of coffee flavored ice cream from my oldest brother and then tried cappuccino flavored Chupa-Chups lollie-pops, coffee-flavored Nips hard candies, and then iced coffee drinks at Baskin Robbins and Starbucks. ONLY then did I begin drinking coffee and it seems I wanted to make up for lost time.
You actually surprised me! And I’m curious about all those coffee-flavored goodies you mention. I know you are from Puerto Rico, as I thought you were from Juana Díaz, a town in the south of the Island, near my hometown Coamo. Tell me, where did you grow up? Do you have any siblings?
- I’m a kid from the Metro Area (San Juan) but I grew up in three places: Isla Verde, next to Luis Muñoz Marín Airport; Hato Rey, not that far off from Plaza Las Américas; and then Río Piedras/Guaynabo, literally one side of the street was Guaynabo and the other side of it was Río Piedras. Each place had its own unique adventures and flavor to it even though they were relatively close to each other, all within like a 5-mile radius if that.
- I’ve got two older brothers, each one very successful at what they do and each quite the character. I’d say I’m the quirkiest one, but the go-to guy who gets things done is my middle-brother, while the brains of the three is the oldest. It’s curious because although we have very distinct personalities, our voice is very similar and at times identical. I’ve lost count of the times I laugh a certain way and one of my nephews, sisters in law, or my own wife look at me like, “wow, that was creepy.” In terms of traits we share, determination and hard work is something we all possess. We also all bodyboard and it’s something we’ve shared most of our lives. Last time I was in Puerto Rico we got to have the first surf together in years and I definitely would love more of that.
Did your childhood have any influence in your interest in reading or writing?
- As for my childhood, I think life in general has a way of expressing itself through our writing and as a kid, I would walk around Old San Juan, go to toy stores (First Gitty’s Toys and then KB Toys), would indulge in local foods and sweets (from tirijala and coquitos to piraguas), and actually spend a lot of time hanging out at Mama’s store in Old San Juan. I always had some space to myself, be it the second floor, the back room, or an office, and I honestly always enjoyed my own company and truly think this fed my imagination way more than me or my parents could have imagined. As a kid I wanted to be an inventor and as an adult I’ve become one, I just didn’t know I’d end up doing it using words 😀
Those good memories of our childhood! You took me on a trip around Old San Juan, and now I’m craving piraguas. I used to work in Old San Juan, and loved walking around the Plaza de Armas. So, when did you decide to give professional writing a try? Did it affect your personal life, your profession?
- I’ve always leaned towards creativity and in high school flirted with the idea and the first short story that got me ANY sort of recognition was also in high school. 10th grade if you want to be specific. I got a perfect score and the teacher wrote a note saying that the story I wrote was very special and I should keep at it. But the idea for writing a book truly came to me when I was like 23 and I began writing over the summer of ‘04 …. I actually had a notebook which I then proceeded to lose and rather than cry over spilled milk, I eventually rewrote those chapters and continued with the book.
- As for writing affecting my profession, I think it complements it rather than challenge or negatively impact. I wrote in a blog for quite a few years and, being a creative copywriter in advertising, writing just kept being something that made me happy and fulfilled. As for education, I actually have a Multidisciplinary Bachelor’s Degree in Advertising, Marketing, and Psychology. Basically I didn’t need to take elective courses and only took core courses in each discipline. Love each for different reasons and didn’t go the route of psychology because I always thought I’d need a psychologist eventually if I were to go down that route lol.
Only Human is your first published book! How was that experience of getting a book published?
- Yes, Only Human is the maiden book in the Estrada collection. After that I published a poetry collection, and the Daydreams on the Sherbet Shore short stories, but Only Human was the first. As for getting the book published, I decided to self-publish and I think rather than my writing impacting my day job, it was inverse. Working in advertising, a BIG part of the job encompasses revisions, editing, and a whole lot of compromising. It’s a job that definitely takes a toll on a creative and I did submit to four publishing houses, initially. This took a lot of research to find four options that had the right style and the right agents/editors that felt like a good fit… I took weeks to write my cover letters and send my manuscripts…. And I never heard from them. That meant I had two options, insist on this route, or putting Fleetwood Mac’s “Go your own way” on and I chose the latter. It’s been an intense journey and you’re constantly learning about the craft and about connecting with people and marketing but I’ve never been one to do things just because and have instead worked hard to do everything I do in a way that feels very “JD”. I put a ton of effort into things that may get like 30 likes, but I know it puts a smile on someone’s face and that’s a big part of why I do what I do and how I do it.
- To share a fun little story of my first big event, let’s go back to 2014. It was the DAY we had to set up at the Puerto Rico Comic Con… and my books hadn’t arrived. Lol. I took pictures of when I did get the books but I cut everything so finely that it’s just a miracle I was able to set up. I was a nobody, no one in PR had probably read me, and I went with a modest selection. I made back the cost of my booth early the second day as well as covering the costs for the banner and printing costs, so Sunday was all net gain. It wasn’t much and it’s not like I’d made it, BUT, there was a place for me in Puerto Rico and that felt huge as did the lovely people that came over to say hi and support me. I met a LOT of lovely people of all ages and going back year after year, it’s been a special experience to see kids in high school graduating and now going to college. Seeing them navigate the challenging waters of their teenage years and becoming great people is very special to me as has been seeing people who were able to pursue writing because of a conversation we had. Beyond the books, being read, and pushing to make this my main source of income one day, I learned very quickly how important to me it is to make a positive impact. Some people might need a lot of work, but most people just need a small push to do something they love and part of who I am is making it worthwhile to anyone to come visit me and chat. If they pick up some books, that’s awesome, but it’s not mandatory and I don’t charge for advice…. which I should at this point lol.
I know, from just sharing and chatting with you, all the insights you have to share about writing and about life. You have 14 published books, are they all self-published?
- Well I have 14 eBooks but actually 16 books in total, but I’ll explain that soon. They have all been self-published and my goal right now is to become a hybrid author, self-publishing and traditionally publishing in the future. As for the lineup, I have two urban fantasy novels from the Human Cycle which are Only Human and Shadow of a Human. I have also released 6 poetry collections titled Between the Tides, Dark Strands, Captured Moments, Black Tie Affair, Roulette of Rhymes and Pensando en Metáforas (my only 100% book Spanish and yes, something I will be changing soon). I then collected all of my English poetry in one volume called Recollection, which is what I recommend people if they want more bang for their buck. Then there’s my bilingual collection Twenty Veinte which has poetry, short stories, and essays in both English and Spanish with a bilingual poem in the middle titled the same as the collection and where I talk about living a bilingual life. In non-fiction I have two books, For Writing Out Loud is a collection of essays from my blog, compiled, curated, edited, and formatted to be enjoyed in book form. Fun story, I thought this was going to be easy and it ended up being a LOT of work if I wanted to do it right… so I put in the hours and think it’s a great book for anyone looking for different types of motivation and positivity, which is an essential part of my non-fiction work. I also have Peace, Love, and Maki Rolls which is my Guide to Creative Kindness where I share a lot about my life philosophy. And then we also have my middle-grade works, which include a short story collection, the Daydreams on the Sherbet Shore, and my middle-grade fantasy adventure Given to Fly. So if you’re keeping count, that makes 14. That’s because all of these are available in both physical and digital versions, but there are two titles you can only get physically, because of the nature of the project.
- If you read me, you’ll come across many a character inspired by someone in my life. I have characters based on Mom, on my wife (whom as you know, I refer to as the Captain, due to the character based on her in the Human Cycle series, the vampire pirate captain Jane Rivers), and countless others. The thing is that in 2015’s Puerto Rico Comic Con, they had a talent scout from DC comics and from a pool of easily over 100 artists they chose like one or two and I saw a LOT of people bummed out at the event and it honestly hurt to see so much young talent have such a bad day, so I gave it some thought and the next project was born: Blanc Comics. Although I’m always tinkering and refining how I share this project, here’s the base concept: you have fully fleshed stories, you have dialogue and sounds, you have descriptions of what goes in the panels, and you have original grids for the comic, but there are no images, because as the story teller, I’m blind and I need artists to help see our story. This project is a tribute to my grandmother Emma, who we called Tata. She had advanced glaucoma but even being almost completely blind, she could tell stories with such detail. It was a remarkable thing and I did chat a lot with Tata and sometimes watched TV with her and told her what I saw onscreen (probably something else that fed into me being a storyteller). So basically I’ve designed completely original comics for artists in PR and anywhere in the world to draw and put in their portfolio. That’s two of three purposes covered, i.e. paying tribute to Tata and offering local artists a platform to hone their skills and hopefully get a job through our collaboration. The third reason for this project is to promote the tolerance of points of view, something sorely lacking in society nowadays. Think about it, if you ask ten people to draw a car and a magician, and give only the barest description for you to understand what we’re supposed to be seeing, that means that each person will draw something completely different… and there’s no perspective that’s better than the other. They’re all valid and I dream of having MORE people be receptive to the perspectives of others hopefully to promote more dialogue and less infighting. Under this project, there are two titles released: Raining Dead, which is a story about a vampire, a Native American, and a samurai that somehow end up fighting together to save the world from a world zombie plague; and Tricks and Ladders, the adventures of a magician and an angel who work at a semi private detective agency and solve unsolvable cases.
- There are more titles in the Blanc Comics universe but I’m trying to focus on getting to the next level with this project, whatever that may mean. For me, sure I want to create, but I also want to help and inspire because that’s just as important to me than writing something that will keep people company and make them laugh, cry, shudder, scream, or dream. But my dream is to have this project in a classroom to promote creativity, tolerance, and artistic expression.
This is quite a journey, Jorge, and the Blanc Comics is such a great project; I know you’ll take it far. Thanks for sharing it here in my blog. All your books have been self-published. How would you compare self-published vs. traditional published?
- If I had gone traditional, there’s simply no way I see it feasible to do all that I have done. It may be a lot of work, but seven years in, people know who I am, how I write, and support me for me. Self-publishing is not easy and everyone’s journey is different. I know some people who have sold 1,000 books in a year and I know people who struggle to get to double digits. Now, just because something is traditionally published does not guarantee quality and because something’s indie doesn’t mean it has no quality. Blanket statements need not apply and you will find good books and bad books EVERYWHERE. I will tell you this, some of the best books I’ve read in the last couple of years have been independently released and what I’ve noticed is that you see VERY original stories, twists, and approaches in indie books that are harder to find in traditional books. It’s not to say one is better than the other though, but I can give you a long list of indie authors I’ve read and whose work I not only love, but respect because I have an idea what it takes to do what they’ve done. As for traditionally published books, you’ll find a LOT of boiler plate plots, tropes, and people writing what will appeal to the market. Also, you’ll find typos! True story! Because we’re Only Human 😀 There are exceptions, as with everything, and I think in the end having a good mix of books will be my recipe for reading happiness.
As a newbie writer, trying to get a story published, I understand it’s hard work. I’m glad you’ve found a formula to make your writing available and get yourself known. Do you have any future project you want to talk about?
- Haha there are always a lot of things in the pipeline, but the pandemic has kind of ground my gears to a halt in many projects and just getting motivated to write has been a challenge… so I shifted to writing in my blog to process all I’m living, I wrote two new songs and posted them, for the first time sharing my lyrics, and I started a new project I’ve really attacked and am very happy how it’s progressing. What is it? You’ll have to wait and see, but I WILL say it’s poetry. I have other projects in store that I will be tackling but don’t want to talk about them until they’re about to be done because I’m a big believer that sometimes you need to talk less and do more.
- So you can expect Book 3 of the Human Cycle, the second volume of the Daydreams on the Sherbet Shore, and plenty of other projects, but will have to stay tuned to find out about what I’m working on right now. To do that, look me up on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or Instagram by searching for @JDEstradaWriter and in the meantime, you can pick up a book or three on Amazon. Thanks so much for having me over for a cup and a chat. ¡Un abrazo y bendición a todo el familión!
What a fascinating story and what a great guy! To get to know more of Jorge, like he said, follow him! Visit his Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/jdestradawriter/, and follow him on Twitter @JDEstradaWriter https://twitter.com/JDEstradawriter. Also check out his blog http://jdestradawriter.blogspot.com/; and his YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgwnLN0q3ewrxEkvOLI4o5Q. I told you that Jorge is a multifaceted person!
I cannot wait to see what else he’s working on! I have started reading some of his work and I hope you do the same. Find his books on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/JD-Estrada/e/B00CP4834O?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2&qid=1597608004&sr=8-2.
And I hope everyone enjoys this interview as much as I have enjoyed writing it. It’s a great opportunity for me to meet all these incredible writers.
I’ll keep reading, I’ll keep writing, I’ll keep dreaming! I have some more pending projects to work on. And I’ll be inviting Jorge over again, we have many more pending topics we have to talk about. Thank you for reading! Time for my tacita de café. Salud!
Para versión en español, vea https://fullofcoffeeblog.com/una-tacita-de-cafe-con-el-autor-jd-estrada/