Hold on to your hats folks! No, seriously. J.D. Mader is in the house this week and he does have a hat fetish. He’s also one of the best writers that I’ve come across in the indie author community. JD’s straight up in your face style is hard to duplicate, and this makes him unique among his peers. His two novels, Joe Cafe and The Biker, are on my top picks list and I’ll link the reviews for them down below. In addition to his books, there are hundreds of articles and posts scattered around the Internet, each one a golden nugget. I’ll even give you some links to this treasure trove as well.
When I asked JD if he would write a guest post about his experience as a writer, his response was, ‘RUSH!!!!!!!’ – I took that as a ‘yes’, and here we are. Buckle up folks. Mader is about to take you on a ride.
The first professional writing I ever did was as a sportswriter in San Diego. I was 14 or 15. I had won some story contests and stuff, but my sister was the writer. I liked to read and write stories, but I liked to burn stuff, too. Dig? So, anyway, I end up doing a guest article for the town paper. They liked it and kept me writing all through high school. I wasn’t paid a lot (they got a bargain), but I worked with adults, I went to pro sports events and had a legit press pass and everything. I remember being really excited to see my byline, but it never occurred to me until I was an adult how odd this was. I was writing 4-5 articles a week. I had a column. Coaches trusted me to make up quotes for them. There were some well-spoken coaches in San Diego in the mid-90s.
The plan was to be a journalist. By the time I graduated, I was more interested in playing loud punk rock and writing fiction. I moved to San Francisco and the rest is history. How did I progress as a writer? I stopped being a dick, for one thing. Having minor musical success and being a 15 year old sportswriter puffed me up a little. Luckily, the move to San Francisco was throwing a big fish into a REALLY big pond of fish who could fucking WRITE! I was still a bit full of myself, but I gradually realized that I was not the hot shit prodigy I had assumed I was. A big dose of humility was in order. And I was smart enough to realize it. (Humility and self-congratulation – back to back – clack clack …BAM!)
The problem was that I could write anything the day before it was due and it would be one of the better pieces in class. One or two people would school me. But I held my own. Then I realized that if I ever wanted to be a “real” writer, I needed to work my ass off. I read constantly. I wrote and wrote. Most of what I wrote sat in a drawer. I studied people. I read psychology textbooks. I read great authors that led to other great authors and so on. I stopped believing that Kerouac was the greatest writer of all time.
There are a lot of things I don’t like about myself, but I am stubborn as all hell. If I decide to do something, I do it. Ever since I was a little kid. So, when I decided to become a writer, I fucking did it. Right down to the copious consumption of bourbon and cigarettes. There were a few people in my writing classes who were as serious as I was. We shared stories and books and long, drunken, weird nights.
I did not submit a story for publication until I was in my mid-twenties. I knew I wasn’t ready before, but finally I had a story – worked on for a year – that I felt was worthy. I submitted it, and it was accepted by the Berkeley Fiction Review and the Chicago Quarterly Review. I was thrilled. Then I got a lot of rejections. I got two personal notes from the New Yorker, one is framed. Really. That’s what you do when you get a hand written note from one of the editors at the NYer.
I made absolutely no money, but suddenly when I told snarky hipster idiots that I was a writer and they smirked and said, “Yeah? Where have you been published?” I could say, here and here and here, bitch. Where have you been published?
The basic gist here is that from age 15 to 22 or so, I was kind of a prick. I would have annoyed me. I didn’t brag, but I honestly felt like I was better than everyone else. It wasn’t until I stopped feeling like this that I started really writing. I was also fortunate enough to teach writing workshops for at-risk youth. That was an amazing eye opener. I started to realize that, as much as my former punk rock self denounced jocks, I had just been acting like a literary jock. I tore up and burned a bunch of stories. I read amazing things. I recognized that helping people learn and teaching myself was way more fulfilling than hiding behind accolades – which was really a result of my insecurity in the first place.
I have spent over a decade seriously committing myself to learning how to write. I had a good head start, but I was also like every new writer – lost. But I wrote. Every day. I wrote like someone was chasing me. And indeed, I was chasing me.
When I decided to self-publish some of my work, I didn’t know what I was getting into. Suddenly people were buying my stuff. I was on the radar. I did interviews and guest blogs like this one. I got a regular gig at Indies Unlimited and Blergpop.
I am a hyper-competitive person and I fight those impulses with all my might. And something about that fight reminds me that I’m nothing. Lots of people can write. Sure, I want to succeed as a writer. I’m glad my novels sell. I’m glad I can live off writing for the moment. But I am more glad that if you ask most people now they will say, “JD Mader is a pretty nice guy. He’s always there with a joke or to help out.” (I’m paraphrasing something someone said about me recently). Point being, 20 years ago people said, “Dan Mader? That guy is an asshole.”
For me, the big writing epiphanies have come from realizing who I am and who I am not. The joy comes from the relationships I have developed with other writers. The sense of community. Life is weird. Writing is weird. But if you are willing to bitch-slap yourself and be realistic, it is a pretty wonderful thing.
I still write music and I still write articles as well as fiction (and press releases and blah, blah, blah). I have been lucky to meet people like the owner of this blog. A lot of great people. I talk to them every day. I may never meet them, but that doesn’t matter. I know them and they know me. Because we communicate with the written word. I shudder to think what would happen if I ever met these nutjobs in person.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Folks I can testify that JD (Maaaderrrr!!!!) is one of the most remarkable authors I’ve come across in this community. His willingness to help other people (myself included), often goes above and beyond what you would expect from someone this productive. He turns out stories and articles almost as fast as I can read them, each one more interesting than the last. Yet, he finds the time to mentor, encourage, support, and cheer for others. My life would not be the same without him, and I’m sure there are many people that he has never met in person that feel the same way. God help us if I ever run into him face to face. I might squeeze him hard enough to pop his hat off.
You can find my reviews for his novels here:
You can buy those books here:
You can follow JD and find his writing here: