Author Interview: J. R. Alcyone



JMR-Welcome J.R. to the Books Delight. Tell our readers where you live, what you do for fun and what does the perfect day look like and does it include birds?

JRA- Thank you for inviting me to do this interview! I live outside Cleveland, Ohio, about a mile from Lake Erie. My hobbies, outside of being a history buff and reading and writing, of course, include running, nature photography, and birding. A perfect day for me is a warm and sunny May day near Lake Erie with lots of beautiful warblers and songbirds to photograph.

JMR- What is your favorite historical time period? Why?

JRA-Although I haven’t written anything about it, my favorite period is the American Civil War. As for the why, I have always been drawn to the biographical side of history (the “dramatis personae,” if you will), and the Civil War boasts so many great personalities on both sides. Otherwise, I would say I’m interested in the Civil War because the Civil War remains so relevant. You cannot understand America today without a firm understanding of the Civil War and its aftermath.

That being said, I read widely. I am also very interested in the American Revolution. Some other areas I’m interested in include Egypt, Rome, and World War I.

JMR- Who is your favorite historical figure? Why? If you could ask them one question what would it be?

JRA-Oh, wow. I don’t know that I could pick a favorite historical figure. The answer would probably change from day to day. I guess being a writer, I’d like to ask Shakespeare which of his plays was his personal favorite and did he ever dream he would be still famous today?

JMR- Your first book, Five Fathoms Beneath, is work of fiction dealing with mental illness, families and medicine. How did you research your book, especially the medical bits?

JRA- So, Five Fathoms Beneath deals specifically with a very sensitive topic, and that’s suicide in the medical profession. America loses approximately 400 physicians a year to suicide (more than a doctor a day), and I think the topic is particularly relevant right now as Covid-19 plays out and burn out increases among all medical professionals (not just doctors).

Although I drew off mainly my own experiences with depression in creating the characters in Five Fathoms Beneath, to get the medical details and medical mindset right, I read numerous books on suicide, how doctors think, how doctors are trained, and why doctors are particularly susceptible to suicide. I also had a friend who is a physician who read the book for me and helped me fix any errors.

It was important for me in writing the book to do justice to the suicidal mind (many suicides are the result of mental illness, and that was definitely the case in Five Fathoms Beneath) and the suicide victim, but also to the family left behind to make sense out of the senseless. The book took a very long time to write because it was such a sensitive topic and something I wanted to get right. It can be a very challenging book for readers, but it was even more challenging to write.

JMR- Five Fathoms Beneath contains elements of Magical Realism. Can you explain what that means and why you used it, how did it help you tell your story?

JRA- Magical realism is basically use fantastical elements in an otherwise mundane or real-world setting. Like in the movie Field of Dreams, magical realism ends up being the catalyst to heal a rift between the father and son in Five Fathoms Beneath. (If I say more than that, I will spoil the book’s biggest twist. Suffice to say, my use of magical realism does not involve baseball players materializing out of a cornfield or building a baseball field, though. Ha!)

JMR-Tell us about your next book, The Stars that Govern Us, which came out December 2020.

JRA- The Stars That Govern Us is an historical fiction novel set in 1956. My two main characters are surgeons at a poor public hospital in Western Australia who attempt to build a heart-lung machine. The heart-lung machine takes the heart’s place during surgery, allowing surgeons to stop the heart and perform more complicated repairs. It’s a much more mainstream novel than Five Fathoms Beneath, and I’m hoping it will appeal to a wider audience. Some of the themes the novel explores include mental illness, friendship, taking risks, and sacrifices.

The history of the heart-lung machine is well-documented. I read probably about a dozen books and two dozen articles in researching the book.

JMR- You have described this as an #ownvoices book. Can you explain to our readers the meaning of #ownvoices.

JRA- An #ownvoices novel refers to a book which features a character from a traditionally marginalized experience that is written by someone who is actually a member of that marginalized group.

My main character has generalized anxiety disorder and is bipolar. I share those diagnoses with the main character and although I of course did some research into 1950s attitudes, my main character’s thought processes—his “thought helixes” especially—are based primarily on my own experiences.  

JMR-What’s next J.R.? Do you have another book in the works?

JRA- I’m the type of writer who can only work on one project at a time, so right now, I don’t have another project in the works or pipeline. I’ve considered writing another novel about the characters in The Stars That Govern Us, but it’s also very possible I could go a whole other direction. We’ll see!

JMR- Tell our readers how to find you on social media and the web.

JRA- I am on Twitter @thegreenheron, and I am on Instagram @the_greenheron. I have a website at I post a lot of beautiful pictures of nature and birds on my social media feeds, so even if medical fiction isn’t your jam, if you follow me, I’ll do my best to beautify your feed!

JMR- What question were you hoping I’d ask but didn’t?

JRA- I figured you’d ask me my favorite bird, and I’d get to wax on poetically about how much I love green herons. (They are kind of my thing!)

JMR- Thank you J. R. for stopping by to share your books with us. We wish you well with your new release. Readers I know you want to check our J.R.'s books, so I've include a link below. 

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