An Interview with J. Guenther

Welcome to a new series on! I decided it was time to pay it forward but didn’t know how. I don’t have any free books to give away. Nor do I have editing skills someone would covet.

So The Five Question Interview was born! Its mission: to give back to the writing community one interview at a time. Without further adieu, let’s learn a little bit about author
J. Guenther.

J. Guenther loves puzzles and has US patents on two of them. He has written five novels, four magazine articles, 23 plays, 50 short stories, and 111+ poems. Hobbies include carving Celtic knots and making furniture. He once determined the orbit of a comet and also worked on the Saturn S-IVB rocket. Sorcerer of Deathbird Mountain was nominated for Best Novel at the 2005 Santa Barbara Writers Conference. Prisoner of Suggins Holler won a prize at the Elite Theatre 2011 Short Play contest. He designs his own book covers. His IMDb page for actor and script consultant is

And Now The Interview

What attracted you to screenwriting?
Which stories are you most proud of writing?

After I’d written about 15 stage plays, I felt an urge to expand my horizons, so I read all the screenwriting books at the library and signed up for a course at a community college. Tuition was only about $135 and the course covered virtually everything, a huge bargain compared with USC, UCLA, and even LMU.

My SciFi work-in-progress, OUT BRIEF CANDELLE, is based on the Guardienne Hypothesis. The link to the preprint on ResearchGate is I’m also happy with my Western, UNFORSAKEN. The logline is: “What happens when an unarmed young greenhorn encounters a desperado fleeing a posse in the desert?” UNFORSAKEN made the second round of the 2018 Austin Film Festival Short Script Competition. I’ve entered it in four competitions so far for 2019.

Have you written on any particularly tricky subjects?
How did you handle the process and outcome?

What if a psychiatrist realizes during a therapy session that his client shot someone and still has the gun with him? That was the what-if for IN THE MOUTH OF THE LION, my WWII historical novel. The setup was inherently conflict- and tension-heavy even before I made the psychiatrist Carl Jung and the patient Adolf Hitler. I then had to psychoanalyze Hitler, not an easy or pleasant task.

The research took about five years and was complicated because many of the available “facts” about Hitler were apparently part of a smoke-screen he created to conceal the truth. Many sources are unreliable. Because of the extensive research, it was also difficult to avoid being didactic or exposition-heavy.

Even more problematic was that I started the project as a stage play and added multimedia to avoid flashback scenes that would have required changes of costumes in the dark. Then I adapted it for the screen, but eventually reformatted it as a historical novel in order to accommodate all of the new information revealed during my research. It was also faster to publish a book than to market a screenplay.

Now, a series of Quick Questions!

King Lear or The Tempest?
Pepsi or Coke?
Tea or Coffee?
Cake or Pie?
Computer or Pen & Paper?
Star Trek or Star Wars?
Summer or Winter?

The Tempest
Dr. Pepper
Either, as long as it’s chocolate
My new ’64 Olympia typewriter (JK)
Star Trek

Do you write more scripts or more novels?
Which one do you find more challenging? Enjoyable?

So far I’ve written 23 stage plays, 2 screenplays, 5 novels (second draft or later). I have another stage play started.

Here’s my rough scale of literary difficulty:
Short story 1
One act play 10
Novel 100
Three act play 1,000
Screenplay 10,000

I must enjoy writing short plays most, since I’ve done a lot more of them than any other form. I’ve had my plays read or performed in a dozen southern California venues. I’ve also acted in many of them and am working on another when I have time. The most challenging works are screenplays. (Teleplay series are a bit harder than screenplays.)

How, in your opinion, should we measure a book’s or project’s success?

It’s obviously highly subjective. All kinds of measures are possible: net profit, number of copies sold, total titles in print, critical distinction, total reviews received, or average number of stars. Success greatly depends on the author’s objectives. One of my objectives is to publish works built around consequential ideas.

Yes, I’d like them to be wildly profitable and entertaining, but mostly I’d like them to make a difference in the larger scheme of things. For example, IN THE MOUTH OF THE LION contains my psychological profile of Hitler that reveals the true foundation of the Holocaust. I hope OUT BRIEF CANDELLE and THE PERILS OF TENIRAX: MAD POET OF ZARAGOZA will also break new ground beyond publishing.

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