Sitting at an outdoor restaurant talking about how he's finally making it as an author, J.R. Rain breaks off eye contact and peers at his glass of water. He delicately presses a corner of his paper napkin to the side of his glass, seeming – for no obvious reason – to blot a droplet of water. "There's a little fly struggling on my cup," he explains, lowering the bug to safety. "I think he'll make it."
J.R.'s life hums with all kinds of distractions that pull him here and there but somehow add up to something purposeful, productive, and positive. "The way my brain is structured, there's a lot of ADD going on, and it was undiagnosed," J.R. says. "I seem quiet, but my brain isn't. And I can't sit still." This is why, in the decades before he managed to get the writer's life he'd wanted since his teens, he worked more than 60 different jobs. At one office, his bewildered manager called him in and let him know that it just wasn't going to be OK for him to keep taking 30 restroom breaks in a single day.
I spent 21 years being slammed around. Having a book hit high on a bestseller list is fun. I'm very happy to give readers what they want. I could not be more excited.
"I have to be my own boss," J.R. says now. "I have to be able to allow myself to get up and move around. So I've learned to work with my brain." These days, after he writes half of his self-imposed daily quota, he and his dog Sadie head out for a good, long walk – either to town where they might bump into friends or into the wild, green, gorgeous trails of this island on Washington State's Puget Sound, where they make their home. For such a long time, it looked like J.R. would never get a life like this.
He wrote fiction through his teens and into his twenties, when a Hollywood agent gave him the great news that one of his manuscripts was being seriously considered for a movie deal. But the deal fell through. "It just ruined me," J.R. says. "I was putting all my hopes in it. I literally stopped everything waiting for that answer. And that was kind of a life lesson: You can't put all your hopes in one thing."
He wrote more books, usually one a year. Then, in a four-week sprint, he wrote Dark Horse and sold it to a small publisher. His first royalty check – the only money he'd ever made from his books – was for $136. "I framed the check," he says with a happy laugh.
In a few more years, two things changed J.R.'s life for good: releasing his work independently with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and creating a character named Samantha Moon. Samantha is a private investigator and a mom. She's strong and smart, and she has a challenging marriage. She's also a vampire.
With KDP, J.R. didn't need to convince a publishing company that a married mom vampire detective was a great idea. He could go straight to readers. And J.R.'s readers love Samantha Moon. He has gone on to publish sequels, spinoff series, and stand-alone stories about her, and even open Samantha's world up to the imaginations of other writers by participating in Kindle Worlds.
J.R.'s writing and popularity caught the attention of Amazon Publishing's Thomas & Mercer imprint. He accepted their offer of a publishing deal for one of his non-Samantha books and "loved the experience. They were so professional and open to suggestions, and yet willing to let me be my quirky self. My book Silent Echo was one of the first titles in the Kindle First program, and I had the great honor and excitement to hit #1 overall on Amazon. Such a wonderful feeling."
J.R.'s fans keep asking for more, and he's finally able to make a secure living as a full time author and be his own boss. On January 22, 2016, he used KDP to release his 10th Samantha Moon sequel.
Does J.R. ever get tired of writing about Samantha? "Are you kidding me?" he says. "I spent 21 years being slammed around. Having a book hit high on a bestseller list is fun. I'm very happy to give readers what they want. I could not be more excited."