‘And so it goes.’
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Are there any authors or artists who influence(d) you?
Where to start? I’m inspired by people who are trying to push the possibilities of their field — authors like William Gibson, Margaret Atwood, Charles Yu, Ursula Le Guin, Haruki Murakami, Anthony Burgess, Kurt Vonnegut, China Mieville, Paulo Bacigalupi, Junot Diaz, Connie Willis, Liu Cixin, Roald Dahl, Yoon Ha Lee, Geoff Ryman, and Ted Chiang.
Tell me about your series.
A reformed addict and a travelling showman team up to save a group of enslaved children.
My Wasteland series is a character-driven story about finding hope in a hopeless word. Abel, a reformed addict joins with a self-proclaimed wizard who travels the wastes with his show, passing off pre-apocalypse technology as items of magic and intrigue.
When they stumble across a group of children enslaved by the brutal drug gang The Family, Abel and the wizard use their ‘magic’ to mount a rescue.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I have one full novel that will never see the light of day and two novels where I got to around 20,000 words and abandoned them.
What’s your opinion on the practice of ‘banning’ books?
Pointless. Ideas always find a way out. The best way to kill a dangerous idea is to engage with it.
Tell me about a principal character in your book(s). What makes them memorable?
Abel, the main character in my Wasteland series, is a reformed drug addict trying to survive in a brutal post-apocalyptic world. He lives by a code, refusing to kill, and loves to read stories from before the fall.
Indie, or traditionally published – and why?
I’m indie through and through. I’ve always had a DIY ethic and an entrepreneurial streak. Traditional publishing is still focused on selling things printed on pulped-up trees that were written two years ago. We all make our own paths, and I’m so grateful we live in a world where being an independent author is a viable option.)
It’s said that to write well, you need to read a lot. What do you think?
I read a poem, an essay and a short story every day. I usually have a non-fiction book and a novel on the go at the same time too! When I write, it’s like I’m trying to solve a series of problems — what’s the best way I can convey this emotion without saying ‘he was sad’ or what’s the best way I can give readers an emotional punch to the gut. Reading a lot gives me the answers to those solutions.
Tell me what you feel the worst, and the best, aspects of being an author are, and why.
The best aspect of being an author is when someone reaches out to me because something in my story resonated with them. I’ve had people contact me after reading my novella Addict of the Wasteland thanking me for the way I dealt compassionately with addiction. It keeps me motivated because I know the stories I write aren’t existing in a vacuum. The idea that someone would spend hours invested in something that came from my imagination is deeply humbling.
The worst part for me is having too many ideas for stories I want to write and not enough time to write them. I’ve got documents filled with notes and outlines for more than a dozen potential projects. I wish my mind would stay in one place and get the on with the job at hand.
Are you a plotter, or a pantser? What do you think of the opposite approach?
I’m somewhere in the middle. I brainstorm my story and I write a series of about fifteen bullet points outlining the main drift of the story. I’ll write a short story with the character, finding their voice and understanding their motivations. Once I’ve got that, I’ll do another outline on sixty index cards — these get switched around, edited, and rewritten as I go, but I find it helpful to have goals I know I’m aiming for.
As for having an opinion on approaches, authors need to find what works for them. There’s no right answer except for the one that works.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Yes. There are some inconsistencies in my world that are there by design and will make sense by the end of the third book. They’re very subtle hints, but I’ve always been a fan of books that reward a second read.
Tell me about one favourite hobby or pastime that isn’t writing or reading.
It used to be playing video games, but I gave them up to focus on my writing. I’ve played guitar since I was 10 and I usually find myself picking away and letting my thoughts wander.
What are you writing at the moment?
I’m currently near the end of drafting my third novel, King of the Wasteland — the third book in Wasteland series.
What’s your opinion on the belief that indie books are badly edited and lower quality than traditionally published?
Some of them are. A lot of them aren’t. If readers are worried about the quality of an author, they should use the look inside feature and read the acknowledgements. If an author thanks editors and beta readers, chances are it will be a clean book. I’ve seen many traditionally published books with errors, but it’s the quality of the story that always wins out.
If you could, would you live in the world you’ve created? Why / why not?
No. My world is a post-apocalyptic nightmare. I don’t think I’d last a week.
If you could go back to the start of your writing career, what is the one piece of advice you’d give yourself?
Let that first novel go. It will always suck no matter how long you spend tinkering with it. Move onto the next thing and finish it.
Do you listen to music when you write, and if so, what do you like?
No, I have to write in silence. When I’m editing I listen to music. I listen to bands like My Bloody Valentine, Tool, Weezer, Queens of the Stone Age and the Stone Roses. I also find instrumental stuff helps — Bach’s works for solo cello, Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works, etc.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
When you’re an independent author , you’re running a business. Getting to grips with all of the peripheral things you need to do to produce and market a book have been a very steep learning-curve. Luckily, there’s a great community of indie authors who help each other and are willing to share advice.
Tell me three unique things about you.
1) I wrote a PhD on the sculptor Jacob Epstein.
2) I have a portrait of Michael Jackson on my sitting room wall that I painted myself in the style of Jackson Pollock (Michael Jackson Pollock) — I don’t really care for his music.
3) My last guide dog was called Watson.
Jon, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!