I'm happy to be a part of John Marco's blog tour for Starfinder. While Starfinder is his first YA novel--fantasy, by the way--he has written many books. For a full listing, visit his website. (He also blogs.)
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and your journey towards becoming a published author?
My background is rather average, to be honest. I wasn't a great student and I didn't get serious about college until I was in my thirties. But I always knew I wanted to be a writer. Even the term "writer" seemed glamorous to me when I was a kid. I personally believe that writers are born rather than made, and all I mean by that is almost all people who become writers had the desire to do so from an early age. It kind of starts off with a compulsion to tell stories, or at least it did for me. I used to bang away at my sister's portable typewriter (typewriter? What the heck is that?), churning out atrociously written adventure tales. I say atrocious because they were, but that's perfectly okay--that's how writers learn.
As I got older my life took a detour into having to make a living. I was lucky enough to become a technical writer, which at least had the word "writer" in the title, and I did that for years, kind of drifting between jobs, always wanting to return to the dream of fiction writing but never really doing so until I was closing in on turning 30. At that point something just clicked and I got serious about it, and started writing my first novel, "The Jackal of Nar." Luck intervened here as well, because I found an agent online on Compuserve who was actively looking for new clients. I sent her what I had written so far on my book, and she really loved it. She waited another two years almost for me to finish it, then sold it to Bantam Spectra. And that's basically how I got started.
What inspired you to write Starfinder?
Oh, so many things. Having a child for one thing. Having a kid is such an eye-opening experience. All of the books I wrote before Starfinder were kind of dark and grim. They were fantasy books, certainly, but they lacked that sense of wonder that I see in my son. It awakened that in me. I really don't think I could have written the book without him, odd as that might sound. Plus, I had always wanted to write a YA book, because for a while now YA books have been the bulk of the novels that I've been reading. Not all of them have been great, but some of them have been amazing, so memorable and poignant that it was just something I needed to tackle. I hope I can keep on writing in the YA genre because I truly love and admire it.
What do you love about writing? What do you find the easiest? What do you find the hardest?
The first part of your question is probably the easiest for me to answer--what I love most about writing is the solitude. Everyone who knows me knows that I like quiet and being alone, especially when I'm working. And for me there's just nothing like getting into a story all by myself. Sometimes I talk to myself as I'm writing, or stand up and act things out. It gets pretty weird, and I wouldn't want to do that with people watching.
I can't honestly say that any part of the writing process comes easily to me. On the other hand, I don't want to say it's extremely difficult either. Writing can be a lot of fun and I try not to lose sight of them. Perhaps the easiest thing for me is getting inside the heads of the characters. I seem to do this instinctually. There's the old question of which comes first, character or story, and for me it's always the characters. I enjoy creating them and getting to know them, and I always ask myself what he/she is after.
The hardest part of writing for me is probably the time it takes. Everything in publishing is slow. It takes a long time to write a book, naturally, but then it takes another long stretch of time to have it edited, and the whole back and forth of the production process. It's tedious and I don't enjoy it at all, because I don't have a lot of patience.
Can you describe what a typical day is like as a writer?
Sure. Just imagine your own day at work, and that's pretty much what it's like to be a writer. I get my son off to pre-school, come home and have something to eat, and then I sit down to work. I might be outlining or researching or actually writing, but basically it's me sitting at a computer until lunch time, then back at it until it's time to pick up my son. I used to write at night a lot, but not so much nowadays. Night time for me now is spent with my wife and son, or maybe catching up on emails and such. It's a routine, but it's need to be a if I'm going to make headway. Writing, like anything, takes discipline.
How do you find the time--do you find the time--to keep reading? Do you have any recent favorites?
When people say they don't have the time to read I say that's nonsense. There's an old expression that I learned many years ago from some self-help guy--people give time to the things that are important to them. That immediately struck me as so obviously true. Everyone has some time to read. Some folks just choose not to do so. Maybe they prefer TV or sports or the internet, and I have no problem with that. I just don't think they should blame reading as though it's some kind of all-consuming actively that they couldn't possibly find the time for. If you want to read, you will.
Besides YA novels I also read a lot of memoirs. Good ones, though, and not the celebrity kind which are almost always pointless. I also read the occasional book about psychology. It's hard to pick a favorite, though. My all time favorite books are books I read a long time ago, which I like to reread from time to time.
If you had twenty-four hours, a time machine, and a limitless supply of money, what would you want to do?
Okay, so I've given this some thought, and I realized that money doesn't have much to do with what I'd want to do with a time machine. I wouldn't choose to do something grand, like install myself as emperor for a day or build my own space ship. I'd probably want to go back in time, not forward, and if I could see anything at all then I'd want to go back to Independence Hall and watch all those founding fathers thrash out the Declaration of Independence. That would be amazing, to be there with Adams and Jefferson and everyone else. I'd also love to meet George Washington--a personal hero of mine--but I'm not sure he ever made it to Independence Hall, since he was out fighting the British at the time. Or as we history buffs like to call them, the "lobsterbacks!"
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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Monthly Roundup - October
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