Congratulations on your new release and welcome, John!
As I hope everyone knows, your fantasy novel Starfinder is being released today. Tell us a little bit about it and why you chose to write a young adult novel.
Starfinder is a coming of age novel that combines mythology and technology in a sort of Jules Verne inspired adventure story. Ostensibly it’s about two young friends, Moth and Fiona, and how their lives get turned upside down when they find the item mentioned in the title—the Starfinder. But it’s not just their coming of age story—it’s humankind’s as well. Moth and Fiona live in a world where technology is changing everything, displacing old traditions with new, man-made wonders. In that sense it’s a very forward-looking book, because technology isn’t painted as something dark or forbidding. But the mythology in the book sort of symbolizes our past as humans—all those fairy tales we grew up with, and how they stick with us even though we as a race are striving to move forward.I’ve had the desire to write a YA novel for years. There’s no telling exactly why I chose this particular time to write one, except to say that I finally felt ready. I have a child of my own now, and that’s one of those life-altering events that shifted the way I see the world. Suddenly everything seemed magical again. I love that about YA stories—they can be magical in ways more adult novels can’t. Prior to Starfinder, all of my books had a dark, serious undertone to them. Starfinder has some of that too, but overall it’s a more positive book. I didn’t want to create a bleak landscape this time. I wanted one filled with wonder.
Tell us what the future holds for the Skylords series.
I’ve contracted for two more after Starfinder, the second of which will be called Skyknight. The third one has a name I’m not revealing yet. We’re going to see a lot more of the two main characters, of course, and a lot more of their world. Moth is finally going to grow up a bit more as well. He’ll get more responsibilities, and some of his long time wishes granted as well. I won’t go too much into it because none of this will make sense to someone who hasn’t read Starfinder, but the war between humanity and the Skylords is going to intensify. That’s mostly what the arc of the series will be about.
You also have two other successful epic fantasy series, the Lukien Trilogy and Tyrants and Kings. What’s the main theme for each series?I try to make each book about something more than just its obvious plot. I like to attach a one word theme to each book if possible, and keep that theme in mind as I write it. It’s hard, though, to come up with an over-arching theme for each series. I suppose if I had to pick one for the Tyrants and Kings book, it would be war. Those books have a lot of battles and intrigue, armies on the march, that sort of stuff. The Lukien books are a bit more “internal,” because they focus more on a group of characters, notably Lukien, the Bronze Knight. They touch a lot on ideas of life after death, spirits, magic, and over-coming personal problems. I think the Lukien books are more psychological than the Tyrants and Kings books. But that makes sense because I was very much into psychology when I wrote them. It’s funny to look back and reread my old stuff, because it reminds me where my head was at back then.
What is the most challenging part of being a writer?
The challenges have changed over the years. Back when I started I might have said that the toughest part was the isolation, or marketing, or dealing with reviews, or something else. Now, though, the toughest part has got to be the state of publishing in general. I hate to be a downer, but folks just aren’t reading as much as they used to, and that’s not likely to change. If anything it will probably get worse. I talk about this over at my blog from time to time, but the trend lines just don’t look that great, especially for books about boys and for boys. And the thing is, I know I’m part of the problem myself, because I love electronic media. I have an iPod, Netflix, blackberry, DVR, Blu-Ray, Wii, everything. And when I’m doing any of that the one thing I’m not doing is reading a book. So that keeps me up at night, because it’s bigger than just myself. I care a lot less about myself than I used to, but I do care what kind of world we’re creating.
What is your writing schedule like?
These days it all revolves around my son. He’s five, and ever since he was born it’s been an adjustment. I used to think, back before he was born, that I’d still be able to do whatever I wanted once he was here. I had this image that he’d be in his swing as a newborn and I’d be typing away at the kitchen table. That didn’t happen. So now I write when he’s at school. I get him out of the house in the morning and pick him up in the afternoon, and in between I get as much done as I can. It’s not glamorous at all. Now I’m more jealous about my alone time than I ever was, because it’s so valuable to me. But I just bought a tiny little place way up in the Adirondacks, so I’m hoping I can get up there to write sometimes.
Here’s a multi-part reading question. Do you have a favourite genre that you read? What are you reading now? Do you have a favourite author or authors that inspire you?
First, let me say that I’m inspired by everything. Anything that’s good finds its way into my work somehow. And it doesn’t have to be just books, either. It can be movies, politics, a video game, really anything. I don’t have a favorite genre anymore, but if I did I’d have to say straight, old-fashioned fantasy. But I read all kinds of different things, even cookbooks. The next book I’m going to start, for example, is “The Hardball Handbook” by Chris Matthews. I’m also a big fan of memoirs. Not memoirs of famous people, by the way, but regular folks, people no one ever heard of before they published their books. That’s the kind of stuff that interests me—stories about real, normal, everyday people.
If you could go back in time and tell yourself one thing, what would it be?
I’d probably tell myself not to worry so much. My teacher in third grade was the first person ever to peg me as a worrier. I’ve gotten better over the years, but it’s still tough. The thing about worrying, though, is that nothing ever happens! I wish I could go back in time, put my arm around my own shoulder and say, “Listen pal, don’t sweat it. I’ve been to the future and all that crap you’re worrying about isn’t going to happen. You’re going to be fine. Better than fine. So just live your life.” That’s it. Simple advice. And maybe this stuff about the drop off in readers won’t happen either. Anthony Hopkins once said the shortest prayer in the world is “F*** it.” You just shrug your shoulders and say “F*** it.” I like that.
This one is for our urban fantasy and paranormal readers. If you could be any paranormal creature which one would you be and why?
Cool question. I actually thought this over for a while before answering, because I was wondering if my initial answer would change. It didn’t. I’d be a ghost. Partly because I’m fascinated with the idea of life after death. I love the idea of living forever. But it’s also because I’m pretty private and a ghost can move around quietly without being seen. The spy in me likes that idea. When I was younger I might have said “werewolf,” because I think they’re kind of cool too, but now I’d have to say ghost.
What plans do you have the future?
Writing-wise, I have a lot on my plate, which I’m glad about. As I’ve already mentioned I have two more Skylords books to write. I’m also going back to the Lukien character and doing more books about him. He’s the one character that I’ve done that makes me want to continue his story, because he’s become sort of an archetypal fantasy figure, and immortal knight with a possessed sword, sort of doom-haunted and unsure of himself, and with a death wish. He’s a lot of fun. I’m also hoping to do some writing about Disneyworld for a website/podcast that I visit. That would be something to do just for fun, because I’m kind of a geek about Disney. Not sure yet how that’s going to pan out, though.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Yeah, as a matter of fact I’d like to take this time to thank you Doug, and all the other bloggers out there who’ve mentioned Starfinder on their sites. Some have reviewed it, some invited me for guest posts, some posted the cover, and it’s all good. I really appreciate it. I’m a midlist author, so when bloggers mention one of my books it really does help me get the word out. So all of you out there—you know who you are—thanks.
John thanks for being here and sharing your time and thoughts. It's a pleasure. OK readers here’s your chance to pose a question for John, leave a comment or just say hello.
The draw for a copy of Starfinder will be open until Sunday at midnight. On Monday, May 11, I will randomly select one lucky name from among the commenters. If you blog about the draw come back and leave a link and I will add another chance for you in the virtual hat.You can visit John Marco at his website or at The Bastion his personal blog.