Interview with JM VanZuiden

Published 2020-09-22.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
After showing my wonderful wife, Ayla, the first five chapters, I was surprised by her response, being a very critical reader and having a dislike of fantasy fiction. Her reaction encouraged me to continue, and the idea began to form of publishing this work as a creative platform to provide regular people with insight into the mind of us damaged warriors.
What's the story behind your latest book?
The Shadows of Illyria series began in a truly bizarre way. I am an Iraq War combat veteran and had begun receiving treatment for PTSD at the VA's Vet Center. One day, my Therapist suggested finding something I enjoy that I could do when I found myself dealing with the haunting memories of war. I have written for years and always found joy in doing so, especially as a means of expressing my thoughts more clearly. I combined these ideas into a project to express the feelings that myself and so many others experience both during the fight, and the lasting effects afterward. From this simple concept, I began writing the first novel and was amazed at how therapeutic it proved to be and how easily the story developed as I wrote, despite being a work of fiction and having never story-boarded any of it.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I sincerely enjoy knowing someone else found my writing meaningful and entertaining.
What are you working on next?
I plan to write two more Shadows of Illyria: Tales from the Realm short stories before this fall. Additionally, I have an entirely unrelated short story I intend to publish very soon. After that, I will be writing the second novel for the Shadows of Illyria novel series.
Who are your favorite authors?
I actually enjoy many authors so I will just name a few: Timothy Zahn, Joseph Conrad, JRR Tolkien
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
My wife.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Most of my free time is dedicated to my family.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes. In sixth grade, I decided to write a novel. It was fantasy fiction though it was certainly generic and heavily cliched. However, my teacher was very impressed and I did manage to write nearly 300 pages.
What is your writing process?
Honestly, I don't have one. I just get an idea in my head, pick up my laptop, and write. I do not storyboard or think it through, I simply let the words flow from my mind. I do, however, take notes to help me keep track of characters, locations, and times.
How do you approach cover design?
I spent hours googling fantasy fiction related images, relying heavily on Devient Art. Eventually, an idea formed in my head and I went to work on the design. I refined the image three times afterward.
What do you read for pleasure?
I mostly do research reading on whatever topic currently holds my interest. I will occasionally pick up a proper novel and read but it has to grab my attention. I read around ten novels a year, everything else is research reading.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Kindle
Describe your desk
Wherever I happen to be sitting with my laptop.
When did you first start writing?
I've written as far back as I can remember but my first serious attempt came in 6th grade when I wrote a traditional fantasy novella in the 200+ word range. In subsequent years, my pen touched paper spuriously with a handful of notable short stories through my teens and early twenties. My focus on writing would not return again until 2017.
What do your fans mean to you?
Fans provide additional impetus to continue this journey. Truthfully, I would write with or without fans but it is they who provide the motivation I need focus and move forward.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Serendipity, I suppose, lol. Truthfully, I discover books mostly at random whether it be a Kindle suggestion, a recommendation from a friend, or any number of other random encounters.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
This will sound horribly sedated but the oldest book I recollect is the "original" Wizard of Oz. The impact was powerful and lasting as it showed me an important fact; the book is often MUCH better than the movie and that movies can depart from the book in dramatic ways. This was especially notable as like most children who grew-up in the post-industrial west, the classic movie holds a special place in my heart. Yet, the book was that much better... and different.
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Books by This Author

Seven Ways
Price: Free! Words: 160. Language: English. Published: September 28, 2019. Categories: Poetry » Themes & motifs » Love
A simple poem in a classical rhyming style expressing the things I love most about my wife.
The Wretched
Price: Free! Words: 5,760. Language: English. Published: August 6, 2019. Categories: Fiction » Horror » Undead
In the near future, the remnants of civilization march toward their bitter end amid the ruined monuments of man's past glory, ever fearful of the Wretched, a plague upon humanity that has infected the one hope that had remained; the children.
Al-Dora
Price: Free! Words: 2,680. Language: American English. Published: August 15, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Psychological thriller, Fiction » Horror » General
Based on a fictionalized true story, this war horror/thriller takes place in the Al-Dora neighborhood of southern Baghdad, during the intense fighting in Iraq of 2004.
Shadows of Illyria: Draken Slayer
Price: Free! Words: 3,130. Language: English. Published: April 25, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Dark
(5.00 from 1 review)
Draken Slayer is a dark fantasy fiction short story, part of the Shadows of Illyria Series. Written by author JM VanZuiden, the Shadows of Illyria Series is a unique twist on fantasy fiction, incorporating his real-world combat experience into the characters and events of an epic fantasy world.