Interview with J.A. Stowell

Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Little Critter books aside I'd have to say Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

If you haven't read it then you really should. I was 7 when I first read it (which was quite an undertaking considering the length and my age) but I'd watched a 20 minute cartoon about it and decided that I should read the book. Even at 7 years old, I knew that Pip was stupid for liking Estella and that Estella was only mean to him because of her particular raising.

I try and read Great Expectations at least once a year and the copy I have has highlighted sections and penned in annotations of my praise or annoyance. My take on the story is basically what goes around comes around. Anyway, you should read it.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I was 12 and it was a quite violent Zelda story. Two years later I discovered fanfiction.net and completed 2 more Zelda stories, started a spin-off vampire story and also a lengthy Pokémon story following Gary instead of Ash.

Don't judge me.
Who are your favorite authors?
Charles Dickens
Edgar Allan Poe (not all his work but he was a master in his genre)
James Patterson
Stephen King (not all his work but, like Poe, he's a master)
R.A. Salvatore
Robert Jordan
George R. R. Martin (sometimes)
What is your writing process?
Read this very carefully and try not to over-think it.
You'll need the following to complete J.A. Stowell's writing process:
1: A laptop/desktop
2: Energy drinks
3: Pandora radio set one of the following stations:
a. film scores (John Williams, Howard Shore, Hans Zimmer...)
b. Break of Reality
or, for the more hardcore action scenes,
c. Dubstep (Skrillex, Nero, Bassnectar... WARNING! ONLY for action scenes otherwise you might make your protagonist hurricane kick the love of his life after they share their first kiss. Dubstep'll make that happen, believe me).
4: Make sure it's after 9:00 pm and your 3 daughters have all gotten up 2 times each so they'll sleep and not bother you.
5: Write away.
and 6: Also... you might want to be wearing headphones... otherwise you'll wake up the aforementioned daughters during an action scene...

Actually, that was all bogus. Pandora can be helpful with setting a mood without having to YouTube anything specific and having a quiet area to write helps tremendously. I will point out one thing for helpful advice, though--if you're going to name your chapters, I suggest naming them after they're written. Naming them beforehand will have you trying to make sure the contents of the chapter line up with the chapter title.

Just trust me on that one.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
I absolutely love Smashwords.

I started out on Amazon with my first book and although it has perks for beginning authors, the, uh, non-perks, I guess, outweigh the actual perks. Like how $0.99 is the lowest they will allow you to sell. They offer 5 free promotional days every 3 months but only if you enroll in KDP select, which allows your book to be shared with Prime members but also binds your book solely to Amazon and not allowing it to be on other sites, like Smashwords, for instance.

I haven't been here long and I do know that Amazon has changed the book industry as the world knows it but by their rules. I appreciate their move to help indie authors but had I known about Smashwords from the get go I might not have dabbled in the great realm that is Amazon.com

I love how SW not only shows how many downloads you have but also how many libraries its in. I'm not successful yet but here's to hoping Smashwords is the cause of any future success.
What are you working on next?
Currently I'm juggling 3 different books. Jericho Johnson: The Cold War (book 3 of the series) is getting priority but the close second is Newton: The Misadventures of an English Scientist, which is a pirate novel I actually started before the first Jericho Johnson (long story). The last thing is a stand-alone novel that I'm playing close to the chest on, actually. All I can say now is the main character is a tortoise named Vladimir.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I've been making up stories ever since I can remember. No, not lies to my parents but actual character-driven dramas with as much detail as my five year old mind could muster. I already explained that the first story I actually wrote was a Zelda-themed story when I was 12 but all the years after that I was typing down almost anything that popped into my head.

I failed a math class in college because, since I didn't understand a single word the teacher was talking about, I started a hand-written fantasy story and ended up passing to the person next to me for feedback--who passed it to the next person, who passed it to the next person and so on. I ended up cranking out 3 full pages a class, deeming the contents "mini-sodes" and everyone in the class (except my teacher, of course, because that would've been awkward) was a fan of them.

That was the first time I had ever shared something I had written with anyone and got instant feedback because they were, well, sitting right next to me. I'd had a similar experience with fanfiction.net but not near as gratifying as the math class story because that was all online and I never met any of them. But having 30+ college students all telling me how they couldn't believe I'd left them hanging that bad or how they didn't see that coming or how they couldn't wait to see what was going to happen to their favorite character--all of that was awesome.

It's not for the attention, though. It's positive feedback about something you literally created on you own.

Hmm... I just realized that I didn't answer the question at all.
What do your fans mean to you?
Everything. To my knowledge, my fan base isn't very large but when I get feedback from an individual taking the time to tell me that they loved my book and couldn't wait for the next one, I get reinvigorated every single time.

Since I'm not famous and therefore not in this for money reasons, I have to say that my fans are the most important thing about my meager career.
Can you tell us about any changes that might be featured in Jericho Johnson: The Cold War?
Without giving away major plot points? Of course I can.

The first two JJ novels were told first-person through Jericho's perspective and also are set in past tense, like he's telling the reader something that's already happened with the occasional chapter here or there showing the reader just that. It didn't start off that way and was told first-person real-time, like you were there with him but I changed that after the first chapter because, well, I always thought that was unrealistic. (Not knocking the best-selling novels that feature that writing style, The Hunger Games and Maximum Ride, to name a few, but I just couldn't make myself write it that way).

The Cold War will feature the same writing style as its predecessors but not near as much. I can't exactly tell you why without giving away those plot points I mentioned but I will say that about half of the book will be first-person through Jericho's perspective and the other half will be third-person real-time and follow other characters besides Jericho such as Blu, Sam, Piper and Archimedes. I sectioned Jericho Johnson: Fixed & Ticked into parts which helped tremendously and that will be back for sure in The Cold War.

I am, though, doing away with chapter numbers in this upcoming book, choosing instead to start each chapter off with the name of the character the reader will be following in the upcoming pages. I've seen this done in a book or two before and didn't get why--until I started a book with multiple storylines taking place in three different parts of the globe thousands of miles away from each other, that is. Also since I'm employing third-person more in The Cold War I didn't want there to be any confusion when there is a switch of characters (or hemispheres), leaving the reader to basically know up front. If you've read a book like this then you'll understand some of the feelings associated with it. Such as hitting a chapter and sighing in relief when you see the name of the character who left you hanging thirty pages back.

All in all, The Cold War is going to be an undertaking in every way for me. I'm very excited about this chapter in the Jericho series and I think the small fan base will be blown away by it.
Last question: Where did Jericho Johnson come from?
Why'd you save that for last? I mean, there's a long and short answer to that.

Since I've rambled on for the last nine questions I'll shorten this one.

The first novel I actually began writing was Newton: The Misadventures Of An English Scientist, the pirate book set in 1664 featuring Isaac Newton as the main character who, by a case of mistaken identity, is kidnapped by pirates. A lot transpires on the high seas but when the group finally manages to get to Scotland, they meet a strange man on the beach. I wanted this to be a pirate novel that broke the rules and would be remembered for ages to come so I added something completely off the wall--

A time-traveler from the year 2012 on the beach taking pictures with a digital camera.

The exchange in the book takes place between Newton and Jericho and, since the novel was actually an action/comedy, the humor originates from the fact that Newton just thinks the man is odd while the reader knows just exactly where the man is from.

I was so enthralled by this notion that I assigned the time-traveler a name and, for good measure, a short back story...

...which turned into a novel. If you don't believe me then read the first JJ book and see the exchange for yourself.

So that's the origin of Jericho. Actually, his name came from one of my previous short stories that never saw the light of day and it was a girl named Jericho Johnson in that one.

Don't you dare laugh.
Published 2014-02-04.
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