Interview with Jay Michael Jones

When did you first start writing?
I literally cannot recall a time when I wasn't storytelling. My first memory was realizing I was telling a story to my dad and a sister. I wrote little stories all through school but began seriously working on the Flight of the Armada series back in 2001.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I was frustrated at the double-edged sword of established publishing - "We want something new, unusual, outside-the-box for our readers" in the submission guidelines became "Thank you but your work is not the kind of thing we publish or what our readers have come to expect" when the rejection slip came back. I knew what kind of stories I wanted to tell and I knew what people wanted to read BECAUSE I ASKED THEM. I had beta readers who read my books as I wrote and gave me great feedback. One of them told me "This is the kind of stuff I would like to read more often, but publishers always follow the same boring formula. You don't." That sealed it.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
I am able to get my work out there so people can enjoy it. Face it, most publishers balk at the phrase "a 26-book science fiction romance series." Vabella Publishing has taken on the challenge of printing the whole series, and we're only up to Book Two: Noble Hour with it. But with Smashwords I can go ahead and turn out books at my pace without having to worry much about cover art or type size or pricing. People can read it all without breaking the bank. Win/win.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I love storytelling; creating a character and fully exploring why he is what he is. Then I put him into a situation (or maybe his character has arisen by necessity from the situation) and I follow what he does. Many times I don't feel like I'm writing, as much as I feel like I'm taking dictation from that place inside me that insists on reporting a scene. Creating a world is a big kick for me, and knowing people actually enjoy the characters and situations and plot lines that I created is just the biggest high in the world.
What do your fans mean to you?
They mean everything. I could sit and tell myself stories all day long but it's the feedback, the honest responses and questions that often lead to a deeper exploration of the story for me. Sometimes fans will make an observation or ask a question that didn't occur to me, and it has lead to some really wonderful insights and story development. I'm just the bone and muscle; fans are the life's-blood of my work. I might have stopped at Book 18 but my fans said "no, we want more" and I always do what is in my blood to do.
Who are your favorite authors?
J.R.R.Tolkien of course; J.K. Rowling of course; Dick Francis of -- Wah?? Yes, Dick Francis is the only mystery writer I've ever enjoyed. Sometimes I have Francis weekends where I curl up with a drink and a stack of Dick Francis novels and enjoy the hell out of them. I'm sorry to admit I don't read a whole lot these days, namely because I've been busy writing.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
If you're looking for an answer like "to work on my next novel!" you're going to be disappointed by my lack of gushy enthusiasm. I'd work on my next novel in bed if I needed to, so getting out of bed is not necessarily a requirement for creativity. My children are all grown and out on adventures of their own, so the inspiration to help them get ready for the day is not there. I don't always have to set the alarm clock when I leave the house for my for-pay job. I guess the main inspiration is, I get up to go to the bathroom and while I'm up, I may as well pour a cup of coffee for myself and answer the siren call of the keyboard. There it is. I get up to pee. Sorry if that's less than inspiring.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Working at my for-pay job; puttering around the house playing Mr. Fixit; cruising the Internet and wasting an unreasonable amount of time on Facebook and Reddit. I used to draw an online comic but I can no longer grip a pen for long thanks to rheumatoid arthritis, which I've had since 13. Oh, and I avidly watch Downton Abbey, the Avengers, The Daily Show and the Colbert Report. Yes, I do leisure right.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I didn't write back when I was three and started making up stories, so I don't really count it. I suppose the first one that really stuck was when I was given an assignment in the eighth grade to write a one-act play for English class. Everyone else wrote blatant rip-offs of Scooby-Doo episodes with all their friends as the heroes, but independent me had to make up something of my own. It was set in a boarding school so I would have a reason not to include adults in my story (where were the parents of the Scooby Gang? That always used to bug me. Were they offed? Did they not care? I should have written about that, come to think of it.) I liked my story, it was a slice-of-life comedy. My schoolmates hated it ("we don't know any of them, we're bored, you could have at least included Bobby Sherman" ??! Yeah, I know) but my teacher liked it and encouraged me to keep writing. I did and some of those same characters have recurring roles in the Armada series.
What is your writing process?
I try to make a general outline, marking where I want to end up and what kind of key scenes are needed to move the story toward that ending. Then I develop the outline further to make it into a cohesive plotlines. Then comes the real fun - writing the scenes. Sometimes I go off into tangents, letting the characters and action go wherever they want to go. If I can get them to naturally stay on the outline path, great but even if I don't, I can go back and decide whether to keep it or edit it to fit. Sometimes I have to simply cut out a really nifty scenes because it simply doesn't work. Some of these get clipped and stored elsewhere. I have a couple of full-length novels on file which will never be included in the main work but might work as a separate piece of fiction.
I also develop each character as much as I can. Even characters who are to show up only once gets the treatment because you never know, you might need someone later and voila, you already have this one developed and ready to show up again. Everyone has his or her own reasons for the actions they take; everyone has a childhood, a past, a personal narrative. Just because it isn't described in the main story, doesn't mean a character can just show up and display his one dimension and then disappear.
I research (thank the God of All for the Internet, Google and Wikipedia! Huzzah!) and try to make as reasonably close to being technically accurate as I can. Remember, I'm a fiction writer, not a science writer. I try to keep things real and believable but I also bear in mind, if my readers don't want to slog through paragraph after paragraph of science-proven facts, I sure as hell don't want to have to write it. I go for the story first and foremost, then try to figure out if it's all b.s. or not.

Then I edit the living crap out of the story, literally. I tear through it searching and destroying poor grammar, poor sentence structure, poor plot development, sloppy character actions, and other offenses until I get what I want. It may take me a dozen or more edit sessions but I work at it until the bell goes off in my head that says "it reads right." Sometimes the bell makes a faint ding and I know there's more I need to do. Sometimes it's a klaxon alarm, I'm sorry to say.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in rural Oklahoma, the very buckle of the Bible Belt, the sixth child of part-Caucasian, part Muskogee Creek Indians. We were dirt poor but we were very intelligent, and were expected since childhood to attend college when we grew up. We learned manners and especially, how to get along with people. We may not have exactly fit in with a given social set, but we could at least look natural in the crowd.
As the youngest of six, I had the disadvantage to never have things explained to me, like religion or how we were related to Whatshisname, or fundamentals of the social dynamics. I suppose it was expected that either one of my parents or one of my siblings would explain basics or that I would just attain understanding by osmosis or some damn thing. I spent a lot of time to myself, so I told myself stories to ease the loneliness.
I was bullied in the third and fourth grade by my teacher - same teacher both years - because she was a sociopath who chose one child out of each class to target. I still don't know why. But from her I learned how the same person I saw as evil and vindictive and merciless, could be viewed as 'nice' and 'dedicated' by others. I learned about disguised maleficence from a master, and to this day I usually use Mrs. Perryman as the starter boogeyman for any scene that needs the face of hate.
I also learned about love and sacrifice and admirable dignity in the face of crushing burden, from my beloved mother. I learned about hope and weakness and sudden loss from my father.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I usually discover e-books through the recommendations of friends. I seldom go hunting for books to read.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
The first I ever read? No. But the first story I remember having read to me, and which I constantly demanded my sister Ginny bring home from school to read to me, was Billy and Blaze. The impact it had was that I wanted to write stories like that, stories that would make someone want to hear/read it again and again.
How do you approach cover design?
I want it bold and memorable. In the Armada series every book's front cover features The Eye, which a graphic design friend of mine found for me. There's part of a planet in front of The Eye, and it is here that I usually put something to do with the story - a crack across the world for A Crack in the Facade, or a desolate-looking structure for Adrift on an Outpost. For Fury in the Dark of Space, a pivotal point of the series, the cover is completely black save for the yellow Eye in the center. It makes a glorious impact. That's what I want - a recognizable icon readers will recognize, coupled with an indication of content. There are a couple of books where I have nothing different but the title, but that is only because I couldn't get the kind of picture I really wanted.

Covers hold me up more than anything else. I already have the whole series written - it's just the final edits and the damn covers that slow me down. What can you do - covers often sell the book, anyone in the publishing world will tell you that.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
1. American Gods by Neil Gaiman. What a deep, intelligent and inspiring novel of spirituality and the mashup of gods and fables. Gaiman was terrific as a graphic novel writer but his prose work just leaves me on the floor in admiration.
2. Return of the King by JRR Tolkien. All the loose threads and intricate plotlines of this already fascinating trilogy are knitted together in the final book, written with such a grand and dignified bearing. When I need to remind myself what a gifted writer can do, I reach for Tolkien.
3. Bolt by Dick Francis. Just about any of his books would do, but Bolt is among the really good gut-grabbing, hair-pulling, gasp-inducing ('why didn't I see that coming, it was there all along') reads Mr. Francis put out. He was a former jockey (for the Queen of England, no less) who wrote more than just stories in racing settings. His painstaking research in different fields like painting and photography and sculpting and even meteorology was meticulous but always came out natural and interesting in his writing.
4. Pandora's Children by KL Lance. This is a well-crafted novel that starts out strong and rolls along until that moment when you realize it isn't just another science fiction post-apocalyptic story, but is able to use a plot twist here and a revelation there to keep you riveted where you are. No, I can't sleep, don't want to bother with eating; just let me find out what happens next. The fact that the sequel is just as good as the first and there are hint of a third book in the works, makes it all the better.
5. Goat Song by Brad Kessler. Kessler has a knack for finding the right words to put me in his shoes, to find complete sympathy in his predicaments, and to make a nonfiction work far more entertaining than a nonfiction has any right to be. The fact that it is about goats, one of my FAVORITE subjects, should not lessen its status as one of the best books out there.
Published 2014-01-19.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

14 A Whole Culture Awaits
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 99,270. Language: English. Published: January 1, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Space opera
Unexpected twists abound as the Thuringi people continue their struggle to survive. Marty Sheridan marches into the Shargassi stronghold of Kasah Galp to rescue Darien's kidnapped child. Athena Garin must leave her Thuringi father to live with her mother’s people on Chassiren, and Keleigh Shanaugh tricked into leaving Hunda for life on the Solenil – no longer in Darien's control.
13 Prisoner of Love
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 98,220. Language: English. Published: November 18, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Space opera
We are all prisoners of love in one way or the other. Love often places us in a prison in which we willingly shut the door and turn the key ourselves. Our sentence is never knowing how long the joy will last or the uncertainly how heavy the pain when it is gone. As the Thuringi people continue the struggle to reunite for the journey to Farcourt, love is tested in ways few ever anticipated.
12 Song of the Tarinade
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 98,380. Language: English. Published: June 3, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Space opera
Between Tradition and Invention lies uncharted social territory for the people of the Thuringi Armada. As circumstances create exciting new possibilities, even Hartin Medina finds you can teach an old dallah new tricks. Among the Known Worlds, Marty secretly flies for the Thuringi crown, thwarting the Shargassi and intriguing the members of the Stellar Council with the mystery of his origins.
11 Heart's Pain
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 103,500. Language: English. Published: July 2, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Space opera
The Armada of Thuringi ships continues to Earth where King Stuart's Thuringi scouts send badly needed supplies to the fleet. Gareth Duncan struggles to complete repairs to the main transportal so people can travel from fleet to Earth again. Things look hopeful for Thuringa at last, but then tragedy tends to strike when one least expects it.
10 Angst of the Silent Man
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 99,550. Language: English. Published: January 16, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Space opera
The Thuringi Armada continues its slow desperate journey to Earth. The spirit of Thuringi Warrior General Maranta Shanaugh resides in Marty Sheridan, which both hinders and helps the young Earthian. When Marty willingly becomes an emissary for King Stuart, Maranta realizes he can serve the crown again in this new life. Meanwhile, Darien makes a discovery that heals his bitter heart.
9 Trouble in the Dark
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 104,580. Language: English. Published: August 12, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Space opera
In the terrible aftermath of the Great Attack on the Thuringi Armada, Gareth and the Solenil crew are finally freed from enslavement by the Gharadee, malcontents still plot to overthrow King Stuart, Darien continues his lonely quest to distract the enemy, and the soul of Maranta Shanaugh joins with an Earthian child whose own talents promise to take him far, but not fast enough to suit Maranta.
8 The Reprobate
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 101,720. Language: English. Published: January 16, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Space opera, Fiction » Romance » Sci-fi
As the Lost Crew works to build a ship to return to the Armada, Erich and Glendon help Hartin control a political problem for the fleet. Stuart faces Ossili attacks, disinterested Earthian scientists, and a personal crisis no one foresees. Yjarnnah grows up on Senga under Queen Oriel’s guidance, Darien creates chaos along the wormholes and Sandan's interest in Carrol grows.
7 To Live Again
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 100,950. Language: English. Published: June 27, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Space opera, Fiction » Romance » Sci-fi
The Thuringi Armada limps through space, hampered by damaged ships and followed by a mysterious cadre of vessels. King Stuart Phillipi is unable to leave Earth without risk of losing his outpost to the Ossili. Gareth Duncan and the Solenil crew are slaves for the Gharadee. Darien outwits the Shargassi and gains a D’tai ally. Maranta Shanaugh makes a decision that will change history.
6 Adrift on an Outpost
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 112,440. Language: English. Published: April 28, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Space opera
Book 6 in the Flight of the Armada series. Enslaved by the Gharadee, Gareth struggles to keep his small crew alive. Darien sells addictive potions at outposts, convincing the Stellar Council worlds he has gone mad. Stuart and the scouts remain on Earth to guard their outpost and Spence reaches the Armada but cannot return to Earth yet. Carrol awaits the birth of Gareth's baby.
5 Fury in the Dark of Space
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 108,180. Language: English. Published: March 3, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Space opera, Fiction » Romance » Sci-fi
5th Book in the Flight of the Armada series. In a terrible combination of bad timing, selfish interests of malcontents and betrayal, the Armada is struck a terrible blow by an old enemy, the Shargassi. The course of history for Thuringa is forever altered as far-flung friends scramble to survive in hostile circumstances.
4 Alien Life Form
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 117,280. Language: English. Published: February 4, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Space opera
Book 4 “Alien Life Form” continues the Flight of the Armada series, with Stuart and Carrol Phillipi slowly fitting in at Michael’s school. As they make contacts with classmates, they learn as much about themselves as they do their friends. Back with the Armada, Asa Mennar continues to plot against the throne with other malcontents, spelling trouble for Aura and the royals.
0 Fields of Fire
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 129,780. Language: English. Published: December 18, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Space opera
The prequel to the Flight of the Armada series, Fields of Fire tells of the last days of the planet Thuringa, and the survivors who set out on the journey of their lives. The Thuringi depend on the power of the royal Phillipi family as they adjust to life in space, fighting off enemy ships and the uncertainty of which Known Worlds still befriend them and which will betray them.
3 A Crack in the Facade
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 108,250. Language: English. Published: October 23, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » General
The royal Phillipi family face the burden of duty in Book 3. Laying the groundwork for future contact, Stuart and Carrol attend Michael Sheldon's school where they are accepted but obviously 'not from around here.' Gareth constructs a transportal from Earth to the Armada. Darien and Echo continue their secret romance. Lycasis keeps the fleet safe but malcontents seek to undermine the crown.
2 Noble Hour
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 95,270. Language: English. Published: July 30, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » General
Once the scouts of Thuringa establish an outpost on Earth, Brent remains on behind to man the outpost while the other five return to the Armada to report. As Brent faces loneliness, native dangers and a threat by other aliens, Stuart returns to an unhappy marriage, Gareth and Carrol face disapproval of their romance and Darien is attracted to Glendon's daughter. Sounds like Brent's got it easy.
1 Flight of the Armada
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 119,890. Language: English. Published: July 17, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Fantasy
In "Unknown Territory" Earth is just a rest stop on the way to a future home for six Thuringi scouts in 1961. But mysterious habits and rituals of the natives amuse and confuse the starborn warriors, noblemen who have never heard of 'rock and roll' or 'oil rig'. Their first Earthian contact Michael Sheldon must balance introducing his world and protecting the advanced yet oddly naive newcomers.