Interview with Jonathan Mills

Published 2018-02-07.
Who are your favorite authors?
I have many favourite authors, though certain ones I keep coming back to - Arthur Machen, Robert Aickman, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, Ursula Le Guin. I read a lot of Iain Banks and Franz Kafka when I was younger, and Roald Dahl and Beatrix Potter when I was younger still. And then there are authors of whose work I may only have read one novel, but it's one that has lodged firmly amongst my favourites - "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte, "True Grit" by Charles Portis, "The Book of the New Sun" by Gene Wolfe. Some writers just haunt your imagination, and refuse to leave.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I don't know if it was the first one I ever wrote, but I have a very clear memory of writing a story about cavemen when I was at primary school, about eight or nine years old. I think it was my garbled interpretation of what the teacher had told us about Stone Age life. I remember being very struck by the fact (is it a fact? I really should check this) that cavemen sometimes ate each other's brains, this being the kind of trivia that fascinated my eight-year-old self, and still fascinates me now, child that I am. Naturally, I drew an accompanying illustration.
What is your writing process?
I'm not sure I have a process. It's more of a chaotic fumble. I try to write every day - I think this is important, even if it's just for five minutes - and to think carefully about where the story is going. Of course, it never works out quite the way you expect, but that's part of the fun (though, thinking about it, I'm not sure I'd call writing "fun" exactly, though it can be immensely rewarding). I keep notebooks, and when I'm stuck for ideas I go back to them and see what's in there. The best ideas are usually the ones that have been knocking around my head for months or years - if I can't stop thinking about something, then there's a good chance it's got legs. I'd really love an enormous blackboard, so I can plot out story / characters etc. on it, but alas I don't have a wall big enough. Or the money for a blackboard.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I'm not sure I can say that it's the first story I ever read, but I still have my childhood copy of "Tot Botot and His Little Flute" by Laura Cathon. It's a very simple story, about a young boy who is given a flute by his father, and goes off into the jungle to play it, and all the animals who come out to play when they hear it. The illustrations, by Arnold Lobel, are beautiful.
Describe your desk
My desk is full of clutter, as all good desks should be. Never trust anyone with an empty desk. It's got my notebooks on it, my PC, a dictionary which I use a lot, and a hole punch which I never use and can't remember now why I bought.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Somerset. I think it's influenced my writing a lot - I think about it every day. It's a beautiful county, one of contrasts - you have hill country like the Mendips and the Quantocks, and then there is the heathland of Exmoor. And the Somerset Levels are different again - low-lying, mysterious, a truly liminal landscape. It's full of history. There was a wooded valley near our house where I used to walk a lot, and it may not be the most famous patch of countryside in the world, but I love it, and in my imagination I'm always walking those hills. These days I live and work in London, but I'd like to return to that valley one day.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My most recent book, "The Widow's Thorn", is a sequel to my first, "The Witch of Glenaster". It picks up the story of Esther Lanark about a year after the events in the first book. There are dragons (quite a lot of them), shape-shifters, wraiths and some other unpleasant villains. And there's friendship, and some bravery, too.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I suppose escapism is a big part of the appeal of fiction, for writers as well as readers, and especially so in fantasy - but as the late Ursula Le Guin said, "Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don't we consider it their duty to escape? The moneylenders, the knownothings, the authoritarians have us all in prison; if we value the freedom of the mind and soul, if we're partisans of liberty, then it's our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can." Enough said.
What do your fans mean to you?
They mean an enormous amount. It's what's kept me going, honestly, the responses I've had from people I've never met, and may never meet, telling me they've enjoyed my work. They've spent their hard-earned money on an unknown author, have taken a chance and read my stories, and I find that incredibly powerful and moving. So a massive thank you to them, and to anyone who takes a chance on my work in the future.
What are you working on next?
As well as writing the third and final part of the Glenaster Chronicles - the sequel to "The Widow's Thorn" and "The Witch of Glenaster" - I'm also working on some short stories, which are quite different in tone and content. I hope they'll see the light sooner or later, and I sometimes publish my shorter work on my blog. So I'm keeping busy.
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Books by This Author

The Ghosts of Glenaster
Series: The Glenaster Chronicles. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 83,680. Language: English. Published: September 9, 2019. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
Thomas Taper has returned from the nameless lands - yet a shadow hangs over him, and over the empire, as news arrives from the capital that the emperor is dead. Many people covet the crown, but none are more dangerous than Lord Anguis, a sorcerer from the edges of the known world. As the awful truth about him begins to emerge, a lord from a forgotten house may hold the key to saving the empire...
The Widow's Thorn
Series: The Glenaster Chronicles. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 70,080. Language: English. Published: February 3, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
Nearly a year has passed since Esther Lanark fought the Witch of Glenaster, but she is still not safe. As ward of the empire's most powerful man, she is effectively a prisoner, until an old friend appears, and tells her that Magnus, her brother, may still be alive - and that she is in greater danger now than ever. Who can she trust, and how will she escape, when so many people want her dead?
The Witch of Glenaster
Series: The Glenaster Chronicles. Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 83,370. Language: English. Published: January 31, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
When a young guardsman appears at their door late one night, Esther Lanark and her family are thrown into a world of fear, war, and ancient, dark magic, a world where firedrakes ravage the land, strange shadowmen stalk the woods, and where a witch from the far north has awoken from her long sleep, to wreak her revenge on the old empire.