Hullo dear readers, and happy last Monday of the month! Since today is the last Monday, that means we hold an author Q&A, and today’s guest is Patrick Johns, author of the fascinating fantasy tale, Junkland. He offers a lot of insight and encouragement for those wishing to publish.
Keep reading to see his answers to nine questions about his writing life!
- When did you start writing seriously? What inspired you to start writing?
I went to see Aladdin on Broadway in January 2016. Disney stories have always been a strong influence on my storytelling, but Aladdin has been my favorite and has stuck with me all these years. It was different when I saw it this time, however. Instead of seeing a fun, fairy tale Disney story, I saw a young man struggling; he wanted something greater than himself, and to prove his worth.
When I saw this play, I was working at a large engineering firm as a systems engineer writing technical documents. I was struggling to find my direction because I knew the engineering lifestyle wasn’t for me; I did not want to work at this engineering firm for the rest of my life. I wanted to write, but I did not know how, or where, to start. Watching this play, I felt a connection with Aladdin. He, too, was a young man who had dreams, but didn’t know how to reach them. Watching Aladdin change his path on the stage made me realize that the path I was currently on wasn’t going to take me anywhere fulfilling. I wanted something greater, something that would prove my worth.
After I saw Aladdin, I was inspired to follow my dream of writing and to believe in myself to make a change in my life. I knew instantly that I needed to write a story with a protagonist who shared the same beliefs as Aladdin did, as I did—a relatable character to all young professionals. My protagonist in Junkland was a young man who dreamed of becoming a knight in the royal castle and leaving his unfulfilling life of working in his father’s shop behind. He was a character with dreams. He believed in himself and pursued his passion, even when he was faced with obstacles that tried to block his way to greatness. This was the style of writing and type of message I knew I was meant to share with the world.
It was as simple as seeing a Broadway play of one of my favorite stories that made me realize working in a large firm wasn’t for me. I do not want to solve problems in the real world; I want to solve problems in the worlds that I create.
What are some challenges you have faced through the writing/publishing experience?
Fear of the unknown. You’re spending hours of your free time writing when you could be out with your friends, working out, or perhaps even doing something more productive. But no, you chose to write. And it’s the fear of not knowing whether your valuable time spent on your precious baby will be worth it in the long run. Questions begin to pile into your head: Will anyone even read my book? Will I reach my personal goals? Will I make any money? Will people laugh in my face and ask me what the heck I’m doing?
It’s not an easy path to take, and that’s why many choose not to go down it. All the responses to the questions above could be the answers you are dreading to hear. So, you must really love what you write because if it does turn out that you make no money, fail in developing a fan base, never find that publisher, never make it to the big screen, well then, in the end, it was all worth it because you wrote something that was true to you. And more importantly, you had fun doing it.
Who is the one author (living or dead) you would love to co-write a book with, and why?
Ah, Michael Crichton (may he rest in peace). This guy is a genius! He’s the author of my favorite book/movie, Jurassic Park. He also wrote other wild adventures such as Next, Westworld, The Lost World, and Prey. I love how he takes science and mixes it with a wild adventure that feels like it could actually happen in real life; I’m sure there’s a real life Jurassic Park in the making as I type this silly line. Michael Crichton does such a great job creating page-turning thrillers that have your heart racing from start to finish.
Out of all the characters you have created, who is your favorite?
I always love Frayel. He’s a small, minor character in Junkland. I like him because he’s so minor to the story, but yet, memorable. He’s a farmer who just so happens to be good friends with Jahrys’s (the protagonist) father. He’s always asking Jahrys if he’s found a lady yet, trying to give him some girl advice. He loves talking about his own love, Astonia, trying to make her as happy as possible by buying her bird houses. For me, a good story consists of well-developed minor characters. They are the ones adding all the spice for the protagonist as he journeys through his story.
How do you come up with story ideas?
By watching and reading things that really inspire me.
I read an article which talked about the idea that originality does not exist. And this opened my eyes with my song and story writing. Originality doesn’t exist because everyone is influenced by someone before them. You need to learn from the people you admire in order to create something new. And by doing this, you learn the things you love and the things you hate. This allows you to take the things you agree upon and enjoy in a story and to avoid the things you don’t like when developing your own writing voice. In the end, your writing voice will be a mixture from all of your inspirations.
For Junkland, I’ve had inspiration coming from Aladdin, Wall-E, Ghostbusters, Frozen, Star Wars, A Song of Ice and Fire, Lord of the Rings, A Wheel of Time, and the list goes on and on. Putting the inspiration from my favorite films and books all together created my idea for Junkland. But it didn’t happen all at once. These inspirations and ideas came as the story grew.
The idea of Junkland popped in my head one day when I was walking in a stairwell, and I saw an emergency light that reminded me of a Disney character. It had two cute, big, round eyes, and a small squared body. I took a picture of this emergency light, sat down, and thought, what kind of setting do I see this character in? Instantly, I thought of Wall-E in a junk land type setting. Next, I thought of my favorite story, Aladdin. Next thing you know, a just-for-fun story that was supposed to be around thirty pages turned into a 440-page epic fantasy novel with more books to come in the series.
Do you listen to music when writing? If so, do you have a specific genre/artist?
As much as I would love to obtain this wonderful skill someday, I was never one to listen to music while I worked. I failed at it while studying in university, and I still struggle with this perplex thing called multitasking. I usually need complete silence when I work.
However, I’ve managed to do it every once in a while. One song that really inspired me and pushed me forward while writing, Junkland, was ‘A Whole New World’. If I was ever stuck, I would listen to this song and it would provide the feelings I needed to get the writing juices flowing. Junkland has a strong influence from Disney fairy tale type movies. So I put together a playlist with songs from Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Hercules, etc.
For my second book, The Lost Soul, there’s a different feel to this story when compared to Junkland. It’s about feeling lost when trying to fit in a world that doesn’t want you. The movie that really influenced this book was The Greatest Showman. Every time I feel like my creativity is lacking, I will play the entire soundtrack, and wow is it a powerful soundtrack to help the feels flow strong.
If you were a character in a book, how would you be described?
I think my grandma described me in the best way: an emotional ball. Yes. I am a ball of emotion. I think if I was a character in a book, and the reader could get a glimpse inside my head, they’d be hit with a giant rollercoaster ride of thoughts and emotion. I’m sure they would wonder how one person could feel so many things at one time. It’s my blessing, and also my curse. I like to think that’s what makes me a strong writer: being aware of my emotions and the emotions of others.
What can you tell us about your next writing project?
I have been working on The Lost Soul, the second book in The Hoarding series, since 2017. This book takes place right after the events in Junkland. Why has this book taken me so long to write you ask? This thing has become a monster! It’s huge! The world and the characters have expanded beyond what I had imagined. The word count and page count grew out of control. As I am nearing the end (I hope!) I am beginning to think this has been two books I have been writing instead of one. But come this Fall of 2020, whether it’s one full book or two, something will be finished!
On the side of writing The Lost Soul, I am writing a poetry book called Stages of a Breakup. Since 2010, I’ve been writing song lyrics. It was my way of coping with breakups and change during my life. In 2018, I decided to go back down memory lane and collect all of these song lyrics from the past ten years. I have been working hard changing these song lyrics into poems and compiling them into a series of poetry books under the title of Stages of a Breakup.
I have also started my own online literary magazine called The Kraken’s Spire. Here we create a comfortable environment for emerging writers and artists to submit their work. If anyone is interested, please submit!
Do you have any advice for other writers wishing to self-publish?
Write from start to finish. Don’t look back; it’s the only way you will finish a book.
I was never good at English. I never thought I would write a book. I didn’t know the tools. I never learned any of this. I just did it. And the most important thing I learned was: write from start to finish.
I’ve met great writers, writers better than myself, who never wrote a book because they could never push through until the end. Your writing will be terrible. Your first draft will be AWFUL. My first book had fifteen drafts. Harry Potter had five drafts. J.K. Rowling revealed the entire plot of the series in her first draft, and she had to rewrite the entire thing. So just be free and write and be creative! But make sure you see your beginning and you see your end.
Which comes to my next point, you can always edit what you’ve written, but you cannot edit blank pages. So think of a beginning, a middle, an end, and then START! Everything between point A and point Z will be filled in as you continue towards point Z. But if you never see that end, you will never know what you’re pushing towards.
Specifically, for self-publishing, do your research and make sure you take the right approach for yourself when deciding between self-publishing and traditional publishing. There’s no right or wrong answer. Both routes have their pros and cons.
With self-publishing, you are the boss. You have to decide everything and do everything on your own. For me, I like being my own boss and making the final decisions. You don’t get that with traditional publishing. Furthermore, I wanted my book out as soon as possible. I didn’t want to wait a potential year, or more, to find a traditional publisher and waste all of that precious time when my story could already be shared with the world.
That being said, you should try both approaches. Self-publish one book and then try traditionally publishing your second book. This will make yourself more broad with knowledge of the publishing industry and also expand your market.
About the Author:
Patrick Johns is a wordsmith who grew up in Ramsey, New Jersey, where he would play for hours in his basement with his dinosaurs, and out back in the woods with his imaginary friends in imaginary worlds. He has been writing since he was young–creating worlds and drawing the made-up characters within them, but his imagination was put on hold while in college. Patrick is a graduate from Virginia Tech (Go Hokies!), with a degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering and a second degree in Mathematics. While he is doing very well, he never forgot his imaginary friends, and always imagined bringing their world to life in a novel. Upon graduation, Patrick’s wonderful parents took him to see Aladdin on Broadway, one of his favorite childhood stories. And yes, it is his dream to one day soar high into a diamond sky on a magic carpet, singing a beautiful duet with someone he just met and fell madly in love with! After the play, Patrick’s creativity sparked and he started writing to make this dream come true–as well as his childhood dreams of imaginary worlds. Junkland is his first novel, now available on Amazon. The second novel in The Hoarding series is underway, with the third soon to follow.
Books By The Author: