Welcome back, Patrick! To start off, tell us a little bit about yourself!
Thanks for having me back! I’m an author of fantasy books and poetry. But I have a pretty unusual background for a writer. I’m from Ramsey, New Jersey, but went off to Virginia Tech to study industrial and systems engineering and mathematics. After graduating, I worked for three years as a systems engineer for a large engineering firm. This job was everyone else’s dream…but mine. During this time, I discovered my true passion was writing; I didn’t want to solve problems in the real world, I wanted to solve problems in the worlds that I create. So I made it my goal to publish my first book and leave my engineering job behind. After finishing Junkland, the first book in The Hoarding series, I moved to Spain to teach English. I lived in Cadiz for two years, but now, I’m currently residing in Galicia (which has the best sea food I’ve ever had in my life). Here I have time to work on my writing projects while opening my eyes to new wonders which help improve my writing.
What has it been like writing while living as an au pair in Spain?
I’m actually here in Spain as an Auxiliar de Conversacion (Conversation Assistant). But I was an au pair in Santander, Spain for two summers. As a conversation assistant, I work in the public schools speaking English in the bilingual classes. I’ve taught classes like music, gym, tourism, history, art, etc.
As far as writing goes…I honestly thought I’d have more time to write here in Spain since I don’t work as many hours as I did in my engineering job. However, moving to a foreign country has been its own obstacle of ups and downs, making it difficult to find time to write. For example, the sun rises a lot later here when compared to the east coast of the United States; here in Galicia the sun didn’t rise until 9:00 AM during the winter. I also never had heating in my apartments here in Spain and it gets cold and humid at night. So imagine waking up in a cold, dark, humid tundra. It doesn’t really sound pleasant for wanting to wake up early to get some writing done before the day starts, does it? I can tell you it isn’t. It’s also very cheap to travel around Europe which takes away from my writing time as I can’t write while traveling. Overall, it’s been a challenge trying to find a good balance between having time to write and enjoying a café con leche in the Spanish sun. But I’m doing it!
I will say moving to Spain has significantly improved my writing. I wrote most of The Lost Soul while overseas and the writing is so much better than in Junkland. I also have written some of my best poems and songs while here. There’s a reason why Spain has influenced many artists before me like Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, and Paulo Coehlo; the country is filled with beautiful architecture, breathtaking nature, diverse culture, delicious food, and a lot of fiestas. I’m always living new, exciting experiences that always give me inspiration to write.
Is there anything about where you live now that has inspired The Lost Soul?
Learning about new architecture in Europe has definitely inspired some of the world building in this book. Southern Spain is known for its beautiful Moorish architecture, which consists of many arches and colorful tiles. You can also find Roman ruins and castles scattered about. Living here has definitely helped with writing my descriptions in my fantasy books.
Spain has seventeen autonomous communities, which are like states in the United States. Traveling to a different community feels like traveling to a new country sometimes. Each community has its own culture, its own food, and sometimes its own language. The European Union is also very diverse, having so many countries and cultures and languages living so close together. I never had this experience in the United States, being surrounded by so many different cultures and seeing people with different cultures interacting with each other. This experience has definitely helped me develop my characters better as many of them come from different regions in Astenpoole, each having their own culture, beliefs, and sometimes language.
What was the biggest challenge you faced while working on the second book of your series?
Character motives. In the early stages of writing Junkland, I planned for it to be a standalone book. I still remember the day when I learned Junkland would turn into a book series. I was tubing down Harper’s Ferry, thinking about Junkland, when the story suddenly expanded beyond anything I had imagined—a book series. I had to rush to shore to write down all my new ideas I had for the next two books of The Hoarding series. I wrote rough outlines for each while finishing up Junkland. And this was when I ran into my biggest problem of trying to connect my first book to the next when the second book didn’t exist yet. I had two options. I could write the entire series before publishing, or publish Junkland, recuperate my mind, and then start writing the second book. As I didn’t want to wait years and years for my series to be published, I decided to publish Junkland first and then start writing the second book.
But this was when I ran into the most difficult problem: Trying to figure out the best way to leave my character motives hanging at the end of book one so that they would work in book two (a book that didn’t even exist yet). Before writing the second book, I had my outline written. But as I learned after writing Junkland, anything can change from the original outline. All I knew for certain were my major plot points and where each character needed to start and end through the character arches. But making sure these character motives connected and stayed true to book one was the most difficult part. And now that I’ve finished book two, I’m left with the same situation as before, trying to figure out the best way to leave my character motives at the end of book two so that they flow smoothly into book three (a book that doesn’t even exist yet besides a few major plot points). Overall, the reason why this book took me so long to write was because I had to rewrite the characters a few times in this story to get their character motives right.
Also, moving to a foreign country slowed down my writing. My mind was very preoccupied with the culture shock, and I was always tired or just not in the writing mood. I struggled for a year trying to find time to write and focus. My uncle once told me that when you move to a new place, you need to give it a full calendar year before you fully become accustomed to your new home. And I totally agree with him.
If you could give your younger self advice on writing, what would it be?
Surround yourself with what you love. One thing that I admire most about my Spanish students here in Spain, especially the younger ones, is that they are not afraid to be themselves and do things that they love. And they are definitely not afraid to be vocal about it.
I always secretly liked writing and reading books when I was younger. However, I was afraid to surround myself with writing and reading because it wasn’t considered something that could provide you a stable career in life. It also wasn’t the cool thing to do when I was in high school and university. I didn’t start truly surrounding myself with what I loved until I was twenty-five years old, when I finally began to take control of my life and do what I love: writing. When you surround yourself with the environment you thrive in and the people who all share a similar interest, you will find such strong support and grow as a human.
Also, always live in the present. It’s another thing I admire with my younger students. They all live in the present moment. Yea, maybe they can’t wait for their birthdays which are months later, but overall, they are living in the present. They aren’t thinking about the future or the past. They laugh in the moment, listen in the moment, play in the moment, draw and color in the moment. I think this is something important we all need to continue doing throughout life. And I also think it’s what makes a good writer, living in the present, which allows you to notice things when others see nothing.
What would you say is the best part of your writing journey so far?
Influencing others to pursue their own dreams. My favorite moments about writing are when someone reaches out to me to let me know I have influenced them to write their own book, or even quit their job and move to a foreign country! That is when I know I am fulfilling my own dream. I feel many people walk this Earth without truly doing what they love. And I believe, no matter where you are in life, anyone can do what they want if they’re willing to put in the work, willing to fail, and willing to take a chance and believe in themselves.
If you could take any literary character out to lunch, who would you go with?
I would love to take Tyrion Lannister out to lunch. I feel like he would be a very entertaining person to spend an afternoon with. I enjoy spending time with people who are open to talk about anything. And Tyrion seems like that kind of person. Whether it be politics, art, history, sex, beer, philosophy. My favorite quote by him is: “Never forget what you are, the rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor and it can never be used to hurt you.” I think that’s the best piece of advice you can give to anyone seeking the right way to live a happy life.
What can you tell us about your next writing project?
Writing The Lost Soul was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my life. You would think writing a second book would be easier, but it had its own battles to face when compared to writing Junkland. Battles that have made me grow as a writer. But these battles were mentally exhausting. I’ve decided to take a good portion of this year off from writing. I want to focus on marketing The Lost Soul, giving it the viewership it deserves. By summertime I will begin outlining The Palms of Light, the third book in The Hoarding series, so that I can participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in the month of November, where participants have to write 50,000 words in one month. It’s a good way to get a big chunk of a book done.
This fall I will also be releasing Stages of a Scattered Mess. This will be the first book in my poetry series, A Poetry Collection of Growing Up. I’m really excited for this one. This poetry collection will feature all of the poems I’ve written in the past twelve years of my life focusing on themes of infatuation, love, disillusion, denial, anger, grief, false acceptance, moving on, and change. For me, growing up didn’t start until I experienced my first love and breakup. Without these experiences, I truly believe I wouldn’t be where I am write now, living in Spain as a writer.
About the Book
Jahrys Grent, now King of Astenpoole, is faced with restoring the kingdom and cleaning up the Junkland. While King Jahrys reshapes the kingdom, dealing with lords and knights, word of another sorceress, Emilia Danell, reaches Astenpoole. Preparing for another fight, Jahrys worries that Emilia comes for the same reason as the previous sorceress, Nadia Danell.
Once Emilia reaches Astenpoole, Jahrys quickly realizes things are not as they seem. With nightmares plaguing him, and a power he doesn’t understand, The Lost Soul takes Jahrys on a quest beyond the Western Mountains and into his destiny.
About the Author
Born and raised in Ramsey, New Jersey, Patrick Johns attended university at Virginia Tech, obtaining an engineering and mathematics degree. Go Hokies! However, writing is Patrick’s true passion. After writing his first novel, Junkland, the first book in The Hoarding series, Patrick left his engineering job to teach English overseas. Patrick currently lives in Spain. When he’s not writing, managing his literary magazine, The Kraken’s Spire, and teaching English, he’s surfing, hiking, or traveling.