Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan Moeller. He is an amazingly fast writer, and has written several awesome books for his various series! If you haven’t read his series, I suggest you get on it! Keep reading to see what Jonathan had to say in the Q&A.
Q: How long have you been writing? Why did you start?
A: My second year of high school. So, a real long time ago!
I started writing because I used to run RPG campaigns for my friends in high school, and eventually I realized I was much more interested in the storytelling aspects of it than the mechanics, the die rolls and the character sheets and so forth. I started writing short stories, and it sort of snowballed on from there.
Q: What inspires your writing? Do you have a muse?
A: A combination of current events and historical events, mostly.
If I have a muse, I think it’s a combination of discipline and habit. When I’m working on something new, I like to get at least 3,000 words written a day, preferably more. Even if I would rather take the day off and play computer games, I still try to get a minimum of 3,000 words a day. I don’t always succeed, but I do hit my 3,000 words most of the time when working on a new book.
Q: You have written seven series of books, including The Ghost Series, The Frostborn Series, and The Cloak Games Series. Which has been the most fun to work on?
A: Each one has its own merits, I think, and its own enjoyable aspects to write.
For The Ghosts, Caina Amalas has evolved into a very interesting protagonist to write. One reviewer called her a mixture of Sherlock Holmes, Batman, and Valeria from RED NAILS, which I thought a good description of her character. I also like the rules I have for that world – sorcery as a badly understood form of science, no nonhumans except for spirits, and a world that’s kind of like the Western Roman Empire survived to the Renaissance.
For Frostborn, I wanted to write a big, long epic fantasy series (it’s going to be 15 books) that recreated the feel of a really good RPG campaign, one where the characters start out dealing with minor local events of no significance, and ends with them deciding the fates of kings and empires.
Cloak Games is fun because it’s the only series I write from a first-person perspective. Nadia is an interesting protagonist to write. I’ve said that the Cloak Games series would be about a bad guy very slowly and very much against her will learning to be a good guy, and that definitely applies to Nadia.
Q: How much ‘grunt work’ goes into each book you write?
A: Not much, I would say. I used to unload trucks when I was younger, and THAT was definitely grunt work!
In terms of writing a book, I just write it until it’s done. I can usually do a 90,000-word rough draft in about twenty-five days or so.
Q: Which one of your characters do you identify most with?
A: Probably Laertes in GHOST EXILE. Every group needs someone competent to attend to the details, and in my real life that’s usually me. 🙂
Q: Which one of your characters would you want to meet the most?
If they ever met me, they would (quite rightly) blame me for their various sufferings, and likely concoct some elaborate means of revenge.
Q: How did you come up with the ideas behind each of your series?
The Ghosts started when I wrote a short story about chivalrous romance that got rejected. So the next story I wrote was the exact opposite, about a cynical spy, and The Ghosts grew out of that.
Demonsouled came out of an Arthur Schopenhauer quote about the innate evil of man.
The Frostborn series began because I wanted to write a series that matched the feel of a good RPG game, and I wanted to write a series that was planned from the beginning, since both The Ghosts and Demonsouled happened pretty organically.
The idea for the Cloak Games series came when I read a really long and slightly boring article about how the mass media is frequently used to influence the public in favor of certain social and political positions. I wondered what that would be like in the hands of someone clever, and I came up with an idea where magic-using Elves from another world conquered Earth and used carefully managed propaganda to keep their hold on power, and the Cloak Games series started.
Q: What are your favorite books? What about them do you like?
A: My favorite books are the ones that adhere closely to the rules of storytelling – as a writer, you can see all the nuts and bolts of a story, so I suppose it’s like a builder visiting a house and admiring the craftsmanship of the construction.
So some of my favorite books are THE LORD OF THE RINGS by JRR Tolkien, KNIGHTS OF DARK RENOWN by David Gemmell, THE HOUR OF THE DRAGON by Robert E. Howard, THE ICARUS HUNT, THE THRAWN TRILOGY, and CLOAK by Timothy Zahn, THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS by CS Lewis, THE BROKEN SWORD and THE HIGH CRUSADE by Poul Anderson, AWAKE IN THE NIGHT LAND by John C Wright, THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES and THE SIGN OF FOUR by Arthur Conan Doyle, IVANHOE by Sir Walter Scott, STEELHEART by Brandon Sanderson, CRYPTONOMICON by Neal Stephenson, and the entirety of the DRESDEN FILES by Jim Butcher.
Lately I’ve been reading THE EXPANSE series by James SA Corey and I like it.
For nonfiction, I think THE MIDDLE AGES by Morris Bishop is one of my favorite nonfiction books. I also like THE DAY OF THE BARBARIANS by Alessandro Barbero, THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE by Peter Heather, BATTLE CRY OF FREEDOM by James McPherson about the US Civil War, THE SECOND WORLD WAR by John Keegan, and Alison Weir’s books about the Tudor period.
Basically, my nonfiction reading is all history and technical manuals. (I think MORE DOS FOR DUMMIES by Dan Gookin was perhaps the best technical book I ever read, but it is sadly out of date at this point, though many of the basics of DOS are still applicable to modern Windows.) I do think it is a good idea for a writer to read a great deal of history.
Q: What advice do you wish you received when you started writing?
A: Finish as many books as possible, because in 2011 you’ll discover this thing called the Kindle, and your unpublished manuscripts will suddenly become much more useful!
Q: What is something you want the world to know?
A: If you are a writer starting out, it is better to self-publish than to bother with traditional publishers. I think the best approach (as of February 2016) for a new writer is to write a novel series, and then eventually make the first book free, which will help slowly but surely build an audience.
If you’re a nonfiction writer, I think it is best to start your own website and publish regular articles with an eye towards turning them into a book eventually.
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