Here’s a Q&A with Jon:
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, really. I have an award I won in school for a short story from when I was maybe six or seven. But I’d say a lot of what I wrote up until maybe twenty-seven or twenty-eight was basically trash. Especially in terms of plot. But it definitely taught me a lot and helped me to develop a style.
So who is your favourite author?
Stephen King has got to be my favourite. And I think he has an amazing story, himself. He was living in a trailer with his wife and kids, working as a teacher. He’d come home, put the kids to bed, finish marking all his students’ papers, and then would write on a typewriter balanced on his lap in the pantry.
What’s your favourite book?
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. They made us read it in school but I loved it. It’s quite short, but the interactions between the characters in it, I just think are beautifully done.
Where do you get your ideas from?
A lot of the time, it’s real life. I’ll hear a news story, and I think it’d be an interesting idea for a story. I generally wouldn’t act on it right away though. I’ll let it sit in my head for weeks or months, and see if I still think it’s a good idea later on. And sometimes it’ll grow. Usually, one idea isn’t enough to come up with an interesting story. Usually, it’ll take three or four, and I’ll patch them all together.
Do you have any writing rituals?
I procrastinate like a son of a bitch. So I guess I like to remove distractions, where I can. Clear a couple of days – no plans with friends or family. Just sit and focus solidly on writing. There was a chalet I used to go to for a few nights. There was no internet. Hardly even any signal on the TV. I could just load the fridge up with microwavable meals and sit and write.
Do you enjoy any TV series?
Yeah, I like quite a few. Breaking Bad. Mr Robot. I watched Mr Inbetween recently, and I thought that was great. Black Mirror started well – I think it’s a little hit and miss lately though. From the new run of Marvel series, I think Loki has been my favourite so far.
Do you ever struggle with writer’s block?
Not so far. I have been jotting down ideas for stories most of my life. I actually recently rummaged through my dad’s attic and I sifted through stacks and stacks of ideas. I set aside any that were good. I’ve started to spin them into plots now.
What are common traps for aspiring writings?
Certainly something that happened to a lot of my friends who have tried to write – is that they hit a wall. They’ll write one or two chapters, and then they’ll just not know what comes next and they’ll stop. And the biggest advice I can give you is to plot. That gives you a skeleton to work to. And if I get stuck on a chapter – or if I’ve spent a lot of time on it and I want to move onto something fresh – I can just jump ahead to a new event further along in the plot – and come back later.
Do you try to give readers what they want?
When I’m writing, I don’t really have the audience in mind. It’s just me watching as the story unfolds – and it’ll take the path that feels right. If the reader is engaged and comes along for the ride, and they love what they’re reading, then great. But I don’t go out of my way to add in thrills or justices for the sake of the reader. I try to keep everything true to the flow of the story.
How many unfinished novels do you have hidden away?
Unfinished stories from when I was a kid, up until recently, quite a few! That was before I discovered the importance of plotting. Now, I won’t start writing until I have a clear direction. And once you’ve got that framework in place, it’s easy to write. If you find yourself getting a little stagnant on one particular chapter, just hop ahead in the plot and start fresh, and then go back later.
How do you create a good villain?
Well, I villain isn’t a villain in their own eyes. And I think the best antagonists in fiction are the ones where you, as the reader or the viewer, can actually really understand their motives and their cause. For example, in the novel I’m writing at the moment, the main antagonist is a guy who is trying to unleash a demon that has the ability to raise the dead. From the point of view of the heroes, this can destroy humanity. But from his point of view, he’s just trying to resurrect his dead wife, who he has grieved for years and the pain just won’t go away. So it’s hard not to empathise with him on some level.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters of the opposite sex?
I try not to think about it too much. I just treat all my characters as people with motivations and desires and personalities, and they act accordingly to that inside the story. I think my strongest female character has been Jill; the mom in What Happened Next. The world is falling apart around her and still she fights to keep her children safe – and to protect them from the news – and she even takes on two more children from the street. I didn’t take her sex into account, I just treated her as a parent who will stop at nothing to protect her children.
As you add more books to your library, will there be connections between them?
Definitely. I love the idea of having a connected universe where all these stories and characters sit together.