Would you quit your job and become a full-time author?
December 5, 2014
SHAWN JONES AND I became acquainted in an authors’ group on Google Plus.
Our first online conversation went something like this:
Jones: Beware. I’m a first class SOB.
Etier: There are those who think of me the same way. We can see eye to eye, one SOB to another.
We hit it off real good.
His first book hit Amazon in December of 2013. Now, it’s November 2014 and he has three books out and a fourth, Warrior’s Wrath released on November 17th. Just six months after the release of Warrior’s Scar, his first book, he posted, “I closed my business today…as of this post I am a full-time author. A full-time author who is scared shitless. A successful, full-time author who is scared shitless. Oh, what the hell have I just done?”
How many independent (self-published) authors do you know that can say that? Next week, in a guest blog Jones tells us how he did it. Shawn’s “How I Did It” blog is live, and can be found HERE.
Jones is the product of a poor family from Oklahoma. He met his future wife online and now they live in California. We caught up with him recently and he agreed to answer a few questions. Let’s see what makes Shawn Jones tick.
FCE: Why do you write?
Jones: To get the story out of my head. I daydream constantly. To the point that I have trouble falling asleep because I cannot turn my brain off. By putting words on paper, or screen, since I write on a Chromebook, it clears my mind. Of course the next day it fills back up, but that’s the curse, right?
FCE: Whose writing inspires you?
Jones: That’s a two prong question. There are the writers like Tolkien, Burroughs, Verne, and Wells. They inspired my imagination. I can build worlds, even universes, because they taught me how to paint a story. There are also writers like Hugo and Cervantes who taught me how to express deeper truths and make my own personal voice heard, rather than just those of my characters.
FCE: Describe your genre, then why, and how you chose that for your books.
Jones: Most of my writing is hard science fiction. As a reader, I always feel cheated when I read, “The ship jumped to warp speed.” I want to know how it jumped. I don’t need to know the theoretical physics, but I do need more than just because. When I decided to write, I chose to write a story that I would like and appreciate. That means keeping it real.
I write sci-fi because I want to look ahead, not behind. We must learn from past experiences, but we cannot learn more from the past. That knowledge is already here. It’s happened. But the future! That is where we learn what happens next. I want to be in that world.
FCE: If someone who was not an aficionado of your genre read one of your books, what aspects would encourage them to pursue it further?
Jones: I had to ask someone else this question, because I don’t think I can answer it objectively. My friend who is a quilter said the following.
“Action, natural touches of humor and sadness. Strong, flawed, main characters, and supporting characters that have personality and depth. It’s science fiction that is heavy on science.”
FCE: Tell us about any published works in other genres?
Jones: The Warrior Chronicles is my first published work. I have ideas for horror stories, military fiction, westerns, and historical fiction rattling around in my brain, but until I wrap up Cort Addison’s adventures, they will have to wait.
FCE: Have you had any short stories published? If so, tell us about them.
Jones: No. Until a small group of friends encouraged me to participate in National Novel Writing Month a year ago, I had only written shorts and a little poetry. One of my favorite things was to write a scene based on a single image, usually a screenshot from a video game or a piece of fantasy art. The game Skyrim gave me a lot of fodder in those days.
Jones: We control our own destinies. We are not beholden to the whim of a single reader at a traditional publishing house. We as readers will never know how many great books, and how many great authors, were never read because someone at one of the big houses had a bad day or didn’t get their morning coffee. And if you don’t have an agent, forget about it. Amazon gave us an opportunity to reach for the stars.
FCE: Audio books seem to be all the rage. What is your opinion, will you have any of your books in an audio version?
Jones: I like audio books. I don’t listen to them much, but they are a great venue. Like it or not, we live in a world where some people don’t have the time, or choose not to make the time to read. There are also many would-be readers who are visually impaired. Audio books are a great way to reach those people. I am in the process of putting together a little sound studio in my home to begin recording them myself. Because a listener cannot immerse themselves in a book the way a reader can, I think it’s important for a writer to tell the story in his or her own voice. By using the intended inflection at the right time, we are able to make up for part of what is lost when a listener has to devote some of their attention to the road or their workout.
FCE: How do you come up with names for your characters and settings?
Jones: It varies. If it is a key character, I think about what that person looks like and how they carry themselves. When I have them pictured in my head, I ask what I would guess their name to be. Sometimes it is simple because a character is reminiscent of someone I know. It was more difficult in the first two books of The Warrior Chronicles, because the naming conventions of that future allow for only one syllable names. Over the course of the series, that changes as a feeling of nostalgia overtakes society when a man from our time arrives there. For secondary characters, sometimes it is as simple as seeing a name on the TV screen. Other species are the hardest, because I have to think about the speech patterns of alien life forms.
FCE: What is your favorite word, and why?
Jones: How does a writer answer that? I guess lexicon. I subscribe to dictionary.com’s word of the day, and try to incorporate that word into each day somehow. In speech, an email, social media, or my writing, that word will usually show up. I also keep a book called “The Word Museum” next to my workspace. I love finding a way to put an archaic term into my work. One of the greatest compliments I have ever received was when a very well read friend told me they had to look up a word I had used.
FCE: What is your goal with your blog? How often do you post a new article and how important is blogging to sales?
Jones: I don’t blog enough. I try to keep my posts about my daily life as a writer, and less about the craft itself. There are a lot of bloggers out there who are much more adept at talking about writing than I am. I’m good at telling you about my fears, my achievements, and the little things that affect my writing. Blogging can definitely help sales. But you have to make sure people know about it. That means social media. I plus, I tweet, and ultimately I am going to have to Facebook. I have avoided that last one, but I recognize that it is important.
FCE: We just read your blog about the Memorial Sea and fracking in Oklahoma. Something about it reminded me of Author C. Clarke’s three laws. Have you had other validations of your work?
Jones: That was a proud day for me. I have a physicist-friend in Canada that I run my science by regularly. I love the moments when he writes back, “That’s totally reasonable. Go with it.” I have to read a lot of science papers to keep up with the latest theories, and more than once I have had to change something to keep my science accurate. But it’s worth it in the end.
In my opinion, Clarke’s “Hazards of Prophecy” essay should be required reading for sci-fi writers. I like to keep my science plausible, and if I ever decide anything is impossible I will start writing in another genre.
FCE: What are your preferred social media outlets and how much time do you invest in them weekly?
Jones: Google Plus is far and away my favorite social media outlet. The level and depth of interaction and debate there is orders of magnitude ahead of anything else. Twitter allows you to get a quick point across, but the others are all less than engaging in my opinion. I have high hopes for Ello. Its manifesto expresses exactly what I believe social media interaction should be.
I devote about two hours a day to social media on average. When a book is about to release, or I am engaged in a discussion about current events, that number can rise dramatically.
FCE: Thanks for joining us, Shawn, do you have some closing comments or thoughts for us today?
Jones: Buy my books! Buy them all! I appreciate the opportunity you have given me to reach out to your followers. It’s been a pleasure to take them on a tour of my mind, and I hope the interview has been as thought provoking for them as it has for me. But really, buy my books.
About Shawn Jones:
I was raised in Oklahoma, in a poor family. Mom made sure us kids didn’t know, but I realized it after I was grown. I was adopted by Mom after she found out about an indiscretion by Dad. I was a good student, but didn’t finish college. In those days, I had no inclination toward writing, beyond a dirty limerick or two.
I didn’t seriously write until after Mom’s death in 1993. I wrote about a tough guy who evolved into Cortland Addison, the main character of The Warrior Chronicles. That was a 30-page coping mechanism of sorts, because I had just lost the only person in my entire world who actually chose me. Ten years later, Dad was gone too, and soon after that I moved to California after meeting my future wife while playing dominoes on Yahoo! Games. Those thirty pages still gathered dust, but I did write a little once I moved here. Usually poetry or game scenes. For anyone who is interested in those early works, they can search the hashtag “GamingConfessions” on Google +.
Once I got serious about writing though, things happened. An artist friend from G+ donated a cover. Another friend offered to proofread for me. Then several more were willing to push me to finish the book. In December of 2013 I put Warrior’s Scar out there for everyone to see. For several weeks it was between The Time Machine and a Doctor Who book on the UK top ten list for time-travel sci-fi. That was a HUGE time for me. I realized I loved writing and by the end of that month, I had the first draft of my second book, Warrior’s Blood, finished. Over the next few months, I got a third book, Warrior’s Realm, onto the Kindle market. My sales were good enough that I was able to shutter my medical equipment business and write full time.
I knew I had to step up my game though, so I added to my editing team, started following all the right people online and began to learn the craft properly. Warrior’s Wrath was released in mid-November, and currently I am re-editing the first three books in the series. I expect The Warrior Chronicles to have a total of seven books, including a companion guide told in my main character’s own voice, about the events in his life that led him to take part in an experiment that sent him three centuries into the future. Once that book releases, sometime in 2015, I will turn my attention to some other stories that are rattling around in my imagination.
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