Good morning to you readers!And I have another Monday Interview for your delectation.
Today, I am very pleased to have bagged Jonathan Green, ridiculously prolific writer who is well-known and well-regarded in the Fighting Fantasy and Steampunk worlds. After conducting this interview, I had to wonder if Mr Green is himself a Time Lord, for all the things he manages to fit into his life. He has over 60 published works, he is a family man, he attends conventions; meeting fans and signing books, he edits work for anthologies produced by Snowbooks AND he still finds time to do interviews!! What a guy, read on, some of his energy might rub off on you…
Jonathan Green is a freelance writer. He writes science fiction and fantasy novels for adults (Pax Britannia), adventure gamebooks for children (Fighting Fantasy), and non-fiction books for all ages. He has written for various franchises, from Sonic the Hedgehog and Doctor Who (The Horror of Howling Hill), to books set within Games Workshop‘s Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 game universes.
Hi Jonathan, Welcome, and thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for my blog; Flailing Through Life…
- And talking about flailing; do you ever find yourself ‘flailing through life’?
All the time! There always seems to be too much to do and never enough time to do it in. I have children, so a fair amount of my time seems to involve feeding them, cleaning up after them, or ferrying them to one place or another. I also have a conventional part-time job. The rest of the time is spent writing, promoting my writing, crowdfunding my writing, or coming up with ideas for things to write about.
Not that I have any trouble coming up with ideas – I already have more ideas than I’ll ever have time to write, I am sure – the trouble is that there’s always a new, shiny idea demanding my attention while I’m trying to finish off something else I’m already committed to. For example, at the moment I’m writing a book about the history of Fighting Fantasy gamebooks but my brain’s decided now would be the perfect time to throw up an idea for a new anthology, another gamebook, and a series of short stories.
- What were you like as a child?
Bookish, creative, artistic. I’m an only child and so I grew up making my own entertainment. I can remember making little books, at age 6, and even before that drawing simple comic strips. But I think from the moment I realised someone actually had to write the stories in the books I enjoyed reading, I knew that was what I wanted to do with my life.
- To me, and many others, you are successful as a writer, would you agree? What does literary success look like to you?
That’s very kind of you to say so and I can’t deny that I have enjoyed some level of success as an author – just in terms of the number of books I’ve had published and the properties I’ve worked on, including Doctor Who, Robin of Sherwood and Star Wars – but there is still so much more to be achieved.
I’ve never made much money from my writing, so literary success to me would mean financial security, signing a significant deal with a large publishing house, having a title in the Sunday Times or New York Times best-seller lists, and maybe having one of my books made into a movie. But ultimately, at the moment I’m successful enough to keep doing what I’m doing, which is writing, which is what I love.
- You have written a huge number of books and contributions to collections, including the Pax Britannia series and the Fighting Fantasy adventure gamebooks. Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Both! When it’s going well writing gives you the greatest buzz, along with that satisfaction of seeing your book in print, thumbing through the pages and pointing it out to friends and family in bookshops. However, after a really good writing day I’m also useless the next.
Because of the nature of my working life at the moment, having a part-time job to go to in the afternoon, I rarely having amazing writing days as I have at times in the past (because I’m not able to work long enough for that to happen) but equally I don’t find myself wiped out the next day. I just keep plodding along, from one day to the next.
- Ulysses Quicksilver is dashing dandy, defender of ‘this green and pleasant land’, heroic, handsome (well I think so) from the Pax Britannia books; did anyone in the real world (apart from you) influence his formation and, if/when they get around to making the film, who would you like to play him?
Oh yes, he’s definitely handsome! But that’s funny that you should mention that I’m one of the character’s influences, because, intentionally or not, I think that’s true. It’s an occupational hazard for writers, imbuing their characters with their own qualities, and it’s almost inevitable when you develop one character over so many books. (I recently read a book by a friend, and I could see aspects of her in both the main protagonists in the story.)
I sometimes describe Ulysses Quicksilver as being a cross between Sherlock Holmes, James Bond and Oscar Wilde, but there’s probably a little bit of Doctor Who in there too. In terms of who would play him in a film, I could envisage someone like Julian Rhind-Tutt or Paul Bettany being a good fit, although they’re getting a little old to play him now, as Ulysses is in his late thirties. I started writing the character when I was in my thirties, so he was about the same age as I was at the time of writing the first Pax Britannia novel. However, ten years have passed since then but only about two years have passed in the Pax Britannia universe.
- Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
I have a bad habit of including all sorts of pop culture references in my books. For example, in the Pax Britannia novel Anno Frankenstein, a missing German zeppelin had the serial number NCC-1701, which is the registration number of the USS Enterprise from Star Trek.
Another reference that I’m not sure if anyone has spotted appears in the Warhammer Path to Victory gamebook Shadows Over Sylvania, where a vampire queen quotes Sean Connery’s opening words from the movie Highlander.
- How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I’m not sure that it changed it, but it definitely crystallised it. I hadn’t written a full-length book before I was actually commissioned to do so. After leaving school, and while I was at universe, I tried out for the Fighting Fantasy series. Two years, two completely different ideas and three re-writes later, I was commissioned to write Spellbreaker.
Thanks to the way the commissioning process worked, when you sent in a pitch for an FF book, you had to write the first quarter and outline the rest in detail. As a result, I have always planned my stories and books before I start writing them. I still do it, even if it’s for a short story that I am writing for myself.
- You write gamebooks, Doctor Who adventures, Christmas ‘infotainment’, colouring books, Speculative/Science Fiction, Fantasy. How do you balance making demands on the reader with taking care of the reader?
I remember an editor telling me once to trust the reader; you don’t have to spell everything out for them – let them do some of the heavy-lifting. However, when world-building you want to make sure you give your readers enough information so that know what’s going on, or where the action is taking place, but you don’t need to do that in the form of a massive info-dump. Reveal bits and pieces of information as necessary, maybe not explaining everything straight away, but expand upon it later.
You don’t actually need very much information to let the reader know where a scene is taking place, who the people involved are and what they’re like, what it is they need to do or what it is they’re after. But ultimately I feel that it’s better for a reader to be confused than bored; if they’re confused they’ll keep reading to find out what’s going on, but if they’re bored they’ll stop reading.
When it comes to adventure gamebooks, these days at least, I try hard to make sure that the game part of the book is fair, so that it one way I do try to take care of the reader.
- What can we expect next from your busy pen?
As I’ve already said, I’m currently writing YOU ARE THE HERO Part 2, which is a supplement to YOU ARE THE HERO – A History of Fighting Fantasy Gamebooks, but out in May/June is my new gamebook, The Wicked Wizard of Oz. I also have short stories appearing in several anthologies later this year – Clockwork Cairo, Further Associate of Sherlock Holmes and Tales of the Lost Isles – and I’ve contributed to another Doctor Who book which will out by Christmas.
- And finally, what is your favourite childhood book?
That’s a tricky one. I don’t like ‘favourites’ style questions, because I like so many different things for so many reasons, and my answer can change depending on my mood. However, up there would have to be A Dictionary of Monsters and Mysterious Beasts (a non-fiction book by Carey Miller), the Fighting Fantasy gamebook Deathtrap Dungeon (by Ian Livingstone), Where the Wild Things Are (by Maurice Sendak), and Farmer Giles of Ham (by J R R Tolkien).
Thank you to Jonathan for ‘taking part’ today (You won a cuddly toy!) and if Mr Rhind-Tutt or Mr Bettany (or younger versions!) are available, someone get Ulysses Quicksilver onto the big screen please.
To find out more about his current projects visit http://www.JonathanGreenAuthor.com and follow him on Twitter @jonathangreen.
Join me next time for Sam Stone ‘Horror Queen’.