The Jonathan Green Interview

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.

https://en.wikipedia.org

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Hi Jonathan, Welcome, and thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for my blog; Flailing Through Life…

 

  1. 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.

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  1. 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.

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  1. 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.

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  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

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  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

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  1. 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’.

To Be (a nerd), Or Not To Be (a nerd)…

…that is the question… that I am posing today.

Way back when I was at school, nerds were the really intelligent kids (not me!), who were excellent at Maths and Science in particular. They couldn’t throw, or kick, a ball, they shied away from crowds, cool kids, hockey sticks, pubs, clubs and bars, even their own shadow at times. Nerds were, well, nerdy!

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Then along came this other word – Geek – it infiltrated to the UK from the ‘good ole US of A’. And we were confused, so this geek was like a nerd but had something to do with technology, both intelligent in academic ways, but stupid socially, neither had any dress sense (many wore spectacles) and you certainly did NOT want to get trapped with one who then regaled you with their favourite topic, no sir!

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For older readers, the difference between nerds and geeks is purely a matter of lexical semantics – they’re both weird. For younger readers, there is a whole pile of difference , and don’t you dare call me a nerd when I’m a geek!!! And then they stomp off to read their comics (because, as we all know, nerds/geeks read comics, don’t they?)

So let us have a little stroll through the history, and meaning, of the world of Nerds and Geeks. Got your notebook and mismatched attire? Then let’s go…

A nerd is a person seen as overly intellectual, obsessive, or lacking social skills. Such a person may spend inordinate amounts of time on unpopular, little known, or non-mainstream activities, which are generally either highly technical, abstract, or relating to topics of fiction or fantasy, to the exclusion of more mainstream activities. Additionally, many so-called nerds are described as being shy, quirky, pedantic, and unattractive, and may have difficulty participating in, or even following, sports.

Though originally derogatory, nerd is a stereotypical term, but as with other pejoratives, it has been reclaimed and redefined by some as a term of pride and group identity.

The first documented appearance of the word nerd is as the name of a creature in Dr. Seuss‘s book If I Ran the Zoo (1950), in which the narrator Gerald McGrew claims that he would collect “a Nerkle, a Nerd, and a Seersucker too” for his imaginary zoo.The slang meaning of the term dates to the next year, 1951, when Newsweek magazine reported on its popular use as a synonym for drip or square in Detroit, Michigan.  By the early 1960s, usage of the term had spread throughout the United States, and even as far as Scotland. At some point, the word took on connotations of bookishness and social ineptitude

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nerd

The word geek is a slang term originally used to describe eccentric or non-mainstream people; in current use, the word typically connotes an expert or enthusiast or a person obsessed with a hobby or intellectual pursuit, with a general pejorative meaning of a “peculiar person, especially one who is perceived to be overly intellectual, unfashionable, or socially awkward”.

Although often considered as a pejorative, the term is also used self-referentially without malice or as a source of pride. Its meaning has evolved to refer to “someone who is interested in a subject (usually intellectual or complex) for its own sake”.

This word comes from English dialect geek or geck (meaning a “fool” or “freak“; from Middle Low German Geck). “Geck” is a standard term in modern German and means “fool” or “fop”.The root also survives in the Dutch and Afrikaans adjective gek (“crazy”), as well as some German dialects, and in the Alsatian word Gickeleshut (“jester‘s hat”; used during carnival).[1] In 18th century Austria, Gecken were freaks on display in some circuses. In 19th century North America, the term geek referred to a performer in a geek show in a circus, traveling carnival or travelling funfair sideshows (see also freak show). The 1976 edition of the American Heritage Dictionary included only the definition regarding geek shows. This variation of the term was used to comic effect in an episode of popular 1970s TV show Sanford & Son. Professional wrestling manager “Classy” Freddie Blassie recorded a song in the 1970s called “Pencil-Necked Geek”.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geek

Hang on, let’s pause here – so nerds are shy – so fucking what!? Most shy people I know are also the most strong-minded individuals I have ever met. They read fantasy fiction? Co-o-o-l.  And geeks are enthusiasts? Where would we be without people who are enthusiastic about something, anything? Aren’t creative types enthusiastic to the point of obsession? William Turner, Auguste Rodin, Frida Kahlo, Barbara Hepworth, H P Lovecraft, Prince!? They would never have produced the paintings, sculpture, books or music that they did, without having at least a hint of geekiness/nerdiness.

So what happened?

Lets see if we can identify the ‘accusers’ and the ‘supporters’…

1974: The Fonz, a character on an American TV show; Happy Days, referred to socially awkward kids interested in science and math as nerds. The world gave him a big thumbs up and nerds a big thumbs down. NB: this was a guy in his late twenties(at least!) who seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time hanging out with teen schoolkids!!! *J’accuse The Fonz.

1978: Eugene Felsnic, a character in Grease was shrill voice, had poor social skills, thick glasses, and was generally considered embarrassing. He was the butt of a lot of jokes. poo Eugene was just overly keen. *J’accuse the T-Birds, The Pink Ladies and Producers,  Allan Carr and Robert Stigwood.

1984: The movie, Revenge of the Nerds was released, and amazingly,people delighted in a movie where the nerds get to win. The film does not actually portray nerds positively, but they were the stars! “We have news for the beautiful people. There’s a lot more of us then there are of you!” Nerd appreciation went up slightly. *Kudos to Director Jeff Kanew.

1985: Movie; Weird Science by John Hughes came out, (also Ferris Bueller’s Day Off). Hughes humanized the nerds that audiences had made fun of before. Audiences were made to understand that nerds have feelings too. They were no longer the butt of jokes. Nerd appreciation was beginning to climb. *Kudos to Director John Hughes.

1991: Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons, was a fairly accurate stereotype, and though an enjoyable character, he does not help the cause of geeks and nerds. Ever. Not sure if he was appreciated or jeered. *Nada.

1999: Star Wars: Episode I was released. And so began the biggest nerd growth in the history of mankind. Nerds were popping up all over the show; watching the films, talking about the films, buying merchandise that appeared in those comic shops that started popping up everywhere. (Being a cynic, I am apt to believe the supreme marketing of this franchise is what has created a cycle of movie-nerd-merchandise-tie ins-geek-movie-nerd ad infinitum.) However, the profile, appreciation/acceptance of nerds and geeks has risen tenfold. *Kudos  to creator George Lucas.

2007: The Big Bang Theory, American TV show arrived. It has been and continues to be, a massive hit. It portrays nerds/geeks as being not only super intelligent but, know-it-alls’ who are indeed socially adept, who are terrified of women, often pedantic and in one instance (Sheldon) possibly lean towards Asperger’s. What initially appear to be stereotypes, and to a degree they are, they also reflect what the vast majority have concerns with; friendship, work, and problems with both. The first nerds to get their very own show! Hurrah! *Kudos to writers, Chuck Lorre, Bill Prady, Maria Ferrari, Steven Molaro and the rest.

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2010: It wasn’t enough anymore, to visit comic book shops, sit on the side-line and discuss girls who would never look at you, it was time to get physical – enter Kick-Ass, the movie! This was a nerd who was mad as hell and he wasn’t going to take it anymore! This was the skinny, ‘little’ guy who no-one looked at, the guy who hung out with his two equally nerdy pals and spent too much time with comics – it is an homage to the comic superhero, stop just reading about it, and do something. Kick-Ass hailed the rise of a new nerd – Super-Hero-Nerd! *Kudos to writers/Director Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman.

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Well there you have it. Or do we?

Before you go, can you see anything missing from this picture so far?????

Notice an absence from the list???

Still not got it??

I’ll give you a clue – what is the gender of the writer of this blog?!

Where are the women?! It is an odd thing, females have been noticeably missing from the nerd/geek history. If you type female nerd into your search engine, you will more than likely get an image of a ‘sexy’ woman in tight shirt and spectacles that she probably doesn’t wear in her ‘real’ life!

1995: Hackers starred Angelina Jolie as a young hacker alongside Jonny Lee Miller. It wasn’t a terrifically good film and did little for nerds and geeks, even though their IT skills were at the cutting edge! *Nada.

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1996: Saw Matilda making a hit, (with children and some parents). Matilda was not only very well read and intelligent, she got the better of her bullying teacher; Miss Trunchbull. It was cool in the playground for a short while, then the boys came back with their footballs and sense of entitlement. *Kudos to Roald Dahl (and Director Danny De Vito for trying.)

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1997: J.K. Rowling brought us the best girl-nerd ever! Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone, was published. Then it was made into a film! It was a HUGE success. She wrote 6 more! We got more films! Hermione Granger was the new hero of young women and girls right across the planet, she had to fight extreme prejudice from, not only classmates, but teachers. She is from a Muggle family, she is well-read, she is intelligent(more than any of the other characters), she is brave, she is loyal – she is the driving force behind Harry and Ron and without her, I believe, Lord Voldemort would have won!!

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Girl nerds are just as cool as boy nerds, perhaps more so, as they have to work harder. In what way, I hear you ask? Well, if you’re a boy, and a nerd, it can still be a battle to get respect from people. If you’re a girl nerd, you not only have that battle, but another with the boy nerds, who are just like the rest of their species when it come to females!

To Be (a nerd), Or Not To Be (a nerd)…that was the question. Or are you a geek?

I have decided I am a mix of both. It needs a new word, I propose NEEK!