Saturday, July 9, 2011

Interview: Jon Skovron "Misfit"

I recently got the chance to interview Jon Skovron, the author of Misfit, Struts & Frets, and The First Time.

How have your personal experiences affected your writing?

I think everything affects your writing. That might actually be my favorite thing about writing, in fact. That no matter what happens, even in the middle of some terrible catastrophe, you can always console yourself with "Well, at least it'll make me a better writer!"

How exactly it affects my writing is somewhat of a mystery. It's not like I have some experience, say, flying a kite with my kids, and then I go and write about flying kites. The experience, the emotion, the sensations of it are all something you become aware of after a lot of practice, and you take all that in. And then It all gets filtered and mixed up and rehashed and spun through whatever your strange imagination fancies. And out pops flying demons! Or something...

How do you start developing the story, how do you get inspired for it?

I generally get the opening moment in my head. I carry it around with me for while, usually because I'm working on something else that I need to finish before I'll let myself start a new project. So by the time I've actually cleared out the time to start working on it, I've probably got other things about it in my head. Usually I have a good idea how it will end and maybe a few events that happen along the way. But mostly it's just that first image of the main character somewhere doing something. And I take that image and just see where it goes, like following clues. And usually I get lost somewhere in the middle of the story and need to make an outline to find my way out of the jungle. Yes that's right, I do outline, but not until about halfway through the first draft. And even then, an outline for me is not something set in stone that I must adhere to. It's as much of a rough draft as the actual draft itself.

How to get inspired...hmmm. I don't really wait for inspiration. I have small children to feed ;) But also, I find that even when I'm not really in the mood to write, once I sit down and start writing, if I can just push through the first ten minutes, I generally get excited.

How long did it take you to publish your first book?

It depends on when you start counting. If you're counting from when I started the first book, I guess about a year and a half. If you're counting from when first started writing the two novels I wrote before that one that never sold, then it would be more like eight years. Plenty of time to give up hope. Plenty of time to think it would or could never happen. In fact, less than a month before I got the call from my agent, I remember boldly telling my friend that I didn't care if I ever got published. I was just going to keep writing for me. And in the end, I think that's the difference. Writing is not a means to get published. It is an end in and of itself. You do it because it gives meaning to your life. You do it because it helps you learn about yourself and the world around you. You do it because it gives you pleasure. The rest, the trappings of apparent "success" come and go, but no one can ever take the writing itself away from you.

What types of genres do you like writing/reading the most?

I love dark urban fantasy, or I guess we call it "paranormal" now, which is much shorter to say, so I'm okay with that. But I love all different kinds of things. Sci-fi, high fantasy, horror, what's generally called "literary fiction". And of course, YA can be any of those things. I don't really differentiate much. About the only genre I don't really have much interest in is "suspense" and detective stories. Unless it's Elmore Leonard. I love that guy...
Anyway, my favorite is the type of book that runs across genres, that's a little bit of this, and a little bit of that. Thinks that don't really fit any category. We used to call it slipstream, but I haven't heard that term in a while.

What are Misfit and Struts & Frets about in a nutshell?

Struts & Frets is about a boy who is trying to start an indie rock bad while dealing with his first major girlfriend and his grandfather's decent into Alzheimer's.
Misfit is about a demon girl in Catholic school.

You did a collaborative book for discussing Vampire Diaries, what was that experience like?

My piece was on the history of female vampires in literature and film and where Vampire Diaries fit in to that larger picture. Oh man, it was tough. I had to do all this research like re-reading all my favorite vampire books and re-watching all my favorite vampire movies...Can you believe it? I was like, "Well, should I watch Let The Right One In again? *sigh* Well, I am getting paid for this, so I better." And then I had to watch every single episode of The Vampire Diaries TV show! The whole experience was pure torture!

Heh, just kidding. It was obviously a lot of fun.
Was there any authors that have inspired you?

Oh, yes! Tons! Holly Black and Cory Doctorow have both been huge inspirations for me, so when they blurbed my books (Holly for Misfit and Cory for Struts & Frets) it really was a dream come true for me. I'm also a long time fan of Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, and Michael Chabon. Those guys are amazing. And of course, I might not have ever gotten into the paranormal genre at all if it weren't for the early work of Anne Rice. When I picked up Interview With A Vampire, it totally blew my mind.

How did you figure out you wanted to be an author?

It took a long time, actually. I wrote a lot, both journals and little stories, but it didn't occur to me to do it professionally until I was twenty-two. In high school I wanted to be a rock star, in college I wanted to be an actor. But once I graduated with my bright shiny acting degree and realized what the professional world of acting required, I had this big crisis and realized it wasn't for me. So then I had to think about what was for me? What did I really enjoy doing? And I realized it was something I'd been doing on my own all along.
Of course a lot of stuff I learned while studying acting applies to writing as well. All art, whether it's music or writing, or acting, or painting or whatever, all of it is interconnected.

What do you do when you get "writer's block"?

Don't panic! No seriously, writer's block is actually just a normal part of the process. At least for me it is. And I guess it still worries me a little every time it shows up. But not much. Because I know it's usually because I haven't figured something out about the story I'm working on yet.

Sometimes it's best just to push through it, to write even though you know what you're writing totally sucks and sometimes you're even writing things like "Blah blah. sSomething happens here, I suck! Blah blah!". But a lot of times it only sucks for a little while and once you get some momentum, you can just push right through the block.

Other times you just can't push through it. That's when it's best to put it away for a little while. Let your subconscious sort it out and work on something else or go play some Wii or just go to bed. Often in those cases, it will be like two days later and I'm in the shower or driving to the grocery store and I'm like "OH! That's what I'm missing!" then I rush home and bang it out until I hit the next block. Rinse, repeat.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Well, I think Dr. Seuss already wrote the perfect artist's journey instruction manual with Oh The Places You'll Go. So once you've read that, the only other things I can offer are:
* Read a lot.
* Write a lot.
* Live a lot.
* Every day you don't give up, you're a little more likely to get there.

Thanks so much to Jon for coming on! It was amazing to hear his process of writing and inspirations.

You can find him on his:
Website l Goodreads l Twitter l Misfit Facebook Page

Peace and Fangs,

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