TQ: What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Jonathan: I suppose it's probably where I write. No Hero was written pretty much exclusively on the Long Island Railroad. I'm on it two hours a day, one hour into New York City, and one hour back, and that's the majority of my spare time. (Because Xbox time is not spare time...). It's actually a great place to write for me. I put my headphones on, my head down. There's nobody to distract me, no internet with its infinite pictures of cats doing ridiculous things. I'm not sure when I'd write if I didn't have a commute.
TQ: Who are some of your favorite writers? Who do you feel has influenced your writing?
Jonathan: Early on in my writing, when I just started getting short stories published, I was really heavily influenced by some of the authors associated with the New Weird subgenre. People like China Miéville, Jeff Vandermeer, M. John Harrison, and K. J. Bishop. That's where I learned I could really mix and play with genres. I didn't have to be limited by my perceived perception of them. More recently I've been reading a lot of thrillers, which have really helped me with pacing. I'm a huge fan of James Rollins and Andy McDermott. Those guys really know how to ratchet up the tension. Andy McDermott is, hands-down, the best action scene writer I've come across so far.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a panster?
Jonathan: I'm an obsessive plotter. I've developed a fairly involved process at this point. First I do visual research, going through images I've collected off the internet for things that seem resonant with the project I have in mind. Then I use those as springboard for writing short, two to three hundred word scenes. Nothing finished, just glimpsed moments that may or may not ever make it to the final novel. But from that process, the story I want to write starts to take shape in my head. That's when I start to plot everything out. I've found a couple of sentences per chapter works best for me. Too much and it gets stale, too little and I spend most of my time trying to work out how to get from a to b.
TQ: Describe No Hero in 140 characters or less.
Jonathan: Right now I'm going with: The Lovecraftian urban fantasy that dares to ask, “What would Kurt Russell do?”
TQ: What inspired you to write No Hero?
Jonathan: Mostly the failure of my previous novel to find a publisher. I'd written my big weird literary fantasy opus, and though I got an agent from it, publishers weren't so into it. My agent suggested I worked on pacing, and so I wanted to write something quick and fun and fast, and to really push how much action I could get into a novel. It was meant to be more of a writing exercise than anything else. But it took off and gained a life of its own. Beside that, there's a million little influences. Mike Mignola's Hellboy and BPRD comics. A comment a friend made that the urban fantasy and sword and sorcery genres had a lot in common. Kurt Russell movies. That sort of thing.
TQ: Why did you set No Hero in Oxford, England?
Jonathan: I tried setting it in a couple of places before I settled on Oxford. I had Arthur Wallace's (the protagonist's) voice in my head for a while and he felt very British, so at first I tried London. But I'm really not very familiar with London and I'm not big on research, so I wasn't sure I could really pull that off. So then I tried New York because I lived there for five years, and it was a big city that I thought readers would enjoy. But Arthur didn't really fit there. So then I finally tried Oxford, another place I'd lived, and the absurdity of all this high-stakes action occurring in such a sleepy little city really worked with the tone I was going for, and it just ended up sticking.
TQ: What sort of research did you do to create M137 and the world of No Hero?
Jonathan: As I mentioned I'm not a big researcher. A lot of MI37 is informed by many years of watching movies and television police dramas. Which I would probably be more ashamed of if No Hero was a more serious book, but as I was aiming for a cinematic, summer blockbuster feel, it seemed OK. That said, Google Earth was pretty invaluable in letting me get a sense of some of the locales I'm less familiar with, like Peru, and Didcott Power Station.
TQ: Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in No Hero?
Jonathan: I'm pretty fond of most of the big action scenes. Trying to one-up Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider with my Peruvian temple scene was fun. Also the little side characters—Winston and Devon especially—were always a blast to write. They gave me the opportunity to worry less about plot and action and just have fun telling jokes. And then there's a couple of scenes towards the end with Kayla, where (I hope) her character really evolves and changes for the reader. I'm pretty proud of those.
TQ: In No Hero, who was the most difficult character to write and why? The easiest and why?
Jonathan: I think Arthur Wallace is probably the answer to both of those questions. In some ways his voice is so strong in my head its easy to put him down onto the page. On the other hand, by having the book so firmly locked into his viewpoint, and his stream of consciousness, it can be difficult to get across all I want or need to get across. There are always those, 'how the heck am I going to get him over there?' moments. But it's a fun challenge. Also, sometimes the odd syntax I gave Tabitha gives me fits. Trying to make her understandable but distinct is very tricky, and there's a lot of rewriting involved. I'm always worried I'm going to slip and give her Yoda's voice.
TQ: How many books are planned for the series?
Jonathan: I have a two book deal, so right now I'm wrapping up my first draft in the second of the series. Teleporting Russians, zombie dinosaurs, oh my. After that... I have more ideas for Arthur Wallace stories, but a lot will depend on how the first two books perform.
TQ: What's next?
Jonathan: Arthur Wallace dominates the immediate future. After that... it'll depend. I have an idea for another series that I'd like to work out properly. I need to do a lot of research on the Tarot for that, but that's about as much as I'm willing to say at this point. More because it's so nebulous than from any desire to tease your readers.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery
Jonathan: Thanks so much for having me!
About No Hero
No HeroArthur Wallace 1
(Night Shade Books, July 1, 2011)
"What would Kurt Russell do?"
Oxford police detective Arthur Wallace asks himself that question a lot. Because Arthur is no hero. He's a good cop, but prefers that action and heroics remain on the screen, safely performed by professionals.
But then, secretive government agency MI37 comes calling, hoping to recruit Arthur in their struggle against the tentacled horrors from another dimension known as the Progeny. But Arthur is NO HERO.
Can an everyman stand against sanity-ripping cosmic horrors?
www.cogsandneurons.com. You can follow him on twitter as @thexmedic. Read the first chapter of No Hero for free at www.wix.com/jtxm27/no-hero.