I've recently become a fan of sci-fi novelist Jon Del Arroz, so I'm very excited he agreed to do an interview for the site. I hope you enjoy his insights as much as I did.
So, Jon…what’s up?(ie, tell us a little about yourself)
I’ve dialed back a lot of stuff in order to just focus on fiction writing lately. That means less journalistic writing, because this is what I’ve set out to do—change culture, and now I’m finally in a position with a platform to where I can do it. It doesn’t get my name out there as often (cuz it’s usually only on releases and novels take time), but I want 2019 to be a body of work which blows others out of the water in just how much great fiction I can produce.
What kinds of genres do you like to write and why?
I’m in space opera/military science fiction, steampunk, and then superhero comics. I like all of the above because I can tell adventure stories in those settings, though I’ll probably delve into straight fantasy in the future as well. These allow for off the wall stories which are fun more than other genres in my opinion. It’s a good spot.
Tell us a little about For Steam and Country.
This was a book that I started writing in 2012-2014, and held it back as it was the second book I ever finished. When I started getting big in early 2017, I knew I had to get something out fast, and this was the closest thing I had ready to completion (I edited then to bring it up to standards). I’d always thought I’d stay mostly in space opera and this would be a side thing to tide me over, but it ended up selling far better than anything else I’ve released before or since, so it became my main world.
I started writing it for two reasons: 1. I wanted a Final Fantasy style steampunk fantasy world where airships flew about and there was good adventuring. There’s a lot of nods to final fantasy in the story because of that. 2. I wanted to see if I could write from a first person female perspective as a writing challenge. Turns out I did both REALLY well.
It’s the story of a girl who inherits an airship and is forced into a war. She starts out a bit immature and has to grow up really fast. Fortunately she’s pretty smart so she grows nicely over the course of the trilogy. I just reread the first book and did a re-edit of it because my prose has gotten a lot better in the last year or so, and I’m still proud of what I created. It’s a super fun book.
As many of your fans know, you’re not exactly a shrinking violet. I’ve tried(unsuccessfully in some cases) to stay out of today’s polarized climate, but you’ve dived straight in. What’s your rationale behind this, and how do you think it affects your audience?
I was kind of forced into it. I just got known for wearing a MAGA hat in circles, got threatened and bullied saying I’d never be published again. I asked Vox Day what to do about it (as I’d started corresponding with him) and he said there’s pretty much two options: 1. I get ostracized and destroyed and no one ever reads my work again and I can capitulate but I’ll never be back with the in crowd cuz they hate people like me on an identity level, or 2. I could fight it and be unabashed about it. I decided the latter and here we are.
We seem to be seeing a reversal of the early 80s stereotype in which supposedly a bunch of rightwing fundamentalists wanted to ban books based on them being blasphemous or something. Today, a great deal of the call for censorship is cased in “sensitivity” by a group I call the Woke-Scolds. What is your opinion of the influence some of these very shrill people are having on the market?
Yes, I’m mocking a lot of the pro-censorship types as “Church Lady”, because they treat everyone exactly like the caricature from the old Saturday Night Live skits where it’s point and shriek at the “blasphemy.” They have a lot of influence because they shut down projects, make sure people are blacklisted, and control the media/review structures which make it very difficult to combat and stay afloat as an artist who doesn’t bow to their narrative.
Do you think we’ve reached a peak of the Woke-Scold movement, where people start to push back, or is this just the beginning?
I think it’s just going to continue to escalate. We’re reaching civil war proportions where sides won’t talk to each other. A shrieking SJW literally cannot even communicate with me without being ostracized from their tribe, so their hate can only grow since they have folk like me completely dehumanized.
What do you read, and which authors have influenced your writing style?
Originally, a lot of Anne McCaffrey, Lois McMaster Bujold and Elizabeth Moon. For all that they might typify “pink SF” now, they do have a lot of good prose and character work that’s worthy of emulating. The problem isn’t so much them as the people who followed them who didn’t have near the talent these ladies have/had, and pushed in a wrong direction from their work. But I’ve been delving a lot more in the last couple of years into the old pulp stuff, and trying to shift my writing to be more action-oriented. These days I’m influenced by Poul Anderson, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard. I think what’s resulting is a fast-paced, crazy action where there’s no brakes, and I mix it with the personal drama and relationship building from the women I listed above, so in my newer work, I’m coming out with a very unique style that fires on all cylinders.
What is your opinion of the split in the publishing world between traditional publishing and the indie movement?
I don’t even pay attention to traditional publishing anymore. Stories are bought and sold based on identity politics marketing there and they have very little value. The best stuff’s being done in indie with Richard Fox, Mark Wandrey, Robert Kroese, Daniel Arenson, and guys in those circles. Once you see the difference, there’s no looking back if you’re actually into books.
What kinds of marketing strategies do you use to draw in readers, and what has been your success rate? Have there been any that would look back at and think, “Wow, that didn’t work.”?
I do a ton. Obviously I run my blog to big success, where I mix it with talking about current event topics and information on my releases. My YouTube presence is building to a good degree as well with the Lunch Stream and my wonderful cohost S. Misanthrope. I’m very active in social media groups, and then I run pretty robust advertising campaigns through amazon and facebook ads.
What projects are you working on now? Anything got you excited?
Too many! I’m doing a trilogy which I’m just about to wrap up called Saga of the NanoTemplar. It’s a space-fantasy world where there’s a perpetual holy war going on between two civilizations, an allegory about Christianity vs. Islam and action-packed like a Star Wars movie. I’ll be putting that out later this year along with more of my von Monocle (For Steam And Country) steampunk series. On the comics front, getting Flying Sparks volume 2 ready, and very excited about a public domain golden age superhero called Dynamite Thor which I’ve developed with an artist Don Jackson into a modern character. It’ll be a lot of fun.
Anything else you’d like to share about either your writing philosophy or your life?
I try to put everything into my work. Every spare second I try to work on marketing or work on writing. It’s the only way to succeed if you’re serious about it. For folk who want to get into this, it’s a full lifestyle adjustment, but it’s worth it if you really love the work. And I’d also say make sure to keep praying and thanking God for abilities – without His blessings, we have nothing. That’s about the most important thing there is to keep in mind.