Jonathan C. Gillespie has been writing genre fiction for over a decade. His stories have been published in a variety of outlets on three continents, podcasted multiple times, and nominated for a number of awards. He is the author of the Beacon Saga serial (http://jonathancg.net/the-beacon-saga-serial/), and a host of other titles.
He loves history, loves to hate politics, and is particularly interested in the cycle of nations—from formation, to apex, to downfall. He often incorporates the “study of philosophy through events” into the characters and plots that populate his fiction. He counts as inspirations everything from The Godfather to Chrono Trigger. He can wax on the global banking industry one moment, and in the next tell you why Big Trouble in Little China is the greatest film ever made. He enjoys gardening, hiking, yoga, camping, wargaming, and fishing.
He lives near Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife, Michelle, his daughter, and three cats.
What inspires you to write?
There’s a rush that comes on when writing is going perfectly, when characters are clashing and the plot is racing. In that moment it’s a bit like watching a great flick while making it–simultaneously. It’s an enjoyment of the storymaking process that goes beyond being on just the writing or just the reading side. It’s a complete experience. Beyond that, it’s because I think I have things of value to say, and my own unique perspective. And yes, I want to make a living of it.
Tell us about your writing process.
The misconception, I think, is that one approach to crafting a tale always works. I vary my creation methods depending on the story. I typically outline a novel in advance—sometimes down to individual scenes—along with the major players, but the characters and I understand going in that they’re going to be allowed to do whatever they wish. You can’t constrain a character’s actions. They seldom completely take the path you though they would. If you’ve ever read a story and wondered why you stopped caring about the major characters, it’s usually because the author forced them back onto the rails they’d pre-defined. I’ve learned the hard way that you can’t constrain characters, especially those like Ramelan Fujita.
Sometimes finding the right approach—outline or organic, or a mix—is the greatest challenge I have writing a tale. the Tyrant Strategy doesn’t fit neatly into any mold, and it’s a story with multiple supporting plots and trilogy-spanning touchbacks to those plots, so as I’ve gone into that series I’ve tried my best to outline it as thoroughly as possible.
When I took the short story “Beacon” and decided to make it the first part of a serial, I thought I could stretch out and go completely organic, just seeing where the story took me as I wrote it. In this way, I thought, I could stretch a different creative muscle than the one getting worked for the Tyrant Strategy.
I ended up having to spin a framework outline for the Beacon Saga, and all the installments. To visualize the installments and their connections to each other in the main plot, I drew a huge star chart on a poster board, where the constellation lines were plot threads. The Beacon universe even ended up with a bible document. This was for something that clearly and easily fits into a space opera/dystopian genre, something I was just supposed to be able to grow without all this up-front prep work.
It was supposed to be simple to write. They almost never are!
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I don’t talk to them, but I do listen to them. Some part of me (or some aspect of my thought I am tempted to unleash) is in every last character I’ve ever put on the page. I don’t engage in dialogue with them, but I do listen to their motives. Well-realized characters will let you know when they don’t want to do something you’re trying to shoehorn them into.
What advice would you give other writers?
Read, often. Workshops and such are great, but reading the greats is worth many a workshop. Watch as the masters take all those neat little “rules” you think you knew, that keep winding up on websites and message boards—watch as they tear them to pieces. The greats don’t care if they suddenly enter a room and use a said bookism in passive voice. They don’t obsess about these things. They don’t because they’ve found an effective style of writing—they’ve found their voice—and nothing will stop them from telling their stories, especially thou-shalt-nots.
And don’t try to please everyone. Write for yourself and what the story demands.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I chased trade publication for my novels for several years, and I’ve got enough credits and reputation to get my toe in the door if I wanted to sub my work to them in the future. While I’m not ruling them out, what steered me toward self-publishing was that—when it was actually allowed into the wild—my fiction was getting great feedback from readers. I decided I’d reached the point where I was competent enough not to impose the bottleneck and lead time on my work that trade publication would have cost me.
Still, I advise new authors not to go into this with glasses made out of sunshine and roses. Self-publishing is, in many ways, just as hard as trade publishing. And there is no substitute for learning how to write before you get your work into the marketplace. Writing is a skill. You are essentially a contractor to the reader’s time and entertainment budget. You owe them a good experience. You must create quality work product, as any other contractor would.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think the next few years will see a contraction and draw-down of the number of people stil self-publishing, as word gradually filters out about how challenging the process truly is, and how competitive the marketplace for ebooks has become. The gold rush days are over, as I’ve heard people correctly indicate. At the same time, brick and mortar book stores will cease to exist in all but the most affluent areas, and big publishers will gradually move toward a more aggressive pricing model.
What do you use?
Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?
Science Fiction, Horror (sub genres for those two: Space Opera, Military Science Fiction, Dystopian, Supernatural, Thriller, Post-Apocalyptic)
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print