For this week, I had the opportunity to interview bestselling author, teacher, and Marvel Comics writer Jonathan Maberry!
LUCAS MAGNUM: How did you come to start writing genre fiction?
JONATHAN MABERRY: I got into writing genre fiction by writing genre nonfiction. I wrote a couple of books on the folklore of vampires and other monsters, and I became frustrated because I wanted to find a novel that used folkloric vampires instead of the Hollywood stereotypes. My wife suggested I stop complaining about it and write one. So…I did. And I fell in love with writing fiction. Now I write far more fiction than nonfiction.
LUCAS: What is a typical workday like for you?
JONATHAN: I’m usually writing by 8:30 and I write until five or six, with some breaks in between for lunch and a trip to the gym. Unless I’m on a tight deadline, I often work on one project in the morning and another in the afternoon. Or I’ll spend the first half of the day doing research and interviews for the science, politics, etc., that form the backstory of my current novel; and then I muscle through and write all afternoon. I take about ten minutes out of every hour for emails and social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.). I shoot for a two to three thousand word counter per day.
Because I write in a lot of different genres, I have to devote a fair amount of time each day to managing my business. That means contracts, pitches, classes, scripts, and other things. And I spend some time each day reading industry newsletters to keep track of what’s going on in publishing.
LUCAS: If you could write in any genre, other than the genres you have explored thus far, which would you pick and why?
JONATHAN: There are a couple I plan to take a shot at. Steampunk for sure, because I’ve been reading some great stuff lately. I want to write a private investigator novel loosely based on my days working as a bodyguard. I would love to do a high fantasy with a political storyline, with a bit of a nod to Roger Zelazney’s Amber novels. And I’m cooking up something for the urban fantasy market.
LUCAS: What compels you to teach the craft, in addition to practicing it?
JONATHAN: Writing is the best day job in the world and I have tremendous fun. I want everyone to have as much fun as I’m having. It jazzes me to see other people make the right steps and open the right doors. And, some it is a pay-it-forward thing. When I was a teenager in Philadelphia I had a chance to meet and get to know superstar authors like Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Arthur C. Clarke, Sprague de Camp, and others. They gave me a lot of advice and encouragement. When I started my fiction career in 2005, I was fortunate enough to meet folks like David Morrell, the late Jeremiah Healey, Joe Lansdale, Sandra Brown and others, and their openness and enthusiastic support of all writers was such an amazing inspiration. How could I not want to keep that mutual support network vibe going?
LUCAS: What’s on the agenda for 2011 releases?
JONATHAN: This is the second year in a row that I have three novels in three different genres coming out. Last year it was THE WOLFMAN, THE DRAGON FACTORY and ROT & RUIN. This year I’m kicking it off with THE KING OF PLAGUES (a mainstream thriller from St. Martin’s Griffin, March 29), then DUST & DECAY (a teen dystopian adventure from Simon & Schuster, August), and then DEAD OF NIGHT (a standalone zombie novel from St. Martin’s Griffin, October 26). I also have a couple of major limited series from Marvel Comics, CAPTAIN AMERICA: HAIL HYDRA, which is running right now; and MARVEL UNIVERSE VS WOLVERINE, which starts in June. Both will be collected as graphic novels after the series ends. And I have several short stories debuting in anthologies, also in different genres; and an essay in a book tribute to Robert Kirkman’s THE WALKING DEAD comic book and TV series.
LUCAS: Who would you say are your biggest literary influences?
JONATHAN: Definitely the authors I met as a teenager. Bradbury and Matheson most of all. But there are a couple of other authors whom I haven’t met whose writings have been inspirational and influential for me. John D. MacDonald comes to mind first. His Travis McGee novels are my favorite mysteries of all time. James Lee Burke is another one. Also Edgar Rice Burroughs, for the diversity of his storytelling; Ed McBain, Shirley Jackson and Gregory MacDonald are all key.
LUCAS: What is the most vital piece of information an aspiring writer should know?
JONATHAN: Learn the business. Learn that publishing is a business. Being good at the craft of writing will only take you so far. That’s a fact of life in publishing. Learning how the business works can give a writer a solid chance to get their stories into the hands of readers.
And, one more thing: be relentless. Don’t let anything stop you from achieving your dreams.
Jonathan Maberry is the NY Times bestselling author, multiple Bram Stoker Award winner, and Marvel Comics writer. His recent works include The King of Plagues, Rot & Ruin, and Wanted Undead or Alive. Since 1978 he has sold fourteen novels, many nonfiction books, more than 1200 feature articles, thousands of columns, two plays, greeting cards, technical manuals, how-to books, short stories, and more. Jonathan is the founder of the Writers Coffeehouse and co-founder of The Liars Club. He is a frequent keynote speaker and guest of honor at writers conferences including BackSpace, PennWriters, The Write Stuff, Central Coast Writers, Necon, Killer Con, Liberty States, and many others. Visit him online at http://www.jonathanmaberry.com