Welcome to M.N. Jolley, a very patient author (I got a little behind with some of my blog scheduling …) I invited him here to talk a bit about writing fantasy, writing advice, and his penchant for the name David. So, let’s begin!
Q (Infamous Scribbler): First, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your writing?
A (M.N. Jolley): My name is M. N. Jolley, and I’m a fantasy author who’s predominantly been writing an adventure series with a western flair to it. I’ve got two books out at the moment, “The Stone Warrior” and “The Blue Flame”, with a third one coming later this month and a fourth one that’s churning its way through a first draft at the moment. I’ve been writing since I was a kid, and finished the first project I’d charitably call a “Book” when I was about ten, but I’ve been pursuing writing as a profession for the past two and a half years.
I like writing fantasy because it gives me more freedom with the setting, so I can craft things just how I like and not have to worry about matching up to any sort of real-world comparison. I’ve dabbled in hard sci-fi and a bit of military sci-fi, but neither of those rang true when I read them because I didn’t have the lived experience or the scientific knowledge to make them credible. With Fantasy, I can make the world seem real and lived-in without trying to emulate or copy anyone or anything else.
Q: What do you find most challenging about the writing process, and how do you meet that challenge?
A: I’m going to be a bit of a cliche here and say that my biggest challenge is hitting my word count goals. (IS Note: I feel this. I really, really do…) I do freelance videography, which is a lot of fun but generally involves very long days without much down time for other projects on the days I’m filming, and I tend to hit a wall at around 5,000 words even on good days, so when I’m busy with video work it makes it very difficult to stay up to count or catch up when I fall behind.
My best solution to overcome this is just to make time wherever possible. If I know I’m working a thirteen or fourteen hour day tomorrow, I’m going to make sure I have extra time to write today, so that I have a little slack to work with. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best I can do right now.
Q: What was the worst writing advice you ever received? The best writing advice? And why?
A: I honestly can’t think of any bad writing advice I’ve been given, at least not that caused severe problems for me. Some classes I took in junior high had a lot of prescriptive advice that wasn’t very good, (“An adventure story must do X”, “You shouldn’t ever write Y”,) but I didn’t really take any of it to heart and it never caused me any trouble.
The best advice I’ve received, by far, came from a guy named Kevin Dilmore. He’s an author who writes Star Trek novels and went to school with my dad. When I was around ten years old, I finished up a short book that I’d been working on for the past year or so. It was clearly a childish endeavor, clearly written with a lot of enthusiasm and not much else in its favor, but when I asked him to take a look at it for me he agreed — and then came back a week later with my manuscript full of notes and comments, and sat down with me for about an hour, going through the whole thing to talk about the story, the characters, where he thought I’d done a good job and what could be improved. I only remember a few of the things he actually said, but it was the effort he put in that left the strongest impression on me. It was that push that made me feel like writing was something I could actually do, instead of just a passing hobby that wasn’t worth anybody’s time.
Q: Of the work you’ve done, who is your favorite character you’ve created, and why?
A: Theoretically, my favorite character is named David, but it’s probably more accurate to say that I named my favorite character David. What I mean by this is that I’ve been using the name “David” for about a decade now, for something like three or four distinct characters. Some of the Davids are explicitly connected, some of them aren’t, and the David who exists in my current body of work is so detached from the others that he’s got nothing to do with them, but he’s still one of the Davids. The most recent David is also my favorite regardless of the name’s history, but I can’t really say why without spoiling a lot of “The Stone Warrior”.
I’m still undecided if my next series will continue the tradition, or if I’ll finally break tradition and write a story that doesn’t involve a David.
Q: What’s next in your writing journey?
A: I haven’t talked about this publicly yet, but this seems as good a place to make the announcement as any: Once Book 3 of my series comes out, (That is, the one I’m writing now, since one of the books already out is a prequel.) I’m going to take a little time and start work on a serialized urban fantasy/horror short story collection. I don’t want to say more than that at the moment, because plans are still in the works. (The main series will continue on past Book 3 – I have plans for at least half a dozen more books in the main story alone – but it will be running concurrent to another body of work.)
Thank you for having me!