Jon S. Lewis is an American writer. He co-authored the Greg Griffins books with Derek Benz. His first solo book Invasion a C.H.A.O.S. novel was released in January of 2011. He has held numerous artistic roles from writing a twelve part comic book series, to doing voice over work. Jon graduated Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Broadcasting. He has also been a web developer, speech writer, worked in graphic design, marketing and many other jobs along the way. Recently he took the time to answer 20 questions for the readers here at Book Reviews and More.
1. If you had not become a writer what do you think you would be doing for a living?
Well, I've been a bit of a vocational gypsy. I've waited tables, painted murals, designed websites, worked on a video game startup, I was an art director, marketing executive and I worked in radio and television. So I'm not sure what I'd be qualified to do. I love public speaking -- especially to tweens and teens. And I enjoy social media marketing, so maybe one of those.
2. When did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you nurture that dream?
I always knew I wanted to be creative, and writing was just a part of that. I also loved to draw (probably my first love), but for the most part I like coming up with stories regardless of the medium. And to be honest, I just sat down and started writing. No training. No degree (well, my degree is broadcast journalism).
3. Who were some of your biggest supporters and contributors to your early success?
My wife was my biggest supporter -- by far. It's a scary industry, so that she has supported me in this crazy journey of extreme highs and lows has been invaluable. I also have had great support from my editors (Lisa Sandell, Alvina Ling, Connie Hsu and Amanda Bostic), and the agents I've worked with (Nancy Coffey and Lee Hough).
4. What authors influenced your writing style and format?
Well, I'm not sure any authors would want to claim me and I wouldn't blame them. I grew up loving Tolkien, Sendak and Lewis. Right now I like minimalist styles -- writers who are descriptive without being flowery or overwhelming you with adjectives and adverbs. Kate DiCamillo comes to mind. And to some extent, the first HUNGER GAMES book by Suzanne Collins.
5. What advice do you wish an artist had passed on to you early in your career, which you only learned through experience?
Save a ton of money and keep your day job until you have enough that your grandchildren won't have to work. Even then, you might want to double that. Oh, and don't use so many adjectives and adverbs. There was only one Tolkien, and that isn't you. And then, use "said" when modifying dialogue -- and only "said."
6. What does your writing process look like? Takes us through the steps from idea to publishing?
It changes with every book, but it always starts with character. If you don't have a character that connects with the reader, you'll never succeed. Everything else is secondary (by far). Then come up with a great plot that's dictated by who that character really is. It's a lot like creating characters for an RPG or a video game. The more you know about your characters, the more real they will become.
7. What of your books was the hardest to write and why?
INVASION was the most difficult because I put way too much pressure on myself. I was more worried about critical acclaim than writing to my strengths. That happened again with my follow up (which we just titled FLIGHT), but I've learned my lesson. I am who I am, and that's it.
8. What was your favorite book to write and why?
INVASION, for the same reason. It made me grow and become a better writer. It was critical. My goal is to get better with each book.
9. One of the greatest strengths in your books are the characters, they are so solid and believable. The characters you create, are they reflections of people you know, composites of different people you know or entirely your creations?
It starts as a composite of friends, family, and characters from books, TV and movies. But after about 5 pages they start to morph into a unique individual. After the second draft, they are usually fairly unique. Inspiration -- and to some extent -- copying is fine as long as it eventually morphs into something new.
10. I once heard Madeleine L'Engle state that her characters were real to her and almost an extended part of her family, she said once that at the dinner table she sat up and stated "Meg just finished her PhD." Are your characters real to you, do you ever get glimpses of what they are up to now, or once you finish a book is that it?
You know, I've really tried to work on that. I've focused more on action, pacing and fun than I have digging deeper emotionally with my characters, but as a part of my growth as a writer, I'm changing my focus. I hope one day I'll see them in the same light as she saw hers.
11. What were some of your favorite authors in your teen years who helped shape you?
Virtually all of them are fantasy authors, even though I don't read straight fantasy any longer. J.R.R. Tolkien. C.S. Lewis. Frank E. Peretti. Jack L. Chalker. Raymond E. Feist. Joel Rosenberg.
12. What are some of your favorite books and authors now?
An author who is new to me is Paolo Bacagalupi, and he wrote a wonderful book called SHIP BREAKER. I dug Tony DiTerlizzi's WONDLA and WATER WARS by Cameron Stracher. The first HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins was incredible.
13. What books are currently in progress for you? Writing, researching, planning or even just ideas that you would like to work on?
Well, I'm finishing up on FLIGHT (the follow-up to INVASION), and I'm looking at plotting a Dystopian book as well as a humorous book with illustrations (kind of like DIARY OF A WIMPY KID). I do a lot of speaking at schools, and I have a good time making the audience laugh. I'd like that humor to come across more in my books.
14. Do you use a playlist when writing? Are certain books written while predominantly listing to the same music?
Yes, at least in the past. I even have playlists for certain scenes, chapters and characters. However, lately I've needed to write in absolute quiet. It's kind of lame, but it's where I am.
15. What advice would you give to teens today, to your readers, what gems of knowledge have you gleaned in life that you would pass on?
Wow, that's a lot of pressure. I guess I'd give two pieces of advice. Number one, don't let anyone tell you that you can't do something. Okay, so maybe you won't make it to the NFL or the NBA, but someone has to. And somebody is going to cure cancer, or write the next HARRY POTTER or be the first to walk on Mars. Why not you? Number two, if you want to be popular -- I'm talking really popular, like the homecoming king or queen, don't be a jerk. Putting other people down to make yourself look better is for losers. The truly popular people aren't the prettiest or the best athletes, they are the people who treat everyone -- regardless of looks, finances or talent -- equally. It'll take you far in life.
16. A few of your books are available in electronic formats but with that comes bootleg distribution. What are your impressions of ebooks and the distribution of them through torrents and other illegal means?
Personally, if someone is stealing a book (and it's stealing) the truth is that the person who is stealing probably wouldn't have bought it to begin with. So it doesn't really bother me. After all, you can read books at the library for free. I look at it like advertising. If someone steals it, reads it and likes it, hopefully he/she will tell friends - or buy the rest of my books.
17. Some authors monitor torrent sites and have their publishers contact them to remove their content. Do you do so are have someone do so for you?
I don't have time for that. I'd rather hang out with my wife and kids.
18. I once had a university professor state that the true goal of a university education should be to teach one to learn how to think. What would you state should be the goal of higher education and why?
It should be to teach you how to provide for your family, period. It costs too much money and takes too long if that's not the goal. A Master's degree in Creative Writing is a good way to waste tens of thousands of dollars that you likely won't recoup. University-level writing programs don't even tell you how to get published. It's sad, really. I mean, sure. You need to be a critical thinker, but if you are talking about writing, don't waste your money. Get something that makes you marketable -- or teaches you how to market your books or manage your finances. You can learn how to be a better writer if you buy a book on writing from Donald Maass or Noah Lukeman, and that only costs $15.
19. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only have 10 books to read again and again, what books would you want with you?
1) The Bible 2) The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller 3) Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders 4) The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien 5-7) Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien 8) Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak 9) Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi 10) World War Z by Max Brooks
20. What advice would you give to young aspiring authors and artists?
Just write. Be observant. Take lots of notes on everything you see. Don't be scared. Get ready for lots of rejection and public criticism. Study the business. Get better with each story you write.
Thanks you Jon for taking the time to answer some questions.
Books by Jon S. Lewis: Grey Griffins :
The Revenge of the Shadow King (2006)
The Rise of the Black Wolf (2007)
The Fall of the Templar (2008)
Grey Griffins Clockwork Chronicles:
The Brimstone Key (2010)
The Relic Hunters (2011)
Free Realms (12 part comic book series.)
Free Realms Book 1 (Issues 1-6) Graphic Novel (2010)
Free Realms Book 2 (Issues 7-12) Graphic Novel (2010)
The Mysterious Journals of J.S. Lewis (????)
Author Profile Interview with Jon S. Lewis.