John R. Phythyon, Jr. wishes he were a superhero or a magician, but, since he has not yet been bitten by a radioactive spider or gotten his letter from Hogwarts, he writes adventure stories instead. He is the author of the Wolf Dasher series of fantasy-thriller mash-up novels, as well as several short stories, a two-act comedy, and numerous game manuals. He won awards for the latter and hopes to make millions with the former.
In the meantime, he lives in Lawrence, Kansas with his wife, their children, a dog, and a cat. His current projects include the next novel in the Wolf Dasher series, world peace, and desperately wishing for the Cincinnati Bengals to win a Super Bowl before he dies.
What inspires you to write?
I am a storyteller. I’ve been one since the time I could speak. I’ve always wanted to tell people stories, whether they are made up or true. Thus, becoming an author was the natural thing to do. I’ve tried several careers. Some of them involved writing; some didn’t. But nothing besides authoring fiction was the right fit. I don’t believe in destiny, but, if I did, I would say this is what I was meant to do.
Tell us about your writing process.
When an idea starts really working its way around my brain, I know it’s time to sit down and start fleshing it out. I usually know how it starts and how it ends, but I have to discover how the beginning gets to the finish.
I have a notebook (well, several actually) that I use to get started. First, I typically write down the names of all the major characters and what their role in the story is — sort of a Shakespearean dramatis personae, if you will.
Once I have my cast list, I start outlining the story. Sometimes I write down major plot points or setting situations, but usually I just dive right into the story itself. I always write in pencil, so I can erase and make revisions. What I want to get down is the overall structure of the story and the how and why of what happens.
Once I have that in mind, I sit and start writing. I work from an outline, but I give myself the freedom to change things. At some point in the process, the story writes itself. I lose control of what’s happening and become a conduit for how this particular tale gets into written form.
When I have a first draft done, I print it and read it, making lots of notes. No one ever reads my first draft except me, because the book isn’t ready yet. The first draft is just the process of getting it to paper. The editing and rewriting is where it really gets shaped. That’s where the art comes in.
After I’ve edited the first draft, I make changes and craft it into a second draft. When that is finished, I give it to my editor. From there, the two of us starting shaping it into the book I will publish.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I don’t listen or talk to them, but I do let them have their way. Once I really get into writing the book, they take over. They do what they want to do, and I record it.
What advice would you give other writers?
The hardest part about writing is writing. That sounds like some sort of enigma, but it’s really true. You have to make time to write, and you have to commit to doing it, and you have to understand that not everything you write will be good.
But you have to write. If you don’t sit down and do it, it won’t get written. If it doesn’t get written, you’re not a writer. Sit down five days a week and knock out 1500 to 3000 words. Don’t worry if they are good or bad. Just get them down. When the first draft is finished, you can go back and craft and shape and cut and add.
But before you can do any of that you have to get it written.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I tried for years to go the traditional route. I wrote books and I queried agents and I tried to get someone to believe in me. When I failed, I wrote another book and repeated the process.
I was getting ready to do the same with STATE OF GRACE, the first novel in my Wolf Dasher series. Then I happened to come across a link from a friend about how self-publishing had really taken off since Amazon’s Kindle had become so popular. I did some research and came across Joe Konrath’s blog. I’d read his story of how he got WHISKEY SOUR published years before in WRITER’S DIGEST, and I really respected his process.
The more I read, the more I became convinced I could do it on my own. I’d worked in marketing in for years. I understood how to hustle to get something to sell. I also knew from years of reading how to get published that, whether you self-published or legacy published, you were going to have to work your butt off to sell your books. AND, I realized I could get my book out faster than a publishing house and keep more of the profits.
So, since the landscape was changing, I chose to skip trying to get an agent or legacy house to be interested in publishing me and do it myself. I’m still struggling in the market place. I haven’t become the next John Locke at all yet. But I have four books published and more coming this year, and I’m getting read. That’s what writers want.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
It’s wide open. I doubt very much that print will ever completely die. People like having a book in hand.
But electronic publishing is the future. E-readers and e-reader apps are omnipresent. They’ve opened the door to mid-list authors and those of us who couldn’t get past the gatekeepers in a whole new way. The market will sort out who succeeds and who fails. In the interim, eBook publishing is where we are headed, and resisting that is like being a dinosaur and believing the climate hasn’t changed.
What do you use?
Professional Editor, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?
Fantasy, Thriller, Fairy Tale, Politics, Religion, Horror
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print