Welcome M.N. Jolley to today's Author Spotlight.
M. N. Jolley is a creative professional born and raised in Kansas City in 1996, where he still lives. Working with a background in film and cinematography, he began writing seriously in 2016 and has recently completed The Stone Warrior, the first book in The Sacrosanct Records.
Tanisha D Jones: Hi M.N. , welcome to my blog. It's great that you could take the time to talk to me today. So, let's get right into this, tell me about your current work.
M.N. Jolley: Gangs of raiders attack vulnerable towns too ill-protected to defend themselves, taking captives for slaves and leaving nothing but ashes in their wake. An energy known as “spirit” powers the frontier for those who can afford it, but once upon a time the use of this power was known only to a few individuals who would harness spirit to use magic. Many call those people witches, and would prefer them gone.
Adelyn Mayweather finds her family victim of the raiders, and though she has the power of magic, she is only fifteen. Knowing she can’t find her family alone, she hires the one bounty hunter she can afford and abandons everything in hopes of finding them.
It is a journey with few promises and no guarantees. Her one ally is a veteran with a questionable past. She has power, but will it be enough? Magic and tenacity can carry a determined girl a long way on the frontier.
TDJ: Do you write more than one genre?
MNJ: Not at the moment. I’ve written some military sci-fi, but nothing that I’d consider showing to anyone. They were early works, and it definitely shows in quality.
TDJ: Were you a fan of military sci-fi?
MNJ: Not particularly, at least not to my memory. I read through the Ender’s Shadow series which quickly turned into military sci-fi, but those were never near the top of my list of favorites. It was mostly a result of my plan to write a story that turned into post apocalyptic sci-fi a couple books in. (It was not a good plan, but it was the plan I had.)
TDJ: Do you find it harder to write in one genre over another?
MNJ: Absolutely. I stopped writing military sci-fi because the additional research required made it far harder to create something I was happy with.
TDJ: I get that. I have a series based on mythology and theology- lots of reading. Lots of obscure references. It can be a struggle. Why did you choose this particular genre? What inspired it?
MNJ: That’s a bit of a long story, actually, that comes back to the last couple questions. I’ve been writing fiction for just about as long as I can remember, but my first “novel” was written in Junior High, and it was a post-apocalyptic sci-fi story that was enthusiastic, if not particularly good. From there I decided I wanted to turn it into a series, and so I started working on a prequel that would be set before the apocalypse, in a version of the modern-day real world. It didn’t turn out very well, and neither did any of the other projects I tried to write in that “Universe”. After about four years of writing in this setting, a friend suggested I try adapting the story to a different setting, since the contemporary references kept tripping me up.
I took his advice, and started adapting the story to a fantasy piece, and something just clicked while I was writing it. That piece still ended up shelved because it was far too convoluted a plot, but I’d caught the bug for writing fantasy and I’ve been sticking with it ever since.
TDJ: Have you thought about maybe revisiting some of those stories? Maybe using some of those aspects in this new series?
MNJ: Honestly, if I revisited those stories they’d end up feeling derivative of my current projects. I’ve already cannibalized and pillaged all the “functioning” elements of the old stories before I shelved them. The magic system I’m using was a direct copy, and elements of the apocalyptic war got recombined and remixed into a unification war that took place a few years before my story’s beginning. Heck, I even stole character names. If I did come back to them, it’d have to be as a spinoff of my current works so I wouldn’t get accused of writing the same story twice!
TDJ: How do you write? Do you start and stop? Or write furiously until it’s done? Do you plot or are you a pantser?
MNJ: In a single sitting, my writing tends to involve lots of stops and pauses to check continuity, look through my plot outline, and decide exactly where I want every scene to go. I outline the book as a whole, but the story is generally vague until I get to that chapter and start writing it - A story outline for a 120k word book tends to be a couple paragraphs long, often with five or six-chapter sections described as simply as “The characters deal with a conflict” or “X character is captured and must escape.” The details get filled in as the scene goes along, and then in my editing pass I work in continuity and make sure everything flows properly.
TDJ: Does your story ever veer far from the outline? I know mine do once my characters take over?
MNJ: Not the plots as a whole, but often large sections and scenes end up going places I didn’t expect. Usually it’s the Act II conflict that surprises me the most - I once realized I was writing a heist novel halfway through the book.
TDJ: Do you have any strange writing habits?
MNJ: I’m not sure if it qualifies as a strange habit, but I tend to write fastest when I’m on a road trip or taking a flight somewhere. If I had to guess, it has something to do with the lack of internet access and the fact that I can’t get up or find ways to distract myself.
TDJ: I write on flights as well. It’s something to focus on instead of hoping we don’t fall out of the sky. Can’t do it on road trips though, I’m usually the driver. Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad?
MNJ: I don’t have any reviews just yet, but I plan on reading them and not responding to a single one.
TDJ: Sometimes it’s good to gauge your audience. What is your writing Kryptonite?
MNJ: It takes me way too long to realize when a story thread isn’t working. I’ve had more than a couple plot arcs come to a grinding halt for days or weeks at a time while I try to figure out what’s wrong and how to continue them, when what I really need to do is cut them from the story entirely and start that section over from scratch.
TDJ: I completely understand. I happen to be a wordy overly descriptive writer. But I have a coach, editor and beta readers that help me reel it in. Do you have someone like that?
MNJ: I’ve got my editor and a few beta readers, but I generally don’t have anyone who I give manuscripts to while they’re in progress. When I write, unless it’s a plot-stopping issue that I immediately have to go back and fix, I just make a note of it and keep going until the entire first draft is done, then go back and correct the problems. I wouldn’t want to force that upon anyone until I’ve gone through and cleaned it up, so I usually don’t hand off the manuscript until it’s at least in second draft state.
TDJ: Name 3 authors/books that impacted your writing.
MNJ: Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer, True Grit by Charles Portis, and Ender’s Game.
TDJ: I love Ender’s Game, felt the movie was lacking but the book was incredible. So, you seem to like Sci Fi and Cowboy? Odd but perfect in a strange way. Your book seems to be a combination of both.
MNJ: If we’d been including shows, Firefly would definitely be on the list. I don’t actually read a lot of westerns, but I’m a big fan of a lot of contemporary western films. I’d say my book is more a combination of fantasy and cowboy, though it’s leaning more industrial than other fantasy works.
TDJ: If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?
MNJ: When are we filming, and do I have a time machine? One of my leads is fifteen years old, and I’m not really up to date on what good teen actors there are right now. Without travelling back too far, though: Hailee Steinfeld five years ago as Adelyn, and Michael B Jordan today as David.
TDJ: Hailee Steinfeld is pretty awesome. But check out Rowan Blanchard, very good actress, she was the star of Girl Meets World. Disney is full of great young talented kids. And Michael B Jordan…enough said. What are you working on now? What is your next project?
MNJ: I’m currently working on the third book of my series about a pair of characters named Adelyn and David, and their adventures in a post-war nation that’s just on the verge of industrializing into modernity. In this piece, I’m playing around with a locked-room murder mystery that functions as the central element of the story, but the series as a whole is more focused on adventure. It’s an interesting challenge working with the plot of a murder mystery while keeping up the energy of an adventure, but I think it’s going well so far
TDJ: Locked door mysteries are the most fun to read. Agatha Christie was a master. Is this series going to be a trilogy or do you see it going further than that?
MNJ: Definitely going further than that. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I’ll just say that the first three books are just the calm before the storm. I’ve got big plans for my characters and their setting, and I’m not letting them off the hook after just three books - They’re in for the long haul whether they want to be or not.
TDJ: Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?
MNJ: I haven’t honestly planned out that far. Idealistically, I’ll have a couple movie deals and a couple Hugo awards under my belt, but I’ll settle for some dedicated fans and no carpal-tunnel syndrome.
TDJ: A strong readership is the best. Getting started is always the hardest part of writing. Most people don’t realize the work that goes into producing a decent story and having it sell. Do you have family/friends support?
MNJ: My mom is on the list of first-round beta readers, and she’s also given me some terrific help with marketing and business setup. (She’s an artist who runs a video production house when she’s not running workshops or painting, so there are very few things I can’t turn to her for help with.) Shout out to Amanda Jolley and Studio Joy!
TDJ: Last Question: Star Wars or Star Trek?
MNJ: Trek is better at exploring ideas, Wars is better at telling stories. (My favorite captain is Pike, my favorite episode is V.)
TDJ: I love them both, my daughter is Chewbacca-obsessed. But if I had to choose my all-time favorite sci fi series’ Dr. Who and Firefly are the tops.
MNJ: Dr Who is occasionally fantastic and occasionally I can’t stand it, but that’s what you get for a show with more seasons than an N.K. Jemisin novel. (Is that joke too obscure?)
TDJ: Not at all
MNJ: The reboot of Battlestar Galactica was also right up my alley for the first few seasons, but it’s hard to beat Firefly.
TDJ: It sure is. It’s been great talking to you. Thanks for taking the time to let us get to know you more!
Follow M.N. Jolley:
Twitter: @ MNJolleyWriting