Black’s book, NINTH CITY BURNING with be launching September 6th and you are going to love it! Here I will chat with him about his book, the ending of Lost, booze and his best tip for writers working toward publication.
Meg Bonney: Without giving too much away, what can you tell us about the plot of your book?
J. Patrick Black: Okay, so the story is set on a near future Earth, as what I’ve come to describe as a militant expansionist Narnia. They’re a parallel world full of fantastical creatures and they bring with them, when they invade our reality, a power that looks a lot like magic. It turns out that even though all of our weaponry is no good against this other power, once they bring it into the world, we can make use of it also. It, essentially, restructures society to build up in a way that we can fight back. We end up in a long and protracted war that, by the beginning of the story, has been going on for about 500 years. And it is just about to change and that’s when things get exciting.
MB: That’s awesome! I am reading it now and I haven’t gotten to the portal stuff just yet but I love that. It’s really cool how you were able to make it feel like a mash-up of science-fiction and fantasy. Like it starts off feeling very alien invasion/dystopian but then you start to see the bits and pieces of the fantasy aspect start to creep in. I love it.
Have you always been into both science fiction and fantasy?
JPB: I got into sci-fi and fantasy in my late elementary school age, so like 4th or 5th grade. I really started with fantasy like, Chronicles of Narnia, The Wizard of Earthsea, The Red Wall series, that really got me caught up in genre and I discovered science-fiction not too long after but a little bit later. It’s really been a great pleasure for me ever since to be able to discover all of these new speculative things and see how each different author treats this small to large twist they put on our reality to come up with something completely different and cool. And in college, I was an English major which wasn’t the most professionally useful degree, at least until now, I guess I am one of the few. And that was some of the more academic fiction I was dealing with and it was very interesting to me, the way those two fields overlap because these days, you do have very literary science-fiction and fantasy writers. I think having a formal education in literature means I can appreciate it more, than when I was ten, or so.
MB: That makes sense. So, with this being your debut, do you think you’ll stick to this genre in the future? I have seen a lot of authors recently who don’t stick to a genre, unlike authors from back in the day. Do you see yourself branching out? Are there other genres that catch your eye and your imagination?
JPB: Oh, absolutely. I think on of the things that is exciting about literature today is all of the directions authors today can go in. I feel like maybe 20 years ago, if you started out in a specific genre, you’d have to stick with it just for marketing. Unless you wanted to change your name, which is a nice thing that authors have always been allowed to do. But these days, the lines are sort of blurring and it’s partially, I think, because a lot of genre is having it’s day. Maybe in the past five to ten years, there’s been a lot more science-fiction and fantasy having a lot more mainstream success, which I think primes readers to expect more diverse things from people who’s books they read. I don’t think I would want to restrict myself to one genre because when an idea comes to me, I want to follow it and having that freedom is one of the nice things about being a writer today.
MB: I agree, I think that is a really nice change. So, I saw on your Twitter that you recently attended SDCC. What can you tell us about that experience, going as an author with a book coming out versus going as just a fan?
JPB: It was awesome. I have never been to a comic con before. I know that they existed but I am an east coast person, so getting to San Diego for the con of cons is not something I would have had the opportunity to do otherwise. I also never would have been able to get tickets for it! It was a weird sensation because I am such a fan of all of these things going on and I was really taken with the spectacle of it. And then, it sort of didn’t feel like I was on a level with the other professionals there, just because I am so used to being a fan. I was definitely star struck when I met Andy Weir so I felt more like I was attending as a fan who was signing books, than as a real pro.
MB: That’s really cool though! I loved how you documented it on your Twitter and I saw that they even had a drink inspired by your book?
JPB: Oh, yeah. It was a gin fizz, which was really cool because one of my hobbies is that I am an amateur bartender.
MB: Well, hey! One of my hobbies is drinking, so there you go!
JPB: They were great and I probably drank one or two more than I should have but how often do you get that opportunity?
MB: I know, right? That’s great! So, I want to talk about your writing. Most writers have a ritual or an environment they like to work in. What’s yours?
JPB: I still have a day job, I work construction. So I find that I do my best work right after I wake up. I like to get up and when it’s quiet I try to put down as many high quality words as I can. And then I go back later and sort of draft what I am going to do the next day. I have everything sort of laid out and mapped to really get into it the next morning.
MB: That’s a really good plan. I might have to steal that. What projects are you working on right now? Are you working on more books in this series?
JPB: There’s going to be a book two and a book three, that are planned. I am also stalking new ideas and seeing if it grows up into a story so I can pounce on that.
MB: That’s great! So, at PureFandom.com, but we are giant (and proud) nerds. We love our fandoms. Is there any book, movie or show that you love to geek out over?
JPB: One of my dirty little secrets as a fanboy, is that I am always about two or three years behind on stuff. I let the other fans weed out the bad shows for me. So I was one of those people who only discovered Joss Whedon’s Firefly years after it had been cancelled and then sort of resurrected as a comic book and on DVD’s. I became such a huge fan of that and I felt so bad because I felt like maybe one more viewer in the ratings would have been able to save it or something but I missed my chance. I was also a very late comer fan of Lost. I don’t know if you watched it, but whenever I bring it up people tend to have strong, negative feelings about the way it ended.
MB: Did you like how it ended? Are you one of “those people”?
JPB: I didn’t like how it ended but I wasn’t just shattered by it like some people were.
MB: Oh my gosh, my husband was so mad about that ending. He still is actually, like all the time. I am not one of those people though.
JPB: Oh, good. Yeah, that show didn’t stick the landing but I enjoyed the ride more than people who had it sour their entire experience of the show, to have ended it that way. But because I started it so late, I had time to prepare myself for what I knew was coming. You know, that it was going to make no sense and be bad. I think that allowed me to stay a fan, even after season 6.
MB: For sure, binge watching with some of the info like that makes it easier to jump into shows too. Back to the book, I wanted to ask about the character Jax. If you could cast anyone to play him in a movie version of the book, who would it be?
JPB: My friends have asked about it too but I am not up on the young Hollywood these days and Jax is twelve at the start of it. But if I am not limited by time and space, I would say a twelve year old Tom Hanks.
MB: Even though it’s not possible, I love that. If any adult could pull off twelve, it’s Tom Hanks.
JPB: And he did, in Big!
MB: That’s true! We are always looking for a new book. Is there anything you are loving right now?
JPB: THE FIRST FIFTEEN LIVES OF HARRY AUGUST, by Claire North. I just finished it this morning.
(Check it out HERE)
MB: Awesome! So lastly, do you have any advice for authors who are still writing and working on querying and getting published?
JPB: I do! NINTH CITY BURNING is my debut novel, but it’s not the first novel I have written. I have written between two and seven other novels, depending on how you count re-imaginings of the same premise. So, I feel like I have learned a lot in that time but at the same time, I feel like what ultimately helped get me over the line was a lot of luck, in my opinion. For me, it was just brute force. I’d write a novel and I would query people. I think the best advice I would have for writers going into the query process is to be polite and keep trying. There is a lot of disappointment in early stages and late stages. Just keep trying and stay positive. That’s the biggest thing that got me through to the end. Something that I wish I had done more of is networking with other authors. I wish I had gone to more authory things. I wish I had entered more writing contests. The more you put yourself out there, the more likely you will have that lucky strike that will take you on from there.
MB: I think that’s really good advice! Thank you so much!
Be sure to pick of your copy of NINTH CITY BURNING, which will be launching on September 6th! Pre-order your copy right HERE!
Need more Let’s Get Lit! in your life? Check out my interview with Cheri Champagne , author of LOVE’S MISADVENTURE. And don’t forget to hit me up on twitter if you’d like to be featured on Let’s Get Lit! Thanks for reading!
Until next time, STAY LIT everybody!
(This interview has been edited for length.)