Justin comes to Worldhoppers to share a prequel short story, Shadows of the Past and an excerpt from the first novel of his Farshore Chronicles, A Thief in Farshore.
Shadows of the Past gives you a taste of Justin’s high fantasy writing style and a good introduction to his world of Farshore. I hope you all enjoy the Q&A as much as I did and make sure to check out Justin’s featured author page.
Support Jamie by visiting his website to subscribe to his newsletter and following him on facebook. But, as always, the most important thing we can do to support our indie authors is dive head first into their work.
Ryan: Justin, reading through your bio you can understand and feel your love for stories and storytelling. Many of us, whether we are writers or readers can relate. Are there any specific novels or author influences that helped mold you into the writer you are today?
Justin: One of the first novels I remember reading on my own was Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, because…well, pirates. That led me into devouring the rest of his stories, along with Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Alexandre Dumas, and a lot of those amazing turn of the century adventure epics. Thankfully, no one tried to explain that those books were well beyond a 9 year old’s reading level. I branched into fantasy and sci fi through Tolkien and Lewis after that, but I think those beautiful stories of lost worlds, grand adventures, and swashbuckling action have shaped my sensibilities the most.
Ryan: You grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains and now find yourself living in Colorado, both are beautiful, scenic areas. You also studied at Oxford University. Do you find you bring in a lot of your previous/current surroundings into your work when you’re world building? Or is it completely the stuff of imagination.
Justin: Absolutely! I was very fortunate in that my family did a lot of traveling when I was a kid, including a lot of international trips, so I got to experience a lot of different cultures and climates. A lot of those different styles and spaces get mixed together in my brain when I’m dreaming up new settings. I also studied medieval European and East Asian history in college, so a lot of that information about how culture and society is shaped over time feeds into my writing as well. I think that even when we don’t realize it our mind is always drawing from experiences, moments, and memories to create new things, which is a big part of the fun of it for me.
Ryan: We’ve introduced our audience to Shadows of the Past, which serves as a great standalone short story and also an introduction to the Farshore Chronicles book one, A Thief in Farshore. Was this a single genesis of an idea? What inspired Farshore, book one?
Justin: The setting and story idea of a single human colony struggling to survive in a strange new world of magic and monsters actually came from a tabletop RPG campaign I wrote and ran for a group of friends about a decade ago. The game didn’t last very long, but the idea really stuck with me until I eventually decided to flesh out a story to fit into it.
Ryan: You recently posted about a small break in your writing habits, and how you would get stressed about that in the past – I can relate. For our reading friends who are curious, writing friends (or friends aspiring to write) – I’ll open it up to you to talk freely about anything routine related. What has worked for you (or what has not)?
Justin: I have a strange mix of always wanting to have a writing routine, but also needing to change it frequently. Our daughter is two going on twenty, and it seems like every month her schedule and needs morph again, so I’ve needed to adapt when and how I write to fit that.
One thing I found helpful was to keep a very careful record of my writing output for a few months. I made a spreadsheet and tracked not only how many words I wrote, but how long I wrote for, how I felt mentally and emotionally as I wrote, how hard or easy it felt, what other things were going on in work or life that day, etc. After about two months of that I saw a number of patterns emerge that showed me when and how I do my best work. I write better in the morning than the afternoon or evening, I write better when I have at least two hours set aside, I don’t do well trying to write immediately after working on something else, etc. Figuring out some of those principles has really helped me to keep my productivity up even as I need to change around how I write.
The other thing that really helped was creating a little ritual for myself to begin my writing time. It might sound a little odd but I try to always do the same things in the same order when I’m getting going. I pull up yesterday’s draft and read over it (no editing, just getting into the story), then I put on the same song and make coffee while I explain to our dog what I want to do in today’s scene (I’m a verbal processor so it helps to talk it out). Then I close my eyes and remind myself that I’m grateful for the time that I have to write, and to have fun while I’m doing it, before I jump in. Over time that little routine has become a habit and it jump starts me into a story headspace a lot faster than I used to be able to manage. Plus, it’s a portable routine so I can take it with me when I’m traveling or in a coffee shop (except for the talking out loud part…usually).
Ryan: Current reading / entertainment situation? What is driving your inspiration now or what’s keeping your imaginative mind entertained? (Book, audiobook, movie, show?)
Justin: My wife and I have been listening to a lot of “actual play” podcasts lately, where a group plays through a tabletop RPG campaign together. Good players make them massively fun, and I learn a lot from the way everyone creates believable, lovable characters.
Reading wise, I’m currently on a Lindsay Buroker binge. That woman can write. I like to get into a single author and read a lot of their books at once, as I find it easier to spot trends and styles in their writing to learn from what they do well.