Please welcome John Pullen, author of The Knights of Zardonia series. John self-published his last book in the series – Devil Plague – in July 2017 and he is answering some questions about his writing and publishing process on the blog today. Let’s get started!
Welcome John! You are a talented writer, with more than 20 books published and available on Amazon. Do you remember where and when you started writing your first book? Did you know you were going to publish it?
I started writing “seriously” at 11 years of age – honestly. I had an English teacher who would give out a creative writing assignment as homework every weekend. The subject was usually open and my submissions were always fantasy/science/adventure short stories. The idea of being published did not enter my mind but as a child, I always told myself that if my ambitions of being an astronaut or test pilot did not happen, then I could always become a writer! (I was only 11). I never became an astronaut but I am a pilot. And now after many years, a lot of hard work and a bit of luck, I write full-time.
You have published the Knights of Zardonia series. For those who are unfamiliar with your story, can you tell me a little bit more about it?
In essence they are a re-working of Arthurian legend; in other words, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. But I set it 150 years in the future and the Knights are and have been protectors of the galaxy for thousands of years. The stories are aimed at young adults and adults who are young and involve a 16 year old space cadet Tom Sterling and his friends. The Earth is invaded by the flesh-eating Verm and Tom is thrown across the galaxy where he meets up with the knights. And that is where his real problems and adventures begin. That is the start of Book 1. There are at present six books in the series. The science in the stories is based on real theories or accepted laws and the core message throughout is that “Legends are Truths Lost in Time.”
Describe your writing journey: what did it take to bring the Knights of Zardonia series to life? Did you outline your novel first or were you a total pantser?
I was a scriptwriter and documentary director for over 20 years and was used to writing on a whole variety of subjects; all to a deadline. When I decided to make writing books my main activity, I knew I wanted to write both non-fiction and fiction. The fiction idea had been floating around in my head for a number of months. But it was just an idea with very few details. So I am very much the archetype pantser. I have been and still am someone who takes inspiration through certain types of music. They have the ability to produce scenes like in a film in my head and I often then just describe it on paper. That is perhaps my main technique. In the case of my first novel – Dragon’s Claw – I listened to a CD by the group Muse and found that five tracks were each producing an idea of what I would like to happen in the proposed book. By the end of writing, I had linked them all simply by being a pantser. I have not really changed my technique over the years. If I planned out a book in detail, I would be bored writing it. The fact that most of the time I haven’t got a clue what is going to happen next or how to get out of a situation makes it exciting for me. And I hope it has the same effect on my readers.
How do you make time to write? Do you follow a schedule or do you write when you can?
I am a full-time professional writer and therefore I write full-time. Unless you write, you cannot call yourself a writer. If people then buy your books, you can call yourself a professional writer. I write seven days a week usually out of the home – in coffee shops, art galleries and museums to name a few. Each period usually lasts about three hours. I may do one or two periods a day – it depends. But I always set myself a deadline and generally speaking I give myself about twelve weeks to produce 60,000 words as a first draft. So to answer your question directly – I write when I can and that is usually seven days a week. I either carry a laptop with me or a ruled writing pad and two pens.
Was it always your intention to self-publish, or would you have considered the traditional path if the opportunity presented itself?
I certainly tried to get an agent for my first book and received some encouragement along with the standard excuses. I then looked at self-publishing because getting my work out was more important to me than enjoying the kudos of a traditional publisher. If in the future I am picked up by such a publisher – great but I’m not pushing; my messages and ideas are more important to me creatively.
What would you say is the biggest advantage of self-publishing?
Freedom to write and publish what you think is important. However, there is one very important factor to consider – don’t write and publish rubbish. You won’t get anything positive out of it and neither will your readership. Always produce your very best work. And another tip for the aspiring writer – always write for yourself and then see if others like it as well.
Before self-publishing, what was your number one fear? How did you cope with it?
When I decided to write and then self-publish, I honestly didn’t have any fears. The only problems were practical ones like difficult formatting procedures. I am happy to say that now it is much more straightforward and easier to self-publish. I think I got rid of many of my writing fears when I had to produce scripts to deadlines. But saying that, if I get a bad review I usually take it more personally than getting ten good ones.
You are also a non-fiction writer. Is it easier to write non-fiction than fiction?
In many ways and because I spent so many years writing non-fiction scripts, I almost look at non-fiction as following a formula. I am over simplifying it a bit but in essence, you get an idea or subject, research it well and then write it down and if necessary illustrate it. However, remember that to do it effectively and to make your subject interesting to the reader, you must be able to use a style which achieves this. And that makes it a lot more difficult but well worth the effort. But to answer your question I find non-fiction easier but fiction far more creative and fun.
You have a presence on social media. Would you say social media are important in your marketing? Any tips?
Social media today is so important to a writer. If I don’t bother to use social media as much one month, I can guarantee to see a drop in book sales for that month. And that applies world-wide. My one tip is to find a good social media marketing specialist as your friend. And I am lucky to have one of the best.
You are currently working on a new project. Can you tell me a little bit about it?
This is a completely new idea based in fantasy/adventure for young adults. It is much darker in nature and is probably going to be more suited to 14 years and up. It takes place in the present day and is mainly based around London. It involves creatures existing amongst us with only a few adepts able to see them. And these creatures have been responsible for many of the most famous unsolved murders and crimes of the last 200 years. If you sometimes think that out of the corner of your eye, there is someone there – there probably is and they’re coming for you! Like all my books it will be available on Amazon – probably in the autumn.
Thank you so much for taking part in this interview! I wish you all the best in your author’s journey.
If you have any questions for John, please feel free to leave it in the comments.
John Pullen is a writer and documentary film maker and has over 150 screen credits. His worst moment was accidentally hitting Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the head with a large film camera. Subjects in both films and non-fiction books include general and professional aviation, medicine, history and technology amongst many others. He has also produced a series of novels aimed at teens, young adults and adults who are young. In a phrase – Star Wars meets Harry Potter! Currently he lives near London and for relaxation, flies planes and plays tennis.
Follow him: Website – Facebook – Twitter