Thursday, October 9, 2014

Interview with J.F.R. Coates - Author and Esteemed Dragonologist

I am here with esteemed dragonologist and author, J.F.R. Coates. Thank you for being with us today, Mr. Coates.  May I ask, when did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I had just finished reading a certain fantasy novel – I won’t mention exactly which one, but it contains dragons – and I challenged myself to do better. Everyone I knew seemed to think this particular fantasy novel was amazing, yet I could see it was riddled with errors. I must have been about 16 at the time, and it was then I started writing my first novel. Those first few drafts shall never see the light of day.

I imagine many authors hide their first attempts far from public eyes.  How long does it take you to write a book?

This can change wildly. Axinstone took 5 years of on/off writing to complete. Impossible Magic took 9 months. I’d like to think I can create a happy medium somewhere in the middle. If I can release a book every 18 months I’d be happy.

That is quite a fluctuation.  That being said, what is your work schedule like when you're writing currently?

My work schedule is usually me attempting not to procrastinate. Between reading, writing, and editing for Jaffa Books, I have very little time for procrastination!

I can certainly identify with the challenge procrastination can bring.  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

It’s not so prevalent in Axinstone and Impossible Magic, due to the limitations of the 1st person PoV, but I think one of the distinctive features of my writing is the occasional asides in the history or backstory of a particular character or location. I love character and world building, and I find this is a great way to express that to the reader.

I actually admire those that can write in the first person. I personally find this a challenge.  Keensight says it is because I prefer that god-like view.  That.. might be true. So, where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

Ideas can come from anywhere, but I find a lot of mine come from music. I can take a lyric of a song – sometimes just a single line – and extrapolate an entire novel’s plot from it. Information tends to come from online research, as well as ‘borrowing’ some ideas from my favourite authors.

Interesting, I have never considered looking to music. When did you write your first book and how old were you?

As mentioned in a previous question, I was 16 when I first started writing. Though those drafts will never see the light of day due to their quality, the book I was writing then will be released in a couple of years. The first completed book I wrote was Axinstone, released last year, on my 24th birthday.

Impressive.  I did not get over the 'what if they don't like it' til I was... well old.  What do you like to do when you're not writing?

Reading! I follow Stephen King’s advice to writers. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write. I also find time for the Civilization and Football Manager games series, as well as shouting at the television whenever the football (soccer) is on.

I imagine that you are excited for the new Civilization release coming later this month. Let me ask, what does your family think of your writing?

They love it! My parents were surprised to begin with, as it came from nowhere. At school I was always told I had good writing ability, but no imagination whatsoever. My parents are certainly my biggest fans at this point! My sister has read the last page of Axinstone and that’s about it – we’re still working on her!

I so understand.  I have a daughter that won't crack my books open.  Morbidly, she wants to wait till I am beyond this world.  I am not sure what I think about that. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

That characters are alive! I’ll never forget the moment I first realized my characters had taken over the story and guided in a different direction to my outline. I used to think I was in control of them, but now I know it’s the opposite.

I am relieved to talk with someone that feels that way. Now when I am asked by family, "How is it going to end?" I answer, "They haven't told me yet." How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I’ve completed just the two so far, with a third set for release next year. I’ve got eighteen books planned out to varying stages of completion though. My favourite has to be Seven Runes, which is the seventh book in the Farenar saga. That is going to be so much fun when I get to sit down and spend a lot more time on it.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Keep at it and don’t give up. First drafts are always going to be dreadful, so there’s no point fretting about things at that stage.

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

I do! Mostly they express their frustration with the cliff-hanger endings that conclude Axinstone and Impossible Magic! Others have commented on the depth of the world already – something that pleases me greatly as I’ve barely scratched the surface of Farenar!

I get that reaction as well.  My two novels both end with cliff-hangers.  What are you working on right now?

At the moment I’m finishing Reborn, which is a science fiction novel that has nothing to do with the Farenar world. I’ve also started writing Fate of Three, which will conclude the Destiny of Dragons section of the Farenar saga.

Now the important question, where can readers follow you and/or purchase your work?

I can be found on Facebook and Twitter (/jfrcoates and @jfrcoates respectively). Axinstone and Impossible Magic can be purchased from Amazon and Jaffa Books.

Thank you for sharing with me today, Mr. Coates.  For those of you that would like to learn more, Mr. Coates also has a page at our local Dragonologists website.