SciFy Shenanigans: Justin Sloan

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J. R. HandleyHey Space Cadets, how’s everyone doing today?  I’m doing fantastic! I’ve sent my finished reviews to the Boss Man for final approval. Once he signs off on it, I’ll give it back to my editor.  So… I’m onto editing my short story for TEU3!  And don’t forget to read the Sleeping Legion before the fourth and final novel releases in the near future.  There are audiobooks available for you, if that’s your preference. If you’ve already read up through Operation Breakout (Sleeping Legion Book 3), then check out my short story in the Four Horsemen Universe Anthology, For a Few Credits More.

Now, let’s get right to the point of my latest blog posting!  Yes, I’ve gotten bit by the interview bug!  I’ve started the Warrior Weekend Series, and now the ‘SciFy Shenanigans’ series where I only chat with other science fiction authors!  Here goes nothing!

GrassTo facilitate that personal chat, I created a template for the authors to talk about their latest book, and their creative process.  They’ll be able to pitch the other stuff too, of course, but many authors have deep back catalogs. It’s hard to get into the weeds with those prolific literary giants, so I took a weed whacker to the mess.  Here are the final results!  The questions are in no particular order, so grab your seat while your minion makes your popcorn and enjoy the ride!

 

Sloan Books

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, Children of All Ages……

 

First, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?

I went into the Marines right out of college. After five years in signals intelligence, I went off to find myself by living in Japan, Korea, and Italy and then doing government stuff for a while before realizing I needed to leave the workforce to pursue the creative lifestyle fulltime.

At first, that took me to writing video games at a company called Telltale, which was a dream come true because I had the opportunity to work on Game of Thrones. To give that some clarity, I started writing in part because I had read the Game of Thrones books and was waiting for book five. Instead of just waiting, I started writing. So you can see how exciting that would’ve been for me.

I left video games after two years to focus on novel writing.

 

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

I used to teach Maui Thai kickboxing. It was a fun side of my life that all of my old friends knew, but now that I’m this author guy people always seem surprised to find this out.

 

I’ll go out on a limb and assume that if you write books, you also enjoy reading them.  What other genres do you enjoy reading, and how have they affected your writing?

I actually have enjoyed quite a few YA and MG books, such as Fablehaven, the Spirit Animals series, Scorpio Races Percy Jackson, and others. So when I started writing, a lot of what I wrote was in that style. In part, it was because I knew it would be fun to share my stories with my family, and in part, it was because I wanted to try writing at my craft level—write for a younger crowd and advance as my craft developed.

Of course, I also love fantasy, as that was got me into writing, to begin with, and science fiction came along for me with books by such authors as Glynn Stewart.

 

Who are your biggest writing influences?

My biggest writing influences are definitely Brandon Sanderson and George R.R. Martin. I remember taking A Game of Thrones to my literary MA program at Johns Hopkins, highlighted and underlined, and trying to explain to them why his writing held up to the literary authors, if not exceeded.

Then there is Brandon Sanderson, his podcast, and the lecture videos. These all played a huge part in my development as a writer.

 

Who are your favorite authors and books?

My recent favorite authors and books definitely include Glynnt Stewart’s Starship Mage, Nick Cole and Jason Anspach’s Legionnaire book. I’ve already mentioned my fascination with Brandon Sanderson and George R.R. Martin.

 

How did that love of reading lead you deep into the trenches of the writer’s life?

For me, it was always about trying to share that same sense of escapism and excitement that I loved about those books. I sat down to try and write a book that would do that for others, and in a few months had over one-hundred thousand words written. It was an obsession! Now I get to hear readers telling me about the same experiences I had but for them, reading my books. It’s a new sort of addiction.

 

What is your preferred writing style?  Do you have a favorite point of view; first person, third person, etc.?  Feel free to answer as both a reader and as an author!

I write mostly in third person, as I feel there is a lot of magic that can go into that style of writing. There’s a concept called “Free Indirect Style” that I think every author should understand, and I love to work toward it when writing. That said, I have some penname work that was first person, and I definitely see the value in it.

I love first person, sometimes. The problem with it for me, as a reader, is that authors often seem to see it as an excuse to go into way too much detail and backstory. While some are fun and help contribute to story, too often, it’s just filler and the author becoming a bit too self-indulgent.

 

When did you get serious about your writing as a career, as opposed to it having been just a hobby?

When I was working as an Asia analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank, I realized I was spending eight hours a day NOT being creative. I went hardcore on trying to figure out how to make it realistic and escaped at the first chance I had. Then, it was just a matter of making it a reality.

 

Shaddow CorpsWhat is your current novel?  Can you tell us a little bit about the premise?

My recent novel is called Shadow Corps, and it’s about a group of warriors from different planets who are pulled together to go fight enemies in the darkest corners of the worlds. They’re like space assassins or ninjas in that way or a more intense A-Team.

 

Shadow Corps is apparently a series, where can we expect it to go?

The series follows this science fiction team of black ops warriors as they do their part against an alien force leading massive invasions across the universe. There’s an alliance established against them, and all-out war declared, but my team will search out the vilest, high-profile targets around the universe that threatens to sway the advantage toward the enemy. Of course, it deals with so much more than that, but this is the main direction of the series.

 

Where did you find the inspiration for Shadow Corps?

I’ve always enjoyed stories that are larger than life, filled with adventure, fun, and maybe a hint of magic. Star Wars, naturally, comes to mind. In a way, this was my attempt to write a black ops version of a story like Apocalypse Now in a way that’s more fun, with hints of Star Wars.

 

Your characters from Shadow Corps are sent into a gladiatorial death match. Who wins? 

Samantha is a badass and has some awesome abilities to kick some butt. However, I try to make her main strength be her humanity and her brains. If it’s a straight-up deathmatch, I’d imagine her mentor character, Hadrian, or her teammate in the Shadow Corps, Napalm, would easily take her down. For now, that is.

 

Changing course for a moment, what do you listen to while you write? Or do you prefer silence? 

My favorite music to listen to while writing is either techno Zelda or soundtracks from Braveheart or the Last of the Mohicans. Something to pump me up and make me feel that sense of nostalgia. When I really feel like I need a boost, I put on 1980’s montage music.

                                                      

Okay, and here is another random question.  What is the most embarrassing thing you’ve looked up in the name of research – or what do you think the government has maybe flagged you for?

I honestly don’t know about this one. I’d say I’d be more embarrassed if my readers knew some of the science fiction stuff I had to look up, after realizing I hadn’t written about that stuff before. Such as… before writing science fiction, I didn’t really know about the solar system versus star and planetary systems. It seems so obvious once you know, but not knowing is so much easier, right?

 

What was your favorite part of writing Shadow Corps?

Books like this are great because I can just sit back and let the words flow. Writing this book was especially fun when I started seeing the covers come back because they were not only what I imagined, but more so. They started influencing the story, and as you get farther along in the book, you’ll see exactly what’s up with the glowing parts of her space armor, or why she has the hood and the cloth that flows about her. It’s all integral and made for some very fun writing.

 

Which actor/actress would you like to see playing your main characters from Shadow Corps?

That’s a tough one! I’ll just say I would love to see these actors in the movie: John Rhys Davies, Steve Bescemi, Michael Fausbender, and maybe Kristen Kruek. They could all make it magical.

 

Do you have a particular time to write or how is your day structured? 

When I worked fulltime, I had a very structured system of waking up at 4:30 am to write before going to work, and maybe at night if I was able. Now, I write fulltime. My best writing time is still in the morning, but I usually only get about thirty-forty minutes before dropping off the kids at daycare. Then I head straight to a café, write like crazy, take a break to work out and eat, and then get back to it until I pick up the kids. It’s a dream come true!

 

Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

It all depends on deadlines set. This month I had to get two novels done, so had a goal of seven thousand words a day. When I’m not wanting to kill myself, I think four or five thousand is a better goal.

 

When you develop your characters, do you already have an idea of who they are before you write or do you let them grow as you go?

I can usually see my characters in my head before I start writing, but then I certainly get to know them better while writing. It’s like I can envision them, leaping through a crowded building and saying something, but I don’t know who they really are. Then we go on a journey together for a few hundred pages, and they become my closest friends.

 

How did writing Shadow Corps differ from your writing your previous novels? 

Shadow Corps was the first solo series I’ve started since beginning to write with Michael Anderle. I’ve done a lot of collaboration, and love it. I’ve done a lot of solo books, and love writing them too, but I feel I’ve learned a lot from Michael and his fans, so incorporated much of that here. While his fans love swearing, it’s not really my thing, so kept it to a minimum while taking the risk that it might appeal to that specific section of his crowd less. But I’ve kept it fun, and been sure to incorporate other lessons learned. It is a wild romp and, while technically told from the point of view of a teenager, she’s not in so many ways. There’s none of that teen angst crap, there’s not much pining over lover interests and all that. She’s gone through a hell of a lot in life and is ready to kick some major butt. So why is she a teenager? That’s just her character. That’s who she is, but it’s not a YA or teen book if that makes sense.

So yeah, that’s part of what set it apart—me writing a book for me and the readers who have come to love my work, while not caving into what I think readers would like just for the point of trying to get more reads. If someone enjoys great characters, wild adventures in spice, and doesn’t need to hear the F-word every five sentences, this book is for them. If they want the swearing, they have my books and others in the Kurtherian Gambit Universe to turn to. I’m not dissing it in any way, but mentioning it in that this is an aspect of writing this book I enjoyed—being true to myself and what I enjoy when reading a fun sci-fi.

 

If Shadow Corps had a theme song what would it be?

It would definitely have to be from an 80s montage. Some that jump to mind are “Danger Zone,” from Top Gun, or “Eye of the Tiger,” from about a billion movies. OH! I got it—Redetsky March Op 228. That’s a good one.

 

Shadow Corps is full of many amazingly talented characters, and I imagine it was really fun to create some of them, but which one was your favorite and why?

My main character (Samantha) is my favorite, but I was most surprised by Napalm. That’s not his real name, but his nickname. He started off as one thing in my mind and totally evolved. How he’s this race of aliens that appear to have fire in their eyes—yes, actual fire—and he showed Samantha’s teacher how to manipulate energy in the way that Samantha eventually learns. He’s a bit of a hard ass sometimes, but definitely, has a heart and shows he’s looking out for his teammates. And any character nicknamed. Napalm is bound to be fun to write.

 

What advice do you have for writers who are just starting out?

Try what you need to, but don’t blow off the more experienced writers simply because you want to try it your way. You will likely end up with a bunch of art that people don’t care about and will end up going back later to do what they advised (though at that point it might be too late). That, or you’ll succeed wildly (shrug).

Also, consider all of your avenues toward success. It doesn’t have to just be the way your hero did it. You might have a completely different path, but if you’re closed minded, you’ll never know.

 

Finally, where can readers and future stalkers find you?

 

I hope you enjoy this little conversation, and if you want to find out more about Justin Sloan then follow the rabbit trail to their warren in the internet!  If they don’t like it, beat ‘em with a carrot and keep on truckin’!

 

Until next time, stay frosty and don’t forget to keep your powder dry!

brown_bess

JR

 

–> As usual, all images came from the Google’s “labeled for reuse” section or are screen shots taken by JR Handley and used under the Fair Use Doctrine.

–> Some of these interview questions were inspired by my good friend TeacherofYA, and are used with her permission.  If you have kids who love to read, she’s the girl who’ll make the literary introductions!  You should check her out, after a lifetime of reading, your kids will thank you.

Sleeping Legion

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