Good afternoon, my lovely, little creeps!
Sorry for the delay today, but as you know I’m still a bit of an invalid. I’ll spare you the gory details in lieu of presenting a new round of 20 Questions! Today’s victim is the ultra-talented Jon Messenger, here to talk about himself, his books, and the world in general. Pull up a chair and have a listen at what he has to say!
20 Questions with Jon Messenger
Jon Messenger (Born 1979 in London, England) serves as an United States Army Major in the Medical Service Corps. Since graduating from the University of Southern California in 2002, writing Science Fiction has remained his passion, a passion that has continued through two deployments to Iraq and a humanitarian relief mission to Haiti.
Jon wrote the “Brink of Distinction” trilogy, of which “Burden of Sisyphus” is the first book, while serving a 16-month deployment in Baghdad, Iraq. The trilogy was accepted for publication through Crimson Tree Publishing, an adult imprint of Clean Teen Publishing. Jon Messenger’s young adult novel: Wind Warrior was published in June 2013 through Clean Teen Publishing and has hit bestseller status and has been nominated for a Readers Choice Award.
SHR: What made you want to write?
JM: I’ve always been a natural storyteller, ever since I was young. I tried my hand at writing when I was in high school but didn’t go very far with it (only a couple chapters). By the time I had gotten to college, I had given up on writing. Near the end of college, however, the fact that I was more interested in partying than showing up to school suddenly caught up to me. I was actually on the verge of losing my scholarship and not completing my degree. Panicked, I decided I needed something to fall back on if I suddenly found myself out of school. So I picked up my laptop and started writing again. So, basically, I started seriously writing as a panic response to my own ineptitude.
SHR: Favorite author?
JM: My first passion is science fiction and my favorite is Orson Scott Card.
SHR: Favorite book?
JM: Strangely, as much as I love Ender’s Game, my all time favorite book is Brave New World by Aldus Huxley. There’s just something about the dystopian world he created back in the 1940s that’s fascinating.
SHR: Favorite movie?
JM: This is actually a tough question. I’m fickle, so my tastes change from day to day. I would say that I have a few favorites: Fifth Element when I’m in the mood for an awesome science fiction story, Four Feathers for that gut wrenching emotional story, and either Pan’s Labyrinth or The Fountain if I want something intellectual.
SHR: What’s worse for you: a bad amazon review, or a bad review from a fellow author?
JM: Fellow author, hands down. I respect my readers and love the fact that they are supporting my writing. Unfortunately, I’m also a little jaded, knowing that a younger population of readers are reading books that cater to a less intellectual level. There are a lot of mainstream books on the market that don’t challenge the reader. Therefore, when I get a bad review, I take it with a grain of salt. If I get a bad review from an author I respect for their own solid writing style, it pains me because I feel that they don’t have the same level of respect for my writing than I have for theirs.
SHR: Any awards we should know about?
JM: My newest series, the World Aflame Saga, received an honorable mention in the Readers’ Favorite International Award Contest.
SHR: Tell us about your most recent work and where we can get it:
JM: My most recent work is drifting away from science fiction. The World Aflame Saga is a New Adult series, the first two books of which have been published with the third due out in December. Here are the links:
SHR: Tell us a little bit about what you went through to get this book published:
JM: The Brink of Distinction trilogy is a close-to-my-heart series. I started writing it in 2007 when I deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, with a US Army combat support hospital. When I arrived in Baghdad, I found a tattered book on one of our bookshelves by Walter John Williams. His Dread Empire’s Fall series really motivated me to put my own story on paper. I wound up writing the whole trilogy during the deployment and my combat experiences really played an integral role in my storytelling.
SHR: How many genres do you write in? Which is your favorite?
JM: I write science fiction and New Adult. I have a Young Adult series planned as well for future writing. Despite my World Aflame Saga being my biggest commercial success, my passion is and will always be science fiction.
SHR: Are you self-published or do you use a publishing house? Which ones? Any advantage/disadvantages of either you’d like to tell us about?
JM: I was self-published for about two years before I got a publishing contract through Clean Teen Publishing. It was their adult imprint – Crimson Tree Publishing – that re-published the Brink of Distinction series. I couldn’t be happier with being with a publisher. Aside from the phenomenal team they have (just look at the great covers they’ve created for me), they do exceptional marketing and advertising that I just never really tackled properly when I was a self-publisher.
SHR: Your inspiration – is it from your imagination or from personal experience?
JM: I would say that some of the core of my stories is from personal experience, but a lot of my storylines comes from daydreaming. I have an entire superhero storyline mapped out for future publication that is based solely around dreaming about what superpowers I’d want… that includes what powers I’d want when I’m driving in Washington DC traffic and suffering from a bit of road rage. It’s those moments that I realize that it’s probably better I don’t have superpowers!
SHR: Give us your opinion: Editors – are they friends or enemies?
JM: Editors are THE BEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD. I really can’t emphasize that enough. There are a multitude of really awful indie books out there that have never understood the importance of an editor. My editor, Cynthia Shepp, has been with me since my first book and even does freelance editing for Clean Teen Publishing, so she’s stuck with me even through my publishing contract. My stories wouldn’t be even half as strong or cleanly written if it wasn’t for her. Editors are supposed to be your best friend. If you see them as your enemy, it’s probably because they’re butchering your manuscript.
SHR: What comes first, the plot, the characters, or the setting?
JM: For me, it’s usually scenes. I get a movie-style scene in my head and realize that it’s a good crux for a storyline. The characters usually come secondary and the plot drives toward and past the scene that created the story.
SHR: World building: fun game or awful chore?
JM: I love it! One of my first forays into the scifi genre was the Dune series by Frank Herbert. There were parts of the namesake book in the series where Herbert glosses over some general reference to robot wars or something similar and then never discusses it again. He did that because he had created a universe with so much back story that it seemed natural for everything in his book to happen… something important had already preceded the story he was writing. After his death, his son – Brian Herbert – picked up his father’s universe noted and found enough information to write three trilogies! That motivated me when I wrote the Brink of Distinction series. I wrote a ton of back-story that could potentially be an entire new series in the future. Everything that happens in the trilogy happened for a reason and even if you as the reader don’t know (or, honestly, care) why it happened, it’s important to my universe.
SHR: If you were told you could never write again, what would you do to fill your time?
JM: When I’m not writing, I’m actually a US Army Officer. I love what I do in the Army, since I work doing hospital administration, taking care of wounded Soldiers. However, my newfound passion is doing adventure races. I have a team that has already run two Tough Mudders this year and are looking forward to more.
SHR: As an author, what’s next for you?
JM: I’m neck deep in my World Aflame Saga, working on book 3 now. The entire saga is slated to be 8 books, so I’ll be doing this for the next couple years!
SHR: Best monster ever: vampire, werewolf, or zombie?
JM: Depends on whether you are one or you’re running from one! To be one, I’d have to go with werewolf. There’s just something about tapping into the baser, animalistic side of a person that appeals to me. Running away would be zombie. Not Dawn of the Dead fast zombies either. I’m talking Walking Dead kind… you know, the ones they even nickname “walkers”. I want to be able to outrun them with nothing more than a brisk walk.
SHR: If the apocalypse happened tomorrow, how would you react?
JM: I’d like to say that I’d be prepared, that I’d head to the mountains to survive off the land, but the truth is I live in Washington DC. In ever end of days scenario, DC either blows up or big cities are the starting point for epidemics. Pretty much, I’m doomed.
SHR: Tell us how you really feel about the 50 Shades of Gray hype.
JM: I’m really glad for EL James. Now that I have the niceties out of the way, it saddens me a little as an author. The writing of the stories is weak and repetitive. It goes back to what I said earlier about new books not challenging the intellect of its readers. There’s no surprise, no shock other than the gratuitous sex. That being said, I clearly am writing in the wrong genre. The majority of top 100 books on Amazon are smut books. Yes, they’re smut books. You can church them up with names like “erotica” and “romance”, but if Fabio was still doing covers he’d be plastered on the covers of every one of these books.
SHR: Give us one dirty, little secret about yourself.
JM: I was born in England to two US parents. I have a British birth certificate and a memo from the US State Department that says I’m a legitimate US citizen. A few years ago when I was trying to renew my passport, I realized I had lost my State Department memo. As a result, I had no proof that I was a US citizen. There was a chance that despite being a US Army Officer, I could be deported.
Thanks so much for the opportunity! This series really is near and dear to my heart, since it was the first series I ever wrote and to this day I still love the complexities of the universe, the characters, and the plot. I hope you enjoy them as well.
You’re very welcome, Jon! It was lovely having you!
ABOUT BRINK OF DISTINCTION
BURDEN OF SISYPHUS – BOOK 1
Between the alien Alliance and the Terran Empire, a neutral zone stretches between the galaxies, a demilitarized zone that was established 150 years previous, following the Great War. The peace accord granted a semblance of peace to the universe. The peace, however, is a facade, and it is the responsibility of Michael Vance and his covert operations team to maintain that illusion.
Recently, the Alliance lost contact with one of their outposts near the neutral zone. Surveillance scans show an abandoned city and no signs of life. The Alliance does what it always does: send in the best. But an unexpected betrayal leaves Vance and his team stranded. Worse, the city that was supposed to be dead is quite alive. And the monsters that now roam its streets are slaughtering his team, one at a time.
FALL OF ICARUS – BOOK 2
The Terran Empire has broken the Taisa Accord and invaded Alliance space in this exciting second novel in the Brink of Distinction series. Survivors of the Empire’s first assault, Yen Xiao and Adam Decker swore vengeance against the Terrans. Joining forces with the enigmatic Keryn Riddell, the three warriors must find a way to destroy the Terran fleet. But the Terrans have a secret weapon: a biological agent sold to them by an renegade smuggler. Now it’s a race against the clock to capture the smuggler before the Terrans decimate the Alliance homeworlds.
When everything they do proves to be not enough to stop the Empire’s violent invasion, the Alliance takes the fight directly to the Empire by invading Earth! But Earth may not be the biggest threat to the safety of the Alliance. The biggest danger may be one of their own.
PURGE OF PROMETHEUS – BOOK 3
The final confrontation between the Alien Alliance and the Terran Empire begins in this exciting conclusion to the Brink of Distinction trilogy.
One-by-one, the brilliant suns of Alliance space are disappearing, left cold and lifeless after exposure to the Terran biological epidemic. Trapped on one of the sunless worlds, Keryn Riddell, the ruthless Wyndgaart warrior, fights against both a frozen landscape and her Terran captors.
As Keryn fights for her life, the psychic Yen Xiao leads the Alliance fleet in pursuit of the Terran Destroyers threatening the Alliance homeworlds. Yearning for leadership of the fleet, Yen begins to wonder just how far he’ll go for the power he craves.