Author Justin Monroe has always considered himself a writer. Even while struggling with dyslexia at Elementary School, the author, who, beyond a shadow of a doubt, proves to be a great source of inspiration, considered Creative Writing his favourite subject. ‘For my senior project at High School, I wrote my first full-length manuscript and did a research project on the publishing process. Back in 2002, the pathway to being published besides the self-publishing market was so difficult that I moved onto more practical career paths. However, throughout college and most of my life, I always found time to write, whether stories, blog posts or Dungeons and Dragons campaigns,’ he begins, speaking to The Literary Juggernaut in an exclusive interaction.
Letting us know that he doesn’t consider himself a pukka plotter, the thirty-six-year-old author, who dwells in a quiet New England town in Massachusetts, says he, nonetheless, usually needs to have a firm grasp on his main character and a broad idea of the overall plot. ‘I start with an outline; however, I also find that I usually have to update it regularly as I discover the rest of the story during the writing and then editing. While working on one of my books, I thought I was heading in one direction, and by Chapter Eight, found that I was taking a pretty hard left turn. I try to lean into that and not fight it. The story will be what it wants to be,’ he explains.
Things Are Not as They Seem
Talking about his published work entitled ‘Zee Locked-In’, the author says it is a LitRPG adventure set in the not too distant future when economic collapse, political corruption, monopolistic corporations, and multiple climate disasters have crippled the world. ‘Anyone who can do so spends most of their time in a virtual reality simulation named OVR World Online. The story is about Zach “Zee” Jones and his struggle to survive and thrive in OVR World Online after being jacked in as an Inmate Player and after being arrested for a crime he committed to save his mother from cancer,’ he tells us, adding, ‘However, things are not as they seem in OVR World Online and Zee might have the secret to digital immortality at his disposal. Zee Locked-In is a Sci-Fi/Fantasy adventure packed with action and fun pop-culture references.’
Stating that he probably has more favourite authors than he can name, Mr Monroe, who fathers a two-year-old son, says he always makes time to read Jom Butcher’s latest books, whatever series they might be. He goes on, ‘Specifically, his use of the first-person narrative in The Dresden Files and how he uses it to build beautiful and fully fleshed out characters, even with a sometimes unreliable narrator, is an inspiration. I also have to give a tremendous shout out to Ernest Cline, and specifically, Ready Player One, for that book sent me down the path of discovering LitRPG as a genre. More than that, I loved Cline’s use of pop-culture references in both Ready Player One and Armada, and that style was a big influence on my own style for anyone that has read Zee Locked-In.’
Deriving Inspiration From Indie Authors
The author also emphasises that he highly esteems several independent authors, two of them being Dennis E Taylor and Andy Weir. ‘The path of being a self-published author, I’ve come to learn, is a long and complicated one, but I enjoy it a lot. Sure, I’d love to have a big publisher supporting me and worrying about things like cover art, editing, and most especially marketing. At the same time, I enjoy having control of my work and a direct pathway to my audience,’ he shares.
A stay-at-home dad for almost two years now, Mr Monroe concedes that it is difficult to find time to write. While he can’t afford to just write when inspiration hits, he says he gets down to work when his schedule allows him. ‘So usually, I’m plugging away when his Mom takes him out for a morning walk in the park, and during nap times, occasionally in the evenings after his bedtime. I would love to have the freedom to just write when I feel inspired, but truthfully, I’d probably get a lot less done if I did,’ he lets on with a smile.
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Not Much Time to Kill
On being asked if becoming a self-published author was a conscious decision, Mr Monroe, tells us that when he’d started working on Zee Locked-In, he wasn’t consciously planning to publish it. ‘I was just working on it for fun, and because I felt like it. However, as I finished the first draft, my beta readers and my wife pushed me to take it further. So I went through the editing process and started to research self-publishing, somewhere during the second or third draft, it became a conscious decision to push it that far,’ he explains, adding that during that process, his wife pushed him to find a professional editor and cover artist. ‘ I know that it’s a better book for both of those steps. Independent authors really can’t skip those steps if they hope to put out a successful book!’
Conceding he is not the best at juggling other tasks, the author, who is glad that the US has now chosen a new President, says he tends to zero in on what he is doing and has to leave himself notes to remember everything he needs to do. He adds, ‘I have a weekly Dungeons and Dragons game that I Dungeon Master for my friends. That’s my main hobby and social activity, especially during the time of COVID, since we play remotely. I like to play video games, mostly on the Switch, when I have the time, which isn’t often if I’m actively writing, but it’s a good way to kill time if I’m waiting on edits or cover art. I also watch entirely too much TV, both good and bad.’
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‘Even Big Publishers Release Flops’
Hoping to become a full-fledged author one day, the author lets us know that he is actively working on Book Two of the OVR World Online series. ‘The entire series has been licensed by Podium Audio for audiobook production, which is a dream come true. There’s a working title for Book Two, but I’m already thinking of alternatives, and I hope to have it out in the latter half of this year,’ he shares.
When asked if he’d like to tell anything to budding authors who lose motivation if a few of their works don’t do well, Mr Monroe says, ‘You can never control when or whether an audience will find your work. Even the big publishers release flops or books that take a while to find an audience. All you can do is focus on writing and putting out material that you’re proud of.’
He adds, ‘However, for all the indie authors out there, the best investment you can make, in yourself and your work is to hire a professional editor to improve the work and an artist to make a cover and market your book. I know that those two expenses can seem like a waste, but they’re not. I credit at least half of my sales success to my cover-art making my book attractive to new readers, especially since I wasn’t coming into it with an existing audience of any sort.’
As the conversation draws to a close, the author goes on to request avid readers to support independent authors by buying their works. ‘Follow them on Social Media, sign up for their newsletter, and rate their work with five stars. All of those apply to me too,’ he pronounces, signing off with a wondrous smile.
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