Monday, April 24, 2023

Sneaky peek at upcoming interview with Russell Govan / Book review 'I know you'

I've a great new author interview coming up soon 🥳🎉 

Russell Goven is just about to release his third traditionally published novel and it's my first time-travel book review. It's a great premise - a young girl being knocked unconscious and then bouncing around in time, each jump taking her back to the same man.

You can read our full interview and book review on the 1st May, and his novel is available for pre-order now at

You can also visit Russell's social media at: 


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Saturday, April 15, 2023

Author interview with Jackson Allen

I'm mixing it up a little this month, just to keep you on your toes! Although Jackson Allen has had over 20 short stories published, he's working on getting a Big 4 publishing deal for his novels Mesh and Mike Sierra Echo. I thought it would be interesting talking to him as he embarks on his journey, particularly as he's pitched his work at STEM kids, but we'll get into that shortly. First, let's meet Jackson:

'My name is Jackson Allen. My dream is to be a self-sufficient science fiction author. I tell stories as a kind gesture in a cruel time. If you like Michael Crichton, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, or Robert Heinlein stories then I’m your guy. 

When I’m not writing, I take care of rescue cats like Moxie here in Eugene, OR.'

Although Jackson isn't on Twitter, he has given me a tweetable for you (tweet here):

'Learn about Jackson Allen and his amazing scifi novel ‘Mike.Sierra.Echo,’ can one kid save human space travel?'

I wondered why a budding author isn't on Twitter to help raise his profile, instead preferring to use Mastondon?

'Ooh, good question - absolutely no Twitter. I put a lot of thought into this last year and when you boil it down, I don’t trust that Twitter will be a safe, smart place for me to talk with readers. Elon Musk buying Twitter was the death of the platform IMO, and I have no intention of inhabiting spaces where my readers aren’t taken care of. Twitter had every chance to prove to us that it can be a safe, responsible place for us to interact with our readers. Musk prioritized conceit over community and, well, *waves at everything Twitter's become in the past six months.*

Mastodon has become - so far - a community of kind, courageous, and supportive people. If you're an indie author with a unique perspective, it's a great place for you to be. I enjoy the #writingcommunity and #amwriting communities - plus whatever rando questions I might get on different scifi/tech topics(#cleantech #cleanenergy or #solarpunk)'

That's very interesting, I will certainly take a look! He was first published in 2017 and writes Middle Grade Scifi, taking 1-4 years to write each novel. He specifically targets STEM kids (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) and I wondered why this demographic?

'I think we should be people who treat kids like people. If we want to live in a world where we get to be mature, enjoy civilized discourse, and anti-racist, then we must acknowledge our responsibility to be persons that young people can feel safe talking to. 

Another thing I realized is, when you feel down about the world, all you can do is go back to your values. Jim Henson said it best: “I decided that there are many situations in this life that I can’t do much about: acts of terrorism, feelings of nationalistic prejudice, cold war, etc. So what I should do is concentrate on the situations my energy can affect.” 

In ten years do you want to be the person who said ‘sorry,’ or do you want to be the person who said ‘not on my watch?’ I can’t change the world with my scifi. But my hope is to inspire the people who can, to feel like they can.' 

Wow, that's a great outlook (and who doesn't love Jim Henson!). Jackson is very careful about protecting his identity and I wondered how this married up with him approaching agents/ large publishing houses -surely they'd dictate a more public profile?

'I think traditional publishing is the way I want to go and I would still retain my privacy no matter what. That comes out of the Bill Watterson school of ‘I’m an artist, please leave me alone with my box of crayons and let me get about my business.’  Calvin and Hobbes was never diminished by Watterson’s reluctance to give media interviews and I’m confident that my work will flourish under the same conditions.

Notoriety holds very little value for me - my work should speak for itself. I'm not sure what value author photos have - did anyone ever buy a James Patterson book just because of his author photo? 😀 There are plenty of people out there who started out thinking that fame was necessary to be successful and look what happened to them? Guys like Scott Adams let publicity kill his career. Don't worry, I'm not going to dunk on him - he's done enough to himself. Just look at Scott Adams as an example of being a 'famous creative person.' 

Somewhere along the way of Scott's life, he developed 'Main Character Syndrome,' and he stopped learning how to live without attention. He started equating that dopamine rush of media attention with personal growth. Then, instead of working on the garbage parts of his personality, Scott let his ‘diarrhoea of the mouth’ turn his career into the proverbial ‘gas station bathroom.'

So here you have guys like Adams or other 'professional famous' people. I can't say that I'm any better, smarter, or stronger than Scott Adams. I'm not racist, sexist, or highly political but I am a walking, talking bag of coping mechanisms like everyone else. Chances are, I'll say something stupid or get sucked into a discussion that really isn't mine to have. Better to avoid all that nonsense up front and learn to promote your work outside of book signings and author photos. Work on your craft instead of your hot takes.'

This is such an interesting viewpoint and it'll be interesting to see how Jackson's career progresses. You may have noticed there are several links to Jackson's website already in this interview, and more to follow (and there's a lot to read there!) so why is he spending so much time and effort on his website? Is it for fun or does he have another reason?

'I'm building a community of writers like all writers should be doing - we're doing a hard job and there's a lot of benefit in working together wherever possible. That's part of something I call 'Sage Scifi' - a version of science fiction that attracts and retains the elevated humanity we'll need in order to survive this century. We need to be connected - members of a community have a sense of trust, belonging, safety, and caring for each other. How can I create trust, belonging, and safety? I looked around and realized I could give away free author resources that I've curated over the years. 

I wouldn't necessarily call giving away tools 'fun' - it's just part of the journey - the best authors I've ever met are generous with their time and encouragement and I want to make sure I'm doing the same. Paying forward the kindness I've been given may or may not have a direct effect on generating interest - nobody's come up to me and said 'I bought your short stories JUST BECAUSE OF YOUR TOOLS!' 😁 
It's part of what I say on my profile - storytelling is a kind gesture in a cruel time - so is providing free author tools.'

That's so kind! So, what is it that makes Jackson want to write full-time?

'I’ve written since I was a kid, but in 2016, I rebooted my life by making three promises to myself:

   I was going to live my best life as someone creates, fosters, and shares the selfless parts of me – my own personal version of effective altruism

  I will use my talent – telling Golden Age Sci-Fi stories – as both art and commerce: I want to be a professional writer!

  Wherever it’s good and prudent, I will use the success of my talent to serve others

These principles guide me on a journey away from being a broken person to a place where I can help heal and support others on their adventures. Because I’m healing, I’m also a private person. As a storyteller, my process is always evolving and my storytelling has principles of its own:

  Be kind

  Respect the reader by telling stories with integrity and authenticity

  Create dual-control universes where my readers’ imagination can play as much as mine does.'

2016 sounds like a pivotal year and although Jackson didn't want to share what had happened, he did say,

'I had to recognize my own limitations and get serious about my health. That reboot has been cleansing, I got to let go of a lot of things that were hurting me. Learning to live without attention (see Scott Adams) has been beneficial even if it's been difficult. Healing is something you do every day - I'm better than I was but I'm not as good as I need to be. I look for progress over perfection now.'

That sounds like he's on a healing path now. What does he enjoy the most about writing?

'I had to think about this question a lot - at the end of the day, I think what I enjoy about writing is that it is a transformative process. You can’t write if you can’t understand and so if you’re going to write about emotions, or personal perspectives, the process forces you to get inside yourself and ask “What do I really think about this?” Writing has taught me more about myself than I’ve learned any other way.

It’s also a communicative process - writing doesn’t work you’re putting your stuff out there for other people to respond to. There is literally no other way that this works. Real writing doesn’t hide in the corner. Like stand-up comedy, it’s art that is only fully formed when readers experience and respond to it. This is why stand-up comics get up on stage. At some point, you must take the stage to see if your material makes people laugh. Successful comics freely admit: that feedback is what makes their bits work. The audience’s response gets them to different places in their head or heart, helping them tell funny stories in the most efficient, effective ways possible. Writing is the same way. I never know how to tell my stories until readers get to see them.'

So that begs the question, what does he feel about reviews of his work? Does he read them and how does he deal with them?

'Of course - you always want to know how your stories land with other people. If you’re doing something right, wouldn’t you want to know so you can do more of it? The downside is reading bad reviews and the accompanying scary emotions.

Freaking out about bad reviews really gets to me - I’m not gonna lie - nobody likes hearing that their work sucks. The best I can do is try to learn as much as possible from the bad experience and distil it into some life coaching.

In fact, I started working on the Survival Guide for Creative People. People read the survival guide  for one of two reasons. One –  Being a creative professional is harder than it looks! Two – You know a creative person who is struggling and you’d like some tools to help them along their journey. You’ve come to the right place! The Survival Guide for Creative People is based on my personal experience as an author, and it’s written to provide you with some help along a creative journey.

The Survival Guide is there for me to say: ‘We’ve been there, we got through it, and so can you.’ When you finish reading through the Survival Guide for Creative People, you’re still going to be the same person. What you’ll also have are some tools for the challenges you’ll personally experience as a creative professional. There are many painful emotions associated with creating art, and this Survival Guide is meant to help you manage them with poise and confidence.'

I think a lot of creatives would benefit from this, how kind and generous 😍 What has been the hardest part of writing/ publishing?

'ALL OF IT. LOL - getting published sucks! It’s become a grind now, especially now that people are submitting AI-driven fiction to major scifi magazines. Nonetheless, I think the AI craze will die down once people realise that writing, like all art, has to come from a flesh-and-blood human.

I’ve stayed in touch with other professional authors to get their insights and guess what: they’re struggling with this, too. Writing was, is, and will always be a hard dollar, and
still boils down to throwing stuff on the wall to see what sticks.

What does his daily writing routine look like?
'1. Get up, wake up, lots of coffee
2. Get myself into ‘writing head’ mode - building the scene in my head, populating it with characters, and writing down what they do.
3. Get as many words written as I feel comfortable with.
4. Move onto ‘author audience’ stuff like blogging, social media, audience research

I try to find the balance between creative and structured - it’s not a perfect system, so I’m feeling/learning as much as I can. Creativity is about discovering the art inside me, so I don’t want to force it.'

What's the best money he's ever spent as a writer?

'Oooh, no question, it's a good coffee cup and a good keyboard. I need both if I want to write effectively. Before anyone tries to wash their writing problems away with the money hose, it’s always worth checking to see if someone already has a free tool out there.
I collect them here and about 99.8% of what you need as a writer is free.

Another great tip! What does Jackson find the most difficult thing about writing characters who are very different from him?

'That’s a great question - right now the world is very sensitive to authors writing different sexes, ages or backgrounds. My original plan for Mike.Sierra.Echo changed after I got some frank feedback about writing a story that wasn’t within my demographic. It took a lot of soul-searching, but I’m confident that I made the right choice to pivote Mike.Sierra.Echo about half-way through the drafting process. Now, the space adventure focuses on the very real issues of narcissistic family, grief, and discovery and I feel I can discuss those in an authentic, productive way.'

You'll have noticed the graphics in this post, which were created by Jackson. I wondered if he's a professional artist too?  

'The art is something I've been working to develop over the years with various methods - I'm not a professional by any means, trying to be a professional author is challenging enough. 😀 If I'm being honest, the art still isn't what I really hope it could be. I've found that MidJourney helps me hit the right balance between creativity / progress for the moment - ultimately I'd love to work with a human concept artist like Ralph McQuarrie did with George Lucas in Star Wars. 

One of these days, I'll have enough budget for that but until then, I do what I can with AI-generated art while still maintaining a deep respect for the human qualities only a pro artist can provide.  AI art can't connect with your emotions as much as human art can. As far as which comes first, the writing has come first for me because AI art requires the ability to describe what you want to see in the first place. In some cases, it's helped me go back and describe scenes better but it never replaces the writing.'

We went onto discuss MESH next and I asked for a synopsis:

'Roman came home to visit his family – now he’s running for his life. How did this happen? At first, Roman thought Miramar Technical High School was a dream come true. Then the dream becomes a nightmare. His principal, Doctor Gray, is a supervillain!

Doctor Gray wants ‘total world domination, total control, forever’ and he’s willing to kill to get it. With hair-raising escapes via old-school spy technology, it’s clear that the only thing standing between a supervillain with his killer robots and an evil plan is one small kid and a plucky band of retrotech rebels brought together by the MESH.'

Ooh, sounds great! He's created a tweetable for you too (tweet here):

'TRULY DEVIOUS x INVISIBLE x LAST GAMER STANDING - A supervillain principal wants to take over the world. The only thing standing in his way are Roman, some retrotech rebels, and the MESH.'

What was the hardest scene to write and why?

'I found the scenes where the kids were being mistreated in MESH pretty hard to write - it involved some heavy emotional lifting, managing triggers. Kids deserve to feel safe and happy - so it was hard to write about some kids who weren’t.'

That's understandable, I'm not sure I'd manage them too well either! Did he need to do any research?

'TONS of research - I had to learn about mesh networking. I had to learn about old-school spy techniques, robots, VR, and AI! Hundreds of hours in basic internet research before I could write a story where the Internet no longer needs to exist.'

I bet that made for an interesting search history! I asked Jackson for an extract, to whet our appetites (tweet here):

'It’s four in the afternoon. By sunset, I’ll be running for my life.

Out in the universe, the countdown’s begun. I can’t hear the numbers yet, but they’re coming. When we reach zero, my principal Doctor Gray will be on his way to kill me.'

Ooh, love it! If you'd like to know more, I suggest you visit Jackson's informative website and you can also join the Inkican Crew and get a free e-book immediately. Follow the links below to find out more about Jackson and his work:


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