INTERVIEW: Steven Philip Jones

Aurora is pleased to welcome Steven Philip Jones, author of Talisman: the Knightmare Knife, his new YA novel recently released from Mundania Press. Steve is also the author of another YA novel—Wizard Academies: The House with the Witch’s Hat—and over sixty comic books and graphic novels, including the original series Nightlinger, admittedly the work he’s most proud of to date.

“I created it in 1983 and it was published for only two issues by Caliber Comics in 1993, but I created Nightlinger to be a series where I could tell any sort of story: horror, adventure, fantasy, spy, human interest…you name it,” Steve told me. “I think it is the best thing I have created or will create, and I’m hoping I’ll eventually get the chance to write more Nightlinger stories in the future.”

“What drives you to write books for kids and teens?” I wondered.

“I’m not sure, outside of enjoyment. I have written books and comics for adults, but even then I usually aim for all ages. Who can say why anyone enjoys doing anything, but maybe it’s because I have such strong memories from when I was a kid and a teenager. I mean, I knew when I was nine years old that I wanted to be a writer, but even before that I was telling stories to other kids, or so my report cards from elementary school say. I had friends, but I have always enjoyed spending time alone–not a bad thing when you’re a writer–and my early stories were based on when I’d go off to the playground or the cemetery or the city dump by myself and concoct ideas for adventures while playing pretend. I just never lost the thrill of creating the same kind of stories now that I did then.”

His favorite book growing up still remains his favorite, and he lists its author as being one who has greatly influenced his own work: Arthur Conan Doyles’ Sherlock Holmes. In fact, he could pick any character to be, it would be Sherlock Holmes himself, hands down. Other authors who have influenced him include Edgar Allan Poe, Dasheill Hammett, Clive Cussler, H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Bradbury, Brian Daley, Stephen King, Chris Claremont and Mike Grell.

“My greatest influence, though, has to be the classic Universal horror films,” he said.

He told me that the best piece of his advice he’d ever gotten on writing was to copy your favorite writer.

“Many writing teachers will tell you to be totally original and never copy another writer’s style, but I disagree,” he said. “You can learn so much and save so much time experimenting by reading and copying a successful writer’s style and stories early in your career, just so long as you are careful to develop your unique voice over time. And I’m speaking from experience here. Dasheill Hammett is a big influence of mine, but I didn’t read my first Hammett story until I was in my early 30s. My style was already pretty established, but Hammett’s style was so similar to mine that I learned a lot from him even at that point.”

He pointed out that H.P. Lovecraft was like that.

“People like to point out that his style is similar to another writer named Lord Dunsany, who was a major inspiration of Lovecraft’s, but Lovecraft’s earliest stories were already pretty similar to Dunsany’s style for a good two years before Lovecraft ever read a Dunsany story. Dunsany was an older and more polished writer, though, so the younger Lovecraft learned a lot by reading Dunsany’s stories.”

“If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?” I wondered.

“Well, right now, apparently a call center representative because that’s my day job. If I had been thinking more clearly when I was younger, I would have done the necessary things to teach creative writing at a college level. I would love to do that. Maybe some day.”

Steve usually writes his first drafts by hand, then he does the second draft while inputting what he wrote into the computer.

“I haven’t used a typewriter in I don’t know how long, but I have I’ve kept the typewriter I used to write on beginning when I was 12. It was a birthday present from my folks and I treasure that thing,” he told me.

Right now, his writing environment is kind of unsettled, because he and his wife separated last year. “It’s tough being married to a writer,” he admitted.

He told me he needed to set up a new working office. “My old one was a basic library setting, nothing special except for knickknacks that only mean anything to me, like Iowa Hawkeyes and Universal Monsters and Denver Broncos stuff. Lots of books, too, of course.”

“Before we leave, if you could give any advice to your readers, what would it be?” I asked him.

“Tell all your friends about my books and how much you enjoy them! I need all the word-of-mouth I can get! Oh, and never miss a dental appointment. Take it from someone who lost a bunch of teeth in less than two years.”

Colin Sinclair, Reggie Sinclair, Ollie Steele, and Timmy Shannon have never had a dream in their lives, but on their twelfth birthday they share the same nightmare about a vicious dragon and a mysterious orange-haired girl.

The next day strange things begin happening to the boys. Monsters appear in school water fountains. A hellhound prowls city streets. And a green man dressed in gold stalks the boys. Danger is suddenly everywhere and it is closing in all around them. Fast.

Talismen: The Knightmare Knife is the first in a series of illustrated Young Adult fantasy adventures that follows Colin, Reggie, Ollie and Timmy — four boys from Earth — as they discover they are exiles from the Plain of Imaginings, the land where all dreams and nightmares come from. With the help of a dream warrior name Pratt and his young daughter Jennifer, the four exiles must find their talisman, magical objects that can protect the exiles from the green man, who has a dark and secret need for vengeance. Pratt and Jennifer also hope to guide the boys to a great destiny IF they can master their talismans. For instance, Colin must master a knife that assaults his mind with nightmarish images each time he draws it. Images that include the recent murder of Colin’s father by a mugger with a knife.

With beautiful illustrations by co-creator and co-plotter Barb Jacobs, Talismen: The Knightmare Knife is a fantasy for people of all ages who are young in heart and ready for action!

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