An Interview with Jack McDonald Burnett
AW: Which author wasn’t your greatest inspiration, but did make you think, “Maybe I could be an author”?
JMB: Easy. Authors like David Wong, Dathan Auerbach, Andy Weir, writers who posted or published their work online first and then found traditional publishing success afterward. There’s a lot of really great stuff being produced today that isn’t necessarily going to an agent and then to a publishing house and then to an intern and then to an editor and then back to an agent and then… I like the idea that it’s more a meritocracy now than an endurance test.
AW: Tell me about the first time you thought, “Wow. I’m a real author!”
JMB: My debut novel Girl on the Moon went through (the late, lamented) Kindle Scout, Amazon’s crowdsourced publishing experiment. For 30 days Scouts read the first 5,000 words and nominated it for publication, or didn’t, if they didn’t like it. Normally Amazon’s Kindle Press imprint will let you know their decision whether to publish within a day or two after your 30-day clock is up. After nine days, they finally told me I had the green light. That was the moment.
AW: What’s the oddest part about your routine that you simply must do in order to sit down and write?
JMB: I guess it’s that I need a huge block of time in front of me. I may not use it, but I’m not an author who can punch out a few paragraphs when he has twenty free minutes. If I catch a wave, I might be writing for many hours. So I often start at night, and am up until the early hours of the next day.
AW: What is your biggest writing obstacle?
JMB: Self-doubt. I’ve given up on drafts because I thought they were no good, then come back months later and read what I’d written and I love it. I don’t love everything I write, but I hate stuff I shouldn’t too often.
AW: How do you prefer to network, and what impact do you think those avenues have had on your sales?
JMB: One of the great things about Kindle Scout–I had a second novel, Pauper, accepted for publication that way, too–is that Kindle Press does a lot of the heavy lifting. If you nominated a book for publication and it’s accepted, you get a free advance copy. Hopefully, you write a review. It was a great way to get particularly new authors’ work into the hands of enthusiastic readers. I’m sad that Amazon recently shuttered Kindle Scout and Kindle Press. I’m not a hugely successful networker on my own.
AW: What is one mistake you’ve made in your publishing career that you’d like to warn other authors off of?
JMB: If you write the first novel in a series and people dig it, finish that series before you move on to one-offs or new series. You owe it to your readers. I published Pauper right after Girl on the Moon, even though Pauper is a standalone and the Girl series had two more books in it. I shouldn’t have. Girl on Mars is out now, and I need to wrap up Interstellar Girl before I publish other things I have going on.
AW: Is there any advice you’d like to give to a new writer?
JMB: Don’t think too far ahead. Finish your draft. If you think you’ve run aground, set it aside for a while, but then pick it back up. Just finish. Don’t convince yourself it’s going to stink and stop writing. You’re not ever going to get anywhere if you let self-doubt win. Once your draft is done, my advice is to find an editor you can trust. My wife edits my work, and she’s my first line of defense, my secret weapon, and my greatest advocate. It doesn’t have to be someone related to you, by any means, but find someone who wants your work to be the best it can be as badly as you do.
AW: What are you currently reading?JMB: I’m in the middle of Luna: Wolf Moon by Ian McDonald. It’s the second book in the Luna series, which started with Luna: New Moon. I’m a sucker for anything set on the moon. Oddly enough, I haven’t read Andy Weir’s latest, Artemis, even though it takes place on a lunar colony. I’ll get to it, though.
AW: Have any super fans found you yet, and if so, what sort of things have they done that seem surreal to you!
JMB: I don’t think I have any super fans yet, but it is surreal to me when people mention they’ve read all three of my published novels and are anxious for the next one. I tend to look behind me to see who they’re talking to, figuratively. Surreal is a good word.
AW: When people read your books, what do you want their greatest take-away to be?
JMB: I want them to think that was a good story, with realistic characters, including the female ones, and it was pretty well-written, too. I think I’ll read his next one. I don’t ask for much. My favorite review of Girl on the Moon said it took the reviewer back to reading Heinlein’s juveniles from the 1950s. Since that was almost exactly what I was going for, I was pretty happy with that.
Owner, Adriel Wiggins Author Services and Consulting
Hello! I’m Adriel Wiggins, wife, mother of three, bibliophile, art geek, and all around student. I’ve been on a quest all of my life to learn as much as I possibly can about everything I possibly can. This has helped me tremendously in what eventually became my life’s purpose: to help other people become the best version of themselves. It is in that line that I became an assistant.
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