John L. Monk is a published author who lives with his wife, Dorothy, in Virginia, USA. John holds a degree in cultural anthropology. Still on his path to being a full-time writer, John moonlights as a systems administrator. John L. Monk has published five books, with his most recent release Hell’s Children drawing some great praise. The book has been described as “an emotional and action filled post-apocalyptic story with unforgettable characters”, as well as “a post apocalyptic Lord of the Flies that is both terrifying and uplifting”. John L. Monk is an author on the up, and I expect him to go on to achieve big things as he is building a dedicated fan base. Please enjoy my interview with John L. Monk…
When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?
I usually say “as little as possible.” No, I really say that. I’m lazy. I’m a systems administrator – the whole point of such a career is to automate and streamline as much of what we do as possible so that we can web surf all day. If something breaks, that interrupts all the web surfing, right? So we write scripts and build resiliency into our systems and hope to god nothing breaks on Friday.
One thing I’m not lazy about is writing – I love writing, love having written, and would love doing it for a living if/when I sell enough to quit my job and go full time.
What are you reading at the moment?
Right now I’m in the middle of a serial release titled Hell And The Sea by Michael Bunker. It’s a fictionalized account of his experiences in the early days of indie publishing, the people he ran into, the politics and mood during the “Kindle Gold Rush,” all of that. You can get the first chapter free by signing up to his mailing list. But to get the chapters as he writes/releases them, you’ll have to donate through his Patreon account. I thought the first chapter was compelling enough that I did just that.
A Wizard Of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin. I read it when I was in 6th grade, and it completely blew my mind. Growing up, reading a book was treated almost like punishment. You had to read it to write a book report so you could do well in school. Or if TV was taken away for some childhood infraction, I was told to read a book instead. So picking up a book about a boy who becomes a powerful wizard – escapes from his sorry lot in life – was right up my alley. After that, there wasn’t a day in my young life when I wasn’t found with a book to read.
Can you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes, it was a reworded scene from The Wishsong Of Shannara by Terry Brooks. I stole all the names of the various people and places, and choreographed the battle scene with my hero (at the time) Garrett Jax. Everything about that story was plagiarized, right down to the traced out dragon “book cover” I made for it. Pretty sure I got an A+ for it.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I never had much ambition, but I sort of wanted to be an archaeologist, like Indiana Jones. Probably the reason I got my degree in anthropology. I also wanted to be a writer. I wish I’d been a little less lazy, a little more greedy, because I think starting my own business would have been better than spending my time sitting in cubes managing other people’s computers.
What do you think your school aged self would think of the present day you?
He probably would be surprised that I’ve written 5 novels and that I work in an “actual office building.” I was incredibly naive and easily impressed back then. He’d also be surprised that I’m married – and jealous, haha. I didn’t date much back then. Too awkward (me).
If you could wrap up a single book and gift it to yourself as you left education – which book would it be?
The War Of Art by Steven Pressfield. This book and its follow-up, Turning Pro, have been the biggest influence in my life in the last 5 years. They’re self-help sorts of books with lots of great advice on how to recognize our resistance—that thing inside of us that stops us from succeeding—and how deal with it.
Does your reading have routine? Is there a particular time or place that you like to read?
These days I have no particular routine. I read when I can’t write anymore. I read when I’m inspired to. I like reading outside, or in coffee shops (though I don’t do that very often anymore—such times are for writing, not reading).
What two pieces of advice would you give a young aspiring writer?
Listen to publishing podcasts. Particularly self-publishing podcasts, if you’re inclined that way. Craft is craft—plenty of books on that, and most of them are novels by good writers (vs. books on craft). So you also have to read a lot. Learn why some books work and some don’t.
Do you have any books that you strongly associate with someone important in your life?
Harry Potter – I associate this strongly with my wife, because I got her to read those books. She said she never would have if we weren’t dating, because she’s naturally adverse to hype, and those books were hyped a mile high (deservedly so, it turns out).
What book have you recommended the most to friends and family?
I never recommend anything to my family, because they’re not really readers, or if they are, they don’t talk about it. For friends, I recommend Midshipman’s Hope by David Feintuch, if they like sci-fi. If they like literary novels, I recommend Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy.
Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?
Fiction, hands down. I read to escape.
Do you think reading is important?
Very important, at least for me. Reading helps us form a more rigorous mind, and it exposes us to different points of view. Some of those points of views are bad, and we need those too—if only to recognize what’s wrong with them and how to spot them when we encounter them in everyday life.
What’s the best book you’ve read in the last 6 months?
Talking To Luke by Diane Ryan. It’s actually the first paranormal romance novel I’ve ever been able to really, really, REALLY get into. Really!
Do you prefer real books or digital books?
Digital. My house is too small to collect books anymore. We’ve actually downsized. We only keep signed books or books by friends.
Name a book that you feel every human should have to read by law.
Heh, well obviously I don’t think anyone should have to read something or go to jail. But going along with the question, I’d like to see everyone read The War Of Art by Steven Pressfield – whether they’re writers or not. Very inspirational, it sheds light on those things about us we let drag us down and keep us from the success we deserve.
What is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life?
You probably think I’ll say The War Of Art by Steven Pressfield again, don’t you? Well I won’t. The real answer is Origins by Richard Leakey. After reading that, I formally decided to get my degree in anthropology. The final nail in the coffin, so to speak. Everything in my life up until now sort of gushes out of that decision.
What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?
I’d like to read the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. Everybody swears by them, and it’s time for me to check them out. Wish me luck…
If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?
The Man Who Lived To Be A Thousand Years Old. Or actually no, this one’s better: The Guy Who Quit His Job And Became A Full Time Writer, And Then Lived Forever With No Visible Signs Of Aging. Much nicer.