- Reader and writer of odd fantasy. Contrary to popular belief, he is not an insane robot … yet.
Readers, let’s give a good, hearty welcome to this week’s guest!
A lifelong fan of fantasy, Jonathan Pembroke is the writer of The Holly Sisters trilogy and the stand-alone novel Pilgrimage to Skara. He’s been writing short stories for the last fifteen years and novels for eight.
Jonathan lives in rural Arizona with his wife Lisa and a trio of unruly dogs. When not writing, he reads, works his garden, and plays the odd video game or two. He also wastes entirely too much time on social media.
Jonathan, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with the boring stuff, but I know what readers REALLY want to know.
If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?
I’m allergic to cats and have always loved dogs, which is why we have the three. They’re all kind of lovable idiots. But right this second, the correct answer to this question seems to be the phoenix. An un-killable bird that attacks your enemies, explodes in a ball of flame, and rises from the ashes to do it again? Seems like a no-brainer.
What a bright option!
What do you write? And how did you get started?
I write mostly fantasy, with occasional jaunts into sci-fi or horror. I fell in love with fantasy as a kid and I’ve written on and off since about sixth grade. Granted, most of it was abominable derivative fiction or fan-fiction. In fact, my mother recently found some papers of mine from sixth grade, including a story I had written and Lord, was it bad. The novel I wrote in college will never see the light of day (in fact, the manuscript still screams when exposed to sunlight).
But I really started making a serious effort at writing when I was in my thirties. I started with short stories and eventually tried my hand at a novel … and realized I’d found my calling. I have four novels out now—one stand-alone, one trilogy—and am working on a new series. I love it.
So glad you found your way back to your writing.
What do you like to read?
I read a little of everything, though I’ve gotten away from contemporary literary fiction. There are some great works of modern literature out there … but as time goes on, reading seems to be a refuge from the real world, so I’ve been reading more fantasy than ever. That’s probably 85% of my reading habits.
I also have been reading a ton of self-published fantasy the last few years. For one, I’ve gotten to know a lot of people in the self-published fantasy community, and I like to support them. But also there also are a lot of good-quality stories to be found, many of which are every bit as good as traditionally-published work. And while this would surprise some people who know me, I also like contemporary romance. What can I say? I am sucker for a happy ending.
Your to-read pile doesn’t sound too far off from mine. Right down to the romances.
What’s one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you?
Never use adverbs.
I get it, I realize that adverbs can be a crutch and there’s usually more descriptive language one can use. I also agree that it can be fatiguing to read down a page and see five or six in the same paragraph. But adverbs have their place and sometimes, for brevity if nothing else, they are the best word that fits. I’ve dealt with some anti-adverb advocates before and it amuses me to see them exclude a tool that can help their own writing. “Use sparingly” is not the same thing as “use never.”
One-hundred percent! Minimize and eradicate are definitely different.
What’s one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands?
Write every day.
While this isn’t key for some writers, it absolutely is for me. I try to work in a little writing time every day I can—or even just read back over what I write the previous few sessions. If I can only get one or two hundred words in, that’s fine. Doing so keeps me in the head-space of my story. I find that if I don’t write for more than a week, I have trouble not just getting back to the story but getting back in the groove of writing, period. If I find myself unable to write, I still try to do something that day for my craft: edit, promote, interview, etc.
Indeed, persistence is what makes a writer.
Shameless Self-Promotion time!
Rumble in Woodhollow – The Holly Sisters (book 1)
Sydney was bored–bored with mixing potions in her aunt’s alchemy shop and bored of life in the faery homeland of Sylvan Valley. So when her sister Marla sends her a letter and asks Sydney to bring some family documents to the crime-ridden city of Woodhollow, Sydney leaps at the chance–only to discover Marla in charge of one of the criminal syndicates competing for control of the Woodhollow underworld.
Before she knows it, Sydney finds herself embroiled in a gang war and must maneuver her way through the plots of rival thugs, ogre peacekeepers, and the semi-immortal ruler of the city. And through it all, she learns she has drawn the attention of a mysterious order of assassins…who want Sydney for some sinister purpose of their own.
The Mauler – The Holly Sisters (book 2)
The gang war ended. The Faery Gang and their allies emerged victorious and assumed undisputed control over crime in Woodhollow. Now the second-in-command to her sister Marla, Sydney thought she could relax. She was wrong.
From hostile dwarven guilds to scheming goblins to the black-winged Nightshade, the gang finds themselves under assault from all directions. With Marla growing more irrational with every passing day, Sydney must maneuver her way around their enemies, forge new alliances, and discover the cause of her sister’s unrest.
And all the while, Sydney barrels towards a fated confrontation with a nightmare lurking just inside the dragon lord’s walls…a beast whispered of in Woodhollow in hushed voices of terror and dread…the mauler.
Sylvan Valley Aflame – The Holly Sisters (book 3)
Her sister is gone and her lover maimed. The Faery Gang stands on the brink of failure. And yet, Sydney’s greatest challenges are still to come.
With Marla in self-imposed exile, Sydney desperately tries to rally the gang in the face of their troubles. New enemies emerge alongside the old, hatching plots and schemes. The gang find themselves under attack and are drawn into confrontation with the Nightshade and his allies, before catastrophe strikes. Riven with guilt and self-doubt, Sydney leads her friends into a desperate war to rescue all they hold dear.
And through it all, Sylvan Valley burns.
Lives will be lost. Trusts will be broken. Friendships will be shattered. And in the midst of the chaos, Sydney will come face to face with the one thing she’s sought since leaving home.