- A hopeless idealist obsessed with the otherworldly – usually involving love in worlds dark or fantastical.
Readers, let’s give a good, hearty welcome to this week’s guest!
Jon Kirsch is an avid writer, traveler, and dog lover. He grew up in Chicago, IL raised by two librarians with a sincere love for storytelling, and the rest has been one long and mostly memorable adventure.
He likes to accept challenges for which others might dub him ‘insane.’ He trained from scratch and ran a half-marathon in 4 and a half weeks. He wrote a 40K word story in one weekend as part of a ‘NanoWriWee’ contest. He’s a writer-librarian-investor who likes his women clever and snarky and his men traumatized and brooding, but in a relatable way.
Jon, 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?
If I could have any pet, it would probably be a sentient virus that can talk with me telepathically and target germs (and nasty viruses) I don’t like. And before you say, ‘Is this because of COVID?’ I can surprisingly say that this long predated COVID.
I think it has to do with the fact that I love anthropomorphizing odd things – whether that be fantastical creatures, trees, inanimate objects or even things microscopic. I like my pets smart, unusual, and functional; their cuteness (or lack thereof) will grow on me either way. (The ugly dachshund sitting in my lap as I type this can attest to that.)
Whoa! That’s a new one. But, I think I can see the appeal.
What do you write? And how did you get started?
Let me admit an embarrassing secret. Videogames. I got into writing through videogames.
At the time, I was playing a game called ‘Starcraft’ in high school and a group of friends and I decided to write our own stories set in that universe. I guess you could call it early fanfiction – and to this day I’m an active supporter of Archive of Our Own for that very reason. Fanfiction is a gateway drug to writing. Who knew?
Ever since then, I’ve gravitated to writing fantasy, paranormal, and sci-fi romance. And yes, I know there’s a distinct theme going on here. I’ve always loved a wide variety of genres – as long as they have a strong romantic element. It doesn’t have to consume the whole story; it just has to be there and matter. It’s hard to pin down exactly why, but for me, a story without that romantic aspect just feels like it’s missing something – like having that perfect family recipe except for one lost ingredient.
I don’t know why you’d be embarrassed! What a great way to get into storytelling. Don’t let judgmental people make you self-consious about it.
What do you like to read?
Books I can fanboy out to any day include Warm Bodies, A Discovery of Witches, and The Host. I like to read what I write, but I read much more widely because it helps to get new ideas for subverting tropes and stereotypes. I read straight-up romance, mystery, paranormal, scifi, fantasy, historical, manga, and pretty much all genre fiction besides maybe horror or western.
An excellent variety for a speculative fiction author!
Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you
Write what you know.
I’ve always thought of this advice as ironic. Writers are in the business of imagination; it’s supposed to be flowing through our blood and buried in the marrow of our bones. I’ll never forget the time I wrote a story with an epileptic protagonist.
Do I have epilepsy? No. Do I have a voracious curiosity and know how to learn from others’ experiences? You bet. I enjoyed writing that story and it taught me so much. I think that ‘Writing what you know’ can become a terrible excuse for not growing, either as an author or as a person. I do think that sometimes when people say that, though, they don’t really mean that: What they really mean is ‘Write what you care about, are passionate about, and know deeply about’ – and that I can totally get behind.
When people take this advice and apply it to the human condition, I think it works better than a simple “stay in your lane” cage.
Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that works for you
My first serious writing mentor taught me that to really be a writer, you had to have this philosophy of “Butt in chair, hands on keyboard” (BICHOK), no matter what. One day might be flawless and the next downright hellish. Always make the time. Just write. She made me realize that no matter how much I might love writing, there will be days, weeks, maybe even months, where I may not feel like writing. A true writer doesn’t just put hands to keyboard when the Muse strikes or when everything happens to be flowing. You just buckle down, and it’s surprising, sometimes, once you get past that initial resistance or roadblock, what you’re capable of achieving.
Indeed! Even if it’s not every day, most writers persevere through perspiration rather than relying on inspiration.
What are you most proud of as an author?
I like this question because I think it says a lot about someone. One of the things I’m most proud of is a series of 5 fanfiction novels I wrote. Of the 500+ comments I received, one has always stayed with me: One reader told me that my story ‘Lost Cub’ helped her get through her grief after the loss of her father. You know that feeling you get when you have a lump in your throat and you get all emotional? Yeah, that was the moment where I felt like I truly understood the full power of storytelling.
What an honor, to be able to help, without even knowing her or her situation.
What’s the most dangerous thing you’ve ever done?
I didn’t realize it at the time, but writing can be a dangerous thing. I was studying abroad in a foreign country (Let’s just call it ‘Country X’) and I was interviewing rural migrants trying to tell their story as a marginalized people. The government would not have been happy with me being there or telling their story, but I did it anyway. Writers have the power to shed light on things, to expose things, and with that power comes responsibility—and sometimes enemies.
I mean, there had to be a reason that ‘freedom of the press’ had to be baked into our constitution. If no one can speak truth to power, they end up in a vacuum of ‘yes’ sayers.
Shameless Self-Promotion time!
Jon publishes under the name J. Kirsch. One of his most popular books, published on Kindle
Vella, is a fantasy romance called Kingdom Lost. Also, on Vella is his ongoing
science fiction and fantasy series, Starbase Sanctuary (Book 1 complete and available, also
on Kindle Vella) – with Book 2 forthcoming this week.
Her kingdom has fallen. Her father is dead. Yet she won’t give up.
This is the story of Princess Izlata and the conquering emperor, Khan Vigosar, who destroyed her life. Now trying to rebuild her Kingdom, the Princess is about to discover that patience, hard work, and earnest intent might be enough to heal even the ugliest of wounds.
Can she forgive her enemy?
Can she forgive herself?
Jade and Mezmyr may be humanity’s last hope. Among the teenage pilots who can bond to the starships that keep humanity from losing a war of attrition against the alien Zell, their childhoods ended long ago. But when Jade loses her crew, Mez has to continue the fight without her.
Can these aces in an intergalactic war achieve impossible victory? Or will humanity find itself conquered by an interdimensional race both devious and cruel?