Q&A with Young Adult Author Jon Skovron
March 11, 2014
Jon Skovron has been an actor, musician, lifeguard, Broadway theater ticket seller, warehouse grunt, technical writer and web developer. He is the author of multiple young adult novels, including “Struts & Frets,” “Misfit” and, most recently, “Man Made Boy.” He generally likes stories that are dark, strange and occasionally funny.
What do you do when you have writer’s block?
I remember not to panic. I remember that “writer’s block” is just a normal part of my process of writing and happens with every project. It’s usually a symptom that I haven’t figured out some part of the story or I’ve made a wrong turn somewhere in the plot. Sometimes I bull through it, forcing myself to keep writing even if I know it’s garbage. Often I’ll get some momentum and figure it out as I go. But sometimes I have to step away from it. Go for a swim or play some Legend of Zelda. Let my subconscious sort out whatever it needs to sort out. Then I come back to it either later that day or the next day and try again. It never lasts forever. Nothing does. Not streaks and not blocks.
Do/did you have a day job? What was it and how did it influence your writing?
I have had an odd assortment of day jobs and all of them have influenced my writing in some way. Before writing “Man Made Boy,” I worked in a Broadway theater box office in New York. A lot of the theater scenes in the book are based on those experiences. I also worked for an internet security company in Seattle. The main character of “Man Made Boy,” who’s name is Boy, is a hacker and that whole aspect of the story comes from what I learned in Seattle. At one point, Boy works in a restaurant kitchen in Manhattan and that’s based on my own very brief stint in the food service industry in Times Square.
Day jobs can be frustrating, especially when they detract from the time and energy you would rather use writing. But they can also give you unexpectedly useful experiences. No matter what happens to me, good or bad, I’m always thinking of how it will inform my writing.
Why should people come listen to you talk about your book?
Some authors are uncomfortable speaking in front of people, but I’m a classically trained actor, so I actually enjoy it. I read my own audiobook for “Man Made Boy” and Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review and named it Best Work of Fiction Read By Author for 2013. So I guess that’s a reason? I promise it won’t be dull.
As I mentioned, I used to be an actor. The thing I found most frustrating about that medium is how little creative input the actor has. First, you can’t actually practice your art until you’re cast. And then once you’re cast, you more or less have to do what the director or producer wants, regardless of your own interpretation. I found that extremely frustrating. As a writer, I can practice my art any time I want, with or without a publishing contract. And while the editor can guide, request or advise, at the end of the day, it is the author who makes the final decision. Well, as least on the text. The cover is a different story entirely. But no medium or profession is perfect.
Writing is also something that can be done very cheaply. Visual artists and musicians all need supplies and/or equipment. For the first two years I began to write in earnest, all I had was a hand-me-down electric typewriter. Ultimately, it is this simplicity, this intimacy, which I love most about writing.
I suppose one could also just not create. But that’s crazy talk.
Where do you go to find your ideas?
Everywhere. No matter if it’s reading an article on the advancements of genetic manipulation of ants, pouring over the history of the 1788 Doctors’ Riot in New York, listening to the latest Wye Oak album, or watching the cartoon “One Piece” with my sons, everything is grist for the mill. Over time, you begin to look at the world around you differently. It’s a certain quality of attention, I suppose. There are ideas everywhere, clamoring to be realized. The trick is execution.