This year’s conference features several different genre offerings, including a mystery/thriller course being led by international man of mystery, Jon McGoran. Jon writes thrillers, the last two – Drift and Deadout, – deal with the world of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and are fast-paced thrill rides with a great lead character and more than enough murder and mayhem to keep the pages turning. Jon will draw upon his experience as an author to define what makes an effective thriller. I asked Jon a few questions about writing and what he expects from this year’s conference. Find out what he had to say after the break!
How important are conferences and conventions to a writer?
Conferences and conventions can be extremely important for a number of reasons. They’re a great way to get out and meet other writers, to learn new things about the craft (and almost as importantly be reminded of some things you might have forgotten) and the industry, and to give yourself a little creative jump-start when you need it. Writing can be a very lonely pursuit, and conferences and conventions are a great way to remind yourself you are not alone in all this, and that there are other people going through the same struggles. They are a great way to make new friends who share your insanity. Cons can be expensive and hard to get to, but I often tell beginning writers to try to get to a few early on, in part because of all these great benefits, but also to get those first awkward conferences out of the way. It can be hard going into conferences cold, not knowing anyone, but even so, it doesn’t last long. For the most part, writers are an incredibly warm and supportive bunch, and you won’t be alone for long. Even so, however, it is great to get those first conferences out of the way, because if you do get published — and even more so if you self-publish — you will have to get out there and promote yourself and it’s an amazing thing when your book comes out, to know you have a supportive network already in place.
What are some hints for getting your butt in the seat and your hands on the keyboard?
That’s a tough one. The simplest answer is just do it. No matter how good your excuses are, no matter how much you don’t feel like it, just do it. Some people benefit from a strict regimen. For me it helps to always have something that I want to be working on.
How do you balance your writing time with the rest of your life’s responsibilities?
That’s hilarious…. Seriously, though, the biggest competition for your writing life can be the demands of a healthy and well-rounded life. Having the support of your loved ones is invaluable, and not always available. My advice is to be honest with those around you about how important your writing is to you. If you can make them understand, they can help you to keep at it, to encourage you when things are tough, and to share in the joy that much more when those victories big and small come your way.
When did you first realize you were a writer?
Somehow, I always knew I was a writer. I started writing short stories when I was a kid — third or fourth grade — then through high school and into college. But I also wrote and played music, and for over a decade that became my only creative outlet. It wasn’t until after my twenties that I began to seriously write again, and started working on my first novel.
What are you most looking forward to at the 2015 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference?
I think community is very important, both locally and along the broader writing community. I’ve been looking forward to being a part of PWC for a long time, but scheduling conflicts of one sort or another have always kept me away. I’m very much looking forward to finally being a part of this amazing institution that is such an important part of the writing community in my own city.
How has the new emphasis on a digital world impacted your writing?
I don’t know, actually. As a traditionally published author, it has probably impacted me less than some others, but it has reshaped every aspect of the publishing world, and continues to do so. I think the relative ease with which authors can publish their own works has been led to a golden age of authorship on one hand. And I have self published and indie-published several works and look forward to exploring that more, so I have directly benefited from it. But it is unavoidable that having so many titles available to readers dilutes demand for any given title, and that has a downward pressure on sales and earnings. On the other hand, I think that level of access also brings more people into readership, creating more regular readers and more demand for books and stories, which is a wonderful thing. Digital media and social media are also a double edged sword, making it in some ways easier than ever to access an audience on line, but at the same time making it harder than ever stand out against all the other works being published. I think we are in the midst of a revolutionary era in publishing and in writing, and it will be fascinating to see what the next few years bring. Hopefully, humanity’s innate desire for compelling stories will keep story tellers and writers of all kinds happily productive creating and telling the stories of our era.
Ready to meet Jon and check out his Thriller/Mystery class? Register now.