Friday, June 4, 2021

Second Interview with Patrick Johns

It has been a long time. I haven't done an author interview since 2019, but I'm back. When I interviewed Patrick Johns in 2017, he was an aspiring writer working on his book Junkland, which till this day is my second most viewed post on this blog. Now, he returns to the Lounge to talk about his life in another country, finding your purpose, and his new project from The Hoarding series, The Lost Soul.

EA: First, welcome back to the Literature Lounge.

PJ: Thanks for having me back! The Literature Lounge was my first ever author interview, and I’m honored to be speaking with you for a second time! Let’s dive into it…

EA: I've asked this before, but for the readers who are new to your work, what writers are your biggest influences?

PJ: I’m going to change my answer a bit as I need to give credit to the authors who got me into reading. Because without them, I wouldn’t be a writer. I read a lot of The Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osbourne. When I was a child, I had a huge imagination just like Jack and Annie, taking me to imaginary worlds with my dinosaurs and lightsabers and all-star basketball team, so I could always relate to them. I have even began reading the series again in Spanish and it’s been nice returning to their adventures.
I also read a lot of the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. I love animals. Especially animals who live in castles and carry swords and fight and sing and eat. Brian Jacques was who got me into fantasy.
I then need to mention J.K. Rowling. Reading the Harry Potter series took me to a whole new experience of reading books. I felt like I was a part of the world as I was reading. I even made my own world like Harry Potter
I remember rewriting all the subject names in my assignment pad to subject names studied at Hogwarts. Math became Defense Against the Dark Arts. Science became Potions. History became History of Magic. English became Transfiguration. And Gym became Quidditch. It was also the first time reading a book with relatable characters. I felt like Harry, Ron, and Hermione were also my friends. These books became lengthy in page count, but I would still read them in a few days. That just shows how great of a series Harry Potter is. 
Next is Michael Crichton. He’s the reason for my love of dinosaurs. Jurassic Park was, and still is, my all-time favorite movie. Every time I would go to my grandparent’s house, I would watch it. I loved the movie so much that my grandma finally gave me the VHS to take home so I could enjoy it even more. Now it’s on Netflix so I can enjoy it whenever I want. But it also got me into reading a lot of his books, especially Jurassic Park, Next, Prey, and Sphere. His books always give me fear for the unknown, but wanting me to turn the page. I also like how he mixed science into his stories. He really did his research.
Then comes George R.R. Martin. I always love stories I can’t predict. George R.R. Martin does it perfectly. I love how his world starts off almost realistic, and then slowly becomes more and more fantasy as he develops Westeros. It makes the surprises more surprising and eerie.

EA: The last time we spoke, you were working on your first novel from The Hoarding series called Junkland, which was released in October 2017, if I’m not mistaken. What was the reaction/feedback from that book?

PJ: It was officially released in November 2017, good memory! Junkland exceeded my expectations. Within three months I surpassed my goal of books sold and also my financial goal. But what I never planned on happening was for Junkland to become a bestseller within its genre on Amazon. I remember staying up until four in the morning, refreshing the Amazon page to check the rankings of my book. I couldn’t believe it when I hit bestseller status. I celebrated with a big bowl of ice cream.
But I always have to go back to my main goal: I wanted my story to influence someone to do something they love, as the story Aladdin had influenced me to write Junkland when I went to see it on Broadway back in January 2016. I think the most rewarding success I had with Junkland was the amount of people who reached out to me saying they had made a big change in their own lives because I had influenced them. And that’s the reason why I write.
Overall, the feedback of Junkland has been positive. Fans have reached out to me saying they can’t wait for the second book to be done and that I need to work faster, making me feel like George R.R. Martin. My fans have also classified my book as fairy tale fantasy, which was exactly what I was going for. I wanted to write a Disney-like fairy tale, but more for an older audience. The thing I love the most is when fans tell me they can relate with Jahrys, the main character. Just like Aladdin had influenced me to write my own story. That is my fuel for writing: to develop more characters like Jahrys and Aladdin.

EA: I see your upcoming project is Book Two for The Hoarding series called The Lost Soul. Could you tell us a little more about it, and do you have a release date in mind?

PJ: The Lost Soul takes place just after the events of Junkland. I personally don’t know what to say about a sequel without giving away any spoilers from the first book, but I will say that The Lost Soul is different. In a good way. The Lost Soul goes deeper into the characters, the plot thickens, the world expands, and it’s darker. I will give a little teaser and say that The Lost Soul will take you across the Farrest Sea and maybe, just maybe, over the Western Mountains. ;) 
The Lost Soul will be available on Amazon on June 1st.

EA: How much has the main character Jahrys grown from his first adventure to this one?

PJ: A lot. Jahrys grew as I grew. While writing Junkland, I was going through a rough time in my life. You could even call it my quarter life crisis. I didn’t like my job or where I was living. I felt trapped. I knew deep down I had to make a change. This reflects in Jahrys as he also didn’t like working for his father and dreamed of making a change in his life. He dreamed of becoming a knight.
After I published Junkland, I moved to Spain to write The Lost Soul. However, as I wrote my second book, I felt lost. I love living in Spain. But I am going against east coast, American-living culture: I gave up making a lot money, I left the many hours stuck in a pig pen under soul melting fluorescent lights, I am one of many friends who is not buying a house in his late twenties, nor am I starting a family or anywhere near to settling. All these things were always on the back of my mind—they still are—making me feel lost. But I always have to remind myself, none of that is what I truly want now. I needed to learn to forget worrying about the future and focus more on the present. Yea, I may not be living in Spain for my entire life, but I can’t kill myself every day worrying about where I will go, what I will do, who I will meet, what age I will be when I finally settle. And all of this comes out in The Lost Soul through Jahrys. Jahrys is also lost in life, trying to find himself in a world he thought he understood, trying to figure out what he truly wants after getting what he needs wasn’t really all it turned out to be.

The Hoarding Series.

EA: I must say, quitting your engineering job and moving to Spain was a bold move. Would you take us through your thought process when making that decision, and what led you to do it?

PJ: Oh boy. I think taking you through my thought process would be like trying to explain a black hole. After I graduated from the university, I worked for a large engineering firm outside Washington D.C. This job was anyone’s dream, but mine. I didn’t feel myself growing here, and I felt I had no purpose. It was hard to wake up in the mornings. Every time I told my friends and family this, many of their responses were telling me that a job is a job and you’re not supposed to like it, only make money to do the things you like. I started questioning this. Well, why can’t I make money doing something I like? Why do I have to stay in a situation that is actually awful for my mental health? Jerry Seinfeld once said, “I never worked a day in my life.” If he can make that happen, why can’t I? So I set out on my journey to discover how I could also live like Jerry Seinfeld and enjoy my profession. But I then encountered one of the hardest questions to answer: What do I want to do?
I first began asking myself, well, what do I like? This wasn’t an easy answer as it had taken me months to uncover it. I started taking yoga classes and doing a lot of meditation to really clear my cluttered mind. During this time, I began recalling my roots. I remembered all the times I played with my dinosaurs in my basement. All the short stories I wrote in elementary school. All the times I spent in my imaginary worlds which included being a Jedi, discovering dinosaurs, and even taking my basketball team to the championship; Michael Jordan Jr. could make any 3-pointer. I recalled all the times I would ride my bike to bookstores just to be surrounded by books. I wouldn’t buy anything. The thought of so many adventures surrounding me filled me with energy unlike anything else. It still does. 
I also recalled all the song lyrics and poems I’ve written since I was in high school. I even took a creative writing class in the university, and I didn’t even need it to graduate. All these memories were puzzle pieces, and it took twenty-six years of my life to fit them all together to show me my answer: I wanted to write.
But then I was hit with another tough question: What do I write about? In January 2016, I went to go see Aladdin on Broadway. Aladdin is my favorite Disney movie. I’ve seen it so many times, but this time, I felt something different. I cried. I laughed. I felt inspired as goosebumps covered my arms and legs. Because what Aladdin was going through on the stage was exactly what I was going through in my life: trying to find my purpose.
I knew this was the message and feeling I wanted my readers to obtain after reading one of my books, to feel inspired as Aladdin had inspired me. When I returned to Washington, D.C with this new inspiration running through my veins, I found myself walking through a stairwell; one I’ve walked in many times. However, this time, an emergency light caught my eye. I stopped to admire it. This emergency light reminded me of a Disney character with its little square body and big round lightbulb eyes. I instantly knew this was the character I needed to write about. So I took a picture of the emergency light and went to my desk to examine the photo further. I first thought, what kind of setting do I see this character in? A junk land popped into my mind, kind of like the world Wall-e lived in. I then dove into an outline, writing it all on my phone. This outline was barely a page long. But it had a beginning, a fuzzy middle, and an end. I then began writing and writing and writing.
Suddenly, thirty pages turned into forty. Forty pages turned into a hundred. A hundred pages turned into two hundred. Next thing I knew, one book turned into a trilogy. I never intended to write a full book and I never intended to publish anything. This was all supposed to be for fun. It just happened.
I made it my goal to finish Junkland, publish it, and then leave my job. I began to wonder what I could do next…
I’ve always wanted to study abroad in university, but it never worked out. I had recently learned about the teaching English programs which you can find in many countries around the world. My friend from the university had been living in Spain for two years at the time so I began talking to him about life in Spain as I had always been interested in learning Spanish. Once I published Junkland, I applied to the program and left my engineering job behind to move to Spain where I’ve been living now for three years, teaching English.
I have never looked back since I moved to Spain. I absolutely love living here. Yes, it’s hard at times, as you can imagine, but it has been one of the best decisions of my life. I am not the same person I was just a few years ago. Moving to Spain has made me grow as a person and as a writer. In Spain, I earn money to save and still have enough to travel and enjoy my life, more than I had before in Washington, D.C. I also have time to work on my writing brand. What does the future hold? I don’t know. But if my writing journey has taken me from a small town in New Jersey, to studying in Blacksburg, Virginia, to living just outside Washington D.C., to living in Spain; I can’t wait to see what life has in store for me.

EA: Out of curiosity, what’s it like in Spain?

PJ: Spain is a beautiful country! My first year I lived in a small town called San Roque which is nearly at the southern tip of Spain. It’s right next to Gibraltar, Algeciras, Tarifa, and just across the Mediterranean Sea from Morocco. I’ve never experienced so much wind in my life during this year. I always thought I had pink eye since I was working with kids, but it turns out I just had sand in my eyes and they were irritated. My second year I lived in the city of Cadiz. Cadiz is the oldest city in Europe still inhabited by people. It’s the sister city of Havana. If you’ve ever seen the movie Die Another Day, you will remember the scene when James Bond went to Havana, Cuba and watched the famous scene of Halley Barry coming out of the ocean. That was actually filmed in Cadiz. In Cadiz, I was able to surf every single day. And my favorite part of the city was going to the giant fish market every weekend to buy food and enjoy a drink and food with some friends. San Roque and Cadiz are both located in Andalucía which is an autonomous community covering most of southern Spain. 
Andalucía is gorgeous and every day is sunny. I can still remember the days when it rained. If you ever get a chance, you need to visit Granada, Seville, Malaga, Cordoba, and Cadiz. There are so many more beautiful places, but these are a must. Andalucía was conquered by the moors back in the day so there’s a lot of Moorish architecture like the Alhambra in Granada and the Alcazar in Seville.
My third year I made a big change and moved to the north of Spain. I’m now living in a city called Ferrol which is located in Galicia. Northern Spain is a different world than southern Spain. I’ve never experienced so much rain in my life. But the beautiful sunny days make up for it when everything is so green. Galicia has one of the nicest coastlines I have ever seen. There are so many mountains and cliffs running along the coast with hiking paths.
There are seventeen autonomous communities in Spain which are like states in the United States. I love how going to each community is like going to a different country, like going from Andalucía to Galicia, for example. Each community has its own culture, food, and sometimes its own language. In Galicia they speak Galician, which was actually the language that formed Portuguese. In Catalonia they speak Catalon. In Basque Country they speak Basque. 
Overall, Spain is very safe, beautiful, and relaxing. Life is slowed down here. No matter what the weather is outside, you can always find people sipping a coffee or a beer at a café in a plaza, talking for hours and hours, never worrying about being late to anything. You can experience this while walking on the sidewalks too. Even if you say, “Excuse me,” people will not move out of the way for you or speed up their walking. You just need to be prepared to be late. But everyone is always so nice and willing to start up a conversation. I remember when I lived outside Washington D.C., no one would even make eye contact with me in the streets. Here in Spain, sometimes it’s difficult to avoid random conversations started by the old grannies and grandpas at the bus stops. But I always enjoy it.

EA: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

PJ: The advice I always give is: Write from start to finish. This is SO important. I’ve seen writers who struggle to get past the first chapter, sometimes even the first paragraph. And a lot of times these writers are better than myself. But what’s different between myself and them? Well, I finished a book and they didn’t. J.K. Rowling didn’t write Harry Potter in one take. It took her five drafts to finish it. No one is ever going to see your first draft. The first draft needs to be written with a free mind with the door closed. Write as if no one is lingering over your shoulder, judging you. Then, once you’ve seen your end, you can go back and edit. It’s so important to see the end of your story in order to know the point where your story needs to converge to. My biggest advice is, if you really do need to go back and edit while writing, add a note to remind yourself what needs to be changed in the second draft. But keep pushing forward. And once you’ve finished your first draft, you can go through your notes and fix your story as needed.
This leads to the famous advice of the magic of always being able to edit what you have written, but you can’t edit blank pages. So just write!

EA: Finally, tell us why The Lost Soul will be a must-read.

PJ: Well, if you enjoyed Junkland, you are going to love the second book in The Hoarding series even more. The Lost Soul goes so much deeper into the world of Astenpoole and its surroundings. It digs further into the characters’ minds. It resolves questions from Junkland but brings about new questions. But I think more importantly, this story had blossomed from my heart after I had left my engineering job to move to Spain three years ago. This book symbolizes the next step in my dream of becoming a writer. Scratch that. Of BEING a writer. And I can’t wait to share this next chapter of my life with my fans. My goal is to hopefully influence even more people to take the time to figure out what they love and want to do with the little time we have on this planet. Life will fly by. Our bad choices and failures will matter little in the long run of the universe. So why be afraid to take a chance on life and pursue the thing that makes you want to get up in the morning? 


I can relate to Patrick's story in a lot of ways. For starters, the part about meditation, but mainly
knowing that I hated working 9-5s and knowing I could do better than what I was doing. This led me
to discovering, uncovering, and revisiting my life's passion: writing. I had been writing since I was a child, but I somehow got away from it--aside from drafting scripts--as I grew older. 
In my early 30s, after some thorough reflecting, it led to me return to the one thing I've always enjoyed doing, and I've made a commitment to it since.
As far as finding oneself and one's purpose, that's something everyone can relate to at some point in their lives, particularly when they're young, but as he mentioned, one shouldn't be afraid to take a chance in life and pursue what makes them happy and enjoy what they're enjoy doing.

I would like to thank Patrick for stopping by the Lounge today. You can purchase The Hoarding series here
Check out Patrick's website as well as his social media pages in the links below.

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