Author Attic is excited to introduce to you its first American YA author, Jon Skovron. He has just released his second book: ‘Misfit’ which resonates with his own experiences. His first book is called ‘Struts & Frets’ and he currently resides near Washington D.C with his two sons.
Q. Congratulations on the release of ‘Misfit’ which is your second published book. Tell us what ‘Misfit’ is all about?
Thanks! Misfit is about a demon girl in Catholic school. Jael Thompson has never really fit in. She’s changed schools too many times to count. The only family she’s ever known is her father, a bitter ex-priest who never lets her date and insists she attend the strictest Catholic school in Seattle. And her mother—well, she was a five thousand year old demon. That doesn’t exactly help.
But on her sixteenth birthday, her father gives her a present that brings about some unexpected changes. Some of the changes, like strange and wonderful powers and the cute skater boy with a knack for science, are awesome. But others, like the homicidal demon seeking revenge on her family? Not so much.
Q. ‘Misfit’ is heavily influenced by your own experiences of being an outsider and attending a Catholic School. How did you find the writing process?
This probably isn’t much of a surprise, but I didn’t fit in very well in my super strict Catholic school. And sure, I was punk rock and rebellious and all of that. But underneath it all, I was still very much Catholic in a lot of ways. So when I began to clash with the priests and nuns, it was hard to dismiss that underlying feeling that I was doing something wrong. That perhaps I was in some sense “bad”. Fantasy can be a great metaphor and I thought, “Well, what if I make that literal? What if instead of just feeling evil, you actually were hellspawn?”
While writing this book and going with Jael on her journey toward self acceptance, I think I learned quite a bit about accepting myself.
Q. Writing has always been your first love. Which books did you read as a teenager and how did you begin writing?
As a teenager, my favorite books were epic high fantasy like The Belgariad by David Eddings, and dark paranormal fantasy like The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice. I was also a fan of sci-fi like The Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. And thanks to my english teacher, I was starting to get interested in more literary fiction like The Stranger by Albert Camus and Waiting For Godot by Samuel Beckett. Basically, if it was dark and strange, I was interested.
I began writing my own stories when I was about thirteen years old. Those stories were fairly blatant rip offs of the authors that I admired, but I think that’s how a lot of writers begin. You start to learn what you like and don’t like, what works for you and what doesn’t. Eventually, when you’ve traced the styles of other writers long enough, you begin to step away from them and into your own voice and style. But that took me a long time to do. In fact, it wasn’t until ten years later that it even occurred to me that I could be a professional author. Maybe because authors were so inaccessible back then. The only way to communicate with an author was to write a letter to the publisher and just hope they passed it on. So yes, I did write but I didn’t pursue it seriously until I’d graduated from college. In the mean time, I pursued much more practical career goals. Like being a rock star or a movie star.
Q. You studied acting for four years. Did this experience influence your writing at all?
My time in an acting conservator actually made a huge impact on my writing. First of all, the sheer luxury of being able to focus almost exclusively on developing your creative process for four years was invaluable. And sure, it was a different craft, with a different set of tools. But ultimately, I don’t see that much difference between art or music or acting or writing. It’s all coming from the same place. It’s just a question of which medium is best suited for you. While I was there, I was exposed to a group of brilliant mentors, peers who inspired and challenged me, and a massive body of literature. After all, what are plays if not literature read out loud?
Two things that are extremely important to me as an author are rhythm and character development. Both of those things I feel I learned in large part during my time as an actor.
Q. Misfit is about a heroine and your first novel, Struts and Frets, is about a hero. How did writing about these protagonists compare and which is your favourite?
Yes, there was a huge different between writing Jael in Misfit and Sammy in Struts &Frets. There was the gender difference. And of course, one of them was half demon, while the other was just an indie rocker. Struts & Frets was written in 1st person, while Misfit was written in 3rd person. Struts & Frets was a very small, personal, intimate story that takes place over the course of a few weeks, whereas Misfit is a massive, complex story that sprawls across thousands of years. But I think the biggest difference is in their personalities. Sammy is a sweet, sensitive guy who just wants to make music. Jael is a fierce fighter, a tad impulsive, but profoundly loyal to those she loves.
They really are so different. I don’t think I could pick a favorite. It would be like asking me to pick which of my two sons was my favorite. I love them both for their strengths and their weaknesses.
Q. What are you currently reading?
I usually have two books going at once. One for pleasure reading, and one for research. My current research book is Just Kids by Patti Smith. It’s a fascinating and lovely memoir about Smith’s relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe while they were living at the Chelsea Hotel in New York City in the late Sixties.
For my pleasure reading, I just picked up All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevine, which I’m very excited to read. Gabrielle’s Elsewhere was one of the books that got me hooked on YA in the first place.
Q. What has been the highlight of your writing career so far?
Hmmm, I’d probably have to say the Teen Book Festival in Rochester, NY. They put all the authors up in a gorgeous hotel and took us out to dinner. Then the next morning, they drove us to the event in a vintage bus, where we were greeted by thousands of screaming fans with signs and banners, and even a marching band. It was an incredible day, all about the love of books and reading.
Q. What have Jon Skovron fans got to look forward to next?
I have a couple of short stories coming out in anthologies in the next six months. Both of those stories are somehow connected to the world of Misfit. After that…well, there are a couple of things in the works, but I can’t really talk about those yet.