Born and raised in Ramsey, New Jersey, Patrick Johns attended university at Virginia Tech, obtaining an engineering and mathematics degree. Go Hokies! However, writing is Patrick’s true passion. After writing his first novel, Junkland, the first book in The Hoarding series, Patrick left his engineering job to teach English overseas. Four years laters, Patrick returned from living in Spain to spread his love of reading and writing throughout New Jersey. When he’s not writing, managing his literary magazine, The Kraken’s Spire, and teaching English, he’s surfing, hiking, traveling, or writing music.
—– INTERVIEW —
Tell me something about you aside from being an author.
I actually was a math nerd growing up. I loved math so much that I studied engineering and math at Virginia Tech. Now looking back I truly believe my engineering and math background has helped me become a writer. Writing a book is hard. I’d say it’s even harder than running a marathon. The discipline I learned throughout my college years of struggling through problems has helped me to have the patience and mindset to sit down and write a book and publish it.
I also don’t think I would have become a writer if I hadn’t pursued engineering and math. I like to view my life as solving one big math equation; the answer presents itself once all the variables are put in place. Becoming a writer wasn’t clear at first, but once I was able to see all the variables, the answer was simple: I was born to write. After discovering this answer, I realized I didn’t want to solve problems in the real world, I wanted to solve problems in the worlds that I create. So I left my engineering job and moved to Spain to teach English and pursue writing. I would not have had the guts to leave my job and move to another country if it wasn’t for my engineering and math background. As my engineering advisor once told me, don’t let your degree define you, but let it guide you through life.
When did you start writing?
I always wrote little stories in school from first grade to fourth grade. My teachers allowed us to write our own stories, illustrate the pages, and design our own books. We would then exchange our stories with our classmates and leave each other reviews. These writing projects were my favorite memories in school. I loved the process of writing and creating a book so much that I would go home and expand on my stories.
But then time turned me into a teenanger, and the angst hit hard. I released my bottled up emotions by writing song lyrics and creating my own songs on guitar. I did this all throughout high school, but rarely shared my songs with the rest of the world because I was too afraid to sing. So I just stayed hidden, playing as a guitarist in a band.
When I went to college I found it difficult to find people to play with. I knew if I wanted to keep playing there was only one option: learn how to sing. So I began whining and hurting the ears of my roommates and whoever was brave enough to sit through my performances at open mics. Years of practice gave me a voice to work with, and I was able to experiment more with writing songs and lyrics. I was going through a difficult breakup at this time, and I began to write enough lyrics that would eventually fill three poetry books.
As I continued down my engineering path in college, writing always was on the back of my mind. Curiousity made me take a creative writing class my junior year. This class opened my mind to another side of thinking, creativity, and connecting with others who also enjoyed reading and writing. But soon enough I graduated, and I found myself working for a large engineering firm. I didn’t enjoy what I was doing; I knew that the very first day I stepped in the office. So I began to think…and think…and think some more about what I truly wanted to do in this world. After a lot of stressful pondering, the pieces came together. All those hours spent in bookstores. All those countless books I’ve read. All those songs lyrics I wrote. All those short stories and characters I created in school. Even that creative writing class in college. It all came together for me: I was meant to write. For the first time in my life I listened to myself and began to write seriously. And that was how my first published book Junkland was born. And my writing journey began…
What inspires you to become a writer?
Putting smiles on readers’ faces. I’m an avid reader myself, and every day I try to become a better role model for the reader world. I want readers to get lost in a story. To become inspired to write and go on their own adventures in life. Just like the story Aladdin inspired me to go on my own journey, I want to do the same for them. To remind others they aren’t stuck. That they can do whatever they want in this world if they put their heart in it.
Why would readers choose your book to read?
To connect with characters. We all need role models in our lives, giving us hope and direction, to inspire us to be better individuals. And that’s exactly what we do when we read books; we connect to characters. I try my best to write real and relatable characters that will guide my readers through life’s struggles. I always find it very rewarding when one of my readers reaches out to me to tell me how much they resonated with one of my characters. That makes it all worth it to me.
What do you consider first, plot or characters?
Characters. My stories are definitely more character driven. I like to let my characters lead me through the story. However, I also take time to outline my story’s plot. But the plot can only show me so much. I always hit a point in my outlining when I need to trust in my characters to guide me through the dark spots of the story, hoping they will know how to get me through it. I think every writer is different and has their own method. Little to no outlining will call for more revisions later on. But too much outlining can lead to an unfinished story that gets lost in your closet, covered in dust. It’s important to have a good balance between outlining the plot and trusting in your characters.
Would you consider writing a different genre than the one you used to?
I’ve already written in two genres: fantasy and poetry. I would like to dabble in mysteries and thrillers after I’m finished with my fantasy series. I love fantasy, but sometimes it’s good to take a break and try something new. Learning something new will make me a better writer.
Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
Oh yes. I’m currently in a pickle at the moment with my current cover. The cover design for Junkland was created back in 2017. I didn’t know much about marketing on Amazon back then. After taking a lot of courses the past year, and realizing that cover art trends change constantly, it’s important to keep up with the times. Because if your cover art doesn’t match what’s selling, well…you’re not going to sell many books. So I’m currently debating changing the cover arts for The Hoarding series to something more fantasy. The current cover art looks a bit too dystopian and sci-fi. And if readers are in the fantasy section and see a dystopian/sci-fi cover, most likely they will not buy it.
How do you handle negative reviews?
I learn from them. If it’s a nasty negative review with no value to it, I ignore it. But if it’s actually constructive feedback, I take it as my opportunity to grow as a writer. No book is perfect. And no book will ever be perfect. Some readers will love it. And some readers will hate it. I am still flabbergasted when someone tells me they don’t like the Harry Potter series. But every person has their own particular tastes in books. So it’s important to know the difference between constructive feedback and deconstructive feedback so that you can make your books the best they can possibly be.
Do you have an upcoming book? Can you share something about it?
I am currently writing the third and final book in The Hoarding series called The Palms of Light. This book will conclude Jahrys’s journey of discovering the mystery behind the Hoarding. It’s such a strange experiencing writing the last book in my first series. This is it. Once I’m done it’s overs, time to move on. After spending six years of my life thinking about The Hoarding series, it will be odd saying goodbye to it. Writing The Hoarding series brought me from New Jersey to Virginia to Cádiz to Santander to Ferrol to A Coruña and back to New Jersey, turning a close minded boy into a global writer. I can’t even imagine where my next book series will take me in life.
The next book I’ll publish will be my third poetry book Stages of a Healing Heart (title may change). This will be the final book in my poetry collection A Poetry Collection of Growing Up, focusing on poems of false acceptance, moving on, and change. I will be publishing this book in 2023. This poetry series will have every hopeless romantic reminiscing on what could have been. Whether they be fresh wounds or years old, this series is perfect for anyone wanting to connect through a broken heart.
Any message to your readers?
Keep reading. Reading has so many healthy benefits. An avid reader can empathize with people more. Reading also reduces stress, stregthens your brain, and may even help you live longer! In a world of so much anger and depression and separation, it’s important to keep a healthy mind. And reading is a great way to do so.
Keep dreaming. Never let anyone tell you you can’t do something. You can. Pursue your dreams. They are possible to obtain. It will be a difficult road, and people will try to bring you down, but be confident and courageous. There’s a great quote I read recently by Moshé Feldenkrais, “The healthy person is the one who can live his unavowed dreams fully.”