Jim Zoetewey grew up in Holland, Michigan, near where L Frank Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz and other books in that series. Admittedly, Baum moved away more than sixty years before Jim was even born, but it’s still kind of cool.
Interview with Jim Zoetewey author of The Legion of Nothing: Rebirth 6/25/2015
I was wondering where you get your story ideas?
The simple answer is “I don’t know.” The longer answer is that it varies from project to project. In one novel (not yet published) that I set in my hometown, I’d known about the town’s long since disappeared trolley system all my life. I only started writing the story after I found myself imagining it being boarded by a modern person standing under a streetlight near my house—which is impossible since the trolley system went out of business in 1928.
There though, the most important thing was the visual image, and not knowing the history.
With the Legion of Nothing, I found myself looking for a story idea that I wouldn’t mind losing the ability to sell first publication rights on. I wanted to post the story on my blog, so it couldn’t have a realistic chance of selling in any normal writing market.
Then I remembered a character I’d once created for a superhero roleplaying game. To that character I added the pseudo-Lovecraftian background I’d made for a science fiction RPG campaign, and my own speculations about how superpowers might affect society (I’ve done graduate work in sociology), and I ended up with the story I have.
Both. I tend to come up with an overall outline, and fill in the details as I write a section. I always know where I’m going, but I leave a lot to be determined as I write. I’m also not afraid to throw out chunks of outline if I have a better idea as I write.
Once you have an idea that sparks your imagination do you research your idea or do any world-building exercises, or do you just begin to write and see where the Muse takes you?
It depends on what I’m doing and how ignorant I am of the topic. If I really don’t know much about a subject that’s important to the story, I read a few books on it. If I’m generally familiar with it, and need help with details, I check the details online as I’m writing.
I don’t really do any exercises, world-building or otherwise. As someone who’s trained in sociology (with an interest in theory), religion (specifically theology but with a strong interest in Roman and Hebrew culture), and who works in IT, I’m used to thinking in systems. When I think about how the world works, I have a tendency to notice the holes. Filling them ends up sparking many ideas.
What is your daily writing time like?
Daily writing time? I wish I were that organized. I update my web serial (The Legion of Nothing) twice a week, and tend to handle it like I did writing papers in college. That’s to say that I write them in a blind panic the night before they’re due.
Are you a full time writer? If so when did you make the decision and what factors led to the decision. If you are not a full time writer…Is your plan to one day being a full time writer?
I’d love to be a full time writer. We’ll see how many books I need to have out before that’s possible.
Can you tell us about your experience working with your current publisher? (Any other publishers?) (Or your self-publishing experiences?)
Well, I published the first Legion of Nothing book through 1889 Labs, and it was great. They were a small press that gave me plenty of personal attention. I’m still in touch with many people there now.
Unfortunately the owner had some rather bad problems come up through no fault of his own, and so now I’m self-publishing. I did a Kickstarter last fall to pay to put out my next two books, and it was successful enough that I have the money. Now I just have to get things to a level that makes me happy.
What is your current release and (without spoilers) tell us about the new book or series.
My next book is The Legion of Nothing, Volume 2: Powers. In the first book, Nick, and his friends discovered more about how one of their grandparents got superpowers. In the second book, that knowledge spreads widely.
I don’t have any appearances or signings planned. As for other writing… You probably don’t want to read my sociology masters thesis on the Promise Keepers, do you? Um… I used to write poetry, but never tried to get it published. It’s not terrible, but I’ve got a lot way to go before I’m good. Probably my best poem involved a monologue by the giant as he fell from the beanstalk. He was distinctly unhappy with Jack.
As an author what inspiration or advice would you give to a writer who is working to make the transition to Author?
In the end, persistence will help you more than any other quality. I started writing “The Legion of Nothing” as a web serial in 2007. When I began, a good day could involve about 40 pageviews. Currently, in 2015, a good day involves 4000 page views and at the same time, I actually get money from selling the first year’s worth of stories on Amazon.
Who is your favorite author, and can you recommend a book by that author?
That’s hard to say. I like Neil Gaiman, Roger Zelazny, C.S. Lewis, David Brin, Jim Butcher, Nancy Kress, Kim Stanley Robinson and Connie Willis a lot. I have no idea which one is my favorite author.
If I had to choose a book though, I can’t recommend Startide Rising by David Brin strongly enough.