Meet the Author: Jon Tilton
It’s been a while since I’ve done an author interview, but I’m super excited about today’s guest.
Today I’m interviewing Jon Tilton, middle grade fantasy author. Welcome to the fold, Jon!
I’ve had the pleasure of recently reading Tilton’s works to date (all related book review links are below), and I loved them so much I just had to see if he’d let me pick his brain about his creative process. Lucky for me, he was willing to spend some time to answer some questions.
Let’s show Jon lots of love and support as we get to know him better.
Alright, time to get this interview started!
I write family-friendly novels filled with adventure, timeless themes, and plenty of heart. In addition to telling stories, I love classical music, making tacos, and taking long hikes around my Florida neighborhood.
Social Media Links
Book Review Links
Hi Jon, thanks so much for stopping by. To keep things interesting, I like to ask my interviewees a random question to get the blood flowing. Here’s yours!
You’re in an amusement park. Which ride do you get on?
Jon: I love the older, more classic rides. So many of the new theme park attractions are these elaborate glorified 3D movies with motion seats and various gimmicks. Some of them are fun, but I love old school roller coasters or anything that doesn’t involve a screen. I grew up near Sesame Place in Pennsylvania and have incredible memories on their giant Rubber Ducky tube slide. So much fun!
Jonny: I love older rides too! Roller coasters with loop de loops and corkscrew flips, spinny rides that make others vomit, the more dangerous looking, the more interested I am. I’m more of an adrenaline junkie when it comes to amusement parks.
Rubber Ducky Tube Slide?!?! I had to check that out on YouTube. Man, that looks like a ton of fun! Count me in.
Jon and the Writing Process
What kind of setting do you write in most times?
Jon: On most days I’m in my home office with as few distractions as possible. Boring, I know. I also try to write first thing every day when my creative energy is at its peak. Occasionally if I’m stuck on a particular scene or character arc I will dictate my book while taking a walk around the neighborhood.
Jonny: No, not boring at all! An author’s life can be pretty solitary, and I’m glad you have a routine that works for you. I find myself in a similar boat. I tend to write in my room or office in a quiet setting, usually with ambient music turned on. I write in the morning if I can, around lunch, and sometime after I get home, but all in little spurts.
What is your favorite part of writing?
Jon: I try to find aspects I love about each stage, but I’d have to say my favorite is the revision process, particularly the draft that comes after all of the big story elements are in place. That’s when I can stop worrying about plot holes or rough edges and start concentrating on adding more character and polish to the work.
Jonny: I agree. There’s definitely something to each stage that can be enjoyable. I tend to dislike the revision stage, but I have the time of my life when brainstorming and plotting things out for a story. I just love the possibilities and thinking things through. At the same time, leaving some room for pantsing when writing is needed too because you can really surprise yourself when you’re not being so methodical.
If you could give advice to new writers, what would you say?
Jon: You hear it everywhere, but that’s because it works. Take small and steady steps toward your goals and eliminate distractions. It’s so simple but our modern culture makes it difficult. We’re used to getting products with the snap of a finger and we’re constantly bombarded with distractions. That’s part of why in practice it’s much more difficult than it sounds. But you can do it!
Jonny: Great advice, thanks for sharing! I couldn’t agree more. I write in small spurts on most days, but when I’m in the zone I don’t allow myself to look at social media (sometimes I’ll even disable my wifi if I’m too tempted) and put some focus music on to help. Everyone’s got to discover their own process that works for them, but once you figure it out, consistency is really important.
What do you think makes a good story?
Jon: Good stories all come down to character conflict. Conflict builds character and without characters to relate to, the reader might be intrigued by a fun plot element or unique world, but those elements lose their sheen after the early pages. As humans we want to connect with other people, so if a book, film, or tv series doesn’t have an intriguing character with a conflict, then the audience will lose interest quickly.
Jonny: So true! I’m often entranced by books set in a fun world with cool elements of fantasy, scifi, or horror, but in the end it really comes down to the characters. We want to be able to relate, even in a work of fiction. Sometimes a good story can teach you some things along the way. Maybe a character is going through something or has a disability or world view you haven’t encountered and it allows you to think more openly and be more empathetic towards others.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
Jon: I do! It’s a great way to understand the type of people who have encountered my book so far. I try to keep everything at an informative level so I don’t get too high or too low about any single review. But the detailed positive reviews are helpful beyond just feeling good for a few minutes—they help me understand which elements of my writing are connecting with readers and they help me know which types of readers enjoy my work.
Jonny: That’s great! I like your point of view on reading reviews. I also read mine, and I’ve learned to grow a thicker skin when people point out certain things they don’t like. No one’s perfect and your entire audience won’t always love your works, but you can learn who your key target groups are, what’s working for you, and possibly take some notes for future works if a point really resonates with you.
Fun Facts About Jon
What’s your favorite place that you’ve traveled to?
Jon: When I was about ten my dad took me to Zion National Park where we hiked Angel’s Landing together. It’s one of the most dangerous hikes in the United States (not sure if my dad knew that at the time!), but it’s an exhilarating experience.
Jonny: Oh goodness! I’m glad you survived that one. Nature and I aren’t friends. My extreme is glamping, which would be something akin to a trip I did to Branson in the winter one year. I rented a cabin with a ton of amenities and did daily walks around this big community in the freezing cold. That’s what I call a good time, haha!
If you had to choose one type of food to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Jon: I practically already do this! I make tacos for almost every meal. While I also love experimenting around the kitchen, making something that I love regularly not only gets me fed, but also helps keep my attention on my work that day.
Jonny: Oh man, I love taco nights! My partner and I are about to move in together, and we both love to experiment with new recipes pretty frequently. Oddly enough, something that I could almost always eat is sushi. There’s just so much you can switch around to keep it fresh, and I have this weird obsession with the taste of nori. Unfortunately my partner can’t stand sushi, so they’ll probably just have some chicken teriyaki, haha!
What are your favorite movies?
Jon: My top five films are Toy Story, The Empire Strikes Back, Jurassic Park, The Secret of Kells, and Princess Mononoke. They’re all masterpieces in my eyes that get better with every viewing. I especially love the first three which I think are perfect blends of stories that have both mass market appeal but also incredible artistic and cultural value.
Jonny: Wow, those are some great picks! Toy Story brings me back to my childhood days, and I have a copy of Princess Mononoke in my DVD collection (aging myself, I know). I’m something of a horror connoisseur, but I also love movies fit for the kiddos like The Never Ending Story and Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse. It’s so tough to choose!
What are you reading now?
Jon: I just started the new Gary D. Schmidt book, The Labors of Hercules Beal. Wednesday Wars is an all-time favorite, so I’m excited to dive into this one.
Jonny: I’ve never heard of that author, but I looked it up and I’m intrigued. I’ve always loved anything to do with mythology, so I may have to bug my library about getting a copy. Right now I’m reading a MG/YA series called Replica by Marilyn Kaye. I’m on book 2 of 24 and I’m completely addicted. Save me!
Jon and His Works
Tell us about your most recent book.
Jon: Please Return to the Lands of Luxury is the story of a brave girl who travels to a far-away land to return a lost doll. There’s lots of robot action, but plenty of heart-warming moments too.
Jonny: Having read your book, I have to say that it really is a magnificent and memorable read. I think you really captured the sense of childlike wonder, and I loved the characters and dystopian elements to the world. It’s one of my favorite MG reads to date.
What inspired you to write this book in particular?
Jon: Inspiration struck when I went to throw out an old toy because the batteries had exploded inside. When I saw the garbage truck taking it away, I caught my first glimpse of the story which quickly expanded into a full novel. You can read more about the moment I got the idea here: https://www.jontilton.com/blog/the-unexpected-origin-of-my-debut-novel
Jonny: Don’t you just love how random inspiration can be? So many times our story ideas find us. Thanks for sharing that with us! Some of my best inspirations came to me when doing totally mundane activities like going to the gym or listening to a podcast.
What criteria did you use when selecting the cover for your book?
Jon: I had the great privilege of working with Sylvia Bi who is just an incredible, incredible artist. She gave me three outstanding covers to choose from. They were all so amazing that when I asked around to see what the common favorite was, the votes were practically evenly split. That got me to dig deeper and really think about which design would be the most effective.
I felt the final design direction gave the audience the best connection to Jane, the main character, before they even opened the book. So while all of my choices were fantastic, I’m confident we made the right decision in the end!
Jonny: I looked Sylvia up because I wasn’t familiar, and holy moly! She is insanely talented with illustration. Just from the examples I saw, I can see why you went with her. It’s incredible! I’m glad you found the perfect artwork for your cover. It’s super important.
Was there a message in your book that you were trying to convey?
Jon: Several, but I try to let the audience take ownership in the reading and interpreting process as much as possible. With middle grade some things are more on-the-nose, but not everything, and there’s more at work in any story beyond the author’s original intentions. It’s fun to see what resonates with others. Sometimes they connect with exactly what I had in mind while other times they come up with something I never even considered. In both cases I think it speaks to the power of a good story.
Jonny: I think that’s fair. As an author you don’t want to come off as preachy, and your book never came off that way to me. It had a great positive vibe throughout, and I loved the morals implied. Kiddos will definitely connect I think.
What other projects do you have in store for the world to see in the future? Anything you can share with us?
Jon: Books 2 and 3 of the Lands of Luxury are on the way! The first book works as a standalone, but the full trilogy will develop the world and themes while raising the stakes for the characters. I’m very excited to share more soon!
Jonny: Hooray! I’m so glad to hear that. I can’t wait to see how this world opens up for all these characters and how they will deal with these changes.
Alright Jon, it looks like our time here is almost up. Before we go, do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events, and special offers?
Jon: Yes! www.jontilton.com is where you can find links to the book as well as updates.
I also have a standalone short story that ties into my series. You can read the ebook (or listen to the audiobook) for free if you sign up for my newsletter through my website. The story follows a girl named Melina who ventures to a forbidden landmark guarded by tyrannical robots. Her life turns upside down when she discovers the true reason it’s off-limits!
Jonny: Thanks for sharing that information with us. I read the short story, and it was a really great tie in to the world you’ve created. Thank you again for taking the time to share more about yourself and your work with us, and I wish you nothing but the best on all your future projects. I can’t wait to see more from you!
That’s a Wrap!
Alrighty bookworms, that wraps up my interview with Jon Tilton I had a great time chatting it up with him, and I hope you enjoyed the experience too!
If you’d like to learn more about Jon and his work, he can be reached at the social media links provided at the beginning of this post.
Thank you for stopping by, and have a great day!