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Interview with John Coon

He is an accomplished author and journalist. As a journalist, he has written for the Associated Press, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, and many other distinguished publications worldwide. 

John has covered many major sporting events including March Madness and the NBA Playoffs. As an author, he has published popular bestselling novels including Alien People and Pandora Reborn. John is a graduate of the University of Utah and he currently resides in Utah.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?
I'm an avid photographer. I love exploring trails and taking pictures along the way. I enjoy snapping photos of everything from animals to unique landscapes. It's a fun way to find peace when I feel stressed.

Q.2 Are we going to read more from you in the near future? Any new project you’re working on?
I have numerous novels, novellas, and short stories in various stages of development. For the immediate future, I will write the third book in the Alien People Chronicles – with a planned release date in the summer of 2022. I'm also writing a pair of sequels to Pandora Reborn, my debut novel. Those horror novels will be completed and published by the end of 2022 if all goes well.

Q.3 What inspired you to write Alien People Chronicles?
The idea for Alien People came to me while in high school. I've encountered so many science fiction stories where humans make the first contact with a mysterious alien race that turns out to be violent, creepy, and dangerous. What if you turned that first contact scenario around and Earth was home to the dangerous alien race? That idea seeded what became the core story behind Alien People. It is from the perspective of Calandra, an astronomer, and Xttra, a space pilot, and follows their expedition to Earth after they discover a probe sent from our planet to their native homeworld of Lathos. The entire series is really their story.

Q.4 What is the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
The challenge any author faces in writing a character from a gender outside their own is avoiding stereotypes and cliches. Cardboard characters are a sign of a lazy author. I always approach the characters I create like they are real people when I'm crafting a story. I treat each character as an individual with distinct thoughts and emotions. That philosophy helps me create realistic and believable characters regardless of gender.

Q.5 How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
Since I work as a journalist, I take an organized approach to how I create stories. It's a necessity due to the busy nature of my profession. I start out with a brief paragraph summary of a story idea, usually about 3-4 sentences long. Then, I sketch out my characters and their backstories. I'll jot down notes on their physical appearance, family, interests, personality, and life history. From there, I sketch out a chapter outline of my story with a brief summary of the important plot and character beats for each chapter. It gives me a nice framework for building my novel once I began writing the rough draft.

Q.6 How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?
Counting my new release Dark Metamorphosis, I've published four novels and one short story. Alien People ranks as my favorite simply because it is the first complete novel I wrote. I cranked out the first draft at 18 years old and the main characters in that story are the ones I'm most passionate about among all the characters I've created.

Q.7 How do you see the future of science fiction literature? Will sci-fi maintains its independence or intertwines with other literary genres?
Science fiction already naturally mingles with other genres. It uses a futuristic backdrop to study the human condition. Our hopes and fears are realized in plots and characters that populate sci-fi worlds. Science fiction stories examine life's universal questions – Who are we? Where did we come from? Where are we going? What is the purpose of life? Are we alone in the universe? – and searches for answers. I think any well-written story, regardless of genre, tackles those same questions in one form or another.

Q.8 To what extent can science fiction effect or improve the developments in science and technology in human life? Is it right to say that science fiction can change what human life looks like in the future?
Certainly. You look at how Star Trek or Star Wars inspired kids who loved those movies to become scientists, engineers, inventors, and so forth. They created technology that seemed impossible a generation ago, like smartphones for example, that are now a normal part of life. Science fiction can inspire societal progress and warn against ideas and actions calculated to impede that progress.

Q.9 In many science fictions stories, the existence of God is denied. Could we call science fiction an atheist literary genre?
I don't know if it's fair to characterize the entire genre in that fashion. You have some authors, like C.S. Lewis or Orson Scott Card, who weave a belief in God and other religious elements into their science fiction stories. Speaking from my stories, my characters vary in their approach to religion and the existence of God. Some worship a deity. Others do not. It varies from character to character. Taking such an approach is more realistic to how I think things would play out if we encountered real-life aliens. Their beliefs may not neatly check the same boxes as they do for us here on Earth.

Q.10 What do you think are the main reasons for the popularity of science fiction? To what extent has the film industry helped in popularizing the genre?
Science fiction taps into a reader's imagination. Who hasn't stared up at the stars on a clear night and wondered what's out there beyond our own world? That natural curiosity and drive to explore the unknown can be realized in science fiction stories. That contributes to the genre's broad-based appeal both on the printed page and the big screen. People are explorers by nature and science fiction lets them explore.

Q.11 Ray Bradbury considers sci-fi as “the important literature in the history of the world because it’s the history of ideas and the history of our civilization birthing itself”. Do you agree with him, as many sci-fi stories do, indeed, depict disaster?
I think what Bradbury is saying is that science fiction is deeply rooted in existential questions at the heart of history and civilization. It has always been a genre of grand ideas and big questions. Science fiction presents scenarios where possible answers to specific big questions are explored. Do some sci-fi stories depict disaster? Sure. But others offer hope and optimism that we humans can create a better world and a better future for our children and grandchildren if we put our minds toward realizing that goal.

Q.12 Science fiction has a long history. Which era do you consider the most effective period in the whole history of the genre?
Classic sci-fi has had a lingering impact on the direction modern writers take within the genre. Isaac Asimov and Frank Herbert exert considerable influence in how to approach world-building on a galactic scale. Phillip K. Dick is influential with how he explores the nature of memory and the essence of what it means to be human. You can see the fingerprints of these and other classic authors in what embodies many common tropes and themes within the genre.

Q.13 Among all your protagonists, who is your favorite and why?
Calandra and Xttra from the Alien People Chronicles are my favorite protagonists without question. I'm more familiar with their stories than any other character I've created. I love Calandra's resilience and joyful energy. She refuses to surrender to any obstacle. Even in her darkest moments, she finds a path back to the light. I love Xttra's bravery and loyalty. He's someone who you want in your corner when the going gets tough.

Q.14 What about supporting characters? Who is dearest to you?
One of my favorite supporting characters I've created is Dean Lambert from Pandora Reborn. He's such a complex and tragic figure. Dean had a promising life ripped away from him after a malevolent witch brutally murdered everyone he loved when he was 18 years old. He spent 55 years guarding the chest imprisoning her. Dean's experiences unhinged him mentally and emotionally. It's gripping to see where he started and where he ultimately ends up during the course of the narrative.

Q.15 Who designed your book cover? How do you select him/her?
100 Covers designed the covers for all three of my sci-fi novels so far. I love the results I get from them each time. I actually came across 100 Covers while doing a Google search for affordable book cover designers. People have consistently praised the look of the covers on my last three novels, so I feel like their design work is worth every penny.

Q.16 How do you select the names of your characters?
It varies from character to character. Sometimes, specific names are deliberately selected because they act as an allusion to myth or legend. With Calandra in the Alien People Chronicles, for example, her parents named her after the heroine from a popular epic poem on her home planet of Lathos. Stating that fact in the narrative serves as an allusion to her eventually undertaking a hero's journey with Xttra. Other times, I arrive at a specific name simply because they stick in my mind as a fit for a particular character within a story.

Q.17 Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
I check out my reviews from time to time because I like to see how readers are reacting to my stories. I enjoy sharing good ones on social media. Bad reviews I do my best to ignore. You can't please everyone, so there's no sense worrying about the occasional reader that dislikes your work.

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
I've met and interacted with plenty of famous people while working as a sports journalist and I've learned that there's nothing particularly special about these so-called celebrities. The person I actually want to meet is my paternal grandfather. He was not famous in the least degree. Just a hard-working bookbinder. My paternal grandfather died of a heart attack 13 years before I was born and my Dad always shares stories about what a good man he was when he was alive. It would be nice to have a conversation with him and get to know him.

Q.19 What is your favorite book from other authors and why?
I have to pick a book series here. I love The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Narnia really stirred my imagination when I first read the whole series in middle school. I take inspiration from how he built a fictional world that feels so real and alive. Plus, I've always liked animals, so a world filled with talking animals excited me as a kid.

Q.20 Share the experience of your journey so far?
Creating and telling stories is my passion. There's nothing else I'd rather be doing with my time. I'm thankful for the readers who've embraced my stories thus far. I plan to be a storyteller as long as I have an audience eager to hear those stories.

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