Jonathon Lively (J.M. Lively) was born and raised in California. After moving through several cities and states he settled down in Grand Forks, North Dakota. There, he met his wife Brittany, and together they started a family. Over the years of moving, attempting to be an artist, and living life by the seed of his pants, Jonathon collected pages upon pages of inspiration for characters. He was heavily influenced by comics, anime, and manga. A lot of those ideas were meant to be drawn, tattooed, or designed with computer graphics. Instead, he took those characters and small snippets of story and combined them all into one HUGE document. It took Jonathon three months in 2018 to comb through all the information but when he was done, he had an outline for the series, The Oreniah Codex. From there, he started writing the story. Then, in August of 2019, he published his first book, The Last Soul. Now, Jonathon lives in Bemidji, Minnesota with his family and continues to explore the universe of Oreniah, through writing novels.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I am a bit of a pantser so I don’t do a ton of research before beginning my writing. I usually start writing, fill in what I want to be true, and then go back and verify or change what I’ve written. That’s more for a chapter or some detail that is super-specific. In regards to a book, I have only written one and I spent about three months outlining that universe. I spent probably twenty hours researching various parts of my universe to make sure that certain aspects were even possible. In the future though, I am unsure if I will do the same level of research. Because I know as an author, I can get really tied down in the research. However, as a reader, I can’t point to a single time when I have stopped reading and looked up a fact to check if it was true or not. I’m reading fantasy fiction, I am taking what I read at face value.
How do you balance making demands of the reader with taking care of the reader?
I make demands of the reader by trying to leave each chapter with a bit of a cliff hanger, making them want to come back for more. Some of my cliffs are larger than others but overall, I want them to struggle putting the book down. In regards to taking care of the reader. I learned from Dakota Krout, that shorter chapters are better. It gives the reader a chance to put the book down if life gets in the way. Which, having two kids myself, I know definitely happens.
What are you working on now?
I am working on the sequel of my first book, The Last Soul. I am working on the sequel following book two as well. In fact, I am writing them as one book, a continuous story, and then finding a good breaking point to split it into two novels. Also, I am writing a side story to my trilogy and I am considering turning it into a podcast. We’ll see. It's still in the works and not my main focus at the moment.
If you could choose a character from any book to interview, whom would you choose?
Kelsier, from Mistborn. Especially, after listening to the afterward where he is dead and viewing events while stuck in the Well of Ascension. I just love his character. He wasn’t the most powerful, the most cunning, or even the bravest. I don’t know if I could put a finger on why I, and so many others, love his character so much. But I know this, having a conversation with him would be awesome.
What are your favorite genres to read?
Fantasy. No contest.
Do you have a favorite part in your book?
There are a few parts in my book that I really like. But the part that always gives me chills, is when Lathan has tapped into his full potential and fights Jester. That was a really fun scene to write and when I read it, it plays out like a movie in my head. Of course, I enjoy my ending fight scene as well. I love the part where Lathan gets sent to Limbo as well. But they don’t give me chills like the aforementioned chapter.
What is your writing routine?
I write best at night. And currently, I am working nights as a 911 Dispatcher. So, on nights off, I write while the rest of my house is quiet. And on nights that I work, I do smaller projects. If I end up with downtime, I try to spend it working on a project that isn’t too involved. That way I can drop it at a moment notice. When I am home though, I’ll usually sit at my kitchen table or in my recliner. I throw on some headphones and listen to a playlist called Deep Focus on Spotify. The playlist is meditation like music with no vocals. I can’t focus on my writing if the music I am listening to has any singing. Although, I do enjoy throat singing a little. I don’t usually eat while writing, too distracting. But I will drink obnoxious amounts of water and pee like a racehorse.
Has the pandemic inspired any stories for you?
The pandemic has absolutely inspired my writing. Not for good parts of my writing either. It has shown me a different side to humanity and the neighbors and coworkers in my life. A lot of things have happened in 2020 and I want my future writing to be more plugged into the pulse of America. I think that we have a lot of unsettled issues that have come to life for the first time, or again, that need to be addressed. I want to touch on general fear of the populace, mass sickness, racism, prison systems, corrupt businesses and governments, brutality, and many other subjects.
Find J.M. and his work at these links:
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