Good Morning my fellow Bookworms and Page Turners,
Today we are calibrating our cybernetic implants and grabbing the WD40, as we are picking the brains of the man behind the novel Auxillary: London 2039 Jon Richer.
Jon is a Writer, and Podcaster (Dark Natter) who is based in the UK and predominantly writes dark fantasy novels. I was first told about John by TCK Publishing when they approached me about reviewing Auxillary: London 2039, which I graciously accepted, and I’m glad I did. Not only was I treated to a very fun read, I also got to have a chat with the man behind the wires.
“Hello Jon, thank you for joining us today, could you please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us a little about your background and career journey?”
Hi John, and it’s an absolute pleasure! I’m Jon Richter and I write dark fiction stories – so far I have six published books, comprising three crime thrillers, one cyberpunk thriller, and two self-published short horror collections. I’ve been writing for fun since I was about five years old, and I suppose my professional writing career commenced in 2013 when I wrote the first book, which was published by HarperCollins in 2017. I also have a techno-thriller on the way in 2021 just to stick to the genre-hopping theme!
I’ve been a huge fan of stories – always the dark and sinister kind – for as long as I can remember. As a child, I’d devour books like The Hobbit and the Dark Portal series by Robin Jarvis, as well as all manner of films and video games (Gremlins and Big Trouble In Little China were favourite childhood movies, and my ZX Spectrum was my prized possession!) So perhaps it’s quite natural that I wanted to start to tell some twisted tales of my own. I suspect I worried the teachers at school a little bit when creative writing assignments like ‘a day at the beach’ would inevitably devolve into shark attacks or alien invasions!
Well there is no harm in having an active imagination, with that in mind, what do you think a person needs in order to become an author?
I suppose the obvious answer is ‘a thick skin’ but it really is true! It’s not just the rejections from publishers, but even once you’ve broken through that barrier, there’s then the possibility that your book doesn’t sell as well as you’d hoped, or that your social media posts don’t get the engagement you wished for, or that your reviews aren’t all glittering 5 out of 5s… but if you love writing and you’re determined to bring your work to a broader audience, you’ve got to take all that in your stride and just keep going! I think it’s also important not to lose perspective; sometimes I’ll compare myself to other writers and say ‘woe is me, my most successful book only has 80 reviews on Amazon while Joe Bloggs over there has hundreds’, and then I have to remind myself that I have a published book that hundreds of people have read, and 80 of them have bothered to leave a review!! Which is amazing!!! And then I can smile until the feeling wears off again…
Well from what I read, you certainly have a reason to smile. What inspired you to chose Cyberpunk & Murder Mystery as your genre? and if you were to write a novel in any other genre, what would it be?
As I touched on above, I’d probably stretch my genre even further to encompass all of ‘dark fiction’, including dabbling in horror on occasion. This is a really broad genre that encompasses everything from fantasy to science fiction – basically, anything where there’s peril, a bit of the grotesque, and maybe a less-than-happy ending… but having said this, none of the books I’ve written were really because I ‘chose’ a genre. Instead, I just write whatever story grabs me at the time.
Taking my cyberpunk book, Auxiliary, as an example, I didn’t set out to write cyberpunk specifically – I just became interested in emerging technological trends and wanted to explore what impact these might have on the world in the near future. We constantly see very advanced, humanoid robots depicted in science fiction stories, but before we get to those we’ll have years of really rudimentary ones that trundle around on wheels with limited speech etc – so I thought this would make an interesting setting for a detective thriller! Again, you can doubtless trace this back to influences in my younger days: everything from Blade Runner and Ghost In The Shell to the boozy, washed-up protagonist of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
So, we could be seeing something completely different from you in the future. Given your eclectic tastes, what would you say is your most interesting Quirk/ Obsession, and did any of you transfer into your characters?
This is a tough question! There are definitely facets of me that crop up in my characters, so you’ll see protagonists who are keen runners, or unhappy accountants, or prone to drinking and smoking too much… and my most recent novel, Rabbit Hole, which is a crime thriller about an investigative podcaster who tries to unravel the five-year-old cold case mystery of a missing girl, has a more fully-fledged ‘author insert’ in the shape of the bald, nerdy supporting character, Isaac! 🙂
I suppose the main ‘quirk’ that I’m renowned for amongst people who know me is my overenthusiasm, usually extended towards my favourite books, films, games, etc! I host a fortnightly podcast called Dark Natter to give me a bit of an outlet for this, where I and my co-host pick a favourite piece of dark fiction for discussion in each episode. If there’s something you’d love to talk about you’d be welcome as a guest any time, John!
I actually listen to Dark Natter already, I was introduced to it by a friend around February this year, and I would love to be a guest on your podcast, but I feel I would pale in comparison to your other guests, Ryan Hamann, and Jacob Steven Mohr to name a few. However, If you could choose anyone to have on the podcast, who would be your ideal guest?
You would be immensely welcome and I’m sure you’d be great!! And I’m really pleased you listen to the podcast – its audience is small (partly because I am RUBBISH at promoting it) but I think it’s a good and funny show (or at least it usually makes me smile when I listen to the finished episodes!) The ideal guest would probably be my favourite actor and the star of my all-time favourite movie, which he’d obviously be pitching as his ‘Hall Of Pain’ recommendation – I cannot imagine anything more enjoyable than discussing Big Trouble In Little China with Kurt Russell!!!
Now that’s an episode I would listen too! Obviously you have a few creative outlets, but If you could create/develop something other than a Podcast or written novel, like a Comic Book, Film, TV, Videogame for example, what would it be? and what would be the premise?
I actually wrote the last answer before I read this question! But other than the art book idea, it would absolutely definitely be a video game. I love gaming and I believe the genre is a unique storytelling medium – unlike passive ‘observing’ a story as with a film or a book, games place you at the center of the action and make you truly responsible for your own actions and the story’s outcome (even when this is ‘on rails’ and predetermined, there is still a greatly-heightened sense of ownership and responsibility). Some of the most shocking twists and crushing endings I’ve ever experienced have come from games like Bioshock, The Last Of Us, and Shadow Of The Colossus, and I would love to recreate even a fraction of the impact these had on me. The problem of course is the necessary coding skill… although I did have a crack at writing a text adventure a few years ago (it’s called A Story Of Salvation and you can find it on www.textadventures.co.uk if you’re interested!)
If you could bring one aspect of ‘Auxillary: London 2039’ into reality what would it be and why?
Oh, definitely the AI. TIM (The Imagination Machine) is the city’s omniscient custodian, acting like a sort of turbo-charged Alexa; TIM flies the planes, he drives the cars, he runs the factories, he manages your diary, he delivers your food, he reads your children bedtime stories… and as sinister as this sounds, I would LOVE the opportunity to talk to a human-level intelligence that had been created in this way. It would be fascinating to hear the thoughts, insights, and suggestions of such a machine, and to understand how it experienced its own consciousness, to explore its thoughts on the soul and the afterlife… and I bet it would make a decent chess opponent too!
Speaking of bringing things into reality, when you are writing do you have any specific methods to remain inspired, and deal with writer’s block when/if it occurs?
I think ‘writer’s block’ is a sort of default state, i.e. if you don’t have an idea that inspires you, then you won’t write. So in some ways, it can be a good thing – if you’ve embarked on a writing project but you just aren’t motivated to work on it, then maybe it’s not the right project. People sometimes tell me I should stick to one genre or write a series, and this is definitely good advice for more sales and success – but I find I can’t force myself to work on anything other than the idea that is grabbing me at the moment. My current WIP is a time travel thriller, so I’ve been hammering loads of time travel stories and movies lately to fuel the creative furnace!! (Spanish movie Time Crimes is an absolute must-see if you can get past the iffy translated title.)
I have to admit I am quite a fan of time-travel/ parallel Dimension stories myself, from the feature films of BTTF, and Timetrap, to the animated spectaculars of Your Name, and Mirai. Each has its own individual theories and paradoxes, can you give us a glimpse into what we can expect from your latest work in progress? and do you have any specific time travel theories you are intending to follow?
Some great recommendations there and several I have never seen – will absolutely be seeking those out for further research! The project will offer a hopefully unique and interesting twist on the ‘man meets self from the future and then must later travel back to carry out the actions of that self’ story… I’m currently undecided though on whether it’s another full novel or maybe something a bit different. I have a friend who is fantastically talented at art and illustration, and we’ve talked for a while about an ‘art book’ of some kind – a bit like the brilliant work of Simon Stalenhag maybe? A short story with some pictures to accompany it could work really well I think?
Going back to your recent work, If you had to sum up the general premise of ‘Auxillary’ in 280 characters (the length of a tweet) what would you say?
Always a challenge to keep it brief (at least for me anyway!) but I’d go for: ‘In a near-future London populated by driverless cars, primitive robots, and the disillusioned citizens whose jobs the machines have taken, Detective Carl Dremmler must solve a troubling murder case after a woman is brutally slain by her boyfriend. The catch? He claims his cybernetic arm acted of its own accord… which means that the city’s all-powerful AI might not be as ‘unhackable’ as it claims to be.’
Finally, what genres do you like to read and what are you reading at the moment?
I love anything that qualifies as dark fiction, so crime thrillers, fantasy, science fiction and ‘weird fiction’ are all fair game! At present though I’m in full-blown horror territory reading Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, and I’m really enjoying it so far, especially the fantastic and darkly poetic prose. My ‘TBR’ pile is currently a shamefully teetering tower though, and I really do intend to ramp up my reading output in the new year – one of many resolutions!
And that concludes todays interview with Jon Ritcher. Thanks again for stopping by to talk to us today Jon. For those of you itching to have a peek at Jon’s literature back-catelogue, you can find his books listed on his very own website here and you can pick up a copy of Auxillary: London 2039 on Amazon via the following Link
Until next time, read more books