A New Dawn Author John Jackson Miller Talks About Harlan Ellison, Star Wars, and Uncle Scrooge!

Cover for A New Dawn
Cover for A New Dawn

A New Dawn has arisen for Star Wars fans everywhere and I had the opportunity to talk with the author, John Jackson Miller about his work.  John gave such a great interview, I decided to divide it into two parts for you to enjoy his answers.  If you haven’t read part one where we talked about his book A New Dawn, I encourage you to read it.  In our segment this week, we talk more about his inspiration for writing and the differences between writing for comics and prose.  John began his writing career in comics before moving into writing prose.  Here’s what John had to say:

Crimson Dynamo cover from John's early work
Crimson Dynamo cover from John’s early work

You began your comic writing career with Crimson Dynamo for Marvel Comics which led to further comic book work and eventually your well-known run on Star Wars for Dark Horse. What inspired you to attempt your hand at writing comic books and how did you break in?

I’d been a comics fan since the beginning of time and I’ve kept all the issues that I ever bought. What inspired me to write comics? My first job was editing a trade magazine for the business Comics Retailers. After a number of years I couldn’t review comics any more. It occurred to me that every time I was reviewing a comic book, I was in solidarity with the writer. But I was also thinking here’s all the ways I would do it. I thought I might as well write my own stuff. Others encouraged me, too. Maggie Thompson (who worked with John at Comics Buyer’s Guide) was a strong supporter and still is. Harlan Ellison who was one of the readers of CBG (and also a celebrated award-winning author in his own right) called after a feature I’d written and said, “Kid, you need to be writing fiction because I like your writing style.” He even agreed to read one of the stories I’d written. He was very kind and generous with his time. I guess by then I figured it was time to move to other side of the camera so to speak.

What was the biggest challenge in shifting from comic book writing to writing novels? Or was it particularly easy for you?

The trick there was simply a different storytelling language. When you go from comics to novels I have complete control of the description of these characters. I’m the only guide a reader has so you have to add things to your toolbox. But it also brought about some nice new opportunities. Some of the things we had in comics are gone like thought balloons. They fell out of favor in the 90’s. In the early days of digital lettering and computers, they just couldn’t do it. They couldn’t make the curly bubbles so they dropped out.   They’re almost completely gone now. But they used to tell the reader in comics the motivations of what the characters are thinking. Even the number of narrator captions have gone away. They’ve sort of fallen out of favor too. If you wanted to talk about the politics of society or real nitty-gritty details you can’t do it unless you can show it. Prose is different because you can go into that kind of depth.

One of Carl Barks' Uncle Scrooge covers
One of Carl Barks’ Uncle Scrooge covers

Your career has really spanned the depth and breadth of the nerd industry! From video games to comic books to science fiction novels, you’ve done it all. If you were to name your favorite of each of these, what would it be and why?

  • Video Game – I have an Atari 2600 sitting here somewhere. I guess the one I’ve played the most is Civilization I – V. You don’t have to aim and shoot.
  • Comic Book – Comic books…it’s so hard to choose between them all. Maybe Uncle Scrooge by Carl Barks. That was huge for me. I literally have thousands and thousands of books. I’ve never thrown one away.
  • Science Fiction Novel – In addition to the Star Wars novels and other licensed books, I am a huge Arthur C Clarke fan. The 2001 series, both the movies and the novels, really did transform my life. I actually went to college intending to go into aeronautical engineering and taking Russian. Americans and Russians working together in space seemed obvious to me. But I set fire to a few things in chemistry lab and then I received my first calculus grade. I did get my graduate degree in Soviet studies and it came in handy. I ended up writing the Russian version of Iron Man and in A New Dawn there were definite overtones of Soviet era industrialization.

Thank you so much for your time! I really appreciate it and look forward to more of your work!

In addition to everything else John does, he is great at giving a writer’s guide to all of his work which is simply fascinating!  You can find him at Farawaypress.com and he’d love if you followed him on Twitter where you can find him @jjmfaraway.  Also, be on the lookout for John’s newest work – a Star Trek novel based on Next Generation characters coming out on January 27th of 2015.  He promises to pit Picard against Riker and says he had an absolute blast writing it.  It’s called Takedown so keep an eye out for it or pre-order from your local bookstore.

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