THE CONVENTION COLLECTIVE: Thank you for joining us in the Spotlight Jonathan! How did you get into writing and why did you want to become an writer?
Jonathan Stevenson: I started writing stories as a kid. It’s always been something I do so I can’t remember what drew me to it in the first place at such a young age. I used to read voraciously, a lot of Roald Dahl, and I think I realized he got to make up silliness and have other people read it.
TCC: What genre do you like writing the most?
Jonathan: Comedy is the one that I’ve come back to the most. In my teens I switched from writing prose to my first scripts, sitcom scripts specifically. I’ve done other stuff but comedy is where my heart is. That’s why I tried my hand at standup – despite my abject fear of being in front of an audience, I just wanted to make people laugh.
TCC: What was the first work you completed, where you stepped back and thought, “Yes, y’know what, I can do this for a living!”?
Jonathan: Unfortunately I don’t write for a living. And I’m not the sort of person that would step back and think that. Even if I was Stephen King, having written for a living for decades, I would still never be able to believe that I could do it for a living. I’m too critical of everything I do to have that level of confidence. I think that criticism stifles me a little, but it’s also helpful because it drives me to improve.
TCC: Which writers inspire you? And they don’t have to be in the medium you work in, either…
Jonathan: Hemingway is one of the loves of my life. I’m not sure I would not have gotten on with him at all, and there are many things about him as a person that do not hold with my beliefs, but his writing is beautiful. His style is so crisp and clean and economical, yet packed so full of emotion. I kind of like that he was not a writer of big ideas, if you look at the premise of any one of his novels there’s nothing groundbackingly original. It’s all about style and executions and examining the human condition.
TCC: Can you tell us your greatest fan moment, interacting with a personal hero of yours where you may have gone a little weak at the knees?
Jonathan: I had one recently actually. I’ve been doing some work for Humanoids where Mark Waid is the publisher. I was asked to jump on a zoom call with him. It was so casual, “oh, Mark wants to speak about such and such.” But the voice in my head translated all mentions of “Mark” to “Oh, my god! It’s Mark Waid!”
TCC: What is your favorite fandom? Who is your favorite comic book character/movie/tv character?
Jonathan: I really couldn’t choose. It depends what day of the week it is. I love The Doctor from Doctor Who. As a fandom it is very dedicated and largely inclusive. But working on the Doctor Who comics means I still see the show as work in an odd way. So some of the joy was taken out of it for me. Though I have recently rewatched everything from 2005 onwards and it definitely made me remember why I loved it in the first place. I go through phases of finding and loving shows and franchises that I had never thought much about before, and then forgetting about them and moving on to something else. Since the launch of Disney+ I’ve been a huge fan of The Mighty Ducks. I vaguely remember the movies from when I was a kid, so rediscovering them while living in lockdown at the height of the pandemic, they were comforting. Like snuggling under an old blanket.
TCC: What’s your working routine? Do you work regular set hours and days, keeping certain days free for personal time, or do you find you create any time the muse takes you?
Jonathan: I’m terrible at routines. My full time job is as an editor, and I work from home. So a lot of days I tend to be sat at my PC at 9am and I’ll barely move from it until 9-10pm, often 7 days a week. It’s incredibly unhealthy. I write when I can, around the work that pays the bills.
TCC: When you’re creating, what do you use for background noise? Some creators use music or podcasts, some use a TV show that they just can listen to in the background. What do you use?
Jonathan: I struggle with the TV when I’m writing. I find it too distracting. The same with podcasts. Bruce Springsteen is normally my go-to. I love his music and I know it so well that it doesn’t distract me. I can sing along and enjoy it without it breaking my flow. Writing The Disconauts was a bit different. Disco was the soundtrack to this project. A lot of it is based around disco songs so I had them on to get into the groove.
TCC: What was the first comic con that you remember attending? And, indeed, what was the last?
Jonathan: The first was MCM in London. I didn’t know anyone else who was into comics so I went alone and felt very odd and out of place. I hadn’t known what to expect in advance, but what I got was a very lonely and miserable day. I don’t remember my last one. It was some time ago. I was editing full time for a comics publisher and when I left that job I couldn’t face cons for a while. I wasn’t keen on comics as an industry for a while after that. But I have tickets booked for Thought Bubble in November and I’m really looking forward to it.
TCC: What’s your favourite element of a comic convention? And which bits could you easily leave behind?
Jonathan: I’ve only been on one panel but I could happily never do it again. My favourite part is always artist alley. I love finding new books by indie creators.
TCC: At a convention, when you’re not behind your table or doing the things you have to do at a con, which corner of the show would we find you in?
Jonathan: Artist alley or, more probably, the bar.
TCC: A lot of creatives are also taking to crowdfunding – such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo – to generate income from their work. What’re your thoughts on that?
Jonathan: I think it’s a great resource. I enjoy finding comics to back on Kickstarter and I love it when they hit their goal as I can imagine how happy the creators are about it. I’m currently in the middle of my first Kickstarter campaign and it is absolute hell. The constant social media posts, and desperately trying to gain any form of publicity to get the campaign in front of people. It’s been a steep learning curve.
TCC: What projects have you recently finished? What are you working on at the moment, what projects are coming up that you can talk about?
Jonathan: The Disconauts is almost done. The first issue is complete and is on Kickstarter now, but the next three issues are almost finished as well. Just the lettering left to do. It’s the result of being furloughed and actually having the time to create as if it was my full time job. Luke and I want to keep working together as we really feel that we make a good team. We have a few ideas but I’m not sure which one we’ll go with. I’ve been editing a really interesting book lately but I can’t say what it is yet. But it’s one of those books that I’d buy anyway, so to work on making it happen is very satisfying. Although it’s also an absolute monster of a book.
TCC: How do you stay connected with fans? Do you use a mailing list or newsletters, are you active on social media?
Jonathan: I hate social media and I hardly ever use it. That’s been one of the major lessons of running a Kickstarter. You have to use social media constantly. It’s not something that comes naturally to me.
TCC: Where can people find out more about you and reach out to you?
TCC: Thanks Jonathan, for your time!
Be sure to check out his Kickstarter for The Disconauts #1 here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jonathanstevenson/the-disconauts-issue-1?ref=creator_nav and check out the interview the Artist and Colorist for the series Luke Balmer-Kemp
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