Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions. If you have a question that you would like to see on the list, e-mail me using the form below.

Where do you get your ideas?

Ideas come in a lot of different ways. For me I get most of my ideas while I’m doing something more or less mindless. For example, a lot of my ideas come at night when I’m trying to sleep. When that happens I eventually have to get out of bed and write down my ideas so I don’t forget it.
Other times ideas will come to me when I’m doing dishes, jogging or when I’m doing something repetitive where I can let my mind wander.

Another way I get ideas is from reading good books and from watching good TV shows–in book format I prefer fantasy and thrillers; on TV I prefer mysteries. Sometimes educational shows are a wealth of story ideas. Every good story is based in some truth.

Do you do any research?

I do lots of research when I’m writing. I haven’t been alive that long :), so the only way for me to know about lots of stuff is to go out and read and question and find out.

When I wrote Wishes, I wanted to give a feeling of authenticity to my fairy-tale retelling. I went out and purchased a copy of the Grimm’s fairy tales, Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, Aesop’s fables and Mother Goose rhymes. And I read them all. I also read a bunch of scholarly information about fairy tales. I read some truly fascinating information and perspectives.

With Mythstones, I read about cryogenics, what it would take for an animal to travel faster than the speed of sound, evolution, the minotaur myth, labyrinths, everything I could get my hands on about mythology in general.

For me the research is fun because I go into it with some ideas, and I always come out of research with my mind spinning with a zillion ideas. I can never fit all my ideas into just one book.

Do you have a favorite character?

This is a hard question, but if I had to pick one at this point it would probably be Robert Jackson from Mythstones. If I were a teacher I would want to be just like him–cool magical powers and all. And who doesn’t want to be a knight?

What if I want to be a writer?

First of all, realize that if you want to be a writer, you are a writer from the first day you start writing. And then, never give up on yourself. There are all sorts of blogs and other people in the industry much more qualified to talk about how to get into the publishing business, so I won’t go in to that. But there are a few things I know for sure–keep writing and don’t give up.

How did you decide to write books?

So I first decided to write a book when I was eight years old. But years passed and I forgot about that goal.

One day I was in a Borders book store and they announced over the speakers that an author was in the store for a book signing. Funny that in all my book adventures I had never actually met an author of fantasy novels. So I went to say hello.

We talked for a while and this author told me how it was totally possible to make a living writing, you just had to be dedicated to it and keep plugging along. It seemed so simple and…inspiring. It was the first time that anyone who actually knew what it was like, told me that it was possible for me. Within weeks after meeting Brandon Sanderson, I was writing again. I’ve been writing ever since.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve wanted to write, and publish, a book since I was eight years old. That’s when I first started to get into reading, and from that point on I’ve wanted to get published. My first attempts were, dare I say it, completely awesome, but they lacked maturity, life experience, and writing know-how.

Since then I’ve read a lot more books. While I haven’t been consistently writing since I was eight years old, I have been reading a lot that whole time. I took a long hiatus from my writing goals for several years, but now I’m back. I’ve been writing just about every day, and certainly every week, for about two years.

Does it take a long time to write a book?

So far I’ve written books while going to school or working a job. With my current schedule it takes me about 4 to 8 months to write a book. It would be nice to just write books for a living, and I have a feeling that when I get to that point I’ll be able to finish a book in a much shorter time period, but for now I expect to finish one book during the school year and another during the summer.

Since I’m writing young adult fiction that also helps. YA and middle-grade fiction books are typically in that 60,000 to 80,000 word range (220 to 300 double-spaced word document pages) which isn’t as long as other genres that expect a much higher word count.

Do you work with an outline?

I do work with an outline when I write. I typically include the big scenes first and then I think about how I get from scene A to scene B to scene C and so on. Sometimes I work with a flexible outline and sometimes I work with a detailed chapter by chapter outline. Every time I like to mix it up a little because it’s important to try new things.

For me, the hands-down best way to work out a plot line is on a jog. Something about running gets my mind jogging too, and the ideas just pour in. Then when I get back to my computer–sometimes I use a notebook–I map out how I want the story to go. I start out with the broad plot points, and then I fill in the gaps. Oftentimes the broad plot points are just scenes that I can already see in my head before I’ve even written a sentence. It’s more difficult for me to write the smaller scenes in between those bigger scenes.

Do you take all the pictures on your website?

No, but I feel that good images help keep my readers engaged and sort through all the words on my website. Most of the images I use on my website are available at www.sxc.hu which provides free stock photos that you can use on your personal website. Other images I get from wikimedia commons and some of the images, like the cover for Wishes, were done by my brother.

Is Jacob Dunn a pen name?

Yes, Jacob Dunn is a pen name. There are a lot of reasons to use a pen name, though the main reason for me is my last name. It can be a bit unwieldy and difficult to figure out how to pronounce. On the other hand, Dunn is pretty straight forward.

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