Jon "Justice" LoGiudice lives with his wife, Melinda, and their two sons, Logan and Kyle, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Jon is an author, radio talk show host and host of the weekly My Nerd World: A Star Wars Podcast. Embark is an epic space opera adventure and first of an all new series. Inspired by the story telling of Star Wars, Ready Player One, sci-fi / fantasy, with a dash of 80's, 90's and current pop culture. Embark appeals to science fiction fans, as well as those looking for a story filled with heart, action, friendship and love. As our Author of the Day, Jon tells us all about this book.
The story is set on Earth in the not so distant future where air and space flight culture has replaced car culture. The main protagonist, a young Taft Gaurdia and his friends, get swept up in the fight for survival as a massive industrial catastrophe sets off an apocalyptic chain reaction that forces a total evacuation of the planet.
What inspired you to write about Earth facing decimation?
I love big epics from almost any era, disaster stories, and movies like Independence Day, Armageddon, 2012. I wanted to tell a story about a young reluctant hero, his journey, set against a backdrop of what would happen if humanity on Earth was forced to head to the stars for survival. Earth quickly becoming uninhabitable was the perfect catalyst to drive the story. Getting everyone off Earth was the main goal when I started writing the story.
Tell us more about Taft Gaurdia. What makes him tick?
He's a daydreamer, hopeless romantic and he's in love. He's a snapshot of an early twenty-something who doesn't quite know what he's going to do in life and is okay with that. He's loyal and brave, but even he doesn't realize what he is capable of until he has to face dire circumstances.
Why SciFi Space Opera? What drew you to the genre?
George Lucas and Star Wars was and is my main inspiration. I was a fan of Star Wars, seeing A New Hope in theaters when I was five before I was a fan of anything else. My love of Star Wars cemented my love of SciFi. I wanted to know what it was like to create my own universe filled characters, unique vehicles, and villains. Lucas kind of ruined it, in a good way, for storytellers by setting his world in "A Galaxy Far Far Away," now if you write a story not based on Earth it will always be compared to Star Wars. I wanted to create a story that had the heart and fun of Star Wars, without being Star Wars. I was also inspired by my favorite book of the past five years or so, Ready Player One and, oddly the Fast and Furious movies. EMBARK is filled with my love of pop culture from the '90s and early 2000s. I made that era nostalgic for our characters living in the future where they customize their flying machines/space vehicles, the way car enthusiasts trick out their rides.
This is the first book in a series. Can it be read as a standalone? How do the other books in the series tie in with this one?
When I started writing EMBARK, I set out for it to be a standalone, if only because I was venturing into the unknown of attempting to be an author. The story absolutely can be read as a standalone, however; I had so much during the creative process that I made sure to leave just enough of the door open to continue the adventure. Not to spoil anything, but I want the reader to put the book down feeling satisfied, even if this is the only time they want to visit this world and characters. I also want to leave a reader with just enough to say, "okay, what happens next?"
I knew even before I was finished that even if EMBARK were only perceived as "good" or "okay," I would continue the story. It's strange because the stories I really want to tell are ones that take place far from Earth. The challenge in my mind was that I had to write EMBARK (Book 1) if I ever wanted to write my version of a quasi-reality based "Galaxy Far Far Away..." I didn't want to start my first story with humanity already populating the stars, I had to explain why. I created the best of both worlds with EMBARK. Even though it's about a crisis on Earth, we spend a lot of time off Earth in the book.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
It's not a secret but, I've been a radio personality for 24 years. I started off doing rock music morning and afternoon shows and for the past 13 years as a talk show host. I'm currently half of the Justice and Drew Show with Sam on Twin Cities News Talk Iheart Minneapolis MN.
I'm also, not surprisingly, a Star Wars toy collector and host of a weekly Star Wars podcast under My Nerd World: A Star Wars Podcast.
Does writing about surreal worlds and enigmatic scenes present any particular problems?
Not particularly. I quickly realized that I am a "pantser" when I write. I imagine the movie version of what I would want to see in an environment or action sequence. The one challenge I suppose is making sure, especially in the action sequences, that it never becomes redundant. I like variety and work hard not to be repetitive.
Do any of your characters ever take off on their own tangent and refuse to do what you had planned for them?
The villain, Sint Argum, has morphed a bit from what I originally planned. He specifically took on a life of his own and really changed organically during the writing process.
Which one of your characters do you think you would get along with the most? What about the least?
I probably wouldn't get along with Jebet. She's a little too sarcastic, even though her heart is in the right place. Every character has a little bit of me in them, but Taft is pretty much filled with my personality and interests. Therefore Kaytha is the character I would most get along with.
Why did you decide to also weave some romance into the story?
I always intended the romantic element to the story, Taft is a hopeless romantic, I'm a hopeless romantic. Relationships, especially for people in their late teens and early twenties drives their decision making, it certainly did for me growing up. I loved the dynamic between Wade and Art3mis in Ready Player One and love stories in John Hughes films and Say Anything. I wanted to evoke that type of romance in the story.
What was your greatest challenge when writing this book?
Editing editing editing LOL. The first draft was a complete mess, I didn't pay attention to grammar, spelling punctuation, etc. I just wanted to get the story out. I remembered in July 2018, it was my last day of work before summer vacation, and I wanted the book's first draft finished. So I spent seven hours writing the finale. Out of that final writing session came the end battle. That "rushed" writing really helped with the tension and pacing. It was a very happy "accident." But like I said, the writing was a mess even though the story was there. It took a long time to make all the corrections. I learned a ton, and writing the follow-up book Treasure in Darkness was a much smoother process because of the experience I gained writing EMBARK book 1.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? Favorite writing spot, best time of day to write, pen or laptop, etc.?
I do most of my writing in my office/bedroom. I keep odd hours, asleep at 7pm and up at 2:30am during the week. Because of my schedule, my wife sleeps in a different room. My room is filled with inspiration, collectibles, posters, etc. I write in Pages on MacBook Air almost exclusively and try and get in a thousand or more words a day. A lot of the time I'll write before I leave for work. I'm home pretty early in the day since my show is on 6a-9a so I can usually get a lot of creativity and writing done before noon. I'll throw in a movie on occasion to watch certain scenes and action sequences to find further inspiration.
What are you working on right now?
I'm currently editing the audiobook version of EMBARK: Treasure in Darkness (Book 2) which was released last week. Just like I did with EMBARK (book 1) I'm narrating and producing the audiobook for book 2. I like releasing the audiobook after the paperback and ebook because it allows me to do a second launch of the book. As soon as that is finished, I'm going to complete the 3rd book in my EMBARK trilogy. I've got over 30k of that book written, and I hope to have it completed and released no later than January next year. Once the first 3 stories are done, I'll probably take a short break. I have some really exciting ideas for a 4th book and beyond.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
Anyone can email me at TalkShowNerd@gmail.com. The website for the books and podcasts is MyNerdWorld.net. Follow me on Twitter under @JonJustice @TheMyNerdWorld