My interviewee is Jonny Rowland whose story, The Flight of the Magician, appears in the Fusion anthology. Jonny tells me he considers himself a person who plays against type. He is a graduate of the University of Warwick’s MA in Writing, which makes him the only Arts student in a family of scientists and nurses. He also is an autistic adult who has absolutely no interest in mathematics. He hopes writing stories like The Flight of the Magician will help him continue to redefine boundaries.
When did Jonny learn that his story would be published and how did he feel? He says, ‘I was surprised to learn from the Fantastic Books YouTube feed that The Flight of the Magician was to be published. It was a story I had been tangling with for a while, and it seemed like I would not be able to find a place to tell it. Being published felt like being given a boost up over a wall.’
And what was his main reason for entering the competition? Jonny tells me, ‘The opportunity to be published was the main draw for me. I feel that the writer’s market right now is driven by personality, and I wanted to make an impression on people. Having my name in a good anthology is definitely a step towards that for me.’
Of the other Fusion authors, he says, ‘For me, writing is about learning new things about yourself and others. I have learned a lot from the works of other contributors, and I hope that there is something in my work that inspired them as well.’
I ask how he found the editorial process, working with the team at Fantastic Books to polish his story for publication. Did he find it helpful? He says, ‘Definitely: working with the editorial team to fine tune the story made me feel like a true author. I am new to the market, and working as a contributor gave me much needed experience with talking to publishers.’
When I ask Jonny to recommend something to ease the tedium of a long journey, he is not the first of the Fusion authors to mention Tolkein. He says, ‘Always a tricky question for me. My current choice in long-haul flight literature is Tolkein's The Hobbit, though Neil Gaiman’s supernatural road-trip novel American Gods comes a close second.’
Along with all the interviewees, I invite Jonny to put himself in the shoes of a space scout for an alien race. He has discovered Earth and learnt its history. Would he recommend that his people make contact? His answer makes me smile and has shades of the engaging style of The Flight of the Magician. He says, ‘Yes – assuming we could comfortably share the same atmosphere. Being unable to breathe puts a dampener on meet-and-greets! I imagine that the meeting would be the equivalent of galactic babysitting, though - the aliens watching the humans, hands on hips, and saying, “No, you get to play with cold fusion when you’re older.’”’
Now I want to know what writing projects Jonny has underway. He tells me, ‘Currently, I have been writing my pseudo-scientific deconstructive superhero novel The Incredible Story of No Man. It’s a mercurial piece full of action, love and more spandex than I had previously intended. I hope to have it finished by April – hopefully I can present it to Fantastic Books at that time.’
I know they’ll only too pleased to see it land on their doorstep, Jonny.