Wally Jones is the winner of the Reader Views Reviewer’s Choice Fiction Book of the Year for his debut novel Sam the Chosen.
Read the review on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4593338649
Watch the BookTube:
Q & A
As part of my research for Sam the Chosen I was able to do a written interview with Wally Jones!
BB: I got a strong First Nations vibe coming through in the lore. I grew up in the Lower Mainland of B.C. which is steeped in this culture. Can you talk about if First Nations beliefs were part of your inspiration for the lore of Sam the Chosen?
WJ: This is a fantastic question. Sadly, you are the first person to ask about this particular subject even though it permeates the story.
While reading the book I believe it becomes clear that I cherish those mountains. That area is dear to my heart. I grew up in those mountains and a younger me stomped through the forests and called them home.
I don’t think it is possible to spend lengths of time in those ancient mountains and not absorb some of the mindset and culture of the Native Americans. They were, and remain, indigenous people.
There was a Cherokee village near the main camp I stayed in while in the mountains. I spent as much time among the Cherokee as I could. I learned a lot about respecting the land and true nature conservation. I will never forget it.
Those Cherokee concepts of natural preservation play a large role in Chosen ideology and serve as the base social structure for Chosen society.
I will be giving away a future story sub-plot, but Grondi will get reacquainted with an old friend, a Cherokee Wise Man.
Also, the main character of the side story I am currently on, the man at the door, is half Cherokee.
BB: What is your background? Do you have a day job? Did you go to art school? Did you always want to be a writer?
WJ: My background is an odd collection of weird times and twisted tales. Many people have said I’ve lived the craziest life ever. I like that. I’m like a Frankenstein’s monster of life experiences.
Give me an hour, and I will amaze you with stories of adventure and/or stupidity.
In a simple statement – I don’t do nothing well.
I’m always getting into something, from climbing mountains to crossing oceans. That was especially true as a younger man, but it has cooled a bit as I grow older. After 50, things slow down. LOL
About being a writer – funny story.
Actually, I never wanted to write. In fact, I hated writing.
One of my largest defining qualities is that I am 100% fully Dyslexic. Words are like tiny daggers stabbing me in the mind.
I cannot read or write. I have been tested several times throughout my life and it turns out my brain lacks the mental tools required for word decoding and encoding.
To survive I’ve built a rather large Sight Vocabulary, words I have memorized and can recognize by sight. It is slow and prone to mistakes, but it works.
This is why Sam the Chosen took five years to write.
Being Dyslexic was a big motivation in writing my novel. I wanted to prove to the world that a dyslexic person could write a good story. It was a lesson in patience and determination, but it got finished.
I would like to use Sam the Chosen to bring awareness to Dyslexia.
About jobs – I am currently a stay-at-home dad. Sadly, with the recent world craziness and the economy in the crapper, it is more financially sound for me to stay home and care for our son than to work. Our son is Autistic, Asperger’s Syndrome.
When I did work, I worked with water chemistry in relation to safe biological practices in aquatic/marine health. I owned my own company for 13 years.
About art school – I will shamefully admit that I didn’t understand the arts until recently, perhaps the last six or seven years. It took me a long time to understand the need to support the growth of imagination and creativity.
I did not attend any art-type programs, although it sounds wonderful. I’ve always been a very naturally creative and imaginative person.
To quote my wife “I can’t believe some of the shit that comes out of your mind.”
BB: Talk about your cover? How involved were you? Are there discarded cover ideas or was this pretty set in stone from the moment of conception?
WJ: The cover art for Sam the Chosen is absolutely stunning. All credit goes to the artist, Lauren Sheldon. She is amazing.
I gave Lauren a few pictures I drew for basic art concepts, like cover art, and the Pack House, etc. They were horrible because my artistic skills are nearly non-existent. Lauren read the book and was able to take her own vision of the story and combine them with my original drawings and make something wonderful.
Lauren made six different works for the cover. Then we held a vote to see which one people gravitated towards, but it was pretty obvious which one would win though. The one selected was the big winner, like a 72% landslide. Here are a few alternates:
And this is my original cover art idea. It’s supposed to be Sam with Nechek. Nechek looks like a bloody unicorn.
My other original cover art idea. The two sides of Sam. We decided it was to cliché.
The internal art, the maps, turned out pretty much exactly the way I originally drew them. Lauren took my original drawings and cleaned them up. I love the Pack House map.
I feel the maps are as much a part of the story as anything I write. Maps bring the idea to life and give visual reference and depth. It is fascinating to follow a path on a map, or see where events occur.
BB: I saw you got feedback from an agent. How many agents did you pitch to? How many months did you spend pitching? Did you re-write after pitching?
WJ: This is another funny story.
How many literary agents did I pitch to?
I spent no effort or time in acquiring an agent in any way. Nor did I change the book in any way afterward.
Mary Ellen-Gavin and I sort of fell into each other by accident. She wanted to read Sam the Chosen so I sent her the ARC. Turns out she loved it and gave me a killer endorsement quote.
I think it is important to say that I am not signed with her, or any other literary agent. She just enjoyed the book and offered her opinion. She is a very nice person.
However, I would enjoy finding a literary agent to sign with.
The truth is, at the time I was completely ignorant about how the writing/publishing industry works.
I still am.
BB: Talk about your publisher (Koehler Books ). Did you think about self-publishing? Did you look at other publishers? Why did you go with Koehler?
WJ: As a scientist, I tend to do a lot of research before making a large decision. As such, I read as much as I could about finding publishers before starting my search for a publisher.
What I found were endless horror stories about people trying to find a publisher. I read tales from thousands of authors who sent out query letters for years and only ever came up empty-handed. The overall consensus was for every one hundred query letters sent out you would get a hundred rejections back, six months later.
So with a rather self-defeatist attitude, I sat down and began the search. On that first day, I sent out eighteen query letters to all sorts of publishers.
Two days later, I received a call from the president of Koehler Books. Two of his screening readers had given him Sam the Chosen. He quickly read it and knew immediately that he wanted to sign me.
He called me that evening.
The rest is history.
I did look into self-publishing when I first began this long road. At the time it was so overwhelming and I thought I needed help to decipher the craziness that is the publishing industry.
I believe going with Koehler Books was the right decision.
And I still need all the help I can get.
BB: Your bio mentions being dyslexic and I read your Feathered Quill blog where you talk about this. I have a bit of a different take on the question: talk about your writing, reading, and editing process a bit and how you use dyslexia as a strength to your process by giving you a different view on the writing process.
WJ: There is no strength gained from Dyslexia in regards to the writing process.
It is a constant struggle, an internal war with words. Writing this interview has already taken nearly five hours. Then it will need to get proofread by my wife to make sure everything is correct.
The process is very slow and taxing.
I also use a beta team. I have a group of five people who are as different from each other as possible. They read everything I write. They make corrections and give feedback. I listen to them implicitly.
Writing Sam the Chosen was a lesson in patience and sheer determination. But it was something I wanted to do to prove that Dyslexia can be overcome.
Many people have told me to use dictation, but I hate it. It doesn’t work for me. I need fingers on the keyboard. I enjoy the feeling of it and it helps makes my random thoughts into cohesive sentences.
BB: How close is the sequel to a release date? 2022? 2023?
WJ: I have no clue about a date.
I am currently working on a side story where we will meet the man at the door. It will also delve further into the Seacs. That story will be available on the website. I have an idea to release it as a chapter book.
Time for another funny story –
I began writing a book many years ago. It is a heavy story that deals with many sensitive and touchy subjects.
Halfway through I stopped writing and decided to research the best ways to get published.
What I found worked best for debut authors was to create something that appeals to a mass crowd, something not cutting edge or too confrontational. Something light and fun, yet gripping.
So I put that first book on mothballs and began work on another story, Sam the Chosen.
That first book will return as the sequel to Sam the Chosen after I finish the side story I’m working on.
BB: Thanks again Wally! It was a blast to connect!