Every second or third Wednesday of the month, I feature an author here on the blog and interview them to learn more about them and their latest book. You can find my previous interviews here.So far I’ve interviewed authors from the US, Australia, and the UK so today it’s time for someone from here in Canada!
Some of my questions stay the same from author to author but I also like to tailor some specifically to my interviewee. Feel free to add your own questions for the author in the comments below so we can start a wider conversation!
Today I’m joined by Kevin Johns, author of the action thriller, M School!
Be warned, the book description gets a little gory!
M School by Kevin Johns
Genre: Action Thriller
WELCOME TO MURDER HIGH…
17-year-old Lilith Delaney has lived a quiet life despite a history of mental health troubles, but when she finds her best friend’s mutilated corpse in a high school locker room her world is transformed forever.
Lilith discovers nothing around her is as it seems. A hidden war has been raging in the halls of her school between domestic terrorists and a mysterious agency willing to do anything to stop them.
In hopes of avenging her dead friend, Lilith joins M School, a secret underwater training facility dedicated to transforming teenagers into world-class assassins. But the longer Lilith spends at M School, the more she begins to wonder if what she’s being taught will help her catch her friend’s murderer, or just turn her into the very thing she set out to stop… a cold blooded killer.
And now time to get to know the author!
Sam/Spines: Let’s start with a little game to learn more about you: what are two truths and a lie about yourself?
Kevin Johns: I live in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
I have three kids under the age of 7… all girls.
I write every single day of the year, except for Christmas day.
S: How did you get started in writing? Have you always wanted to be a writer?
KJ: I played guitar in punk rock bands throughout high school. I was always writing songs and lyrics, so that’s really where the writing bug first bit me.
But I never thought I was going to be a professional writer. I was more interested in becoming a filmmaker, actually. That why I started my undergrad degree in Film Studies. But I ended up doing a double major in Film and English Literature, and then went on to do a Master’s degree in English Literature. It was through that university education that I really become passionate about books and writing.
S: What other jobs have you had?
KJ: One of the best jobs I’ve ever had was working as a projectionist for Carleton University’s film department. I got to sit-in on all of the lectures and was responsible for making sure the film projected properly. This was back in the “old days” when we were still showing movies on reel-to-reel celluloid! I suspect these days that job would essentially just involve pressing “play” on a computer.
I also worked at Blockbuster Video for years. I thought I’d always have it there as a “fall back career”… little did I know!
S: You ghostwrite for others as well as writing your own books; how did you get into this field?
KJ: It was just a natural result of me looking for ways to monetize my skill-set. I’m a great writer and I love collaborating with people, so ghostwriting made a lot of sense. I don’t consider it all that different from the work I do as a writing coach. In both cases, I work with people to help them get their ideas out of their heads and onto the page in as efficient, supportive, and collaborative a process as possible.
S: You also offer a coaching program and podcast for promising authors; since you often give advice, we’ll turn the tables: what’s the best advice you’ve received for your writing?
KJ: When I interviewed Shawn Coyne for my podcast, he introduced me to the concept of a scene needing to “turn”. By turn, Shawn means a major polarity shift of some kind needs to take place, otherwise you don’t have a scene, you just have stuff happening. It’s a hugely important concept and he was the first person I heard talk about it. He expands upon the idea in-depth in his book, The Story Grid, which I recommend everyone read.
S: Can you tell us a little about your book?
KJ: M School is an action thriller with a primarily female cast that went on sale Oct. 29.
It’s about Lilith Delaney, a 17-year-old girl with a history of mental health troubles. After discovering her best friend murdered, Lilith is recruited into a secret training program for teenage assassins called “M School”. She’s hoping what she learns will help her catch her friend’s killer, but the more time she spends at the school the more she begins to wonder if she’s just being turned her into the very thing she set out to stop: a cold blood killer.
It’s a fast paced and violent thriller that fans of Battle Royale, The Hunger Games, Buffy, and Ender’s Game are going to love.
S: What inspired you to tell this story?
KJ: This is my third novel (and my sixth book). My first two novels (The Page Turners and The Page Turners: Economy of Fear) were told in third person past tense, the main characters were mostly boys, and the story contained supernatural elements.
After two books in that style, I wanted to do something different. M School is written in first person present tense, there are no supernatural elements, and most of the characters are girls. It was a great opportunity for me to do something totally different than what I’d done in the past.
Of course, as artists we all have certain preoccupations we can’t help but return to time and time again, so M School, despite its differences, is clearly still in the same vein as my previous books.
There were also specific issues I wanted to write about, particularly sociopathic behaviour and how it leads to cycles of violence, so M School was my window into that topic.
S: Do you have a favourite character in your book or one you connect with most?
KJ: There are a couple of different characters in the book who battle depression and contemplate suicide. I relate to those characters. I’m nothing like the main character, Lilith. I’m wildly emotional. Lilith is ice cold! It was fun and challenging to write a character who responds to things so different from how I would.
S: What have you found most rewarding in your writing career?
KJ: Getting to work with other writers and helping them to succeed. When I published my first book, I never would have guessed that’s what would be the best part of it for me, but it’s really where I have ended up. It’s wonderful putting books out into the world and having readers and fans tell you they enjoyed them, but I truly love working with other artists. It’s just what lights me up.
S: What are you working on next?
KJ: I’m going to write a non-fiction book about finding the time to write. I teach a webinar on the topic and often work on that issue with my writing clients, so I’m pretty sure I have a good book in me on that theme. Once that’s done, I’ll start the final book in the Page Turners trilogy. Now that I’ve been away from those characters for a few years, I can’t wait to get back to them.
S: And now for some fun questions: What is your Hogwarts house? Favourite flavour of ice cream? Dogs or cats?
KJ: Gryffindor, vanilla with chocolate chips and peanut butter on top, and cats.
S: And finally, where can we find you?
Thank you so much to Kevin for joining us today!
Feel free to share your thoughts or comments for him below!
I just finished reading this book and you can find my review later this month. It’s a gritty, intense read but unlike most of these kinds of books, you get to experience this story through a group of teenaged girls.
I’d almost call it YA if not for the heavy and mature content but I think it’s worth YA lovers checking this book out!
Don’t forget to join the conversation in the comments or on twitter with @spinesinaline!