Thanks to my involvement with JukePop Serials, where my World War II spy thriller The Armored Satchel is currently running, I’ve met a fascinating fellow author, Nathaniel Taylor. He is a prolific author, now up to Chapter 20 of the modern romance/absurdist black comedy serial Misty Me and Me, which follows the adventures of a porn addict torn between his wife and the porn star of his dreams. Nathaniel has also written the novel A Reason to Kill and a novella called Hallways and Handguns, as well as running a literary magazine called Bartleby Snopes. How he finds the time to do all this, I’ll never know!
When I first read Nate’s bio I noticed a couple of things in common. We are both teachers, and we both recently had an important event happen in our family lives–Nathaniel had a child not long ago, and I got married less than a year ago. So I started thinking, perhaps we should compare notes!
I got in touch with Nate and suggested that we do an interview swap. This resulted in a very interesting conversation. Without further ado, here is my interview with Nathaniel Tower.
How often do you write a new chapter?
I try to post a new chapter at least twice a month. Some months are better than others. I think I’ve done as many as four in a month. I’m a high school teacher and track coach, so the spring gets a little crazy for me, especially with all my other writing projects. I always try to have a new chapter out during the final week of each month though.
How do you promote your chapters?
I don’t do anything special to promote my chapters. I post a link to Facebook and Twitter. I only post once per chapter. I think the end-of-the-month chapter is crucial because of the JP Top 30 status. I want to make sure to get some attention right before the voting tallies are closed. I’d like to do a video book trailer soon, which could be a lot of fun given the topic of Misty Me and Me.
What attracted you to JukePop in the first place?
I’m not ashamed to say that it was primarily the money. I was part of the initial beta launch, so I didn’t know what the site was going to be like, but it looked good before the launch, and the money was exceptional (especially for a new publication). Now that the site is live and really picking up steam, I’m really glad I did submit. JukePop treats its authors well, and the bonuses are fantastic. From a monetary standpoint, Misty Me and Me is my most successful publication. It might be from a readership standpoint as well, but that I can’t say for sure.
What do you do to get readers to come back?
Make my story as engaging as possible. I treat each chapter as a mini-story that picks up right where the last one left off and stops right on a cliffhanger or twist. I think readers generally like the plot I’ve concocted, so now I need to keep coming up with something new to bring them back. I’ve tried asking for feedback and suggestions in the comment section, but nothing very active ever comes out of that. I’m also doing the audio program, so hopefully that will help.
What are your ultimate goals with this serial? With writing in general?
I obviously want to finish the serial, but I’m not sure when that will happen. 20 chapters in and I honestly don’t know when it’s going to end. I’m having too much fun to declare a definitive ending date. I want the story to keep building until it reaches a natural conclusion. I’m not trying to force anything. I want it to remain in the JP Top 30 for the remainder of its life.
With writing in general, I want someday to be able to pay the bills with the words I write, which is probably what every writer wants. More importantly, maybe, is to have a growing audience that appreciates my work. I want to be a recognized name in writing. When people see the name Nathaniel Tower, I want them to say, “Oh, I love his stories, especially ___________.”
How much do your students know about your writing life? Your coworkers?
I don’t publicize my writing to my students or coworkers. A few curious students learned of my writing a few years ago when it was still cool to Google their teachers. I’m not sure if they still do that. I remember a few years back when I caught a student of mine reading my story “A Dick Move.” It was a bit awkward, especially given the first line of the story. I suppose if everything I wrote was G-rated, it wouldn’t be a big deal to let my students know about it. It would be pretty cool actually to pull them all into the computer lab and tell them they had to vote for my serial. Let’s see. I have 130 students this year. I just finished chapter 20. If all 130 students voted for all my chapters, I’d be sitting pretty high on the JukePop list!
In what ways do your students influence your writing?
Directly, they’ve influenced some of my nonfiction. I’ve written over a dozen real “horror” stories about my students. Most of them are published under a pseudonym. Indirectly, they’ve helped me develop characters, particularly when I need a high school character. When I’m creating a younger character, I have to think about my students to make sure my character is realistic. I don’t typically have a particular student in mind when creating a younger character. They give me an outline though.
How do you manage to balance family with writing?
I do most of my writing early in the morning before my daughter is awake or at night after she goes to bed. When she’s awake and I’m home, I spend time with her. The writing can wait. The writing won’t grow up while I miss it. Like everyone else, I do my best. I write when I can, and I act like a dad and husband the rest of the time.
What are some of your favorite serials on the site?
The ones I’ve kept up with the most are Larry the Horrible Time Traveler, Sorry Our Unicorn Has Rabies, and Hurting People for Fun and Profit. Honestly, it’s hard to keep up with very many when trying to balance my own serial and all my other projects. There’s a new one I’ve started following as well. I think it’s called The Armored Satchel. Have you heard of it?
Has anything about your writing changed since having a kid?
To some extent, yes. I think my style has stayed the same, but I’ve written a lot more stories that have fathers or children in them. I don’t think much of my fiction relates directly or mirrors my life as a parent. It’s more that the stories explore what could happen.
You’ve written both serials and straight-up novels. Does your process for writing or story planning differ between those two genres?
Absolutely. For the serial, it’s really just a story at a time. I make sure everything in one chapter is perfect before I post it or start writing the next chapter. With novels, I like to write the entire manuscript before looking back over anything. I’m more likely to outline with a novel. With the serial, I typically just write a chapter when I get an idea for one. If I don’t have an idea, I ask myself where I left off and how I can pick it up. The novels have more of a plan. The serial kind of plans itself in a way.
Of scenes, characters, situations, etc., are there a few that stand out as your favorite? Any chapters you’re particularly proud of?
I think the opening chapter will always be my favorite. The way it sets up all the tension of the story is so vital that I can’t even imagine the serial without it. I think the persona of Misty’s character is one the readers really enjoy. She’s sexy and shrouded in mystery, and sometimes even I don’t get her. But I think she works because of that.
What do you think about the future of serial fiction? It was a staple of literature from the mid-19th century to mid-20th century. Do you think it’s coming back to stay?
With the way publishing has gone, and the rise of e-books, online journals, Twitter-based stories, etc., it seems like a no-brainer that serial fiction could reach its pinnacle in our current age. One of my favorite aspects of it is that it prevents (or should prevent) a writer from dumping and running. I think too many writers have a story published in a literary venue that they will never look at again. JukePop, or any serial site for that matter, has the potential to create such a huge following. Still, I don’t hear much talk of the serial novel. I love writing it, and I hope it does make a triumphant return here.
I want to thank Nathaniel for taking the time to talk to me and share some of his insights. Please, check out his published works and the terrific serial Misty Me and Me, and vote for it! Here’s the rest of his information.