It was a complete honour and privilege to finally get to sit down with fellow AIR Entertainment writer, not to mention very close friend Shaun M Jooste. It’s been hard to pin him down for a few hours during his hectic schedule at the moment, but I needed to dig further and deeper than anyone has before.
Obviously writing is your passion and what you have chosen to do, what is it that got you interested in writing in the first place?
When I was in school, I loved writing stories for essays and creating my own worlds. Also, when I was done with my exams, specifically the matric exams, and I was done early, I would turn the exam papers over and write poems or draw maps for fantasy worlds. This was heavily influenced by the fantasy novels I used to read, like the Thomas Covenant Chronicles and Riftwar Saga.
Yet, I must give credit to my best friend from younger years before that. David Martin gave me a book as a birthday gift when I was ten years old, called ‘White Fang”. It introduced me to storytelling, and my love for novels was born. I didn’t just want to read them though… I wanted to create my own.
The passion for writing usually comes from a passion for reading, as you mentioned. What were your favourite childhood books?
Besides the ones already indicated, the following books were what caught and held my attention: The Spellsinger series by Alan Dean Foster; The Death Gate Cycle by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman; Discworld series by Terry Pratchett; any and all Robert Rankin novels (absolutely love British humour!); The Saga of Recluce by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.; Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien; and Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey.
Yes, I read a lot in my high school years. In younger years I was more interested in comics or graphic novels, mostly Marvel comics, Asterix and Obelix and Tintin. Surprisingly, I missed the whole Harry Potter stage and only got into the books after the first movie. Didn’t know it existed before then.
You have two wonderful children, do you read to them? Do you also encourage that same passion in them?
Yes, I do. They have their own bedtime stories, but they end up trying to tell me the story; even Avril at her young age of two who points and mumbles in her own language as to what is going on. I’ve been getting my 6-year-old son to tell me stories, and he loves typing on my writing laptop as if he is writing a book. I swear I will get a novel out of him soon without any encouragement from me at all!
When you were a child, what did you actually picture yourself doing or did you always want to be a writer from an early age?
Oh, I’ve had some fantasies. One was to become a detective. Another was to become a Formula 1 driver. I had ambitions towards becoming an astronomer or space traveller, and then there was my philosophical stage. Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, and Plato were my idols at one point. Nice that I get to explore all of these in my writing or games now, so I virtually get to realize these dreams at least.
Being a writer was always there, but was as much a pipe dream as all the others. It was only in my late twenties that I actually decided it was time to take my writing seriously.
What was your first piece of serious written work?
Besides my 600 poems, The Windfarer was my first real serious project in 2002, the point where I decided it was now or never. I received an interview and some great reviews for my debut epic fantasy novel, which just propelled me further into my writing career.
When did the light bulb moment strike that you wanted to be a writer for a living? Or did you always know?
When I designed the map for Celenic Earth Chronicles and started developing The Windfarer. The emotions, the mental rush, the excitement….yeah, I knew right then and there that was my calling in life.
I came to know you through a mutual love of Silent Hill, and your novel Silent Hill: Betrayal. What made you decide to write a Silent Hill novel?
I have been a Silent Hill fan since the very first, playing it on the original PlayStation 1. I would rent it every weekend from the local video store and play it over and over until I completed the various endings. I’m obsessed with Silent Hill. When I played the games, I could imagine writing the stories behind the games and created my own stories within the foggy world. That was when I approached Konami for permission to write my own Silent Hill novels and was over the moon when it was eventually approved.
Please, talk me through the process of how you went from the pen to paper stage, to getting SHB published.
Wow… it was a really really stressful and in-depth experience. I actually don’t wish it on anyway. I needed a place to work all my details and notes in one place, moving from paper notes to digital. Word was OK but didn’t help me organize my thoughts and planning. Excel was also OK but didn’t completely fulfil my needs. It was then that I discovered OneNote, which is a dream to plan novels on now. Just to give you an idea, I had separate pages for Characters, Plot Development, Scene Development, Chapter Development, Weapons and Items, Creatures and Puzzles, all under the Silent Hill tab. For a novel like this, I had to keep everything written down to keep track of everything.
I’m actually going to give you a sneak exclusive peek into my one of my Silent Hill planning pages so you can see how much detail went into the planning. Believe me when I say the other pages are just as detailed, if not more, than that. The image specifically refers to the puzzles found within Suicide Manor in Silent Hill Resort.
I also did all the book cover work. To give a personal game touch to the novel, I created maps and images so that gamers can feel at home. As the maps and items were updated by the main characters, I would include updated images in the book.
Once the planning and development were all done, just like a game I guess, then the task of actually writing the novel began. That was the easy part and flowed like a dream since it had all already been planned. I tried to incorporate Silent Hill themes and atmosphere from the games while including some of my own ideas. I wanted Silent Hill fans to feel like they were playing a new SH game. I couldn’t trust any publisher with publishing and marketing this novel like I wanted, which is what led me to establish my publishing label Celenic Earth Chronicles.
Silent Hill is of the horror genre, have all your books followed horror or have you tried multiple genres?
No, I actually started with epic fantasy, which is my favourite genre, and then moved to horror as my second favourite.
How many books have you had published to-date?
My own novels: the three epic fantasy novels,(Windfarer, DragonRider and Sadgi) and the two editions of Silent Hill: Betrayal.
How and when did Celenic Earth Publications start?
When I finished Windfarer in 2006, I researched how to get published at the local library. There was a local traditional publisher near my work, so I submitted my manuscript to them. They came back to me and told me that my story was fantastic, but the market for fantasy in South Africa was non-existent. I bit my tongue: fantasy movies and books were showing and selling like crazy. I knew local publishers were only interested in educational textbooks and South African history at the time. My only resort was to consult with publishers overseas.
When I finally first published Windfarer in 2007, it was with a self-publishing company called Raider Publishing International based in America that I found online. They also published the DragonRider in 2008. They took me for a wild ride. I only realized in 2015, from reviews and feedback found online, that thousands of copies had been sold, when I had originally been told that it was going slowly and doing badly. I didn’t receive a cent. So I didn’t bother publishing Sadgi with them. It is worth noting that they created at least three other publishing companies under other names and are now under investigation by the FBI.
Celenic Earth Publications started when I could no longer trust other publishing companies with my novels. Thankfully, my last publishers, African Publishers, did a great job with my Celenic Earth Chronicles, but marketing and sales were all left to me. So I learned how the whole publishing process worked. I established my own publishing label to assist me in publishing my own work internationally and locally, and now I have fellow writers requesting me to assist them in doing the same or publishing their work on their behalf.
So, what’s next for Shaun Jooste?
I have too many projects to keep up with actually.
Celenic Earth Publications was named after my debut fantasy series, which is actually Volume 1 of the Shadowolf Saga. Volume 2 is called the Draecenia Chronicles, which I will start work on next year and will feature four novels instead of three.
I am currently working on the debut novel for a romantic fantasy series called The Dreamweaver Saga. I also have another crime fantasy series called The Crystal Islands Saga planned, heavily influenced by the Myst games. There is the Malum series, influenced by the Diablo games. I also have Resilience series planned, which is influenced by post-apocalyptic games like Fallout 4. Finally, I have a crime series called The Heaven’s Gate Murders that I want to get started on.
This is all besides writing gaming articles for AIR Entertainment and GameTyrant, and writing for games like Antreya Chronicles. I also do screenwriting, my debut sci-fi screenplay “The Space Drifter” having been featured at the 2015 Cinequest Screenwriting Competition. I also take part in NaNoWriMo camps in April and July, and the actual NaNo month in November, which actually assists me in completing my novels.
You are currently publicizing and promoting to gather writers for CEA Greatest Anthology, Guinness World Record challenge and are attempting to gather 100 or more writers to contribute towards a published anthology. How did this idea start and hows it going to date?
In April this year, when I was putting together the debut horror anthology, CEA Through the Dark, I wondered if there was a Guinness record for anthologies. I went onto their site and looked it up and found the one we are now trying to beat. So I put in a request for the attempt. Last week I finally got noticed that the attempt has been approved. We can have any number of authors as long as it is above fifty. Right now we have 130 members as I write this.
Obviously the writing will take up a lot of your time, but what else do you do with your time?
Please don’t ask where I find the time. I am so tired of that question and glad it hasn’t come up yet. Haha.
I wouldn’t, I’m more interested in what you do outside of the writing
When I do have time to relax, I either spend it with my wife and kids or visiting family. I also am part of F1 Online Racing Leagues on the PS4, which happens late at night on weekends when kids are already asleep. I love playing rock music on my acoustic, electric or bass guitar, depending on my mood, or turn to my violin for a more classical touch. In between, I gym at home or practice my Tai Chi and Kung Fu martial arts, to keep the body as fit as my mind, or meditate to get my spirit cleansed and energized and in touch with God again. There are also my pets and Bonzai garden for some sense of zen and connection with nature.
Like I said…. don’t ask where I find the time. haha.
As a writer and publisher, what would be your advice for up and coming writers? Would you do anything differently if you had to do it all again?
I would have probably done better research on publishers and more effective time management. Yet, all the hardships I have been through as a writer has brought me to this point where I can control my own writing destiny, really. So no, I wouldn’t do anything different. The only advice I would give writers is to not give up; don’t be discouraged by others out there who wish to impose their own sense of failure onto you. Rise above the dredge of society and shine like a phoenix. Let your immortality shine through your legacy.
So what’s next in the pipeline once Greatest Anthology is out of the way? Any exclusives for the readers of AIR Entertainment?
Most surely. I have officially started on the Silent Hill sequel, Obversion, as of today.
Planning and development will be taking place even while the record attempt is occurring. This might be old news to some, but award-winning horror graphic artist, Shane K Ryan, is busy creating 3d images of Betrayal’s bestiary and is very much working on Act 1’s creatures at the moment. I have seen concept images for all of Act 1 creatures so far, and what I have seen is beyond my original expectations already!
Also, a short time ago, I signed an agreement with Australian author Lynette Greenfield and her legal team to adapt her book, ‘The Day it Rained’, into a film. I will be working on the screenplay over the next few months and hope to present a final script to a film production house before the end of the year.
Personally, I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Shaun,. but whatever it is, it going to be huge. I’m not sure the world is ready for what he is to bring, but I do know that he is ready to take on the world!
Andi Hodgetts Website
Andi Hodgetts IMDB
Please note that my work is my own intellectual property and I do not give permission for anyone to use anything above without either contacting myself or Celenic Games Studios