New interview with writer Jonathan Maxwell

I have a return visitor today. Jonathan Walter Maxwell stopped by last year to talk about Murderous Intellectuals and today he’s sharing a bit about his new book Piltdown Man and Other Hoaxes.

Welcome back to Reviews and Interviews,
Thanks for
having me back!
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a
Georgia-based author and public speaker. I’m the author of Murderous Intellectuals: German Elites and the Nazi SS, which
received the 2011 Allbooks Review
Editor’s Choice Award in the category of Best Non-fiction Book. My latest
release is Piltdown Man and Other Hoaxes,
which was released by American Book Publishing in April 2012. I hold a BA in
English from Berry College. Currently, I am earning my MA in English from
Jacksonville State University in Alabama.
Please tell us about your newest
Piltdown Man and Other Hoaxes and is a lighthearted examination of
scientific frauds through history. It examines such mysteries as the Missing
Link Hoax, Bigfoot, the Yeti, crop circles, sea monsters, ESP, and the like. It
also explores the ongoing debate between supporters of evolution and supporters
of creationism. Finally, it asks if science and religious tradition can be
reconciled with one another. The book is entertaining, I think, but it’s
thought-provoking as well.
What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve always
had an interest in scientific mysteries. As a young boy, I loved reading about
Bigfoot, the Abominable Snowman, sea monsters, and other strange phenomena. After
completing my first book, I wanted to write about something lighter, something
fun. Then, I remembered my fascination with myths and legends, and I suddenly
had solid ideas for a book. Of course, approaching the material as an adult is
much different from approaching it as a starry-eyed child. Now, I view the
material with a great deal of skepticism, perhaps even cynicism at times.
What’s the next writing project?
My third
project deals with the Rolling Stones and their experience at Altamont. Back in
late 1969, they decided that they wanted to have their own Woodstock. They
invite such acts as the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane to play with
them at a free music festival at Altamont, which is just outside of San
Francisco. Unfortunately, the Stones made the fatal mistake of hiring the
Hell’s Angels—the notorious outlaw biker gang—to provide security at the event.
During the festival, half of the Angels apparently decide to wage war on the
hippie concertgoers. They beat them with their fists and with bats. The other
half of the gang sells the concertgoers hard drugs like heroin and cocaine. What
were the results of such a costly error? The results were one cold-blooded
murder, three other deaths, hundreds of physical assaults, and perhaps
thousands of drug overdoses. Many social commentators insist that the Altamont
debacle ended the spirit of the 1960s and the hippie movement. I would say that
the social commentators are pretty right on.
What is your biggest challenge when
writing a new book? (or the biggest challenge with this book)
greatest challenge, I think, is dealing with the enormity of the project. Writing
a book is the intellectual equivalent of running a marathon. It can take
months—perhaps even years—to write one. It helps if you just take it day by
day. Otherwise, you get overwhelmed.
If your books require research –
please talk about the process. Do you do the research first and then write,
while you’re writing, after the novel is complete and you need to fill in the
I think
it’s best—and I think that most other writers would agree with me—that you do
your research first, and then concentrate on the writing. Research helps to
give your writing direction and a point of view. Trying to fill in the gaps
later on can be a mistake. When I was a fledgling writer, I would try to do
that. I would write from a particular perspective. Later on, I would perform
the research, and I would find that it gave me an entirely different
perspective on the subject at hand. You always have to remember that research
provides the foundations for your writing. It’s every bit as vital as the
writing itself. Sadly, a lot of beginning authors don’t realize that.
What’s your writing space like? Do you
have a particular spot to write where the muse is more active? Please tell us
about it.
I write at my desk in the study room. I like to keep it casual. While writing,
I like to wear t-shirts and shorts. I tend to go barefoot. Very often, I listen
to rock music while writing.
My writing
habits can get somewhat schizophrenic. Sometimes, I’ll be especially creative,
and I’ll write fourteen or fifteen hours a day. At other times, I’ll have
severe writer’s block, and won’t write anything for three weeks. I don’t try to
force anything—when it comes, it comes. I’ve found that writing when you are
uninspired will produce work that is uninspired. A lot of writers would
disagree with me on that, though. They insist that a writer writes daily, and
I’m sure that there’s a lot to that. Such a strategy develops discipline. The
approach never worked for me, though.
What authors do you enjoy reading
within or outside of your genre?
It’s funny,
but my favorite authors are fiction writers: Joyce Carol Oates, Ernest
Hemingway, John Updike, Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut, and George Orwell. I
always loved fiction, but for some reason, I could never write it.
I read just
about everything: political columns, reviews, poetry, essays, biographies,
magazine articles, what have you. For me, the genres don’t matter all that
much. What matters for me is the quality of the writing. I like simple writing that
gets to the point and that always has a distinct point of view.
Anything additional you want to share
with the readers today?
struggling writers out there: don’t give up! All hard-working writers get
published eventually. I’ll always believe that. I never thought that I would
ever get a publishing contract. I never thought that I would ever get to do
book signings or radio interviews, or speaking engagements. I never thought
that I would receive reputable awards for my writing. I got all of these
things, though.
Thank you for coming back to Reviews
and Interviews, Jonathan!

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