J.P. Beaubien is the creator of the Youtube series Terrible Writing Advice and the author of time travel thriller Aeon Legion: Labyrinth
1. What came first, the book or the videos?
The idea for Terrible Writing Advice came to me as I was editing my first book back in 2013. I was trying to teach myself how to edit and I spent a lot of time on writers’ blogs looking for useful tips and advice. I would see stuff like “never use ‘ly’ adverbs! Never use ‘the chosen one’ cliché!” Then I would open a book by any of my favorite authors and find them breaking those rules. Most writing advice seemed dry, and too generalized. None of it dug deep enough to actually analyze why certain cliches didn’t work or how to fix them. I remember thinking at the time that if I ever gave writing advice I would never take myself too seriously.
In March 2016 I finally got my first book out the door. Unfortunately, I was at a complete loss as to how to market it. Most of 2016 was spent trying various strategies to drum up interest in my book. I went to a couple of conventions and built a website. I needed something else though, some kind of content that I could produce regularly that would build up an audience.
Eventually I decided to create a book trailer. Learning to use video editing software was a challenge. As a warm up project, I thought about starting a YouTube channel. I needed a unique hook. A quick YouTube channel search revealed that no one had claimed the name Terrible Writing Advice. Thankfully, no one else had yet cornered the terrible writing advice market.
2. Did you do the narration and animation yourself?
I do everything from the art to the voice-over. My experience in theater arts and acting classes helps me get into character and warm up before I record the voice-over. All of my art is made in Adobe Photoshop.
The simplistic design of the characters was inspired by several other internet video creators. Namely “Yahtzee” Croshaw, Rich Burlew, and the Thought Cafeteam. Each of these creators have such a simple, but unique style and I drew heavily from them in developing my own designs.
3. Tell us about your book
Labyrinth is my first book and the first in the Aeon Legion series. It follows Terra Mason, an ordinary girl about to graduate high school. She discovers a secret world of time travel policed by the Aeon Legion, an elite force that protects history. A brave act during a time travel incidentearns heran opportunity to attend the Legion’s academy. There she learns how to use technology that controls time, but she has to master it before the academy’s final test, a deadly series of trials called the Labyrinth. Unfortunately, she has to compete with some of history’s greatest soldiers and warriors in order to earn her place in the Legion.
To make matters worse, she also encounters a time traveling Nazi named Hanns Speer. Sincere and idealistic, Hanns is ignorant of the Nazi party’s many atrocities and is determined to change history. Hanns has a plan to steal the Legion’s historical archives at the academy to change the outcome of World War II. Both are equally determined to prove themselves a hero.
Labyrinth’s main theme is about how no one realizes when they have become the villain. I have always wondered what time traveling Nazis would think if they actually stole a history book from the future. What happens when they turn the page to the chapters on the murderous legacy of their failed political party? It is an interesting question that I have seldom seen explored in time travel fiction. I did not want to write a book about temporal paradoxes, but a book about characters facing their own shadows.
4. Are you the kind of writer that plans extensively, or do you write on the fly?
I am more of a planner, or architect as I have heard other writers call them. Both my plot and setting get a lot of attention before I start writing. I spend more time than is healthy on world building. Characters are a bit different. While I do plan out my main characters, a lot of my side characters I tend to make up as I go.
My Terrible Writing Advice videos are much less structured than my books. I usually start with a list of talking points rather than an outline and begin writing from there. Then I add transitions as needed so that the whole episode flows. The humor in my writing is something that just hits me rather than being a product of careful planning and works better when it isn’t forced.
5. Who do you enjoy reading? What authors influenced your writing?
I love Frank Herbert’s Dune which I read for the first time in high school. His works had such a sense of history and I am a big history nerd. He was someone who looked back in human history to help envision the future.
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card is one of the bigger influences for writing my first book. Elements of his battle school inspired me in the creation of the Legion’s academy.
Brandon Sanderson is probably my favorite living author. I admire his detailed magic systems and amazing action scenes. It is a style that I have tried to imitate in my own writing.
Since world building is my favorite part of writing, J.R.R. Tolkien stands out as an author I greatly respect. Middle Earth was its own character in his books. Also, the Hobbit was one of the first books I ever read.
6. What are you working on next?
I’m currently editing the second book in the Aeon Legion series under the working title of Legacy Library. Hard learned lessons from editing the first book has made the writing more enjoyable, though writing a sequel has its own unique challenges. And there is always another Terrible Writing Advice episode around the corner. I don’t think I am going to run out of cliches to poke fun at anytime soon.