John Kipling Lewis: Creating Worlds in 500 Words or Less

By | 6:30 PM
John Kipling Lewis writes micro fiction that is not only easy to read but simultaneously creates stories in enough detail that readers find themselves surprised by their brevity. Fully formed characters, worlds, and encounters are all created in crisp and clean sentences. His work invites re-investigation and rewards observant readers.

unselected, book cover art
What is your genre?

My genre is Contemporary Fantasy (or Modern Fantasy) but that term is very open to interpretation and easily misunderstood. Basically I like to take reality and bend it. It's close enough to the world around you that you'll recognize it but with something basically shifted left of center, as Susan Vega would put it.

The work is the creative outlet of so many different themes and experiences that they can defy definition. Many people come away wondering how I can write well on so many different topics. Most importantly I love to make my readers think and to bring new ideas into the reader's mind. Nothing makes me happier than hearing someone say they were dumbstruck by something I wrote.

How long have you considered yourself a writer?

I would say I've been writing for about nine years. It was only after moving to Costa Rica two years ago that I seriously put effort into getting my work into the hands of the public. 

What drew you to move to Costa Rica? And how did moving there inspire you to bring your work out into the light?

Costa Rica is number one on the World Happiness Index and this is reflected in everyday life. It's such a contrast to life in New York City, with its stress and its paranoia inducing crowds that when I arrived here, for the first time I felt like I could breath. I could stand still and not be bumped and pushed by the constant struggle of being one of the millions of New Yorkers.

What I found when I stopped was my family, my love, and a pile of blank books in which I had been secretly hiding all my fears. As I read through what I had collected in the time between the dark dystopia and calm of home and family I realized I had something special to say.

One lonely night, after we had settled into life here in Costa Rica, I started to assembled the pieces into a whole. I had to leave the crushing city to find it here in what the locals call Pura Vida... the Pure Life.

Unselected was the result.

What inspires and motivates you to write?

I love to make people think. The moment when the reader understands the premise or gets the point of the story, that is the thing I treasure. I like to watch people reading one of my pieces and there's sometimes a moment where they simply pause. They get a distant look in their eyes and I know I've got them thinking. Nothing compares for me to that kind of moment.

How did you get started writing?

I wrote as a way to pass the time on long subway commutes in New York City. With nothing to do, I'd sketch out a scene or play out a character's reaction to an idea I had. I would write in small Moleskines or Field Notes. It filled a long-held desire for blank books. I find them in odd places and I have to fill them up.

What’s your typical writing session and environment like?

I'm constantly carrying a blank book with me and this gives me an outlet for all the thoughts that race through my brain on any given day. This is the first filter. If I can get even a few sentences down in this format, then I have the essence of what the story will be. 

The next phase is to transcribe what I've written on paper to digital format and this is very much like a rewrite. 

The entire piece can change as I move it to the digital world and the flow of the sentences becomes more real to me. 

The final stage for me is polish and this is all about reading the work with my inner voice. I swear that my inner voice came straight out of an encyclopedia or a documentary. There's only so much I can let myself get away with when I read it with that voice and if it doesn't work there, I have to crush it and remake it until it does work. Often the work is shortened at this stage.

Then it goes off for editing.

What are your favorite writing tools?

Blank books are absolutely required and I'm partial to the ones with graph paper inside rather than ruled or sketch books. They aren't easy to find here in Costa Rica so I've been using up my current supply and thinking about how to get some shipped here. Paper doesn't last long in Costa Rica.

I've become very fond of a program called Scrivener, for the Mac. It simply feels right to me for first drafts, although it's used much more for people as a compilation tool. Having said that, my favorite writing program for the Mac is TextEdit. It's auto-correcting lets me type gibberish and have it come out as a sentence that works. This is a great relief to that inner voice of mine. 

What is the publishing process like?

Now that everything is digital it's a learning curve, but one that I'm extremely comfortable with. Having done web design and development there's nothing in the process that I haven't seen before. My one weak spot is definitely in marketing. I don't have experience doing that aspect of publishing, so for me it feels mysterious or even mystical.

Have you ever been surprised by a reader's reaction to your work?

I asked my wife to describe to me what my style of writing was.  She said "It's like a punch in the face." At first I was taken aback by this and a little insulted, but I quickly realized that she loved my work and what she was saying was that it had impact and was surprising. This comes from the distillation of the concepts I work with. It's extremely hard to create characters, scenes, and whole worlds in micro fiction, but when you get it right, it's like a jab in the face.

Do you have any regrets pertaining to your writing?

I wish I was better suited to longer form works. I have a novel I'm working on but it simply doesn't come to me in the same way my micro fiction does. 

What plans do you have for future work?

The previously mentioned novel is about 1/3rd done. All the plotting and characters are there, waiting like a scaffolding of a skyscraper but with the birth of my baby girl my time is at a premium. I've contemplated creating a new work that is more complementary to my style and to the time I have to work with.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Write. Whatever it is that makes you want to write, make sure you get it and keep moving forward.

How do you promote your work both on and off the internet?

I speak to people I meet about my work, so it sometimes passes hand to hand, but most of my sales and readers come from my internet communities. Google Plus has been particularly helpful.

Where do you sell your books?

My books are available on Amazon and Smashwords. 

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