The Penmen Profile: YA, Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror Fiction Writer F.J.R. Titchenell

by Pamme Boutselis

Head shotAn author of Young Adult, Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror Fiction, F.J.R. Titchenell’s latest book, “Confessions of the Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know of)” was published by Jolly Fish Press and debuted in May 2014.

Have you always written?
Always. I’ve tried doing other things – acting, singing, knitting design, animal husbandry – anything I found I had any liking or knack for that didn’t feel quite as exposing, but I could never stop writing, and eventually I had to acknowledge that it was the one thing I wanted to do with my life.

What’s your process in developing your storyline and characters?
Usually, it starts with a piece of a scene, a snippet of what these people are doing or talking about. Or sometimes it starts with me thinking, “I’d like to tell this kind of story next.” Either way, I go from there to figuring out who those people are, how they got here, and what they want. Ideally, I do that for the POV character by writing the initial scene that’s got me inspired for as long as that inspiration burst lasts and discovering as much as I can organically through the situation, but for secondary characters and sometimes even POVs, writing bios helps a lot.

Once I know the kinds of characters I’ve got and the basics of the situation, I usually know the natural conclusion their story will have to come to. Then it’s time to outline, based on what needs to happen to reach that ending and to bring out the best and worst of those characters along the way. That’s the hard part, laying all that out and making it fit together. But if I don’t, I’m just spinning my wheels.

What challenges do you face in your writing, and how do you overcome them?
Well, I’ve mentioned the joys of wrestling the outline into shape. Like most of the challenges of writing, talking to my husband (and sometimes co-author) for fresh perspective does wonders. Otherwise, it’s a matter of throwing everything in my head at the page no matter how silly or obvious it feels. It takes shape better that way.

Like any author, there are also times when whatever I intended to write next just isn’t coming together. Sometimes I just have to grit through it, sometimes I need to work ahead on something that’s making more sense and then connect the pieces later, and sometimes it means there’s a problem with the outline, and I need to rethink what I’m trying to write.

What has the road to publication been like for you?
Because of my age, people tend to assume that publication was quick and easy for me, but like most authors, there was close to a decade for me between realizing that I wanted writing to be my career and holding my first novel in my hands, and I’ve still got some road ahead of me before I’ll be able to make the jump to full-time, even in the best case scenario. I had plenty of attempted novels before “Confessions of the Very First Zombie Slayer (That I Know of),” some unfinished, some just unpublishable. I spent over three years working on a Fantasy series that I loved, but that was ill timed for the market. That was especially hard to let go of, but as new ideas do, “Zombie Slayer” finally came along, compelled me to write it, and got me that magic “yes” from my amazing agent, Jennifer Mishler, who placed it with Jolly Fish Press. I guess the rest is history.

How do you market your work?
Well, Jolly Fish Press has in-house publicists who take care of a lot of the work of placing review copies, arranging tour spots, that sort of thing, which is awesome and opens a lot of doors I couldn’t myself, but the fact of book marketing is that a lot of the work simply has to be done by the author personally. No one can do interviews for you, or engage readers on your blog for you, and actually getting to know people over social media often goes a lot further toward book sales or promotional cooperation than cold emails from a publishing house. I blog at, and I’m on Facebook at and Twitter at It takes a lot of work to keep up with, but it’s worth it.

Who are the writers that have inspired you most, and how have they inspired you?
J.K. Rowling, by showing me just how much a fictional world can mean to me. Mary Shelley, for being the 19th century eighteen-year-old woman who invented modern Sci-Fi, Suzanne Collins and Scott Westerfeld for proving how well female epic heroes can be written, and my husband, sometimes co-author, and always brainstorm partner, Matt Carter. You haven’t seen what he can do yet, but you will.

If you could keep just three books in your library, which would you choose and why?
Ouch. Hmm, to choose a trilogy or three completely separate books? Most of my favorite stories are more than one book long. Can I have compendium of Jane Austen’s novels? That’ll keep me entertained for a while. “Warm Bodies,” that’s a pretty self-contained favorite for when I want to be wowed style and resonance – and “How Not to Write a Novel,” my favorite book on writing, both for entertainment and to keep myself on track.