J.M. Perkins is an action horror author, freelance game designer, and writer of other things. He has had over 20 short stories and a novel published, podcasted, and generally excreted via pixels, bytes or ink on page. He currently is developing his tabletop roleplaying setting The City of Salt in Wounds and writes as a columnist for the popular gaming website Tribality. J.M. Perkins is represented by Eliza Rothstein at Inkwell Literary Management Agency. When not writing, he tries to be an excellent husband, father, friend, and administrator for the enzyme developing biotech company which pays most of his bills. You can follow J.M. on Twitter @JMPerkins or Like him on Facebook here.
I talked with J.M. Perkins (aka John) about exploring his creative side and his latest Patreon project.
NICOLE KASTRONIS: First of all, thank you for taking the time to talk to me about your new project! Looking at everything you’ve done over the years, you’ve created quite the portfolio of creative pursuits, from game designing to fiction writing and beyond. Tell us how you developed your creative side.
J.M. PERKINS: I developed my creative side by drunkenly meandering from interest to interest based on misheard writing career advice and whatever happened to catch my fancy. But in all seriousness, I’ve always been making things up and looking for ways to get paid for that. I started writing scifi + horror short stories and submitting them for publication when I was 17. Probably the highlight of my career in that particular form was winning the Three Minute Futures short story contest and having one of my pieces produced by Gates McFadden (the actress + director most famous for playing Dr. Crusher on Star Trek) for Public Radio International: Subject – SocialScene Alert! I have a full list of my published stories here. Concurrent with that, I ended up writing a couple of novels (most of which will thankfully remain confined to my trunk, one of which I published via a successful Kickstarter – the action-horror novel CHEMO: How I Learned to Kill).
A few years ago, I took up playing tabletop RPGs and started writing/designing in that niche because 1) I loved it and 2) I found more of an audience for my work. I ended up doing a bunch of contract work and authored my own sourcebook with a publisher – The Adequate Commoner. Nowadays, I lean more towards having more control over the publication of my work/self-publishing but I try to be open to changing my approach depending on how my goals and interests evolve.
Writing for tabletop RPGs is especially thrilling for me because I’m trying to tell fascinating stories in such a way that people are first hooked by my vision but then immediately launch into imagining how they can use the story sandbox to tell even better/more compelling stories.
NICOLE KASTRONIS: Your latest Patreon project seems to be your most ambitious (and unique) yet…tell us how it got started.
J.M. PERKINS: Right now, I’m running a Patreon (open-ended monthly crowdfunding) campaign to fund the development of my tabletop roleplaying setting The City of Salt in Wounds. Basically, in roleplaying lore there is this fantasy Godzilla-like creature called the Tarrasque which infamously can’t be killed and will regenerate from any wound/any injury. Since they couldn’t kill the monster, they ended up binding it in place. But as they settled in to guard the monster (lest it escape) they then had a hungry garrison with all this monster meat lying around so… fast forward two hundred years, and you have a bizarre, quasi-medieval metropolis powered by the perpetual butchery of the Tarrasque.
I should give a shout out to rpg.net forum user Thomas T. who originally posted about using the monster this way (even though I ended up going my own way with it).
NICOLE KASTRONIS: Was there any particular reason you chose a platform like Patreon over other crowdfunding sites?
J.M. PERKINS: Biggest reason I opted to use Patreon is because I’d never used it before, and I wanted to explore it.
The other reason I opted for Patreon is because the funding model (monthly pledges) seemed to fit better for a longer term development: I’ve committed to writing about Salt in Wounds for the next year. With this approach to writing, I wanted feedback from my backers to play a large part in that development: My patrons have helped me name characters, playtest monsters, and figuratively and literally become my coauthors.
I also I feel like ‘starting’ with a Kickstarter, should be starting with a very detailed plan for what the final outcome of your creative project is going to look like: ‘Hey, if I get $10,000 I’ll put a 250 page book.’ Or ‘Hey if I raise $25,000 I’ll be able to finish my documentary and you’ll all get a DVD copy.’ In September, when I wanted to get serious about writing about Salt in Wounds, I realized I didn’t (at the time) have a specific plan for a final product; so open ended funding seemed like a better fit.
I should also point out that currently, I’m planning what I can best describe as a hybrid development. My intention is that I’ll continue running the Salt in Wounds Patreon till September 2016 at which point I’ll launch a Kickstarter to fund finalized publication of the work complete with maps, character options, tons of art, adventures and so on; all in hardcopy and pdf. All my Patrons will automatically be backers at their lifetime support levels (so pledging on Patreon can be seen as ‘prepaying’ the Kickstarter). Then, the Patreon campaign will switch perspective; instead of funding the development of Salt in Wounds it will be funding the early access development of the larger game world of which Salt in Wounds is only a part (with backers easily able to get ‘in or out’ depending on their interests).
As far as I know, I’m the only person to do this sort of project based approach to Patreon/Kickstarter, where Patreon funding is for ‘rough draft’ living/changing development work which feeds directly into a Kickstarter to finalize production of a set and finished project.
NICOLE KASTRONIS: What advice would you give to people out there who want to explore all the avenues that you have during your career?
J.M. PERKINS: My best advice is freaking go for it wo/man!
Explore, try things out, and take some chances. Traditional advice is that there is a creative career track (for prose fiction writers, it goes something like ‘sell short stories ->recruit a literary agent -> sell novels to publishers with agent -> maybe make your living) and to deviate from it makes you unattractive. I think that’s worse than untrue, I think it can actively get in the way of building an audience/developing yourself as a professional creative (which are two things which will definitely make you more attractive to work with).
I think one of the pieces of advice I think most about is the truism ‘Work expands to fit the time allotted for it.’ This is especially cutting when it comes to creative work, which can be nebulous and open ended in the extreme. One thing I try to practice (and advise other creatives) is clearly define a creative project you want to do, and give yourself a time frame (I will write and publish a short story this month say). Do the best job you can within the limitations you’ve given yourself, and then – once you’re done – really evaluate what happened. Did you like doing that work? Did you get the result/response you wanted? Are you willing to do it again, and if so what will you do differently? Giving yourself ‘outs’ and reflection points helps find more satisfaction with our creative lives I think.
NICOLE KASTRONS: Any plans to return to fiction writing in the future?
J.M. PERKINS: Well, I never stopped writing fiction and the next goal for the Salt in Wounds Patreon is actually to begin producing regular fiction set in that world. I have a couple of short stories due to come out this year, and still write fiction when the mood strikes me. I also have 2/3rds of a military scifi novel drafted that I really need to finish… so yes, I hope to balance writing gaming material with ‘traditional’ fiction; hoping eventually to finish two gaming projects and two novels a year.
NICOLE KASTRONIS: Any tips for future players and GMs when Salt in Wounds is finished?
J.M. PERKINS: Trust.
Also, make sure you only eat Tarrasque flesh that is served well done; eating monster meat sashimi style can have… unfortunate side effects.
NICOLE KASTRONIS: Aside from pledging to your Patreon, how else can designers/artists/writers get involved with your project?
J.M. PERKINS: Oh man, yes! Most importantly, sign up for my mailing list (so you don’t miss updates) and shoot me an email. If you like something I do, tell me! If you want updates, sign up for updates! I love fan material (and regularly republish it with permission).
You can read more about the idea on the website www.saltinwoundssetting.com (although you should probably click the ‘New Here?’ button first).