March 23, 2023

From secret fanfiction writer to Amazon best-selling sci-fi author, story of Jeffery Chaney

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Jeffery Chaney, US

J.N. Chaney, American science fiction author and publisher, gamer, and couch enthusiast

“If people tell you can't do something, you have two options: to listen or ignore them; and I'm very proud of the fact that I ignored all of them and kept moving forward.”

Hi, Jeff! Tell us a bit about yourself!

My name is Jeff Chaney, otherwise known as J.N. Chaney. I am a science fiction author. I'm originally from Avon Park, FL, and I spent some time in the Air Force. I have a master's degree in creative writing and have written professionally for about 8 years. I am almost entirely self-published, but I am also traditionally published by Audible studios and Podium (who exclusively handle our audio). I have published 159 books and released books in six different languages, mainly in Europe. Twenty-six books are written solely by me, and the rest I've written with Co-writes.

Wow! You have a full business going!

Yeah, we have a whole staff. We have an art director, and we have worked with a bunch of artists. We have a full-time editor, a backup editor, and a proofreader. We have an entire team of early readers who catches typos and stuff in exchange for getting the book for free. We have a project manager /ads manager who handles the newsletter. I work with half a dozen narrators. Not to mention our third-party partners who publish some of our stuff. So, it is definitely a business. It's a unique business, and I did not ever intend to build it. It just happened as a result of what we were doing.  

We actually just had a book conference here in Vegas, and I sat down with my writers and hashed out what we will do once each of their current series ends. Most of my authors are only 4-6 books into a 15-book series, and they all debuted this year. We're well planned out ideas-wise for the next four years now or four or five years or so. For example, my Backyard Starship co-writer, Terry Maggert, and I already have two other series lined up for him to write after Backyard, which only just released the 10th book of a 25-book series that will last through the end of 2025. I'm writing a book now, and I have two other series I want to do with no co-writes. There's no end to the ideas.

Is that normal for authors to publish books in such a high frequency? What are you doing that other authors in your genre are not, or typically don’t do?  

No, that is not normal. In this industry, the normal would be one every three months, maybe four months. We're planning to publish about 45 books a year. I work with about seven writers right now, and most of them can do a book every eight weeks. I have an entire process that trains them to be capable of that when they come on board. It can take up to a year to fully train someone to be that efficient, and not everyone can do it, which is why I work with so few writers.  

Also, when my readers see J.N. Chaney on a book, they know they can expect a certain quality, so they're more apt to pick it up. We've tested it and proven multiple times that it sells best. So, there is a level of trust from the reader that I will meet certain expectations, and if I betray that trust, they'll never trust me again. Because I'm an independently successful writer and the J.N Chaney name has recognition in the community, I can lend that name to my authors and help lift their books, which is another reason why I am selective. My co-writes have the strength of a publisher and the power of this brand backing them. All this stuff is a lot of work and can take time to pick up. As a result, many authors don't know how to market themselves well enough for a successful self-publish.  

What first inspired you to start writing?

Back then, I didn't do a whole lot of reading. I'm from a really small town with a pretty poor education system, and there wasn't a lot of emphasis on reading in my house growing up. I didn't read sci-fi books or anything like that. What I did do was play a lot of video games. Lots of Japanese RPGs, like Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and Chrono Trigger, most had a sci-fi /fantasy twist and required a lot of reading.  

When I was 15, I wrote my first short story. It was a sci-fi story about my friends and me finding a spaceship in our Backyard and going off into space. It started because a friend of mine brought home a 2-paragraph little story he wrote in math class and showed it to me. A light bulb moment happened, and I remember thinking, wow. I realized you could make up a story - I didn't know that was something people could do, and I guess it sparked something in me. I immediately started writing that short story, 25 pages hand-written on a yellow legal pad. And my mom read it, and it was terrible. Haha. But she was very supportive and said I should keep writing.  

I started going on the Internet and found a web forum (because people used those back then), and I went into a video game web forum where people posted fanfiction of video games. And I started writing the Zelda fanfiction in secret. I told nobody. I wrote that for about a year, posting a new chapter weekly. Eventually, I started writing more original stuff, but I was still posting on those web forms. That's how I started writing and where I got my first feedback from people.  

While in college, I moderated a literature web forum and organized a 4-panel comic for about two years. After that, I started writing movie reviews for the college paper. That's when I went on the web forum and was like, 'Hey, do you guys think I should be a writer professionally?' And everybody said yes. So, I swapped my major from Archaeology to English.

Why Sci-fi?

I write sci-fi because it resonated with me as a kid and as a teenager, and it's what inspired me. I only started doing this because I read Ender's Game when I was 17 or 18, and it truly evolved me as a person. It was the first time I read a science fiction book, and I connected more with that character than with any other book I'd read. That connection is really what pulled me in.  

And after reading that, I thought, 'I really want to do that for somebody else.'  

When did you officially feel like a writer?

I didn't feel like a writer for about ten years. All through my 20s, I felt like a student. I couldn't publish or try to publish anything yet; I was not ready, and I knew I wasn't ready. I could feel it.  

When I turned 30, I started getting my first book together. I started it before the military when I was alone at work one day at Verizon Wireless. I worked on it off and on for five years and finished it about three months after I got out of the military. That's when I felt ready. It was when I published that first book on Amazon, I thought, 'Here we go. It's all or nothing now.'

What does the average day look like for you as a full-time author? 

I spend 5 to 6 hours a day working, seven days a week. Right now, I'm lucky if I get 30 minutes to an hour of actual writing because there's so much back-in admin work required to handle all these different writers, marketing, and publishing. But starting next month, I'll be consistently writing for about 3 hours a day. My goal is to release ten books and 2024 that are exclusively written by me, without a co-write.  

Even though I work every day, 365 days a year, every day at around 6:00 PM, I stop working and spend time with my wife, who I prioritize during the off hours. We spend a lot of time together watching Netflix movies, going to the movies and dinner, or playing video games. Of course, we like to travel, too. But my favorite hobby is playing video games, which I don't have much time to do.

What do you hope your readers get or take away from your books?

I try to make people feel empathy for these characters, relate to them, and feel a connection. I think that's really what good writing is, in my opinion, creating that human connection to these fictional characters, just like Ender's Game did for me.  

We try to be very apolitical in our books. I want our books to be entertaining for everyone, regardless of background or affiliation. We don't insert anything hateful or opinionated about present-day politics or current societal discussions. Instead, we focus on the characters and try to write pure escapism. I want anyone to be able to sit down and read a book and not feel like it's an attack or it's trying to tell them what to think or how to feel. I want people to have fun.

What inspires and motivates you to do what you do?  

There are different answers to that question depending on the period. First, my motivation was to be a successful writer because, for years, so many people told me it was an impossible dream and that I would fail - to the point that I stopped telling people after a while. But I kept writing to prove them wrong.  

The motivator now is to take care of the people who rely on this business and their families (my writers, editors, art directors, etc.). Suppose the company shuts down tomorrow, or we fail catastrophically - we're talking around 12 families whose lives would be entirely upended. I can't let that happen. So that's why I push myself and work every day. It is also a big motivator for me to write as much as I will over the next year and a half. That way, we have enough cushion to keep these people afloat with money coming in, and it helps me pay for any emergency expenses for the business and allows me to take care of the people I care about.


I know this has got to be a hard question because you have accomplished so much, but what are you most proud of?  

A lot of people let other people's fears and doubts define them and influence them. A LOT of people. When those who say that you can't do something in life are really speaking about themselves, but when you're young, you don't understand that element.  

I had a family member who told me, "Everyone wanted to write a book. You're never gonna make it", and then threw water in my face and told me to grow up. And I just walked away and didn't speak to that person for two years as I went to school for creative writing. People in the military told me I couldn't do it and that I should stay in the military for 20 years and not pursue this dream. I didn't listen or argue. I just said, 'OK. Maybe you're right,' But I kept doing what I was doing, and they never knew the difference.  

If enough people tell you can't do something. You have two options: to listen or ignore them, and I'm very proud that I ignored them and kept moving forward. There's a perfect Rocky Balboa speech where he says something like, "The world will beat you down and keep you there if you let it. It's about how hard you can get up and keep moving forward.' It's a really good speech, which I recommend you watch. I used to watch stuff like that in the military constantly.

What sci-fi device or technology would you most like to see developed in your lifetime? 

Man, that's a tough question. I can't just pick one thing. I would like to see us cure aging. That would be cool. That's my number one thing, but it creates many other problems. In Renegade Star, the back story is centered around that and the issues that would make. But I think more realistically, and I would like to see a cure for cancer using gene therapy and CRISPR technology. I believe that is doable, and I'm astounded that we do not invest more money into it.  

Getting to Mars and the asteroid belt is the real game changer because there are so many minerals and oars, like trillions and trillions of dollars’ worth. These resources would drastically improve our quality of life and the speed we advance technologically. But as slow as we are with this stuff, I think a trip to the asteroid belt will take a while, but I think Mars is possible in the next 10 to 20 years.  

I'd also like clean/renewable energy and water desalinization to become mainstream. I think we're on the cusp of the next phase of human development on this planet and drastically decreasing our carbon footing in a way that has an impact.  

Where you can find Jeffs work 

Website: Http://

Amazon: JN Chaney

Twitter: @jnchaney

Facebook: @jnchaney 

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