YEM Author Interview: Jonathan Starrett chats about what inspired him to write The Architect

Jonathan Starrett is the author of The Architect. The Architect follows Charlie, along with a quirky band of unlikely heroes determined to find the truth in a city plagued with lies. The novel explores sinister schemes, bumbling superheroes, unexpected friendships, and plenty of humor and plot twists. YEM was able to speak to Jonathon Starrett about what the process of creating The Architect was like, how the idea for Phantom City came about, and if he had any plans to make a sequel to The Architect.

Young Entertainment Mag: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

Jonathan Starrett: When I was 8, I drew a rabbit with a bow-tie and called him Bobby Bunny. That might have been the end of it, but my mom with her special genius showed me I could combine my Bobby Bunny drawings together to tell one long story. We ended up creating a full-on, homemade picture book, and I was instantly hooked!

YEM: What was the process of creating The Architect like?

Jonathan: Long and full of twists! I wrote the story as a play, and when the play was over, I just found it too much fun to move on from, so I tried to make it into a comic book. Well, that was proving to be too much work. So instead, I made The Architect as an independent movie. This, of course, was ten times more work. I was proud of the result, but wished we’d had the budget to do more. Finally, I re-imagined the story as a mystery novel, and felt it was the perfect fit for giving the story its full due.

YEM: How did the idea for Phantom City come about?

Jonathan: I needed a setting that would influence the characters’ sleepy, shadowy dream state. An old, dark, art deco-style, 1930’s city felt perfect from the get-go. Expressionist buildings casting long shadows also seemed right for a battle between an Architect and a Projectionist.

YEM: Is creating worlds such as Phantom City something that comes naturally to you?

Jonathan: Yes in one sense, because there’s nothing I love more than old detective movies set in big, shadowy cities. It was fun to conjure this peculiar world in my head and describe it from my imagination. But it wasn’t so easy to identify all the details. Inviting other people to read the story and ask questions about the way this world would work was essential for me. It helped fill in gaps of logic and provide enough background to ensure the story was satisfying.

YEM: What is something you learned through writing this book?

Jonathan: Just keep putting words and ideas down on paper. Writing from your feelings is wonderful, but that worked for me maybe one day out of twenty. The rest had to be in spite of my feelings. When I wasn’t feeling it, I learned to write anyway, then walk away and come back. I found I usually liked 90% of what I wrote and only needed to tweak 10%. Writing when you don’t feel like it is the only way to finish.

YEM: What inspired you to write The Architect?

Jonathan: I think everything about the world we live in suggests an intelligent design, but one of life’s biggest mysteries has always been: who made all this? Why? And what clues did this Designer, or Creator, or Architect, leave behind? Essentially, this book was inspired by my relationship with God. At different moments, it can be frustrating and awe-inspiring.

YEM: What do you hope your readers learn from The Architect?

Jonathan: Truth is precious, but I have been guilty of choosing what’s easy over what’s true. What is the cost of turning our backs on Truth? What if choosing “easy” over “true” lulls us into an infinite sleep walk? I hope this story inspires readers to consider the value of Truth and to decide it’s worth the trouble.

YEM: What is your favorite part of writing for young readers?  

Jonathan: Life is bigger and better when you’re young. Every new experience is full of wonder, curiosity, and possibility. I personally strive not to be cynical or lose my sense of wonder in life, and writing for young readers helps me stay close to that point of view.

YEM: How long did it take you to write The Architect?

Jonathan: Some version of this story had been in my head for eight years of my life, but when I sat down to write the book in 2020, it took about 4 months.

YEM: Is any part of the book inspired by your personal life?

Jonathan: So much of it! Charlie’s unflappable curiosity is inspired by the way I feel when I’m exploring a new story or creative project. Sneed’s fear is inspired by my own. You might say Charlie and Sneed come from the different sides of my brain!

YEM: Is there a book that made you fall in love with literature?

Jonathan: Lots of books have taught me about characters, plots, and the power of words, but the book that made it all come together was Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. The way I felt at the end of that book convinced me to be a writer.

YEM: Do you have any plans to make a sequel to The Architect?

Jonathan: Yes! The story of Charlie and the Architect is just getting started. There is so much more to explore in this world! Secrets are tucked into every corner of the first book, and I can’t wait to unravel them in future stories.

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