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INL physician assistant moonlights as young adult fiction writer

Since he started writing fiction, Jason Joyner says he has found himself somewhere between the “plotters” and “pantsers.”
Like the first group, who meticulously outline their books and then follow it, Joyner prefers to have a solid idea of where his story is headed. But then there is still the thrill of inspiration that comes when a plot point occurs unexpectedly during the writing.
“I like to have a few surprises,” said Joyner, a 45-year-old father of four whose day job is physician assistant for Idaho National Laboratory.
Joyner has been a physician assistant for 18 years, 12 of them at INL, where he alternates between the dispensary at Central Facilities Area and the one in Willow Creek Building. His PA studies degree is from Idaho State University, where he also earned a bachelor’s in biology.
“I like working with people and I like helping people,” he said. The physicals he gives are largely to determine whether people are suited to the jobs they are performing, also to monitor for hazardous substances which can be encountered in operations and in some of the lab’s older buildings when remodeling is going on.
The best part of the job, however, is the schedule. Unlike the PAs at urgent care operations, “We don’t have a packed schedule,” he said. “We get to do a lot of preventive medicine and have the time to talk to people about their issues, even though we’re not their primary care provider.”
In his nonworking hours, Joyner is finishing the third book in a teen/young adult trilogy that started in November 2013. That was when he took part in National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWriMo – an annual, internet-based creative writing project in which participants attempt to hammer out 50,000 words in 30 days.
This was not Joyner’s first stab at writing. He wrote his first novel, a suspense thriller, in 2005. That provided an introduction to the publishing world that disabused him of any notion he might be the next J.K. Rowling. He hired a freelance editor to help tighten it up and polish the prose and started shopping it.
The most direct piece of information he got was from a New York agent who told Joyner his tone and slightly irreverent writing voice might lend itself better to younger readers. That put him on the path he’s on now.
Joyner’s “Rise of the Anointed” trilogy begins with “Launch,” published in 2018 by Little Lamb Books. The two main characters are both 16-year-olds: Demarcus Bartlett, whose superpower is speed, and Lily Beausoliel, who can manipulate light. They are part of a select group of youth invited to attend an exclusive conference hosted by the charismatic Simon Mazor, a social media tycoon and the world’s youngest billionaire. An ancient prophecy suggests that if these teens combine their abilities they might change the course of history. But will it be for better or for worse? And what are Mazor’s motives?
To find a publisher, Joyner participated in a Twitter “pitch party,” which offers writers a quick online avenue for touting their books to publishers and agents. In most instances, over a set period a writer is allowed one 240-character pitch each hour, using a designated hashtag. If an agent or publisher scrolling through likes (“hearts”) a pitch, the writer can click on the person’s name. Typically, the publisher or agent will have posted instructions on how to send in a proposal or sample.
Little Lamb turned out to be a Texas-based publisher of teen and young adult fantasy fiction. The company has an inspirational focus, but Joyner said he is as inspired by “Star Wars” as much as any stories or characters that might be pigeonholed as “religious.” Heroes have qualities that make them heroes regardless of what culture they spring from.
“Jason remembers sitting in third grade, imaging he’d save the day when a dinosaur came through the window,” says one online biography. “(His) overactive imagination and love for the heroic has combined into a love of telling stories of people sacrificing for others to save the day, along with witty quips and a smattering of geeky references.”
Book 2, finished in 2015, is with the publisher on its third round of edits and Joyner said he hopes to have Book 3 finished in September. He wants to see both published in 2020. Having established his characters in the first book, it’s easier to keep the tide rolling in sequels. The challenge is coming up with an ending to each chapter that will keep readers engaged, ideally to where they don’t want to put it down.
The ultimate challenge with a book, however, is letting go. “You always see things that make you say, ‘I could have said that better,’ or ‘I’m repeating myself there,’” he said. “You’re never really finished with a book.”

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