Originally from Yorkshire, England, Jonnie has been living in Zell am See, Austria since 2009 where he works as a tour guide. A great lover of nature, Jonnie developed a passion for the stunning landscapes where he works, and now calls home. In 2020 Jonnie discovered a place called Bad Fusch that inspired him to begin writing and illustrating his children’s book series. Since travel restrictions prevented Jonnie from seeing his family in England, he wanted a means to share the things he was seeing, and the lifestyle he lived in Austria with his nephew and sister. His book provided the perfect medium for doing so. Jonnie’s books tell the tale of four animals who live in a forest and go on many adventures. It is set in the forest of Bad Fusch and is a lighthearted, humorous, but also educational read. Jonnie loves spending time in the mountains combining cycling and photography above all else, but also enjoys baking.
Describe yourself in five words
Honest, hard working, creative, organised, driven.
What fact about yourself would really surprise people?
Having never been able to spell and dealing with certain word blindness issues, I have managed to publish 4 children’s books so far in a planned series of 10. To clarify I use the services of some fantastic copy editors and proof readers!
How do you work through self-doubts and fear?
I keep going, sometimes making a start is the hardest thing, once i get started however then I make great strides forward.
What scares you the most?
I guess, fear of failure, the project I am working on, not being accepted or delivering results.
What makes you happiest?
When others are happy, I just love to see happy faces, and if I have had a part in making that happen, even better.
Why do you write?
This is a great question, the purpose of my writing is to share the experience of one of my favourite places, Bad Fusch, this is a small abandoned village high in the mountains of Austria, what started as a small project to run a snack station has turned in to my new passion, writing has also become a way to share stories about nature with my young nephew who due to pandemic travel restrictions I have not been able to see for two years, though my books I can share where I live and teach him all about nature in a fun way.
Have you always enjoyed writing?
Yes, although I don’t think up until my children’s book I have ever been published, this has never materialised in to anything people would have wanted to read before…
What motivates you to write?
Once I start I just don’t seem to be able to stop, when I came up with the idea for a children’s book, instead of writing one book, I set out with the goal of writing ten, there was never a consideration to write one, I always had ten in mind, it was a very bold statement to make and since I started, I have ideas for many more stories too, however in order to concentrate of getting a body of work finished, I am concentrating on the first ten before moving on to the next set of books, and side projects, this is very hard, as I have so many ideas!
What writing are you most proud of?
Publishing my first book was a major achievement, however I would say completing the process of writing books one to nine, book ten still needs finishing, as I am not completely happy with it.
There are aspects in each of the nine books I like, however actually publishing the children’s books has made me very proud, when I get asked to do school visits, readings and when I meet children who have read my books, I am so proud when they talk about what they like in the books.
What are you most proud of in your personal life?
I would have to say being a contributor to my surroundings, I have read many autobiographies and one common thing I hear is give something back, this is something I have always done in my life, no matter where I am, what I am doing I always try to help others around me.
What books did you love growing up?
In primary school I was a very fast reader and read a lot of books, then as a teenager sports comics took over, sport has always played a big part in my life, I have always found if I can find subjects that interest me, I like to read and read.
What do you hope your obituary will say about you?
Never a dull moment…
Location and life experiences can really influence writing, tell us where you grew up and where you now live?
Originally from Huddersfield in West Yorkshire England, where I lived until my late thirties, however throughout a 18 year career with a large distribution company coupled with an very active spell in a Motorcycle club, I have traveled extensively throughout the United Kingdom and Europe. One of my whimsical ideas was to work a ski season and this is how I ended up living and working high in the mountains of Austria which is where I have now been for the last 13 years…
How did you develop your writing?
Research has played a major part in my writing journey so far, I originally had the story ideas, I then had to develop these in to a format that is engaging and fun for children. I have done this by talking to and sharing my stories in the development stage with other writers, this was a challenge as I was the new guy, and totally clueless!
What is hardest – getting published, writing or marketing?
Each step has been hard, however with a desire to get a book published, I did not stop until the first book was published, the whole process of starting writing, researching, learning, revising, sharing, getting feedback, reviewing, improving, learning more, to having my first children’s picture book published took 6 months, working solely on this project all day everyday was a massive challenge.
What marketing works for you?
After book one was published then for me came the marketing, the original idea for my children’s books was to support Bad Fusch, to write a story about the animals of the forest who would tell the stories of the forest and surroundings, in the hope people would visit and explore too.
I used social media to let people know about my books and a steady flow of sales came from local visitors to Bad Fusch, then the more difficult task of marketing to people who have never heard of Bad Fusch started. I wanted people to know about Bad Fusch and by writing these children’s books, this was a way for me to do this.
As I have published on amazon, I set up sponsored ads and refined and continued with promotions, all be it with a very tight budget, as with covid I had no income and no work, only my book project to work on. I knew from my research as an unknown self-publishing author nothing was going to happen overnight and I had to be committed to my books for the long term.
We did managed to open for the summer season 2021 in Bad Fusch and quite a few books were sold, I knew then given the feedback I was receiving the books were going to be a successes, my biggest problem was getting my books in front of more and more readers, then the phone started to ring, I got invited to do readings and have my first school visit coming up, I also got invited to do local media and tell my story about how an Englishman ended up in the mountains of Austria in an abandoned former spa town writing children’s books. I really like tell my story. lots of things have fallen in to place to make this all happen for me.
Do you find it hard to share your work?
Not really sure I understand the question, my friends will probably tell you i never shut up about my books as they have taken over my life, so I guess the answer to this is no.
Is your family supportive? Do your friends support you?
Very much so, the lead characters of the books have been named after family and friends, so they kinda feel involved, my nephew is called Reggie and his nickname is Reggie Mouse, that where the lead characters name came from!
What else do you do, other than write?
At the moment I am the co tenant of the Jausenstation in Bad Fusch, this is a mountain snack station for hikers, walkers, sightseers and mountain bikers and is the very reason my writing started, to share stories about our mountain location, however the books have taken over now and become an entity of there own, people reading and talking about the books who have never heard of Bad Fusch, fans are now starting to visit because of my books, sending me pictures and stone paintings, and telling me they are looking forward to visiting the locations illustrated in the books soon.
What other jobs have you had in your life?
Since living in Austria I have mainly worked in tourism as a travel and sightseeing guide, this has enabled me to collect lots of experiences and ideas to help form my books. In the winter months I have worked as a ski guide and in various bars.
If you could study any subject at university what would you pick?
This is a question I have asked myself a few times, and I flip between sports coaching/management and theatre production, in my earlier life I was a keen sportsman, however never good enough to make it professionally and I was also involved in theatre for many years and would love to have pursued this professionally.
If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
I get asked this question everyday? Will you ever go back to the UK, I say, never say never! however right now I live and work in the most Wonderfull place in Austria, Zell am See and Bad Fusch, our region has to be one of the most beautiful places in the world, a real paradise.
Tell us about your family?
My family are now spread out all over, my sister Laura and Reggie Mouse still live in Huddersfield and I cannot wait to see them in a few weeks’ time when i visit.
How do you write – lap top, pen, paper, in bed, at a desk?
On my computer, sat at my desk overlooking the amazing lake of Zell am See
How much sleep do you need to be your best?
More! when I am in the writing or illustration process I find it hard to sleep as I just cannot stop until its done, I nap a few hours then awake and continue, I have seen a lot of sunrises and sunsets in my book publishing journey so far.
Is there anyone you’d like to acknowledge and thank for their support?
Catherine Jones needs a very special mention, I asked Catherine to look over my stories from a grammar and spelling point of view, I have used various copy editor’s and double and treble checked my writings. However, Catherine is a trusted friend who has been brutal in her feedback which has enable me to push my books on to the level they are at.
Every writer has their own idea of what a successful career in writing is, what does success in writing look like to you?
When the kids give there feedback, I just love to hear it, it motivates me to continue and validates all the hard work that has gone in to my books, with the Reggie Mouse series a few visitors to Bad Fusch who had never heard of Bad Fusch would represent a huge success, this would also be fantastic for the local tourist board who have been very supportive of our efforts to raise awareness of Bad Fusch and how beautiful it is.
It is vital to get exposure and target the right readers for your writing, tell us about your marketing campaign?
I have a dedicated Facebook page, Reggie Mouse and his Forest Friends which I share regular updates on what I am up too, I also post updates on the Facebook and Instagram page for the Jausenstation Bad Fusch which acts as a central point for all information about Bad Fusch. I have approached various regional book and gift shops who are now stocking my books, I have done two readings in Salzburg with more planned, I also have my first school visit in my home town of Huddersfield in May 2022, the official launch of Books 2,3 and 4 will take place to coincide with the summer open of the Jausenstation Bad Fusch, last week the regional newspaper ran a full page article on my journey so far, I still feel this path I am on is only just starting…
Tell us about your new book? Why did you write it?
Since publishing my first book in May 2021 under the main title “The Adventures of Reggie Mouse and his Forest Friends” the subtitle “The New Yoomans” I worked simultaneously on books 2 to 4 together the plan being to have 4 books published for the opening of Bad Fusch in summer 2022, I must also add that my books are available in Paperback, and kindle versions, and in English and German languages. However, to answer the question, I wanted more books in the series available, so I set myself the challenge of getting an additional 3 books published. Books two to four follow on from book one, although the books have been written so that they can be read in order, young readers can start there journey with any of Reggie’s adventures and then move on to the other books. Book two “Exploring the Water Pools” is all about the healing waters of Bad Fusch the very reason the town existed in the first place. “Bad” is the german word for spa or bath and for towns in Austria to be awarded “Bad” status they must have medically proven healing waters. Book three “They went this way” is all about hiking, to get younger readers interested in being outdoors and in nature, and book four “Buzzy Buzzy Bee’s” is all about the importance of bee’s why children’s don’t need to be afraid of bees and why bees are so important to the production of food. All the books are written in a fun and engaging way with emphasis on leaning whilst having fun.
If you could have a dinner party and invite anyone dead or alive, who would you ask?
I would love to sit down with Arnold Schwarzenegger Keith Richards, Dorian Yates and Nigel Mansell and maybe Jocky Wilson, all successful people in their chosen fields, I am not sure they would get on, however it would be an interesting discussion!
When you are not writing, how do you like to relax?
I love to bake and cycle, I also visit the gym, and I am still a huge sports fan, my favourites being F1 and Darts.
What do you hope people will take away from your writing? How will your words make them feel?
I want the children to be outside and to enjoy nature, I am a massive technology fan, however let’s not forget how fantastic it is to explore our surroundings.