Celebrating Visionary Fiction Pioneer Monty Joynes

By Victor E. Smith
Monty Joynes

It occurs to me that much of the literature of the industrial age to the present has been a medium defining the chaos of the “modern” human condition.  I hope that visionary fiction breaks from the angst of the past and shows its authors and its readers a more enlightened passage into the future.  In this regard, visionary fiction may be truly visionary.

Monty Joynes, The Altered State of Visionary Fiction 8/24/11

I am the fortunate owner of a set, each inscribed with a personal message, of all four volumes of the original Booker series by Monty Joynes, adventurer, Vietnam “era” vet, magazine editor, travel writer, diplomat, and author of more than twenty published books, among other accomplishments. Noteworthy here, especially to VFA members, is that all these books,  published between 1997 and 2000 by Hampton Roads Publishing Company, has Visionary Fiction prominently printed on their back covers as the genre. In other words, what we in the VFA have been striving to make happen in the two years of this website’s existence, had already been accomplished by at least one popular author with an established publishing house some fifteen years ago.

Who is this enigmatic Monty Joynes, who, according to his bio, resides in the relative seclusion of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina with his wife and creative partner, Pat?  And how did he happen upon the concept and write books that embody the major characteristics of visionary fiction so many years before this group was formed to define and promote VF as a genre? To date, Monty Joynes has been part of the hidden history of visionary fiction; the purpose of this post is to make him hidden no more. Monty’s achievements are too many and his writings, VF and otherwise, too numerous and varied to cover in the space allotted to a single post. Here I can just hope to put enough, garnished with links leading deeper, to arouse VF authors to curiosity about the life and work of a writer who deserves to be studied and emulated as a stellar model of both the spirit and substance, the art and the craft, of visionary fiction.

Confessions of a Channeler

Counter-intuitively, I will start with a title of Monty’s that is not part of the Booker series, or even fiction. In his most recent book (Feb. 2014), Confessions of a Channeler: a Reluctant Man’s Journey into Mysticism, Monty combines a forthright but modest autobiography with over 125 inspirations received in a mode that he eventually agreed to call channeling, although in a sense quite different from that word’s usual woo-woo meaning. Of the text and method of these messages, he posits: “With its mysticism removed, there is a way for anyone to access the universal source of unlimited wisdom through channeling.”

The “visionary” calling is evidently issued to all, but few choose to dedicate their lives to its pursuit, as Monty has done. Even fewer dare to take it a step further: recording their journey’s process, which does not lend itself easily to words in non-fiction or fiction, in order to share their crucial adventure with others. Such visionary scribes are focused explorers of the land “in between,” who are sufficiently disciplined to remain grounded enough in that heady space to keep up the paperwork. Confessions is a skilled author’s unique story of a life spent developing the extraordinary “senses” that allow a visionary to perceive what most do not have the eyes to see. An account not to be missed.

The Booker Series as Visionary Fiction

The four volumes of the Booker Series (Naked Into the Night, Lost in Las Vegas, Save the Good Seed, and Dead Water Rites), summarized and reviewed individually on Monty’s Novels website page, are best read in sequence. But each has a unique theme, and the prior storyline is recapped sufficiently in the later volumes so that one can be read on its own. The protagonist throughout is the eponymous Booker Jones; and the series the saga of his personal growth in consciousness from affluent Anglo (WASP) businessman with all the appropriate prejudices to a brilliantly integrated human being with a universal worldview. This transformation is catalyzed by Booker’s immersion into the Native American traditions into which he is initiated by the few remaining practicing priests of a Pueblo tribe near Santa Fe in New Mexico. Applying himself to their strenuous methods (silence, dance, drumming, sweat lodges, etc.), Booker enters the realm of dreams and visions, superbly described,  where he finds the deep wisdom to reshape his life and to improve the outlook and fortune of just about everyone around him. Coupled with a believable story and mastery in telling it, all the characteristics of Visionary Fiction, as agreed upon by the VFA, are present in the Booker Series.

Unique to Monty’s work is that the events, although viewed through the lens of timeless traditions, are grounded so well in modern times, addressing modern problems of the individual (alienation, ego, insecurity, lack of purpose) and the society (pure food and water, community, group prejudice), that I often felt like I was reading non-fiction. Even when a young Fancy Dancer resolved a threatening crop failure by means of practical insights received during an almost fatal Vision Quest, my credulity remained intact. Actually, my faith in certain forms of awareness, which I too have to tap into to write visionary fiction, was validated and enhanced. Good strong inner eye medicine.

Monty Joynes on Visionary Fiction

The best I can do to summarize Monty’s thinking and practice around the art and craft of VF in the short space of a post is to pose some of the key questions we have been kicking around among ourselves on this site and quote Monty’s answers to them as found in his various writings. So, for your contemplation and enjoyment—have your “aha” ready—here goes:

Q: What exactly is Visionary Fiction?

Monty Joynes:  For me, the Visionary Fiction genre includes novels which deal with shifts in awareness that result in metaphysical understanding by the central characters.  The plot of the novel is generally more concerned with internal experiences than with external.

The work is also “visionary” in the aspect that the authors sometimes (or often) employ non-rational means such as dreams, or extrasensory perceptions to develop the content of the book.

In my own experience, I explore the cultural separation of the rational and intuitive approaches to reality.  Much of what the characters do and say come from an intuitive perspective.  Since I am a cultural man of the Indo-European tradition with its system of logic and reason, I must depend on visionary experiences to give me insights into the intuitive.  The experiences are not intellectual.  They cannot be professionally researched, or forced by will into expression.  The altered reality comes through surrender, not aggressiveness.  It is always beyond the mental resources of the author.  It is a humbling experience which, in its appearance on the page, can only be acknowledged as a gift.

Interview Virginia Festival of the Book, 1999

Q: But why the Novel? Why not non-fiction testaments to visionary viewpoints?

Monty Joynes:  The good novel has penetrating power to individual awareness because it involves the reader in the deep process of human character.  The good novel is more than information, more than entertainment.  It is a pathway to the reader’s subconscious mind.  Hawthorne called this achievement “the single effect,” that indescribable feeling one experiences on reading the last page of an important novel.  If the reader has immersed himself or herself in the process of the character, the experience is more than vicarious.  It is profoundly real; and within the subconscious mind, the reality is not separate from feelings that actually occurred to the reader in his or her physical domain.

The Altered State of Visionary Fiction 8/24/11

Q:   Aren’t you afraid that your books might be branded as “message” books?

Monty Joynes:  Visionary Fiction could be in danger of being branded as “message books.”  Who needs more messages in the sensory bombardment of the information age?  I hope that Visionary Fiction becomes the medium for metaphysical experiences on a deeply personal level and that the content transcends momentary emotionalism and initiation to the occult, to lead the reader to his own visionary experiences. I set out in a series of novels to explore the possibility that an individual caught up in a western material environment could, in fact, remake himself as a human being.  His exploration, and mine, hopefully becomes the reader’s as well.  And in that process, we share a vision that leads to future awareness of our common humanity.

The Altered State of Visionary Fiction 8/24/11

Monty’s  thoughts on VF’s spiritual and psychological  components

Monty Joynes:  I think why others do not understand Visionary Fiction and visionary  literature in general is because they identify it too much with a religious advocacy.  They think that the writer is trying to convert the reader to some religious thought system.  We are more about human psychology than anything else, however, in our portraits of how the fragmented mind works to corrupt us from true awareness and meaningful relationships.  We, as writers, attempt to expose the conditioned errors of how most people think, regardless of race, creed, or social status, via the literature of character and plot.  We are not theological so much as we are practical!  We are vehicles of “self help” by virtue of example.

Visionary Fiction should be viewed as essential reading for those who have careers in Psychology because most of the cases that they will treat result from faulty thinking.  The characters in Visionary Fiction confront life’s primary dilemmas and then find their way to the source of all relationship problems.  The remarkable changes in their lives seem magical to observers so the enlightenment is termed “spiritual”, when in truth it is a radical change in the way that the mind is used: a radical change in the individual’s psychology.

Monty in a personal email to Vic Smith 7/9/14

Links and Titles for further study

Monty’s website: http://www.montyjoynes.com/ Monty’s Blog: http://writingasaprofession.wordpress.com/ Synopsis of Booker Series: http://www.montyjoynes.com/novels.html The Booker Series and Monty’s other works on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Monty-Joynes/e/B000APRNWS/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1405222535&sr=1-2-ent Hampton Roads Publishers: http://redwheelweiser.com/index.php

Forthcoming Interview with Monty

Monty Joynes has agreed to a personal interview with me, as a representative of the VFA, in the near future. I would like this to be a collective conversation including as many VFA authors and readers as possible. You can participate by putting your questions to Monty in the Comments section below. I will consolidate and address them to him. Our interview will be posted to this site in the near future.  


36 thoughts on “Celebrating Visionary Fiction Pioneer Monty Joynes

  1. Theresa Crater says:

    Thanks for introducing us to yet another interesting writer, Vic. I like your reminder of the attributes of Visionary Fiction. Hampton Roads had a Visionary Fiction line. My first novel was published through them. I was very happy with them. Once the company was sold, the new CEO pretty much cancelled the fiction line. Too bad. After a pretty long while, I think Red Wheel may have picked up those who didn't get their rights back.

    • Victor E. Smith says:

      Thanks, Theresa. Seems like a lot of the original Hampton Roads authors are coming home to roost at the VFA. Monty shared an email with me from Bob Friedman who spearheaded the VF effort at HR in the 1990's. For those who know him, he is alive and well and running Rainbow Ridge Books .

    • sunalei says:

      Yes, Theresa, the current people at Hampton Roads also returned the rights of the series back to Monty; however, I was able to obtain the epub files and put them up on Amazon as e-books so the whole series is available on Amazon.

  2. margaretduarte says:

    Monty's opening quote speaks to what I've been thinking for a long time: "It occurs to me that much of the literature of the industrial age to the present has been a medium defining the chaos of the 'modern' human condition."

    "Enough!" I always want to say. Why the constant violence and hopelessness?

    Which, of course, leads to the second part of Monty's quote: "I hope that visionary fiction breaks from the angst of the past and shows its authors and its readers a more enlightened passage into the future. In this regard, visionary fiction may be truly visionary."

    What a perfect way of summing up what we as visionary writers are trying to do.

    Way back in 2001, when I discovered that my writing didn't fit any of the available genre categories, I discovered Visionary Fiction at Hampton Road Publishing Company and was hooked. I read and still own NAKED IN THE NIGHT, a story of personal growth in contemporary times. Way to go Monty!

    Vic, I like that you say "To date, Monty Joynes has been part of the hidden history of visionary fiction; the purpose of this post is to make him hidden no more."

    To which I say, YES, YES YES!

    • Victor E. Smith says:

      Thanks, Margaret. Naked into the Night is a VF classic. However, I want to point out that it was not well received by everyone, While researching the article, under the book on Amazon, under Editorial Reviews, I clicked on See All Editorial Reviews. Not to draw attention, but the third one listed made no attempt to hide its mockery. An example line: "He stumbles upon the nicest homeless people, safest truck stops, and least cynical Native Americans in the US. The novel reads less like the story of a spiritual quest than an extended cross-country holiday. I think the word for it is 'slumming'."
      I mention it just to show what we are up against and why it is important at this stage to read, review and promote quality VF whenever we find it. Time to counter the snot from those who would lower consciousness and make it cool to write and read what raises it.

      • sunalei says:

        Vic, as you know, there will be those that "get it" and we have been rewarded with incredible e-mails from Booker fans. Although Psalm Maker: The Journal of Booker Jones is the final in the series, Monty has a "Booker Jones" page on Facebook where we post aphorisms from the series, so Booker lives on.

    • sunalei says:

      Margaret, I, too, was hooked on Naked into the Night and this man named Booker Jones. When the book ended, I felt like a close friend was leaving. So I asked Monty to continue the story. We attended a famous powwow in Connecticut and saw the Fancy Dancers, then later visited behind the scenes in Las Vegas and the Valley of Fire. Thus became Lost in Las Vegas. I love them all, but this one is my favorite. I found the vision quest scenes amazing.

  3. visionaryfictionauth says:

    Vic, You captured the essence of what Monty has said over the years about VF in an inspiring and articulate way in your post.

    I related when you said – "Actually, my faith in certain forms of awareness, which I too have to tap into to write visionary fiction, was validated and enhanced. Good strong inner eye medicine." This is indeed exactly what good VF should inspire, as well as being the wellspring from which VF is written – good strong inner eye medicine.

    Monty says 'we are not theological as we are practical'. I liked that description. If we, as VF authors, are attempting to write a story that catalyzes an internal experience in the reader (as Monty states, as well as our own VFA definition), then that reader's shift in awareness and consciousness needs to be tangible and practical in order to make the world a better place which is the overall hope of visionaries. And, ultimately, why we write VF.
    ~Jodine Turner

    • libredux says:

      Quoting Jodine: "… that reader’s shift in awareness and consciousness needs to be tangible and practical in order to make the world a better place which is the overall hope of visionaries. And, ultimately, why we write VF."

      Jodine, very well said. This very point has come up at the online course I am attending. Synchronicity!

      • sunalei says:

        Libredux: We've had several people tell us that they have often used the phrase, "What would Booker do now?"

    • sunalei says:

      Visionary Fiction Author: Here is an e-mail Monty received a few years ago. I keep it close to my desk. It's for those days when we all need a little encouragement to continue our work.

      "We have a signed copy of Dead Water Rites that says, “Thanks for your support.” Well, thanks for you! Your laying out of the "Thoughts are Things"
      universal truth is THE best I have ever read. It is clearer than Deepak, Jesus or Emmett Fox, Maxwell Maltz and on and on. Those who are searching will find it. Now that I have the clearest explanation that I need, it is my fervent hope that I can leave the old chatter in my head behind and listen to Spirit guide my life.

      I can say for sure that we love you and surely appreciate your incredible work. Have read all four twice now and am perhaps ready to do some magic marker magic now."

      • Victor E. Smith says:

        Pat's comment above reminds me of an autobiographical element Monty covers in Confessions of a Channeler that surprised and encouraged me. I share it here as I know there are many VF writers who do what they do for love, not money. For all his talent, connections and productivity, Monty faced many major challenges (financial, health, children, lack of recognition, etc.). But he and Pat persisted regardless. Perhaps in a "fair" world all good VF writers should be rolling in the dough or at least making enough to easily finance the next project. Maybe some day, but in the meantime we learn to do whatever it takes to continue pursuing our art. Seems we are not alone.

  4. C. A. McGroarty says:

    What a great read. While I never heard of Monty Joynes, he is certainly a pioneer. It's actually scary that I didn't know of him! I believe VF could be the future of fiction. There is an emotional fulfillment it can provide to millions of people who long to know more about their existence and the metaphysical world, beyond their job, their family and their inner circle. The thirst to know what is beyond this world and how we may tap into it while still here is in all of us, no matter age, religion, race or nationality.

    • Victor E. Smith says:

      Welcome CA (if your posted before, I spaced it). Took a look at your website to get to know you. Ah, The Alienist; it's been years and I recall being impressed but need a refresher. Would like to hear more about the visionary fiction aspects of your work, all of which sounds very interesting. I too am a cross between the east coast (lived in Jersey some, working in NYC a lot) and the wilder west (favorite place to live is Colorado although am now in Tucson).
      Do read at least one of Monty's books Either Naked into the Night or Confessions of a Channeler are good for a start. You won't regret it. Keep commenting.

  5. sunalei says:

    Thank you so much, Vic, for your blog. As Monty's wife Pat, I am always the first to see his work for which I am truly blessed. Monty writes with pen and paper, and I type the manuscript on our upstairs computer. I usually don't read it before typing. One day I was typing a scene from Lost in Las Vegas, the dancing kachina ceremony, and as I began typing it, I became somewhat transfixed. When I finished typing it, I leaned over the balcony to speak to Monty sitting downstairs. I remember saying, "How do you know this?" He replied, "I don't know." After all these years, I still am in awe.

    • Theresa Crater says:

      Thanks for your comments, Pat. You two have a wonderful collaboration going. I love that exchange you mentioned. It's true that while writing information and scenes appear that we had no idea we knew, but they flow right out. It's like taming a feral cat. I have to be quiet and let it come to me.

      • sunalei says:

        Yes, Theresa, I do believe that our collaboration was destined. I am not a writer, but I have other talents that are essential in getting the work produced. Love your image of taming the feral cat.

  6. candidmentor says:

    When I was on the set to write The Celestine Prophecy: The Making of the Movie with James Redfield in 2004, I met Peter Maestrey, a young assistant production coordinator. Peter read Naked Into the Night and became very adamant that I develop it into a feature-length screenplay. I had written two previous screenplays that were filmed in Europe, so after completing the movie book, I adapted Naked into a script that Peter liked very much.

    Freelancing as a producer and director of music videos in Miami and working in films produced in Hollywood, Peter rose in the movie ranks with participation in the Sundance film directors' program. Today Peter has his own feature film production company, Kamma Pictures, and he has an option to produce Naked. He says that the first film that he both produces and directs will be Naked, and in recent years he has sought investors to bring the book to life. Vic's Visionary Fiction coverage of my literature can prove important to Peter's efforts to finance Naked as a feature film. Thank you both for "keeping hope alive."

    • Victor E. Smith says:

      Woo Hoo. Fancy dance on seeing Naked as a film. A grin: imagine how many people might go to your movie based on the title, thinking it's a genre quite different than visionary, then come away, at least some, stimulated in parts of their anatomy (heart, head) they didn't suspect they had.

  7. Admin - Eleni says:

    "The experiences are not intellectual. They cannot be professionally researched, or forced by will into expression. The altered reality comes through surrender, not aggressiveness. It is always beyond the mental resources of the author. It is a humbling experience which, in its appearance on the page, can only be acknowledged as a gift"

    Very well stated. I strongly resonate with this, especially when I write my first draft. With surrender comes humility. Writing VF takes the ego out of writing and allows the soul to speak through us.

    • sunalei says:

      An interesting note is that in Monty's work, there is no first draft, no outline. He writes in longhand, pen and lined paper, complete chapters. Sometimes I'll see a word scratched out and replaced, but most of his handwritten work for his novels is finished manuscript.

  8. Victor E. Smith says:

    Surrender and humility–two least favorite words for much of my life; still true sometimes. But quite necessary; so the Universe has a way of teaching them–and Monty's books illustrate this well–so that they are palatable to ourselves and those around us. There is nothing groveling or weak about either, but there is a lot that is gentle, even gracious, about both. A hellacious process to get through but well worth the journey when you arrive. Where, as you said, Eleni, we get to experience the soul speak through us: that's dancin'.

  9. candidmentor says:

    There is an essay in the June 2014 issue of The Atlantic Magazine that is germane to our discussion of Visionary Fiction. The title “How the Novel Made the Modern World” is by William Deresiewicz. The opening statement relates directly to our interests: “If the novel, the most capacious of all art forms, created contemporary consciousness, what does the end of its cultural preeminence portend for how we think about who we are?”

    Deresiewicz observes, “Like no other art, not poetry or music on the one hand; not photography or movies on the other, it (the novel) joins the self to the world, puts the self “in” the world, does the deep dive of interiority (the inner life) and surveils the social scope. Novel reading is indeed unusually private, unusually personal, unusually intimate. It doesn’t happen out there, in front of our eyes, it happens in here, in our heads. The novel allows you the freedom to pause: to savor a phrase, contemplate a meaning, daydream about an image, absorb the impact of a revelation—make the experience uniquely your own.”

    Isn’t the scholarly Mister Deresiewicz describing our best intentions for visionary fiction?

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