I had the extreme pleasure of interviewing Jason, where he talks about writing as insanity, “shocking” superhero powers, writing in the nude, and the dreaded process of editing!
1. When did you first consider yourself a writer? What is your favorite part about being an author?
I’ve probably had the writer’s mindset – whatever that is! – since I was very young, perhaps even as young as eight or nine. I look at things in my life in terms of narrative value and seem to glance into the future of a situation to see if I can witness a satisfying outcome. Someone says something at coffee break or a dinner party and I say to myself, “Ooh, that would make a good short,” or, “Hmmm, I want to create a character that looks at things like you do.” Now whether this is normal or healthy behavior, I don’t know. I think having a writer’s mindset might be the same thing as being clinically insane – but without the straightjacket.
2. What inspired you to write your first novel, On The Gathering Storm? Did writing it teach you anything for your next books, Shed, THALO BLUE, and your newest anthology, Black Light of Day?
On The Gathering Storm was a combination of five or six things, as I think most of my stories are. I was thinking about a young female roommate I had recently moved away from and about how she and young women like her were going to make their way in the world: a place that tells us it’s shed the one-sided view of the sexes but that still has loads of it still hiding in the corners and the dark parts. I had met a beautiful woman and also a very scary man when I was living on Vancouver Island (where the story takes place) and my subconscious mind put them together in a way that frightened the hell out of me. I thought, “If this can scare me so badly and it hasn’t even happened, what would happen to readers if I put it down on paper?”
I actually wrote Shed before Storm, though it was released afterward. It told me a lot about how to get into the minds of the characters, which helped for Storm because Storm is so much about Hannah coming to terms with her own inner demons. If I hadn’t had the experience of writing a more straightforward boogeyman tale, this one might have never happened.
Black Light of Day has been ongoing for about ten years. Readers who think they know what I write may be pleasantly surprised – but still terrorized – by the wider breadth of content in this collection. It is so different to write effective short fiction than it is to tackle a long novel.
All of these books are so different and the joy in writing them has been to stretch myself in all those new directions. Writing each one has prepared me for the next, building themselves like a loose but sturdy daisy chain of words and characters.
3. On The Gathering Storm is about “fear, redemption, loss, and consumerism,” but at it’s core, is also about the “persistence of hope.” What message(s) do you hope readers might take away from the book?
Life is hard. You read the news, see your fellow citizens suffering under the weight of their lives, their hardships, even the decisions of others. But there is beauty in a dark wood. There is hope in the blackest of rooms. Seeing much of this beauty and hope is dependent on letting go of the ugly, turning away from your horrid past.
4. You are very prolific! How long does it take you to draft and complete a book? What do you do in-between writing?
When I’m going hard at a longer project, I need to be invested and work on it every day. If I don’t it becomes too difficult and I lose inertia. I write two thousand words a day when a project is on the go, often re-reading and editing yesterday’s two thousand before I can look at beginning today’s. It can take months or a year to write, edit and feel satisfied with a finished novel.
In between writing is a mish-mash of other things: day job, family life, home renovations, bouts with crazy extended family. Somewhere along the way, I manage a few winks of sleep.
5. What’s the most challenging part of writing for you?
Editing! I need to find a great line editor that will fix the screw ups and understand what I’m doing but reign in some of my nuttier narrative choices so that I don’t waste a bunch of time on them before realizing they aren’t quite functional.
Editing and re-writing is my biggest challenge because the energy of the story is at stake. The first draft process gets a lot of this explosive feeling out onto the page, and editing too much can threaten this while simultaneously boring the pants off the writer. Now, let’s nevermind that I’ve just started a rumour that I write while not wearing pants. I think there was another rumour in the twitterverse that I attended blog events naked, so this one will only bolster my credibility as a nudist.
6. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
What’s that Fleetwood Mac song? “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow?” You’ve got to keep thinking ahead and planning and looking around you to see the landscape, but never at the expense of getting your word count today. I don’t subscribe to the “write every single day or die” advice, but you do need to focus on getting stuff done. How many times have I been to a library, a mall, a party and people have said, “Oh, you’re a writer! I’m going to write a book, too. When I have time. When the kids are older. When I retire.” All good plans, but you actually have to put something – anything – down on paper.
7. What book(s) have most influenced your life and why?
Too numerous to list, of course, but there are many and there are few, if that makes any sense. So many have taught me what kind of writer I don’t wish to be, what kind of stories bore me to tears and force me not to finish reading (or writing) them. But a few that have taught me to be courageous and truly write what I wish to write. As such, I’ve yanked so many genres and styles into what I do that I seem to have created this interesting mash of peas and cheesecake and waffles and gravy, that readers who come along for the ride are falling for—in some cases, quite deeply.
8. If someone wrote a book about your life, what would it be called?
There’s a chapter in my novel THALO BLUE called “The Soothsayer’s Recompense” which has to do with how we try and plan or see our futures, even so little ahead as the next traffic light. Our repayment is often completely independent of how poorly or how well we’ve made our plans—plans, I might add, that are always based on this faulty information. It is so illogical to plan for certain aspects of a future none of us can see. This idea seems to run like a black thread through the tapestry of my life and it may be the one lesson I’m destined to finally learn or die trying. At this moment, my biography might be called “The Soothsayer’s Recompense.”
9. Where is your favorite place to read/write?
Anywhere behind a closed door. My new studio that I built last year is quickly becoming a favourite place because it has all my favourite things except food, which I don’t really need all the time, anyway. Essentially, though, I need a keyboard and some quiet. As a dad with two small children, this is increasingly difficult real estate to find. For you realtors reading this, trust me: I would pay extra for such square footage.
10. Currently, who’s your favorite author(s) and why? What was your favorite book(s) when you were younger?
I’ve so loved the books by Jeffrey Eugenides. He doesn’t have the scary bits that I seem drawn to in my own writing, but he creates a kind of social tension and family tension that is impeccable and well-crafted. I live in awe of his talent and in a dire state of tension waiting for his next long book.
11. What are you reading now? Would you recommend it?
I just read Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King and was shocked at how much I enjoyed it and how dark people said it was. In my memory his older work is as dark if not more so. I was also delighted to find how similar this collection is to some of my stories like On The Gathering Storm and THALO BLUE, in terms of tone and style. I would recommend my books to anyone who likes Full Dark and King’s book to anyone who liked mine.
14. If you were a superhero what would your name be? Your powers?
A ridiculously pathetic superhero: Captain Static! My power? Really loud, painful static electric charges, y’know, from rubbing your socks on the carpet in the winter or taking off a wool sweater overhead. The tiny blasts of electron displacement would startle thieves, hopefully long enough for a real hero to tackle them and bring them to justice.
15. Finally, maybe the most important question: cake or pie?
Ooh. Oh no. Ack! Sheesh. Such a tough call. If I was in the arena and the officials put forth this question I’d ask for clarification. What kind of pie? What kind of cake?
If it’s a butter pecan cake with white icing, then it wins. But if it’s a particular kind of pecan pie that has been chilled, then it wins.
I really am a bipolar study in dichotomy.
I want to give a great big thank you to Jason for his thoughtful answers and for being so patient and cooperative with me!! It’s writers like you who make book blogging fun!
Please visit Jason’s website to learn more about him and his books: The Farthest Reaches
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*Have a question for Jason? Ask away!*
Without further ado, I present the awesome giveaway from the very generous Jason: three grand prize packs of ebooks of THALO, Storm , and his novella, Shed (Open Internationally!)!
To enter fill out this FORM and follow the blog. There will be three lucky winners and each winner wins all three ebooks!
Giveaway ends March 28, 2011 and is open internationally.
[THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED]
Good luck and please tell your friends!