Blogs by L.T. Suzuki
Jason McIntyre Interview
5/2/2011 6:24:52 PM
Interview with Canadian novelist Jason McIntyre
LTS: For today’s guest blog, I’d like to introduce you to fellow Canadian author Jason McIntyre. We met via Twitter and I’ve noticed there have been some great things said about his novels. So let’s get started! I’d like to begin by having you share a little information about yourself with our readers, Jason.
I know you were born on the prairies and now live on Vancouver Island, but what else would you like to share? Is there anything you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?
JCM: Thanks for welcoming me into your world, Lorna. It's my pleasure to yakk a bit to your readers.
In my twenties I was a nomad, roaming here and there, sometimes taking a job as an excuse to move to a new locale, maybe one I wanted to experience with fresh new eyes, or perhaps a place where a friend lived. Maybe I wanted a reason to be with that person. Maybe I wanted a reason to get out of a current situation. I've never been one for bus trips or staying in hotels. I've always needed to live in a place, to breathe it in and know it. That's when I started writing the kind of work I really wanted to write -- because I was meeting so many interesting characters and hearing their personal myths spoken out loud. It was, in a way, very freeing to write about other people. It helped me learn more about writing as a whole, and start to invent unreal worlds that began to rival the ones I was living in.
LTS: Has writing stories always been a part of your life and becoming a published author a life long dream?
JCM: I've been writing since I was nine or ten when I inherited an old IBM Selectric typewriter and a couple reams of cream-colored photocopy paper. I started by writing a "Close Encounters of The Third Kind"-inspired tale about two young girls who have an encounter with a flying craft that arrives in the backyard. It was pretty simple in premise, but I remember thinking --even at nine or ten-- that this story was more about the two girls and their friendship than it ever could be about alien contact.
I had another story published in a national creative writing magazine at around age thirteen and had my ego sufficiently inflated by the process. I always told stories, right up until high school and beyond. I was obsessed with them, and often spent hours alone in my room drawing the characters and planning the stories. It wasn't until the last year of high school when our family bought our first computer and I felt like I could start writing them down.
And it was in university when I first started sharing them. My novelette, ROAD MARKERS, (available in an upcoming anthology to be titled BLACK LIGHT OF DAY, but currently available at Smashwords) was written when I was twenty. I read it now and find some faults with it, but overall, it's a pretty intriguing look at a strange, canted kind of parenthood -- long before I had kids of my own.
LTS: Your debut novel, ‘On The Gathering Storm’ has received wonderful reviews. What was the inspiration behind this story and can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist, Hannah Garretty?
JCM: I was trying to find work on Vancouver Island and living with a crazy cast of characters who became inspirations for those in the book. One roommate became a particular focus of the Hannah character, but only after another young woman caught my eye in front of the Inner Harbour one day. She was waiting for a bus to take her back to university and we got to talking. We eventually went for a cup of tea at a place nearby and she said she could wait for another bus. I could tell she was sizing me up for possible boyfriend material and, under her breath, said things like, "Geographically unstable, check!" and "Talks with his hands, check!" and "Good teeth, blue eyes, nice smile, check, check, check!"
It was amusing and I called her on it. "What's this, a nervous tick or something?" She said, "I don't know what you're talking about!" I thought how wonderful, endearing and, frankly, scary it was that someone so thoughtful and aware could make such a grievous mistake: she went with me, a strange man to a quiet coffee shop without telling anyone she knew where she was. I started writing the book that evening and wrote into the wee hours of the next morning.
LTS: Without giving away too much, can you reveal what’s in store for the readers when they crack open ‘On The Gathering Storm’?
JCM: A thrilling, thoughtful, upsetting journey of redemption, self-discovery, hurt and beauty. Yes, all in the same book. Hannah Garretty comes across a situation she thinks she can help make better. She makes it worse -- much worse -- and for herself too. She gets embroiled in a world where a very mean presence hunts and lures women.
Hannah will discover more about herself than she probably thought she would in her life. And despite the horrors, she uncovers a strength and determination that I believe most women --most people-- have when they need it most.
LTS: You followed your debut novel with ‘Thalo Blue’, and just like ‘On The Gathering Storm’, your latest release has also been garnering great reviews. Can you tell our readers about the protagonist, Sebastion Redfield and the dire predicament he is faced with?
JCM: Sebastion Redfield is a unique character. He has a unique condition that allows his sensory input to mingle as it enters his brain. So, for example, he hears something and it registers as a colour. He feels a physical sensation and it comes to him in the form of a strange melody.
We watch him grow up and learn to deal with his gift and struggle to find his place in the world. When we catch up with him at the start of the novel, he's face to face with an intruder in his home one black winter night. This starts him down the path to discover that his childhood wasn't exactly what he thought it was.
And there will be another showdown before Sebastion is done with the stranger. A massive, life-changing one.
LTS: Are there striking differences in these two stories, not just in theme, but in pacing, character development, the writing process itself, etc.?
JCM: Some common themes emerge: self-discovery, the need to fit in and belong. Of not being finished growing up, even after adulthood begins. Both Sebastion and Hannah are artists (she's a photographer, he's a painter) and I didn't consciously realize this until I started doing press for THALO BLUE. The idea that "Hannah Garretty sees things" might strike a chord with readers and simultaneously make them think of how Sebastion sees things differently as well.
Both characters go on a painful and sometimes gorgeous life journey throughout the pages of their stories. They become stronger even if we as the reader wonder if they are capable of it.
LTS: The road to publication is difficult at the best of times. What made you decide on self-publishing these books?
JCM: I have had writers, publishers and agents tell me the book is gut-wrenching and subtle and perverse and that they loved it. Then they turned around and told me it would never sell because it's too many things at once. To me, that's what makes a story real. Our lives are filled with all these things, why shouldn't our artworks?
LTS: Very good point! Even the NY Times bestselling author, Diana Gabaldon faced the same problems trying to get ‘The Highlander’ published. Now, do you have any words of advice to the aspiring authors considering this route to publication?
JCM: Get involved in some kind of community, whether its online or locally. You can garner a lot of valuable insight into publishing and marketing processes by sharing and listening to fellow writers. A lot of them have been at this a lot longer than you have and possess a wealth of knowledge. Out here in the wild wild web, I've discovered such a willingness to lend a hand and some truly brilliant and generous people. Not just writers, but readers and bloggers, too.
LTS: I’m curious about your writing style. Are you one of those disciplined writers who must dedicate a certain time each day to producing so many words, or are you more relaxed and tend to write when it strikes your fancy?
JCM: I used to be the disciplined kind. It has quickly fallen apart in the last couple of years since becoming a father. Children are beautiful and I wouldn't trade them for anything...but they suck up spare moments like a 120 horsepower vacuum.
I write a lot late at night now. My goal is to do 2000 words each day but most days, right now (with a new born and a demanding toddler plus a day job) that falls away to oblivion and I'm lucky to see that quantity in a week instead. Most of my writing is done, bleary-eyed in the dark. See my series of "In The Dark" video diaries and www.theFarthestReaches.com to have a giggle at my expense.
LTS: Still on the subject of writing styles, are you a plotter or pantser? The readers would like to know if you tend to plot out your story line in great detail or if your writing is more organic with the characters and events unfolding as you write.
JCM: Halfway between the gutter and the stars on this one. I need to have a pretty clear idea of what transformation or main situation my characters will have or encounter. So I have a point A plus an idea of point Z. Then it stumble around in the dark (literally and figuratively) until I fill in the rest. It is always a joyous process discovering more about the characters, their predicaments, their hopes and wishes.
When they begin to breathe on their own, the 2000 words begin to flood the pages pretty quickly.
LTS: Some authors meditate, others need to fuel up on coffee or listen to music. Do you have any rituals, ones that can be shared with the readers, that you must do before you hunker down for a writing session?
JCM: I quite often put on some inspirational music. It's usually rock or pop with some lyrics that I find coincide with the feeling I'm trying to capture. If things are going well, the music has usually finished long before I have and I realize I've been clacking away in the dark silence for a while. Those are the good writing days. I don't have any real rituals or routines. I have discovered the new ability to write in different locations -- mostly out of necessity. I will write in bed, on the couch, in my studio, the deck out in the sunshine. I've even mustered up the patience to do some writing in a coffee shop, something I couldn't imagine doing five years ago. Like I said, family life makes you creative in how you get things done.
LTS: At one time or another, most writers hit the wall and their work stalls because of the dreaded writer’s block. What do you do to get around or over this mental wall to resume writing?
JCM: You know, I must admit, I've had little problems with the dreaded writer's block. I do have stoppages but they are usually story-driven. I've either made a mistake or said something that wasn't true, if you get my meaning. When I can't go further down the road, it's almost always my subconscious screaming at me to regroup and get things down the correct path. If I can be smart enough, patient enough, I can usually get the motor running again and coax the story back onto the right path.
Lately, though, all bets are off. I'm working on a novella that is particularly troublesome. It's been so painful that I'm convinced the end product will be well worth the turmoil I've gone through. That's the hope anyway.
LTS: Who is your favourite author and how has he/she inspired you to write or influenced your writing style or choice of genre?
JCM: I like Paulo Coelho and Jeffrey Eugenides among a great many wonderful talents. What I gather from Coehlo is to be fearless in what I'm tackling and say no to aploogies. From Eugenides I've learned that quality trumps quantity every time. The guy is the opposite of prolific but when he delivers, boy does he. I like them both because they don't worry about genre or audience too much. They write what they need to, I believe, and while I do listen to my readership, in the end I know I have to satisfy myself or it's probably not worth doing.
LTS: What is the most profound discovery you’ve made in terms of your writing and how it has touched the lives of others?
JCM: I've discovered that I have a voice that many people want to hear. Close to 32,000 downloads of my stories and books means that a handful of writers and publishers and agents were wrong about me finding success. Some of their criticisms had value. Many of those critiques pushed me to better my writing and I'm still striving to get better and clearer. But, on the whole, I feel like this self-publishing route has confirmed that my stories have a value for readers of a certain ilk. The fact that they've gotten something from my work means so much to me and keeps me writing and moving forward.
LTS: What is the most important lesson you’ve learned on the road to publication?
JCM: If you want people to read your book, don't be pushy. I've seen others do this and it turns off a great many readers. I always worry about crossing over to being pushy when I'm asking readers to give my work a chance, but I think tact and grace help a lot more than harbouring an expectation of any kind.
LTS: What are you reading now, and how did this particular book make it onto your to-read list?
JCM: Just finished a book called "Sherry and Narcotics" by a wonderful New York writer named Nina-Marie Gardner. Highly recommended reading and I've spoken with the author after having connected with her on goodreads.com. We have similar styles, though my writing has a bit more of the paranormal, suspense slant than hers.
LTS: What do you foresee in your future over the next five years and do you hope to branch out into other genres? Can your fans expect a sequel to either one of your novels in the near future?
JCM: Hopefully the next five years will bring continued happiness at home, plus two or three (or maybe more!) new novels and stories. I don't foresee ever stopping with these crazy, heartfelt stories...hopefully readers will continue to read them.
Aside from the novella I mentioned before I'm also part way through a sequel of sorts. My rather popular novelette, THE NIGHT WALK MEN acts as a prologue of sorts to what may become a novel series. The novelette has been downloaded close to eight thousand times and I'm getting great feedback on it so I've begun book one of the series. So far, it is coming out really well. I think readers who liked THE NIGHT WALK MEN will be blown away. And, if they liked other stories of mine better, they might be surprised at how the two kinds of writing have melded together in this story. Watch for an announcement on the official title of this new work at www.theFarthestReaches.com soon!
LTS: Thank you so much for taking the time from your hectic schedule to discuss your novels and to share in your writerly wisdom, Jason! Hope to see you at a local literary event in the not too distant future, but in the meantime, I’ll catch you on Twitter. For more information about Jason and his novels, check out:
Follow Jason on Twitter: .JasonCMcIntyre
Where to buy Jason’s books: http://www.amazon.com/Jason-McIntyre/e/B0049YW78G
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