My fourth installment of the Kit ‘n Kaboodle is a conversation with Jason McIntyre, author of award winning short fiction and several bestselling fictional suspense novels.
JASON MCINTYRE is the #1 Kindle Suspense author of THE NIGHT WALK MEN, bestsellers ON THE GATHERING STORM and SHED, plus the multi-layered literary suspense THALO BLUE. His short fiction has appeared in numerous magazines and won several awards.
His current releases are several novels and novellas in the DOVETAIL COVE mosaic series, available now. Learn more and connect with the author at http://www.theFarthestReaches.com
Hi Jason, thank you for taking the time to talk with me about your writing. As an aspiring newbie author, I’m always willing to absorb as much as I can learn from those seasoned authors such as yourself. So, I appreciate that you’re taking the time out of your busy schedule to be a part of the Kit ‘n Kaboodle.
We are Facebook friends so I’m allowed to see some of your personal life, as well as your writing life. So first things first…some personal basics, if you please. You’re a full-time writer, married with children. I’ve also deduced that you’re very funny – your conversations with your wife or children that you post on FB are hilarious. You’re also a fellow Canuck (Canadian). Good day, eh!
Dani: As someone who is neither married nor has children (thought I was going to say not funny, didn’t you?), I can barely juggle a full-time, non-writing job and two cats.
How do you manage to get so much writing done while dealing with everything else in your life?
Jason: Funny? Shhh. Don’t tell anyone. It’ll ruin my cred as a quote-endquote serious author-type. I write scary literary stuff and you can’t have a funny one of those. It doubles the creep factor.
How do I manage all the stuff? Not sure, specifically, but I can speculate that it has something to do with limited sleep. Sort of being a jerk with that answer but sort of not.
A few years ago, my kids were little, I concocted this kooky idea of the DOVETAIL COVE books to keep me writing while still managing day job, marriage, fatherhood and the rest of this full life I’m lucky to have. The idea was short bursts of writing, late at night when the kids were sleeping. Instead of pushing out 200,000 word novels, I’d push out a million words, but divided up into individual, shorter books of 30,000 words each. I discovered I could write the first draft of one of those in three or four weeks of those late nights. Not the four months of a longer book’s timeline.
Then I could breathe, pour the gas on the other parts of life for a while, regroup, plan the next book and come back to it in another sprint.
So far, that has worked over the last four years. DOVETAIL COVE has 10 books now. Seven are released with three on the way for the remainder of 2017. Five of those are 30 – 45,000 words in length (80 – 150 print pages). Three of them are novels at 50 – 100,000 words (190 – 300 or so pages). And the final book clocks in at 200,000 words in first draft.
Now that my guys are no longer tots and in full time school, I have plans to ramp up to longer books again. A longer read of 300 – 400 pages is more satisfying to read. But, wow, is it a commitment.
I’m pleased to say my number one complaint over the last couple of years is, “J, your books are too short!” So’s my hair, but we deal with things the best we can.
Dani: Your debut novel “On The Gathering Storm” for which you won a Goodreads Choice Award for “Top 20 Debut Authors”, delves into one woman’s nightmare to survive after she’s kidnapped. Tell us more about it and about how this novel came to be – did the idea just come to you or did something inspire it?
Jason: Most stories come to me in a visual form, first. I picture someone in some kind of a situation before I start to question who is involved and why I should care. In this instance, the actual story houses my first mental picture of the tale in its opening chapter. Stuck in traffic, Hannah has a fleeting vision of a young victim of a brutal attack. I knew I had to start down that awful path to find out what happens to her, just as Hannah does.
As I wrote, I began research into missing women like Jaycee Dugard and Elizabeth Smart to see how often this happens and, frankly, how easily it occurs in our modern, supposedly civilized world. A few readers have complained that it happens too easily in the book. But, no, truthfully, my research says it’s the opposite. We want to believe others. We want to go with them. We want to help.
Dani: Where do you get your ideas for your novels? Real life? Imagination? A combination of the two?
Jason: As I wrote ON THE GATHERING STORM, for example, a second image—one of a young woman held against her will in a camping trailer—emerged. I combined this with my research, my history and training in human psychology, and some real-life events and people from my own experience to tell the story.
The realization that things would be different for me because I’m not a woman is startling, real, honest, and examined in the book.
Generally, stories get written because there’s a nagging feeling that won’t let me go. If the nag is good enough and strong enough, my head seems to turn it over and over with mental fingers, studying it in the quiet cacophony of my mental world. Other pieces of the puzzle will begin to emerge. They won’t form a mental picture yet. I usually have enough to go on…but I need to sit and write it out to discover what the big picture is. If I understand what the book is about by about one tenth of the way in, it is usually compelling enough for me to continue.
One reason DOVETAIL COVE has taken almost twenty years, is that I knew the over-arching story, but I didn’t yet know how all the players were—and what their individual pieces were. I had to find those things before I could write a new novel in that world. If I didn’t, it wouldn’t feel genuine to me…and then I’d give up.
Dani: Can you describe your typical writing process? Do you do an outline first? Map out character bios etc?
Jason: I suppose I outline in my head. I sometimes sit with a book for months or years—just a mental version of it—before ever writing one word. THE DEVIL’S RIGHT HAND was a seed for twenty years before I wrote, “Are my ears tricking me? Or did you just ask how the war begins?”
DEVIL actually started out as a completely different book. It was ON THE GATHERING STORM first and then STORM morphed out into something entirely new. There are books yet to be written that have been haunting me for some time now.
When actually writing my first draft, as I get to the final fifth or so (I tend to think of every story as either a three-armed monster or a five-armed sea creature, in need of taming by me), I will write out a quick and dirty set of points. “These are the seven things that MUST happen for Character A to get out of this awful, awful place I’ve plopped them.” Sometimes, they fail. Sometimes they succeed in a way I couldn’t have possibly imagined. And that journey is the joy for me. Also, the reason for my many heart attacks. Many, many. Oh and cocktails.
Dani: You have an interesting fact about the naming of several of your novella in the Dovetail Cove series. They all rhyme. Deathbed. Bled. Fled. Dread. Zed. Was that your intention when you started writing the first of the novella series?
Jason: SHED (1977) was the first one I wrote. Even though it’s the seventh in chronology in this ‘series that’s not really a series’. I wrote it almost twenty years ago, before I had children or was married. It’s startling to me now, how realistic the boys and their world seem. So proud of it, I discovered that it struck a chord with readers when I finally edited it and put it out.
Strange to think now, but I only put it out to help bolster sales of ON THE GATHERING STORM. I didn’t take it seriously. But readers did.
And they wanted more of Simon and Rupert. Over the next few years, I went back to the million ideas I’d had for more stories set in the tiny island town of Dovetail Cove. And I went back to that place because readers said they’d come with me. I wrote one called BLED and understood in one morning (while I stood at the bathroom sink shaving) how it all fit together with the other pieces.
I knew that BLED was the perfect title for the second one written. And from there, I thought, I should continue to be delightfully dumb. I hate one-word book/movie titles. Why don’t I be one of those annoying fellas who uses them? Oh and I’ll add another layer of stupid: I’ll make them rhyme. And here I am, ten rhyming book titles later.
Dani: What else can you tell us about the Dovetail Cove series?
Jason: Despite the rhyming scheme of DOVETAIL COVE books, each title has a deep resonance for the particular main characters and story in each book. They are standalone stories that inform a larger world. And the titles work on multiple levels.
Readers will not be left hanging if they read individual ones. Well, I should clarify: some threads remain dangling. But each book finds resolution of its own main story arc.
You can read them in chronological order (DEATHBED-1971, BLED-72, FLED-73 and so on) or pick and choose which seems most interesting. I plan to publish a kind of ‘Machete Order’ for reading them as some readers have said, “I don’t want any spoiled surprises. Let me read them in the order you wrote them.”
Dani: What does “literary success” look like to you?
Jason: Success? Tricky idea, of course. And to each their own. I probably look at it in two ways. One, if I could only write my words of fiction each day and make a comfortable living at that, that’s one version of success. The other, and more important version to me, is the success of writing things which connect with other humans. I want to tell stories in a way that no one else has quite done before. No small feat, as most people believe everything’s really been written before and we are just recycling. Sure, that’s true. But nothing’s been said in exactly the same way I’m saying it. And if it’s compelling enough to feel fresh and new—for me and that reader—then I’m successful.
I don’t want to write the same thing twice. Not twice for me, and not twice in the history of the medium.
Dani: Have you ever written a book where you started with only a title?
Jason: DREAD. Ha! Funny to think about now. Third written of DOVETAIL COVE and I had the title, a kick-ass book jacket design and some distant mental image of two men facing off against someone in their mother’s kitchen.
Dani: If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be?
Jason: I’ve been a communications and marketing professional for quite a number of years. As part of that, I have also done pro-level graphic design for about the same period of time, running my own design shop at one point. I love that work and creativity and have recently gotten back into designing book marketing materials for other writers. Intertwined with that is my love for painting and photography. I’ll be writing and creating visual art as long as I’m allowed.
Dani: How do you choose the names of your characters?
Jason: Funnily enough, the names usually just sound right. A couple of times, I needed to do research to find a specific surname with a regional, ethnic or historical tie. Astute readers will discover that many have multiple meanings—both in their etymology and in relation to literature or the story itself.
Dani: Any suggestions for writers who might be struggling with getting a book done?
Jason: It’s like going to the gym. Some days you hate it, but man, when you put on that bathing suit or step on the scale and you remember slogging it out on those awful days, the ones when you hated the reps and the sweat and the pain, it is so worth it.
Writing is like anything. It’s borne from a set of muscles within you. And you need to train those muscles. I don’t much care what your word count is, but if you want to finish a project, you need to get a word count down on paper. And you need to do it every single day—no breaks, no cheat meals.
But another point is this: you should love doing it. If you don’t love it, maybe it’s the wrong story at the wrong time. Maybe it’s not your medium. I don’t necessarily believe the adage that everyone has a novel in them. Maybe that woman over there has two dozen short stories in her, or forty magazine articles. Or twenty five essays. Or nine pop songs. It’s not my place to ascribe anything on anyone.
Dani: You mentioned you’re also a graphic designer, doing such things as book cover designs. Is this something you do regularly or as a side job?
Jason: I do! I’m ramping up to provide more as I have more time in my life. I create ads and social media images, banners and bookmarks as well as the book jackets and even interior art. It’s so fun for me to help others who are great writers, but not necessarily great at creating visuals on the same level as their words. I work hard for clients to creating images that are not the same old thing. I’m not very good at doing exactly what’s been done before. Writers tend to come to me when they want something entirely new.
Dani: What is your current project? Can you tell us about it?
Jason: I’m working desperately hard to have this one out for beach reading season. I have three long novellas in the paranormal and/or psychological thriller vein that need finalizing. I want to put them out in a single print and e-collection that’s around the theme of vacation travels gone horribly awry. Working titles for the three books are PAPER THIN, WE CAN MAKE IT IF WE RUN, and PLEASANT BEACH. Trust me, there’s violence, mayhem and terror afoot in all three.
DOVETAIL COVE, 1976 is on tap for April/May and will bridge the chronological gap between the first half of the DC decade and the second. 1979 and 1980 will be the last two books in that series (that’s not a series) and close this giant chapter of my life.
Then I want to write the second major book about the NIGHT WALK MEN, continuing from the bestselling novella and THE DEVIL’S RIGHT HAND. Like some others I know, I am desperate to find out what Sperro, Kro and Fallow are going to do as the war begins.
Dani: Lastly, a little fun I like to call “Take Five”:
- Three words YOU would use to describe yourself? I’m a weird mix of impatient and meticulous, of self-assured and frightened like a new kitty…oh I totally blew those instructions.
- Favorite animal? I have invented a few new species in my novels. I’ll let people decide which one I like best.
- Favorite book (that isn’t your own)? MIDDLESEX by Jeffrey Eugenides
- Favorite non-work related thing you like to do? Build Lego with my kiddos
- If you had an Aero Bar, would you share it with me? Yes! But a Kit Kat is mine, all mine, you dig?
Care to plug your other books? Please do here. ☺
Jason: Readers and buddies can learn more about all the books at www.theFarthestReaches.com
I have several novellas and short stories available for free. You wouldn’t buy a car without a test drive, would you?
Find Jason on Social Media:
I’d like to thank Jason for participating and providing us with some very interesting answers. As a wanna-be writer, I appreciate you allowing me to pick your brain about your thoughts and ideas. I want to wish you the best on your upcoming releases, and I look forward to reading more.
Until next time, thank you for stopping by. Feel free to drop me a note and let me know what you think.
Love and blessings to all,