In Conclusion to “Seriously, I Have Read Your Book“
Speculative Fiction Author Jason Sullivan Interview
The wonderful Jason Sullivan, speculative fiction author of The Dark Yergall and The Suburban Vaistes, has willingly obliged my curious mind by answering my probing questions relating to his sci-fi books and his life as a writer for my first author interview! His books take the reader on an action interstellar adventure with relatable, captivating and humorous characters and situations. Jason has the keen ability as a writer to thread bits of philosphy into the story line without the reader even realizing it. You can find Jason on Twitter or his website. He is also a writer of Flash Fiction / Friday Flash, as well as, a 2010 NaNoWriMo participant.
~Leave a comment and you will automatically be entered to win a copy of both of his books~Alison Wells is the winner!
- Tell us a little about yourself?
I am a native of Massachusetts. I studied religion and philosophy. I have always been interested in the relationships between people and ideas, especially how society mediates these relationships. I lived for a long time in Maryland. I spent many years living in, and working on, a circa 1850’s farmhouse in the Maryland countryside. My family and I currently live in Lawrence, Kansas. My wife is an Immigration Attorney.
- When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
In high school I was in an English program that encouraged writing. We had to write pretty much everyday. I think that built some good habits and at the end of my Senior year I wrote a piece of fiction which my English teacher thought was quite good. In college and graduate school I wrote exclusively non-fiction. It was not until near the end of the nineties that I started to write fiction again. I was inspired to write science fiction because my favorite authors were Clarke, Asimov and Wells. I read most of this classic science fiction as a boy and I think the experience of entering these exciting, futuristic worlds left a big impression on me. Although, I should add that my absolute favorite author is Richard Brautigan. Definitely not science fiction but funny and imaginative, nonetheless.
- What was your inspiration for The Dark Yergall and the Suburban Vaistes?
The Dark Yergall started out as a serial on an early website. It was one of those “personal pages” which were big when the internet was young. The site had this neat science fiction theme. I can remember a big green glowing Saturn. I thought maybe a science fiction serial would work. It actually developed a small readership. Mostly it was for fun. After my interest in the site faded I was left with a bunch of characters who kept prodding me to write more. I guess they wanted to live a little longer.
- What process did you go through to create Nosir’s world?
Nosir’s world to a great extent emerged on its own. I did not use a grid or even a detailed outline. As I came up with ideas for chapters, I would write them and they mostly fell into place. Nosir is plagued by the annoying external components of the Imkass Empire, such as the brain numbing InfoAlert scrollers and the massive snoop system―the Cornfield’s thousand ears, but more importantly he is extremely insecure because of the superficial and untrustworthy relationships within the dystopian society. How does Nosir survive, or even figure out what is going on in such an overly controlled and heavily monitored society? I think what he discovers is that in each and every moment he must search again for clues to what is authentic. His greatest allies in the search for truth, and foes as well, are other people, or aliens, or bots. In essence he is searching for humanity in a world where it has been almost entirely removed.
The characters in this work introduced themselves as the writing went along. I think this is the case with most novels, but in your first it is always a surprise. To me as the author, the question was always, “How are the people, aliens and bots in Nosir’s world going to give him clues? How are they going to help him keep hope alive?” Dialogue and relationships are a major focus of the book. The details of the greater dystopian world, the Imkass Empire, were interesting to write but they act mostly as a backdrop, or frame, for the action between the characters.
- I loved the idea that Nosir lived in a world without truth. Can you explain how you came up with this concept for the storyline?
This is a favorite theme of mine. As with most people who write or have written a dystopian novel, George Orwell‘s Nineteen Eighty-Four was a big influence. I also was fascinated by the biblical quote, John 8:32, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” I went to school in Washington, DC and this quote was over the main door to the library. At the very end of the novel the quote comes to Nosir as he is fighting off the paras. He had seen it misquoted earlier in the book over the door to The Room of Never Was and he had sensed something was not quite right about it. There it was phrased “You shall find the DefectoMod and put it in here.”
It was difficult not using the word “truth” before Nosir discovers it a little past halfway in The Dark Yergall. Language and truth are intimately connected, which was also one of the themes in Nineteen Eighty-Four, so it seemed only natural that a dystopian society might get to a point where the word itself was no longer in use and thus unknown to the populace.
- Genetic manipulation is part of every Imkassians life. As the author are you making a personal comment on genetic manipulation in present day society?
I brought genetics into the story as a metaphor for how people are manipulated. One of the running jokes in the book is that Perfmod has not been achieved, i.e. genetic manipulation techniques had been around for hundreds of years by the twenty-seventh century and yet they were still flawed. I guess you might say the human component kept reappearing to foil attempts at a perfect genetic creation. One of my favorite parts in The Suburban Vaistes is in the chapter called “The Fulcrum” where Nosir realizes that the flow of history and the relationships between conscious beings create the genome, that the genome is an expression of these, so regardless of what certain nefarious beings might try to do to manipulate history, it is much larger than they are. The spirit of the developing universe, in essence, brings genetics along for the ride.
- Throughout the books there is an underlying philosophical theme of the influence of society and government on the masses. Was this part of the original vision of the series or did it come about as the story progressed?
It definitely was part of the original idea, but along with everything else it evolved as the story was written. I was interested to see how the characters would interact while being bombarded with social constraints and intrusions. Nosir battles the omnipresence of the Imkass Empire, but he also struggles with himself. He has insecurities and shortcomings, yet he has the ability to rise to greatness at times. What is most important to him are the other beings in his life, humans and aliens and bots, and of course, his cats. One interesting component to the story is that often when Nosir is trying to fend off the Empire his relationships suffer as a result. I think what is important, however, is that he keeps trying to help others. The Imkass Empire is the dystopian society against which much of the action takes place, but the focus of the story is on how sentient beings act when thrown together in difficult circumstances.
- Tell us about the artwork on the cover of the books.
The cover artwork on both books comes from Dreamscape.com. I liked the classic science fiction look. My cat Comet is on the back.
- What is your daily writing process? How do you balance writing with work, home and family?
I try to write everyday. I write whenever I can fit writing into my schedule.
- How did Friday Afternoon Press come to be and why did you choose the self publishing route?
This is an exciting time for publishing because of all the opportunities the internet provides. A writer’s work can be instantly transmitted around the world in a variety of formats and the independent publishers can do this just as easily as the big publishing houses. The best aspect of self publishing is that you retain control over your work. The most difficult aspect of self publishing is marketing because many people are still a little snobbish when it comes to accepting the validity of self published books. There are a lot of publishing options out there, I dare say none of them are perfect, so choose the one that works best for you.
- Have you considered writing Nosir’s journey into a screen play for movies or a TV series?
The first thing my mother said was that my books would make great movies because they are visual in nature. You know moms are about as objective as you can get. I think it might be fun to try a screenplay. I enjoy dialogue and I think there are some good exchanges in my books. There would be a learning curve involved for me, but it might be fun.
- What do you love about writing? What advice would you give to other aspiring writers?
Writing is a lot of hard, frustrating work. There is the constant obsessing over your writing, doing scenes again and again in your head, reworking sentences, the list is endless. A novel is a very complicated creation with thousands of interrelated parts. No author ever gets every part right. If you have something to say but you fear you are not a good writer, I would say strongly to you, do not be discouraged! Having something to say is a gift. There is nothing quite like creating a universe and sharing it with others.
- Nosir’s journey does not end in The Suburban Vaistes, is there another book in the works?
Yes, I am planning on making it a trilogy. Nosir will head back into Center City Imkar in the third book. Currently, however, I am working on something else. I am writing a novel for National November Writing Month. It is a story I’ve been thinking about for a while so this has provided me with the perfect opportunity to get it written down. The tone is a little scarier than the Nosir books and it has a strong time travel component. Hopefully it will be ready for publication next spring.
- How has social media helped or hindered your author platform?
Social media has helped me connect with many writers and other people involved with writing and publishing. Sometimes it is a procrastination hazard. Social media is still evolving and I am continually trying to learn how best to be a part of it. I think it offers some promising possibilities.
Find out more about Jason Sullivan’s writing at http://fridayafternoonpress.com