Interview By Author, Blogger, Anthony Avina
1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?
I am a graduate of Montclair State University and have a background in education. Since I was twelve, I always had an interest in it and constantly worked on improving it throughout the years. When I was young, I’d pick up books and think about how daunting it would be to put all those thoughts, ideas, and characters into countless pages. Back then it seemed impractical and somewhat unachievable, now, it’s what gets me up in the morning. My motivation and passion stems from the notion of being able to create something from nothing or to write something that isn’t out there in the world yet.
2) What inspired you to write The Town of Jasper?
The inspiration to write Jasper came from breaking down and evaluating other stories. I didn’t want to necessarily follow a blueprint of other novels so I asked myself, “how can I write a story that appeals to all types of observers?” So I started studying and checking out television shows that were working well at the time like “The Leftovers” and “True Detective”. The challenge was balancing the new with the traditional, meaning, how can I tell a story that competes with a night of someone’s favorite show and pay enough tribute to the traditional reader’s market? Since I wrote it on spec, one of the benefits was not being confined to telling the story in a specific way. So I broke the story down and ensured that I was touching upon elements and themes that people flock to while also making sure I was creating something authentic and my own.
3) What was the process like creating protagonists Jack Sutherland and Richard Morrissey?
When you have two dominant male figures like them in a story, you have to make sure there is a conflict or relationship of some kind between them. Initially, their arcs were completely different and the story just didn’t work the way I had it. I spent a long time deconstructing their arcs and transformations and the challenge was making it compelling enough where the reader would be hooked and actually care about their journeys. I took a step back and tried analyzing the effectiveness of the story from a different spectrum. I wanted the foundation of the story to be driven by irony, so that is when I decided to have their arcs occur in parallel, though not necessarily in the same location. The story shifts between the two of them with the unwritten opening always being “Meanwhile, Richard is doing this or “Meanwhile, Sutherland is doing that”.
4) What theme or message do you hope readers will get from your novel?
There are countless themes in the book both significant and diminutive. Self worth and community are at the forefront, with elements of love, trust, truthfulness, politics, disabilities, etc. I welcome readers to scrutinize over some of the themes or nod/shake their head in recognition of some of the ones that are more implicit.
5) Which do you find more fulfilling when writing: creating plot or creating characters.
I think it all depends on what kind of story I want to tell. With Jasper, I had this idea of a town and a unique atrocity. It isn’t necessarily “post-apocalyptic” it’s more “present-apocalyptic” and before I wrote characters, I needed to nail down and drive home on the environment, the scenario, and the landscapes of the town. Once I had the appealing and unique setting, I began to write characters that would be suited or unsuited for such an incident.
6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?
I knew throughout the process of writing it that I wanted the experience for the reader to be visual. Going back to my approach to writing a novel tailored to the status quo of exploring stories, I wanted readers to visualize it in addition to reading it. Instagram has been an incredible tool that has allowed me to reach a wide array of readers and people interested in following the story and characters. I have and continue to release teaser images of events or characters within the book along with dialogue. The reception has been very positive thus far.
7) What’s one piece of advice you would give to aspiring authors?
Do not embark on writing a novel unless you truly want to write it. Don’t write a story just for the sake of writing a story. The process can take years, so make sure you are completely certain you want to explore your story and characters.
8) What are you future plans after the release of The Town of Jasper? Any other novels or stories in the works?
I have written a few short stories that I will start to send out to journals. One of them is going to be showcased on “The Short Story Machine” podcast from Paul Alves. I feel like I have scratched my short story itch for now. I have been toying with some concepts and directions for another installment to Jasper, however, I am also very much open to writing an entirely new story.
Interview by Author, Blogger Susan Weinstein
Q. What inspired you to write Jasper?
A. Before I put pen to paper, I did a lot of reading. I also watched a lot of TV to see what worked well. I looked at Steven King, Perotta, Bonansinga, Scott Gimple [The Walking Dead], and Nic Pizzolatto [True Detective] and others. There were plots and themes that were very strong and stood out to me. We are in a “golden age” of TV.
Q. Jasper brought to mind Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, Village of the Damned, whose work have you found useful?
A. Funny, I just read The Lottery. I do listen to a lot of Indie Rock music. The lyrics to songs are useful to me.
Q. How in Jasper does the tangible merge with the extraordinary?
A. Jasper is very real. The characters are not too far-fetched. There are no supernatural elements. Villains are real. If something happens, it really occurs. The “Incident” is extraordinary but not outside the realm of possibility.
Q. What genre would you consider this novel: horror/suspense/thriller or its own category?
A. Mystery with thriller and horror elements in it. But it’s a mystery/thriller at its core.
Q. What is “the incident” that occurs in Jasper?
A. There is a strange illness. It’s unimaginable. A third of the town goes into hibernation. It’s only in Jasper, no other place. The victims are dead and then come back to life. And this occurs at different times.
Q. What part does friendship play for the detective, Sutherland?
A. Friendship for Sutherland is a big value. He knows so much about his partner but really nothing at all. Besides his partner, he has nothing. He’s estranged from his wife and daughter. After the Incident, he has nothing to occupy him but Jasper’s unsolved mystery.
Q. Why does the government refuse the town basic supplies?
A. At first, they were given food and medical supplies. After two years, it was seen as a kind of fool’s errand. They didn’t believe the people would wake up. The government was first cutting them off. Then they would bomb the town. Aid was seen as a waste of money and resources. So they took a kind of slow burn approach to it.
Q. You have an amazing group of opponents for the suffering towns people. Tell us about the Fillmore Whites and The Redeemers, not to mention huge feral wolves.
A. The wolf showed that though Morrissey is a good guy, he can be bad when he needs to be. The Fillmore Whites are natives of Jasper, they live off the grid. The Redeemers are people in the town, within the walls, who see nothing getting better. They go crazy and adopt vigilante beliefs. They are destructive, kill people, but they cover their faces in ash to remain anonymous. They claim to be working with God, whose will they believe they serve.
Q. Did you intend Jasper as a kind of religious fable?
A. It’s a fateful town with fateful people. They are in a desperate situation, where they need people of faith.
Q. What other stories do you have in the works?
A. I would like to do a sequel. And I am working on some short stories. I am also exploring the idea of another novel.