Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Jason Halstead author of more then 41 books. Jason Halstead works by day as a Systems Architect and a small business owner, as well as a devoted husband and father, published author, competitive powerlifter, and life-long student.
Hi Jason, thank you for agreeing to this interview.
- Tell me a little about yourself and your background? What were you like at school? Were you good at English? What are your ambitions for your writing career? Which writers inspire you? Or something that you feel you need to share?
My life as a child was spent in a rural setting without the benefit of satellite or cable TV. It was horrible at the time, but I was often advised to go play outside and that set the stage for everything. I could, and did, explore for miles around me. They were my adventures and they took me over streams, up trees, through fields, and every other place the combination of geography and imagination could conceive.
And yet I was always jealous of my friends that lived in town. They had cable TV and could watch just about anything. Lacking that, I turned to books. In hindsight, I got a better deal. That was how I was introduced to Terry Brooks, Piers Anthony, J.R.R. Tolkien, R.E. Howard, and other writers. When I finished reading my first epic novel (The Sword of Shannara) I distinctly remember thinking, “I want to do this! I want to write.” I was 9 years old and filled with the motivation and ignorance of youth. But the drive never left me even when I began to learn how the climb up that hill would feel Sisyphean at times.
- What was your life like before becoming an author?
My love of writing turned to computers. Creating worlds and characters is one thing, but lacking the means of doing that and paying bills, I created programs and databases instead. I went into the IT field as a jack of all trades and shot up the ladder to become an IT Manager in the automotive industry. Unfortunately, the automotive industry underwent some epic upheavals with a recession and I became quite skilled at shutting facilities down and moving on to find another place to put my growing skills to good use.
About the same time I met a wonderful woman, got married, and had children. She also inspired me to go back to school and finish my degrees (associates, bachelors, and masters). Somewhere along the way we decided to get healthy and for the first time since I left the US Air Force behind I got in shape and ended up taking that to the extreme – I became a competitive powerlifter.
The same year I set two records in powerlifting I had my first novel accepted by a publisher. While moving extremely heavy weights around I felt like I was a character in the stories in my head. I had the raw power to make things happen. I identified with being big and strong. And when I tore my pectoral muscle off my arm it could have ruined me emotionally. Succeeding at finally being published softened the blow and helped me figure out a way to work through it.
I also had to move across country shortly after that happened. That left me developing my own physical therapy routine and, within six months of my accident I had recovered well enough to push myself back to within 75% of the weights I had once lifted. Writing and persevering taught me to overcome adversity and never accept defeat.
- When did you decide to become a writer?
I don’t think anyone decides to become a writer. It just sort of happens because that’s who we are. We write. If we get lucky, we meet the right people and ask the right questions to figure out how to get out there. Other people have been a lot luckier than I have been, but on the flip side of the coin my books do well enough that I’m a lot luckier than the majority of writers. It helps that I’m relentless and refuse to accept luck as an excuse – or rather I believe through hard work and dedication we create our own luck.
- Which comes first? The character’s story or the idea for the novel?
Yes! Long answer: It’s almost never the same process. Sometimes I get a character stuck in my head and they demand I do something with them. If I can, I’ll put them in a story or setting I already have. If I can’t, I make up something new for them. At other times I have a concept and I go from there, but my stories are always about people first. The environment comes later to enhance the story and characters on display.
- Why do you write? What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
I write because I have to. There isn’t any other option.
As for others, just keep writing. Work on that first and stick to it. Write every day, a little or a lot. And don’t be afraid to ask questions – it’s the only way to learn. I could on and on about finding a professional editor and making sure the cover art is top notch, but I guess I already did. Simple concepts – but absolutely necessary.
- So, what have you written?
Wow. I’ve written and published 41 books, with 33 of them being full length novels and the other 8 are novellas. I’m working on #42 and expect to finish it in a week or so. My specialties include science fiction and fantasy, but I’ve dabbled outside of those genres a bit too. Urban fantasy, fiction, romance, espionage, mystery, and even some a couple of naughty books. I like to push the limits.
Some highlights include the several series of books I’ve written:
- Dark Earth – Urban fantasy / paranormal
- The Lost Girls – Sci-fi / Urban fantasy
- Wanted – Sci-fi
- Vitalis – Sci-fi
- Blades of Leander – Fantasy
- Order of the Dragon – Fantasy
- Voidhawk – Fantasy
- Homeland – Espionage / Erotica
- Where people can buy or see them?
My books are available on Amazon, worldwide, as ebooks. They are also listed on Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Smashwords, Sony, and other retailers. In many cases print books are also available on Amazon or through Createspace. Finally, more and more of them are being produced as audiobooks, available to audible.com, acx.com, and Amazon.com.
- Give me an insight into your main character from your last novel /first novel/. What does he/she do that is so special?
My last finished novel doesn’t have a single main character, it has several that are equally important. It’s a science fiction / horror novel called Vitalis: Genesis. As for what they all that makes them so special is they all live, breath, and feel. They are human and they all have their separate wants and needs. One man wants to get away from the job he’s stuck in because he’s bored and miserable. Another woman aches to finish her contract so she can rejoin her husband and they can start planning their family. Others are driven to perform their research and leave their mark in the annals of human history. Ultimately, every last one of them is reduced to wanting one thing above all others – to survive.
- What sparked the idea for your book/s?
Inspiration comes in amazing places. Sometimes it’s a picture. Sometimes it’s a song. At other times I’ll read something someone else had written and I’ll be struck with a different storyline and feel the need to write it. Movies have given me ideas and my children have given me ideas. The world is my muse and I am not the least bit ashamed to wring every last drop of creativity out of it.
- Are there any character traits in your book that are based on someone you know? /*Even if the whole character isn’t based on them?/
I never create protagonists after real people. With that said, I have had a few minor villains that bear a passing resemblance (in my mind, if not in text) to people I’ve dealt with and had a strong desire to choke.
- Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?
I don’t read as voraciously as I used to, but I still read as much as I can. My more traditional favorite authors are Dean Koontz, Terry Goodkind, Raymond Feist, R.A. Heinlein, R.E. Howard, and probably a lot of others I can’t remember off the top of my head. Currently I find myself reaching for unknown writers more and sifting through a lot of crap to find the true gems. Then I reach out to those little guys and try to find out what’s going on with them and offer them a little help.
Case in point, I found one young man recently that so impressed me we ended up talking and talking for days via email. Finally I decided we needed to work together. Thus we’ve been creating a new urban fantasy series that I’ve yet to unveil, but it’s a co-written project that has him admittedly learning epic amounts. In return I’m treated to the mentoring role, which I really enjoy, and I’m getting to witness a story being born with my guiding hand and influence but little more than that (and editing, of course).
- Where is your favorite place to read and write?
Wherever I am. I have an iPad with a keyboard attachment and I have a laptop I use for writing. I have my office at home and I have my stories easily available to grab and continue if I’m away from home. About the only time I can’t write is when I’m sitting in a tree stand waiting for a deer to wander by let me take it home for dinner.
After several years of doing this, and spending thousands of dollars on marketing, the best marketing I’ve found is writing more books. I’m sure there are some surefire ways to make magic happen, but I’ve been doing pretty well where I’m at and, when I have the time and resources available, I try out new marketing tactics. Ultimately though the magic is writing more books.
- Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?
Sure, write another one. Every book reaches a different audience. If a reader likes it, they’ll look for something else you’ve written. If they can’t find anything what are the odds they’re going to remember your name in three – twelve months when you’re next book hits the shelves? You’re odds are much better if you’ve got something else for them to choose from.
- What do you do to get book reviews?
I used to beg and plead. Now I ask nicely if someone sends me some personal feedback. Otherwise I do nothing. Reviews are important, but rather than stressing myself out trying to eek out a few more it’s better to focus on writing the next book.
- What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a published writer?
Write your ass off and make sure you find people who don’t know you and don’t care about you that will read it and tell you what they think. Then, after you’ve crawled back out from the under the rock you retreated to, look at the book and force yourself to understand why they said what they said. Then try to fix it and repeat the process (with different random strangers). Only by embracing the barbed whip of critiquing can you ever hope to get better.
- Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
Sure. Eat healthy, get some exercise, and don’t be afraid to breathe a little fresh air every now and then.
- How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Jason-Halstead/e/B0049AXHP2/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1382923092&sr=8-2-ent
It was a great privilege for me to get to interview Jason Halstead, who has inspired me in many different ways. Thank you Jason!!! Good Luck with everything!