Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Interview with Jason D Morrow

It's time for another author interview!  Today I'm pleased to bring to you Jason D. Morrow, author of several fantasy and paranormal novels.  He's a voracious writer and has released the Marenon Chronicles, the Starborn Uprising and Starborn Ascension in the last couple of years.  Join me in welcoming him to the blog.

DAB:   Was there a point in your life that prompted your desire to write or have you always wanted to be an author?

JDM:    I have always wanted to be an author. Ever since I can remember I was always trying to create stories with my imagination. It started with drawing, though I was never any good. I was about five or six years old when I came up with the character named Zack. I would steal my dad’s computer paper (the kind with the perforated edges. Remember those?), and draw out these stories. This square-headed individual and his pet ant went on many adventures together, and my parents were more than happy to encourage my creativity. I look back and am deeply moved at how nice they were about it. I’m sure it got annoying with “another adventure with Zack and Anty!”

Once I was old enough to really delve into novels, I would get lost in them. I loved how an author could just suck me into a world I had never seen before. I decided as a kid that I would try to do just that someday. Finally, I’ve done it, and so far I am pleased with the results. As of right now I’ve got seven books on the market and am currently writing my eighth.

DAB:   Do you ever have difficulty writing from the point-of-view of a member of the opposite sex?

JDM:    Actually, four out of the seven books I have out are from the perspective of female characters. I have to say, before I decided to go on this journey to try and write from the female perspective, I was more than a little nervous. I have read so many reviews of other authors who have tried to do it. Some seem successful while others seemed to have struggled.

My wife, Emily, did a lot to calm my nerves. When I was writing Out Of Darkness, I was constantly asking her what she thought about certain phrases and feelings. She helped coach me through it in the first book. On into the second and third, I feel like a got a really good grasp on the character and realized that that was what it is really about. Being a male and writing from the female perspective really has nothing to do with gender. It has everything to do with knowing your character. The question is “What would so-and-so do in this situation?” rather than “What would a female do in this situation?”

DAB:   How long did it take for you to craft this novel?

JDM:    The Deliverer two about two years from its first concept all the way to final published book. That includes sitting in class during college and dreaming about the world of Marenon and the characters that should be in it. Once I was confident in the story and decided to get it all down on paper, it took me about six to eight months to write it, get it edited, and finally publish it. And I am more than happy with the result.

Right now, that seems like a very long time. And it is. Typically I can come up with a concept and finish a novel in about a month’s time. From concept to publishing, it’s more like two months before it is done. But while it’s off to my editor, I’m already working on a different project, or working on the sequel.

The Deliverer took me about eight months. It’s sequel, The Gatekeeper, took me about four months, and the third installment, The Reckoning, took me about two months. I always say, once the first book is written, the next two (or however many sequels) are much easier to finish.

DAB:   Tell us the moment you received your first real fan correspondence.

JDM:    One of my favorite aspects of being a writer is receiving emails from fans. I read every single one of them. One of the first emails (not sure if it was the first) was from a retired teacher who just loved The Marenon Chronicles. It warmed my heart to read the things that she liked the most. When I received that email, I knew that I was on the right path.

Another email I received was from a woman who was sick and had to spend most of her days in bed for her recovery. She told me that she loved the characters in The Starborn Saga and how they had to face such adversity. It made her feel like she could do it too.

Anytime I get an email of encouragement like this one, I am inspired to write more:
“I am a avid reader and l love your books. I am truly conveyed into your new worlds. What a wonderful talent you have. Your main characters charm and amaze, not an easy task when I have read So many books. Fantasy at it's best. More please.”

DAB:   Tell us a typical day in your writing world.

JDM:    I have a plan called: A Million Words Per Year. It’s a plan that pushes me to write 2,000 words per day. Now, I know to some of you, 2,000 words doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you take 2,000 words and multiply it by 365 days, then you’ve got 730,000 words. Now, that’s not quite a million, but I’m leaving room for the fact that I know I won’t simply stop once I reach 2,000 words. Many times when I hit 2,000, I keep going and going. It’s not unheard of for me to hit 8,000 words in a day (that’s stretching it, however).

So, I get up in the morning, have coffee and breakfast with my wife, then it’s time to write. I usually read over everything that I wrote the day before, just to get everything fresh in my mind. My stopping point usually depends on how I’m feeling once I reach 2,000 words. If I’m in the zone, I keep writing. If it’s a struggle to get to 2,000 words then I know that I’ve reached a stopping point for the day and the rest can be tackled the next day.

Interrupt all that with a lunch, taking our collie (Winnie the Pooch) out for walks, it makes for a pretty full day.

DAB:   Do you write full-time? If so, tell us about the journey to full-time.

JDM:    Yes, I write full-time, but it hasn’t always been that way. My wife and I have always had adventurous spirits. When we graduated college, we were both working at a small newspaper in Georgia. The job was fine, but we felt that we were rapidly falling into a life of the same old nine-to-five (really eight-to-five). We wanted to do something different. So, we moved to South Korea to teach English.

I was already working on The Deliverer and living in South Korea really gave me more time to work on the novel. About halfway through the year, I finished it and started working on the second one. The Deliverer didn’t do much at first. It was a very slow process, but I didn’t expect it to be a best-seller right off the bat. I spent the next four months working on The Gatekeeper and finally, I released it. The next month, I went from making about $20 to about $1,000. I was shocked, but I quickly started working on The Reckoning. The results were pleasing.

We started a second contract in Korea and stayed another year. Inspired by the sales of The Marenon Chronicles, I started on a new set of books called The Starborn Uprising. It had a different tone altogether and was something completely different for me. It was less fantasy and more dystopian/paranormal, and the main character was a female. This series took off and people loved it. Along with it came enough money that when we got back to the United States, we eventually decided that it would be best for me to take on writing full-time so I can build up the writing career.

And I must give credit to my wife, Emily, here because I could not have done The Starborn Uprising without her. She gave me inspiration, helped me with writing from a female perspective, and ultimately, the concept of the story was hers as well. She was a great help that might have changed our lives forever.

DAB:   Have you ever experienced writer’s block?

JDM:    Ah, the dreaded writer’s block. I think every writer experiences it at some point or another. I remember a few months ago, I got cocky and toted how I never got writers block because I have so many ideas in my head, all I have to do is start writing.

It was about that time that I hit the wall. It was with the current series I am writing called The Starborn Ascension. I wrote the first book, Anywhere But Here, in about a month and was extremely pleased with the result. I still think it is my best book so far. Then it was on to book two. Now, I’m a planner, and I like to have my books outlined. When I start a series, I already know how it’s all going to come together and how everything is going to end. That’s the same case with The Starborn Ascension, but when I got to book two, some things had changed in book one that made book two have to be different.

I started to panic and I didn’t know what to do. The characters weren’t doing what I wanted them to do, and I was stuck. I still had the ending, but I was stuck. Then I started working with a new character, and I had to make a tough decision. In order for the story to work, something else was going to have to change. And I can’t really go into detail about it, because it might give something away, so all I can say is that when you come to writer’s block, make the tough decisions to cut a character, change a character, or change a storyline no matter how much it hurts. Eventually, everything will fall into place, just as it did for me. Now I’m more excited than every about the new book coming out, as well as book three.

DAB:   Have you ever written to music?

JDM:    Yes! I have a whole playlists in my iTunes library dedicated to my writing. The playlists are characterized by emotions. So one list might be sad, while another is titled, hopeful, intense, or action. For the Starborn books, Hans Zimmer from the newest Batman films really hits the spot, and I’m not sure why. For the Marenon books, it was everything from Armageddon, to The Island, to Lord of the Rings.

But truly, most of the time I like complete silence. But when I need a kick in the pants, some good music will always jumpstart my creativity.

DAB:   There’s the eternal debate whether to outline or not. What is your preference?

JDM:    I don’t know how to write without outlining. For me, it’s a balance, though. I think every writer should outline, but allow the story to bend as it unfolds. If a great idea strikes, don’t throw it out because it doesn’t fit to your outline. Explore it and see where it can take you. You will find out quickly enough if it works or not.

I find that if I don’t outline, I’m all over the place and there is more of a danger of leaving things out or putting yourself into a tough situation that you otherwise could have avoided.

DAB:   How to do you handle negative feedback about your novels?

JDM:    Bad reviews are tough, especially for a beginner. And don’t fool yourself into thinking that you won’t get a negative reviews. Every person is different and someone will hate your book. It doesn’t matter if you’re the best things since Dickens, someone will hate you and your book. But that’s okay. You have to have a tough skin.

I’m still at a point where I do read the reviews online. I want to know what people are thinking about the books. I’m eager to know what people liked and didn’t like. But I’m finding more and more that reading reviews just becomes a distraction that should be avoided. It is discouraging to read from someone that thought your work was “drivel” but there are so many more readers that loved the book, so I’m okay with it.

DAB:   What are some things you’ve done to get the word out about your novels?

JDM:    On my website I have a contact form where readers can sign up to be notified once I’ve released a new book. The email list has grown since its inception, and that is always a nice boost when I release something. I simply send out an email letting them know that a new book is out, and my sales boost almost immediately. But if you’re an author and you have this feature, be sure not to abuse it. I only ever send out an email when something important is happening or I have a new book out. (PS - something important happening is not a new blog post!)

I also like to contact book bloggers about my new releases. It’s like sending a letter to a potential agent or publisher. You have to let the book blogger know why they will want to try your novel out. There are plenty of rejections, but for every three or four rejections, there is someone who is interested in reading the book. 

DAB:   Do you have any writing pointers for the authors in our audience?

JDM:    First, write. Write, write and write some more. It doesn’t matter how uninspired you feel, you must write today. If the creativity isn’t flowing for you, it doesn’t matter…write! It is far too easy not to write. But you can’t fall into that trap.

As for selling your written work? Invest in a good cover artist. I work with Melchelle Designs and she sells you artwork at a great price.

More important than that? Invest in an editor. It’s fine to read over it yourself, in fact if you don’t you’re doing it all wrong. I read my books about three or four times before they get to print, but I still use editors. If you aren’t investing in an editor, you’re doing it wrong!

DAB:   Okay, final plug for your novel.

JDM:    I like to write fast-paced novels. The Deliverer is set in a fantasy world unlike any other. I hope you
are interested in reading it. Maybe the description will interest you:

First they chase him through the mountains for days. Then they murder his grandfather. And just as seventeen-year-old Silas Ainsley is about to escape his nameless enemies, he is killed.

This is where it should end, but Silas' journey is far from over.

He wakes up and finds himself in a realm called Marenon; a place where humans are not the superior race, where magic is a way of life, and war is threatening to destroy it all.

Forced to make his way through the afterlife alone, Silas joins with a band of lawless mercenaries who claim they can help Silas find his murdered grandfather in exchange for his help on one of their more dangerous missions.

Along the way, Silas discovers he is part of an ancient prophecy declaring that he is the only one who can deliver Marenon from the enemies that wish to extinguish its people - the same enemies that killed Silas and his grandfather.

Thanks again, Jason, for taking time away from writing to participate in this interview.  For more about Jason and his novels, click the links below.

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