Jason J. Nugent was kind enough to agree to be interviewed for my blog. He just self-published a book of his short stories, and he has plenty of other writing projects in the works. He maintains a steady blogging schedule, regularly (and successfully) participates in National Novel Writing Month, and finds time to support other writers through social media.
I first met Jason through Twitter, where he’s actively encouraged my fledgling adventures as an author. With the release of his short story collection, (Almost) Average Anthology, I naturally had some questions for him about his first foray into self-publishing, his writing process, and how he got started.
Where did you grow up, and how has it influenced your writing?
I was born and raised in Cleveland, OH. I was a skater punk that did things my way. I got in trouble like any other kid, but overall I was pretty good. I do think growing up where I did had a tremendous effect on my writing. The city and the experiences I had there permeate everything I do all these years later.
At what age did you start writing?
In high school I wrote sappy teenage-angst poetry, but it wasn’t until college that I tried creative writing. I wrote a piece in freshman English that didn’t suck too bad and I kinda got the idea maybe I could write. I ended up majoring in History which wasn’t a terrible choice for a would-be writer.
When was the moment that you decided to start submitting your work for publication?
About two years ago, after I’d had a couple novels under my belt, I gave flash fiction a try. Not long after writing a few stories I started submitting them.
Flash fiction is a regular feature on your blog. What are some of the challenges you find writing fiction of this short length? What do you like about it?
Crafting a coherent story that entertains and satisfies in a limited space is tough. Finding the right balance of exposition and conflict to engage the reader is a huge challenge. When it’s right, it can be an amazing story. I enjoy the challenge, and it helps me when writing longer works like novels because I can adapt the faster pace.
What is your writing process like? Is it important for you to stick to a routine, or does your writing schedule vary?
My writing schedule is fairly haphazard at the moment. I’m up early most days, and I tend to be at my best then but I also write in the evenings. I could use more structure though.
Your book takes its name from your blog. Why would you recommend blogging for other writers who are starting out?
Blogging has been a tremendous benefit for me as a writer. It forced me to always write. I made a commitment at the start to post at least three times a month. I made it public knowledge and I feel I have to live up to that promise. But that’s just the sort of structure I need to force myself to keep going.
What do you think are some of the most important elements of good fiction and why?
Conflict is essential in fiction. It can be physical, mental, or something else. But when you have a protagonist with a desire and it’s kept from them, that conflict can turn out a tremendous story. The reader must be able to connect to the story in some way as well. Without that, they lose interest and close the book.
You write in the horror, fantasy and science fiction genres. What are your favorite things about writing each?
I enjoy exploring topics that surprise and challenge the reader. I’m not so much interested in the shock factor as I am in the ability to make the reader question something. Horror keeps you hooked through fright. Science fiction tends to explore the “what if’s” in life and fantasy often deals with great “good –vs- evil” narratives that I love.
You’ve finished novels for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), which challenges participants to complete the first draft of a novel during the month of November. What were the reasons for your success?
I failed my first two attempts because I didn’t plan ahead. I had a story idea and got to about 20,000 words when I lost interest because I didn’t have direction. Then one year I learned from my mistakes and did some light research and created a fluid outline. That was enough to keep me on track and finish. I’ve won four years in a row.
How has NaNoWriMo helped you?
It forces me to focus and churn out a novel when I’d otherwise not do so. It keeps me engaged in the craft. It helps me to continue this pursuit.
Why did you decide to self-publish your short story collection rather than take the traditional publishing route?
I wanted to try and self-publish something. So many writers self-publish these days that I wanted to try my hand at it. But I didn’t want it to be full of errors and have a generic cover. I cannot stand self-published works that are not at their very best. It continues to feed the misconception that self-published writers are no good. I decided I’d try with my stories going through the process and learning what it was all about. I figured the stories were easier to work with than a novel, so I chose to go with them. It’s turned out to be a great decision.
What are some of the challenges of self-publishing that you’ve faced? Do you have any tips to share with those considering self-publishing?
Make sure your work is the best representation of you as possible. You have to edit and revise and do it again and again. If you have the money, have it done professionally. And of course getting people to take a chance on someone they’ve never heard of is a huge challenge. Still working on that one!
What project or projects are you currently pursuing?
I’m currently revising one of my novels preparing it for submission to agents. I’m also planning on releasing a novel later this year on my own. And I’m on staff at S.U.M. magazine (uniqueonlinemag.wix.com/1sum) writing stories and articles. Of course I still write regularly on my blog.
Do you have any advice for people who are thinking about writing and submitting their work?
Get out there and do it. What’s the worst thing that can happen? They tell you “no thanks”? That’s ok, keep trying. Someone out there will appreciate your work, and it will be a perfect fit somewhere else. Don’t stop learning and continue sending out your work, learning from your mistakes.
Who are some authors who’ve influenced you and how?
Stephen King has been a big influence on me. His approach to the story and ability to convey the story in an approachable way has always intrigued me. Same with John Scalzi. His books are so engaging. Luke Smitherd’s works are amazing. I enjoy the tension he creates.
What are some of your other interests in addition to writing?
I play Airsoft with my son and our friends. I also run on occasion and can play a mean game of bocce ball.
Where can people buy your book?
Where can they follow you on social media?
You can find me at several places, but Twitter is where I’m most active.
Please check out Jason’s book at your first opportunity, and follow his exploits via the social media above, where he kindly supports other authors and creative types.