Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Author Q&A: Jason McIntyre

I'm so delighted to welcome suspense/thriller writer extraordinaire Jason McIntyre to the blog today. McIntyre’s books include the #1 Kindle suspense The Night Walk Men, bestsellers On The Gathering Storm and Shed, and the multi-layered coming-of-age literary suspense Thalo Blue. His new novella, Bled, returns us to Dovetail Cove (the island featured in Shed) and picks up the saga with a waitress named Tina ("Teeny") who dreams of a better life but instead gets caught up in a tale of horror and deception. I've been following Jason on twitter for quite a while now- it's amazing to "watch" him work - balancing writing, fatherhood, and the (extremely successful) marketing of his self-published books. Jason, a hearty and long overdue welcome to Books, Personally!

"Bled" opens with our heroine, Teeny, a waitress, working in a diner and dreaming of a different life. I did my requisite college summer waitressing, and thought you did a great job of capturing life as waitress (right down to the creepy old guy regulars). Then of course, in true Jason McIntyre style, the ordinary takes a turn for the terrifying. What do you think it is about scary stories that we readers love so much? Who/what were your favorite authors/books growing up, and when did you realize that you wanted to write thrillers?

I think by our nature, human beings are explorers. Hundreds of thousands of years ago we needed to go into the dark cave to see if there might be meat in there: an injured animal we could take down with ease. All this time later, we don't have to confront danger on a daily basis for our survival, but I think it still appeals to us on an almost cellular level, engrained from our heritage. And if we can explore the thrills of the dark cave vicariously, say, doing it from the safety of our living room couch and reading about someone else going into the scary, dark spot to try something, it's a much easier way to get that high.

My favorite authors growing up were popular fiction writers like John Saul and Stephen King. Dean Koontz was in there too. His book, The Bad Place, formed a lot of what I feel a dark, creepy thriller should be.

I actually started writing stories at about thirteen years old. The kernel for my novel THALO BLUE came to me after a fender bender with a particularly psychotic stranger when I was in the back seat of my mom's car at the age of fourteen. It stewed in my mind for many years until I finally wrote it down. It had changed a lot by the time I wrote it, but I can still see that original kernel when I read it today.

"Bled" has a number of different meanings in the story- it is not only the loss of actual, physical blood, but also the corrupt use and draining of a community's resources and people, and deception and violence's drain on the human psyche. Which meaning of bled was your first inspiration for the story, and how did the others emerge?

I hope this doesn't come off as a cop out when I say that I generally come up with things like that in an explosion: all at once. I started Bled without a title or a clear direction. I had this image burned into my mind, one of a waitress pouring coffee for an older man who was leering at her with a particular brand of creepiness. I just started writing, thinking it might be a short story. When I got about ten thousand words in, I literally woke up one night understanding how Teeny's story fit into the Dovetail Cove world, what Teeny's relationship was with Frank Moort and the rest of the island, how it played against my novella, Shed, and what the title would be. I knew how it would work with the various aspects of the larger story and the whole series. Wham! It hurt, but I ran to the computer to make notes at four in the morning.

I've had a lot come to me clearly like that in the middle of the night, or just as I'm drifting to sleep or drifting awake. The wee hours have proven to be a potent time for me.

Teeny's experience turns terribly brutal. In spite of how upsetting one particularly violent scene was, it was both suspenseful and, it seemed to me, very carefully written. How difficult is it for you to write about violence (and in this case, violence against women) emotionally as well as technically? What kinds of issues and choices did you confront as you wrote it?

I wrote that in one long stretch, opting not to drink or eat or sleep or leave the computer. It flowed from me (with the exception of some grammar and typo corrections later) pretty much exactly as it reads in the final book. I don't know about careful but I would definitely say it is a deliberate kind of writing. The sloppiness in the style is intended to mirror what's actually happening in the scene and I believe it works well. Preview readers hated and loved it at the same time so I feel like I accomplished something with it.

Readers who have read my first long novel On The Gathering Storm will know that I've tread this territory before. I was scared witless the first time and felt I needed to confront that subject matter in order to grow as a writer (and, really, as a person, a man even) -- precisely because it was so daunting. This time I was more ready for it, but the challenge was just as personally gruesome. I care for my characters (Ha! Maybe that's where the word 'character' comes from!) so I find it really hard to put them through hellish experiences. But at the same time, I need to. If I don't, then I won't get up and over the highest fence either.

I don't want to give anything away, but "Bled"'s ending surprised me. Did you know where it was going when you started writing, or did you have a few possible endings in mind? How often do the endings of your stories surprise you?

The endings almost always surprise me! If they don't then they won't surprise the reader, either. Some stories intentionally have no stunner at the end. That's okay too. Bled kept me guessing the whole way because Teeny is a dreamer and she day-dreams a half dozen different scenarios about how it might play out. Without giving anything away myself, I'll just say I was on board with her and didn't know which way it would all go. I was excited and so happy with the final act and I hope readers are too.

I would be completely remiss if I didn't mention -and congratulate you - on having an astounding 100,000 downloads of your work! What do you think has been most key to your success as a self-published author? What would your best advice be to other self-publishing authors?

Aw, thank you, Jennifer! It has been an exciting time indeed. To have anyone read my work is astounding. To have this many reading and enjoying puts me over the moon with joy.

I can't necessarily pinpoint any one key behaviour that has helped me. I can say that I pay careful attention to individual readers, and have given a lot of free books to those who are keenly interested in reading something of mine. I won't get rich as an indie writer but instead love to tell stories and interact with as many people as possible. I believe this comes across as genuine and many readers pick up on this.

Over this last weekend, my email account at The Farthest Reaches blew up because of an overwhelming rush of hourly email. I get about 200-250 emails a day now, many of which are from readers who have questions or want to discuss a theme in my stories. Yes, I like to entertain with a good suspenseful yarn, but I also want to explore issues in my writing too. My hope has always been to write stories you'll want to read a second time -- especially in this world of one-book writers you may read and then forget about when you're on to the next one.

I try to spread myself as thick as I can across broad marketing efforts and getting one-on-one with as many readers as I can manage. I believe there's something very personal about the kinds of stories I write so I try to mirror that with a personal approach to people who have been kind enough to give their time in reading my words.

I enjoyed reading Bled and recommend it as a taut, suspenseful read for fans of the genre. As discussed in the interview, Bled does contain mature content. Many thanks to the author for a complimentary advance review e-copy of his book. You can find Jason on twitter and learn more about him and his work at his blog, The Farthest Reaches.

Bled is available for purchase in ebook format on Amazon. You can also watch the trailer for Bled on YouTube.


  1. Great interview. I never really thought about long ago, ancestors having to go into the dark for survival and now today we don't go in the dark for survival. What a shift.

    I also think he looks a little like John Travolta. :-)

  2. In response to Lena - I think J looks a bit like Travolta too - on a good day. ;)

    Got my copy of BLED and can't wait to bite into it.


  3. Travolta in his 'Stayin' alive' days, right, ladies? Please say not his Pulp Fiction days, even though that was a mighty fine flick. ;)

    Thanks for stopping by! It was a fun interview alright with thoughtful questions by our heart-stoppingly generous host, Jennifer. Thank you, dear Jennifer -- I'm glad I was invited to drop by!

    j. //

  4. Lena, Eden...John Travolta... I could see it! Lena and Eden (and Jason of course) thanks so much for stopping by!

    Of course I am old enough to remember Vinny Barbarino :/...... Stayin' Alive, maybe.

  5. ( I really liked "Welcome Back, Kotter" --> But I saw it in reruns. )

  6. LOL, well, sadly, I figured as much ;D


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