Hello again, everyone. I know I haven’t posted much, but there’s a great reason… I’m busy writing. 🙂
In the meantime, I wanted to introduce you all to someone I met through several writer’s groups. Jake has critiqued a couple pieces of mine, and I have read some of his in return. He’s quirky and funny with an interesting sense on reality. I thought it might be interesting to do an interview, so you can get to know him, too.
Good morning. Thanks for taking a moment to talk with us.
What was your first book to be published, and what did you learn from that process?
Bert the Barbarian was my first published book. It was a labor of love, and it’s a book I’m quite proud of. It’s a blend of science fiction and fantasy; like Heinlein’s Glory Road, it’s a sword and sorcery fantasy story at heart, but dressed in the trappings of science fiction. It also explores the nature of strength, and how we choose what kind of person we are.
The book, however, sold very, very poorly. It’s a little too quirky to market.
How did that change the process of writing for you?
Bert the Barbarian changed my writing in two ways. First, writing it let me get a lot of stuff out of my system. It was the book I really wanted to write, and I wrote it. I got it off my chest, which left me feeling free to try new directions in my writing.
The other way that my writing changed was that I thought more about the market. When I decided I was ready to try new directions, I looked at what kinds of things I wanted to write, but I also looked at what was selling. Writing from the heart is all well and good, but if you rounded up every person who’s ever read Bert the Barbarian, you could fit them all into an elevator. I knew I wanted to write books that sold. Books that would have readers.
I also got over the novelty of seeing my name on the cover of a book, and embraced pen names. Pen names allow me to brand myself as an author, and they let me feel more comfortable taking chances with my writing. For instance, I write military science fiction under the pen name Jake Elwood.
At what point did you realize that language had the ability to paint pictures in other people’s minds, and how did that change your perspective?
Ever since I was a little kid I marvelled at the power that writers have. My personality was influenced and shaped in part by people I’d never met. In many cases, people who died before I was born. But I read their books, I immersed myself in the worlds they created, I was entertained and comforted and enlightened and taught by these wizards of the printed page. Writers have been my heroes for as long as I can remember. I’ve always been impressed by their ability to paint pictures and create people and entire worlds with nothing but words.
How do you see yourself in your characters?
That’s a good question, and one without a simple answer. Many of my characters reflect parts of my personality. Sometimes I take a trait and magnify it to see what that looks like. My latest protagonist, Tom Thrush, has anger issues. I have some of those, but in Tom it’s magnified enough to be dramatically interesting. I feel rage, more than I would like. Tom gives in to his rage and gets himself into serious trouble. I use him to explore the nature and consequences of an aspect of my personality, if it were to get out of hand.
My books often explore ethical issues, and my characters tend to arrive at the decision I would make for myself. I try to write characters who aren’t exactly like me, but at a fundamental level they tend to share my deepest values.
So, which character is most like “the real you”?
Bert, the title character of Bert the Barbarian, was my idealized self. At least he was by the end of the book. He started out as the person I feared I was, an ineffective and weak man living far below his potential. By the end he’s the person I aspired to be, a strong, courageous, effective, heroic figure.
You are here today and want to talk about your book, Rumors of War. Give us the quick ten-second pitch. What is the overall plot, and what makes this book so interesting to you?
A young man with anger issues joins the Navy as a way to avoid prison. He’s a junior officer on a frigate when interstellar war breaks out. A sneak attack kills half the crew and every officer above him in the command structure, leaving a scared, inexperienced kid in command as everything falls apart.
I’m fascinated by leadership and by the choices people make during times of crisis. This story particularly speaks to me because it takes all the uncertainty of being young and inexperienced and in over your head and ruthlessly magnifies it via the outbreak of war. We get to watch Lieutenant Thrush stumble and flounder and ultimately rise to the situation – just in time to grapple with an impossible moral conundrum.
I always love to end on a lighter note. Something off the wall. If money were no object, where would you choose to do your writing?
That’s another good question, and a dozen wild answers come to mind. Ultimately, though, I like the city I live in – Calgary, if anyone’s interested. I could see myself in a nicer house, with a huge back yard full of bird feeders, and me in a sunny office with a view of the birds, and maybe the Rocky Mountains in the distance.
If you would like to know more about Jake, or see his works, check out the links below!
Rumors of War is exclusive to Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BLLNKSH/
Cover Image by Renee Johnson -- https://www.flickr.com/photos/varresa/