Jason Baird, Author Highlight

It’s been a few weeks; but I think this one is well worth the wait.  I hope you enjoy Jason’s thought-provoking interview as much as I did.

  1. What genres do you enjoy writing?

I write fantasy novels and short stories.  I haven’t attempted to branch out into other genres yet.  The thing I like most about fantasy is that there are very few limits on the writer’s creativity.  If I want to make a character out of a sentient blob of undead goo that understands English, I can do so.  (And I did!)

  1. Tell us about your latest book:

The Darkest Depths is the second novel in my ongoing Rufino Factor series.  My protagonist was betrayed and left for dead at the end of my first book, Leap of Faith, and now finds himself enslaved by the dark magic of an unstable necromancer.  At its core, this is a story of someone hitting rock bottom and then finding the courage to recover from it.

  1. What inspired the story? Where did you get that first bit of “ah ha” inspiration.”

The inspiration for this story came from when I hit rock bottom myself seven years ago.  I dramatized Rufino’s version somewhat, but what he feels is essentially what I felt.

  1. Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?

Rufino Endicott is a vampire who stands three feet tall.  When I first dreamt him up almost fifteen years ago, the initial idea was that it would be fun to have a vampire who couldn’t reach anyone’s neck in order to bite it, but over time he’s become much more to me than simply a gag reel.  His vampirism symbolizes more than one thing in my mind, from the battle against depression to the importance of judging a person for who (s)he is instead of what (s)he is.  By putting a very moral person into the body of an undead monster, I hope to challenge the reader to think beyond stereotypes and prejudices.

  1. Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

The title character, Rufino.  No offense to Kiralyn Frostwhisper, who is my other main character and who is virtually identical to me in terms of political alignment, but Rufino is just a ton of fun to write.  I go to sleep at night dreaming up new ways to get him into trouble.

  1. How about your least favorite character?  What makes them less appealing to you?

I can’t answer that question directly without giving away what’s going to happen later in the series, but I will say that I hate it when evil pretends to be good.  That is the kind of evil that scares me the most, which is why the arch-villain of this series fits that description.

  1. How much research did you have to do for this book? Any travel involved?

Since catacombs are featured heavily in The Darkest Depths, I did a lot of research about the Parisian catacombs for ideas about size, layout, and proper terminology.  Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to visit them in person.

  1. What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?

As its title suggests, The Darkest Depths is a very dark tale, but it wouldn’t be a Rufino story if it didn’t have a few laughs and ridiculous moments.  Injecting humour without taking away from the seriousness of the story was a very fine line to walk.

  1. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

That we’re capable of more than we give ourselves credit for.  When we hit rock-bottom, recovery feels impossible, but the only thing that can actually make it impossible is if we give up.

  1. Which writers inspire you?

E.B. White is the one author whose name always comes to mind first.  His stories were unconventional yet compelling, which is what I hope to achieve with my own.

John Grisham is another.  I enjoy books that explore the legal system and attempt to poke holes in it.  What is progress if not finding fault with the status quo?

  1. What does your writing process look like?

I typically write most of my new content in the afternoons and then edit in the evenings when I’m winding down for sleep.  At the end of each chapter, I’ll go through everything a few times in an effort to make some of the boring language more entertaining.

  1. Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)?

I’m a distractible guy, so when I have access to my internet and my games, I won’t get much done.  When I want to get a lot of writing done, I’ll get into my car and drive to a nice, quiet spot where there’s absolutely nothing I can do except write.  It’s weird, but it works for me.

  1. What are you working on at the minute?

I’m working on the third novel of The Rufino Factor, tentatively entitled Into The Fire.  It is complete, but it needs to be updated with what I’ve learned about storytelling and sentence structure over these past two years, and I expect the update to take a few months.

  1. How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?

For my two main characters, I went out of my way to select names that I hadn’t seen before.  A few of my supporting characters bear the names of people I know in real life; the rest of my character’s names are just randomly chosen.

  1. Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy?

Though I haven’t attempted it yet, I expect that writing a story from the perspective of the opposite sex will be a challenge.  I’m considering writing a short story from Kiralyn’s perspective just so I won’t be a total fish out of water when it comes time to write her novel.

  1. When did you decide to become a writer?

I was sitting in a homeless shelter in 2010 with nothing else to do but to express myself in the only way I knew how.  The snowball’s been rolling downhill ever since.

  1. Why do you write?

I write because it’s the only form of self-expression with which I’m completely comfortable and confident.  Friends and family sometimes tell me that when they read my stories, it’s like they’re meeting me for the first time.

  1. Where do your ideas come from?

Some are just highly dramatized versions of my own experiences.  Some are real-world issues that I want to address in my own way.  Others are simply whatever makes me laugh.

  1. Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

I’m very serious about outlines.  I’ve already done basic outlines for my next twelve novels, and I don’t expect them to change much as I reach them.

  1. What is the hardest thing about writing?

Editing.  Writing’s fun—even the narrative can be fun if you do it right.  Editing, however, is gonna make me blind by the time I’m fifty.  Is it a comma or a period with a bit of dirt on the screen?  Ugghh.

  1. What advice would you give to your younger self?

Stay in school.  Yeesh.  I’m a courier with a 140 IQ.  Drop out and end up like me.

  1. Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?

Alex Zanardi, a race car driver who lost his legs in a crash yet continues to race and compete.  I admire his unwillingness to quit no matter what.

  1. If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?

“A Time to Kill” by John Grisham.  I intend for my books to be thought-provoking, and that’s one of the most thought-provoking novels I can think of.

  1. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

No matter how hard you try, you’ll never make everyone happy.  Write for yourself.  Someone’s gonna like it.

  1. Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?

In that homeless shelter I mentioned earlier, I learned that everyone has a story and it’s not often what you think.  One was a former CEO who couldn’t handle the stress.  One was an ex-cop.  Several were ordinary guys who got laid off and couldn’t find a new job because they were too old.  Though I wouldn’t recommend the experience of living in a shelter, it did teach me not to be so judgmental of others. Most of the time, we don’t know half of what’s really going on.

  1. How can readers discover more about you and you work?

I’m active on Twitter @joshua_rem and I also have a sadly neglected website: www.joshuarem.com.  I really should update it with the new novel coming out.

  1. Tell the readers something about yourself that has nothing to do with writing.

I support a number of charities including the Canadian Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders.  For recreation, I go to the go-kart track or participate in online racing.  You’d never guess it from my black Prius, but I’ve always enjoyed speed.

  1. Do you have any tips for readers or advice for other writers trying to get published?

Rejection letters don’t mean your work sucks, they just mean your work isn’t a good fit with the publisher in question.  I was rejected about twenty times before I hit my first “yes”, and such tales are common amongst authors.  Never give up.

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