Friday, February 5, 2016

Interview with Thomas Jast

I'm honored and delighted to have been given the opportunity to interview Thomas Jast, author of Empathetic, Mixed Messages and his latest, Calculated Regrets.

I asked Thomas to tell readers a bit about himself and here is what he had to say:
I am a Canadian author, 34, that writes with the grace of a hammer and the force of a paintbrush. Just kidding! I’m still 33 as of today.
Could you give readers a blurb for your latest book?
Calculated Regrets: A brilliant but bored woman named Alex Aberdeen runs into a unique blackmailing situation at work. Invigorated by this power, she starts on a collision course to manipulate and exploit everyone in her life, not realizing she’s her own worst enemy. Hilarity ensues. The tagline is, “There’s a fine line between social and sociopath.”
What genre are your books?
More of a writing style than set genres so far. Women’s fiction, comedic drama and now branching out into psychological thrillers.
What draws you to this genre?
Women’s fiction is something I started with and will always return to. I love writing about strong women. My books, of all genres, feature mostly women doing wonderful and terrible things in equal measure.
Have you ever considered writing stories for other genres?
I have. I wrote a crime drama and a fantasy novel, both with mixed results. I don’t think those genres play to my strengths.
When did you first discover your passion for writing?
I started writing as a means to learn English as a second language. The praise I received (for such basic things, honestly!) inspired me to continuously improve and evolve. I used my childhood imagination to create tangible things, not just be in the moment at the playground.
How long have you been writing?
Age 6. Started writing “books” at age 13. My published work was all started in my mid-to-late 20s.
What inspires your stories?
Write what you know! I used to call my genre “meta-fiction” because I would just take real-life events and gently fictionalize them. Needless to say, I’ve used up a lot of the material and now have to make stuff up! I’m just inspired to add a sense of personality and make a story uniquely mine, simply the style of writing and not necessarily the story arc.
You must lead a very interesting life :)
Do you have a special routine or ritual when you sit down to write?
Big monitor. Big workstation. Mechanical keyboard. Music. Tea. When I write, I probably look like an engineer more than an artist.
What is the best part about being a writer?
The ability to express basic ideas in a way that resonates with people. I’m using the same keys and language as everyone else, and yet I can say something in a way that can affect someone’s entire mood.
What is the worst part about being a writer?
Failure to live up to expectations. Sometimes I have more ambition than skill and it shows. People will have no problem telling you every time you’ve done a lousy job!
Do you ever feel self-conscious when writing love or sex scenes? Why or Why not?
Depends on the book and tone, but no, I’m not shy. “Cassandra’s End” will be the first book with a serious sex scene in it. Being a dark and disturbing book, the sex scenes had to match. Had to find the right balance between being descriptive and leaving something to the imagination. A single sentence can turn tension into smut.
Absolutely! I'm so afraid of crossing that line that I shy away from love scenes altogether.
If you write in the realm of fantasy, do you ever worry about how believable your scenes will be to your readers?
My fantasy book didn’t really work for me. It was too “realistic” and I actually felt self-conscious about any parts that were fantasy. By the end I wished I had used the story line for something else. When my most imaginative creature was a horse, I knew the genre wasn’t for me.
Do you write for yourself or to what you believe your readers want?
I no longer write for myself. That’s how I started, eventually realizing that it was too personal, too niche to be marketable. Based on feedback from my work, it continues to become more mainstream as time goes on. I’m fine with that because my unique writing style isn’t being lost, it’s just the scope of the plot and genre that’s being changed.
That is a good way of looking at it. Writing for the reader doesn't have to mean losing your style.
What do you do to get book reviews?
I definitely make a point to interact with my readers. Getting reviews is difficult when you’re starting out, since a very small percentage of readers bother with them. Sometimes you just have to ask, especially if they’ve shown enthusiasm for the work.
How successful has your quest for reviews been so far?
I’m happy with the results so far. The fact that most of the reviews bring up the same high points is a good sign that it’s coming across as intended.
How do you deal with negative reviews?
Luckily, the majority of people that don’t like a book don’t finish it and don’t leave reviews! My lowest reviews still seem to have some enthusiasm shown. Small blessings. Not everyone’s going to love your work, especially if it affects them somehow. Anything negative I hear is taken to heart and considered for future projects. Feedback is feedback!
Do you have a marketing strategy when announcing your books?
I launched all three current books at the same time this past summer, since they had been ready for years. Getting the word out in a crowded market is incredibly tough, especially with no track record or reviews. My first intention was to get the book into the hands of bloggers and enthusiastic social media figures. A slow start but it’s really picked up over time.
Was there any technique in particular that had the best or most immediate impact on your sales? If so, would you care to share it?
Unless you have a major marketing budget, the best way to get attention is simply word of mouth.  Have a good product, let the right people see it and watch as they talk about it. Seeing people talk about your work without you present is a humbling and nerve-wracking experience. This is a slow and steady process. Nothing’s been immediate.
Do you find promoting your books challenging or enjoyable?
It’s very challenging in a crowded market. A lot of people have been burned by sloppy or downright bad indie books. I might recommend checking out samples of my work and seeing if it’s something they’d like to buy. At that point, they know if it’s good or not. It will be the book and not my word that makes them fork over their hard-earned money.
Yes, it can be difficult to stand out in a sea of books.
Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in the future?
Difficult to gauge any mistakes made because the most common reaction to poor marketing is being ignored. I hope there haven’t been many. If anything, it’s more about the regret of missed opportunities from a mistake made.
What do you think of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing?
Traditional publishing is geared towards mass-market, easy-to-describe writing. It’s a business. It’s a huge investment and it’s a risk. The barrier to entry is high and will always be high. Self-publishing eliminates a lot of that, but at the same time, it also carries the risk of having low standards and quality. It can be as amazing and terrible as it wants to be. It’s the Wild West out there.
Haha! Yes, self-published books can be a risk. But, I also believe there are several hidden gems waiting to be discovered.
Would you say there is a stigma to being self-published?
Definitely. You’re fighting against a lot of notions and bad experiences for a lot of readers. Luckily, with samples and honest reviews, if you ever get a chance to get someone’s attention, you have an opportunity to prove yourself. At the end of the day, good work will always stand out.
Do you have a favorite author?
Douglas Coupland, Roald Dahl, John Irving if I had to pick three.
What are some of your favorite books and why?
The Gum Thief” is the very book that got me writing seriously as an adult. It’s a book about miserable people working at Staples, and yet, the writing style is so profound and energetic that it floored me. It was the first time I was taken aback by style over substance. It made me question the writing talent of anyone else I had been reading.

Growing up, my favourite chidren’s book was “Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.” A shockingly good book that immediately got me interested in psychology and the human condition. Hell of an accomplishment for a book about talking rodents!
I LOVED the movie The Secret of NIMH based on that children's book!
What are you currently working on?
A thriller/murder mystery called “Cassandra’s End.”
Do you identify with any of the characters in your book(s)? Why?
This one’s a little out of my usual element. There are some personality traits I share with the Cassandra character, in terms of her interactions with strangers, but that’s about it.
If your book was made into a movie, who would you cast to play the characters?
If Calculated Regrets became a movie, I’ve always envisioned Sarah Polley playing Alex Aberdeen. There’s a certain dark calmness and poise to her that would be perfect. I wouldn’t want anyone famous for the rest of the characters to detract from the presence of Alex, however. An indie work deserves an indie movie to keep the feel right.
Oh, yes, I can see a bit of a vixen in Sarah Polley.
Would you like to give readers a bit of a teaser for your latest work?
Just the tagline for Cassandra’s End!
Every small town has its secrets. This particular secret, however, had a small town.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Don’t rush. Write more varied works. Every new project you start, you’re better than you were before. Don’t get hung up in getting your first passion project just right—you’re not likely to do it justice. Years from now, write it from scratch. You’ll be amazed how much you’ve improved. If you want to be an author, take it seriously. Being an author isn’t unleashing a Word document out into the wild. Work your ass off, get feedback, get better, repeat.
That is great advice!
Is there anything you would like to add?
Thanks for having me! I appreciate the questions and loved answering them. I love interacting with my readers so don’t be shy!
It was my pleasure! Thank you for taking the time to do this interview and allow readers to get to know you. Where can readers go to learn more about you and your work?

Amazon Author Page:

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