Welcome Leighgendaries to the twenty ninth edition of 10 Questions With…
Today, our guest is:
Jason Gurley is one of the very first indie authors I discovered. Once I discovered Gurley, I read everything by him that I could find. His stories really grab me and they are all so good. I hope you enjoy the interview, and don’t forget about the giveaway at the end of the interview.
It’s time for:
10 Questions With Jason Gurley
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a husband, father, author, and designer. I was born in Texas, raised in Alaska, spent many happy years in California, and now live in Oregon. By day I design software, and by evening and weekend I write books. I’m a not-half-bad first baseman, an average-to-less-than-average drummer, I think The Mosquito Coast is Harrison Ford’s most compelling performance, that Darryl Strawberry had the sweetest swing in baseball, and that Superman really isn’t Superman without the red undies.
1.) What is something that many people might not know about you?
I was a photogenic child: on two occasions I made the front page of the Anchorage Daily News in the early-to-mid 1980s. In one instance, I was photographed climbing around on some playground equipment in the newly-created Valley of the Moon park. I think it was a rocket-shaped jungle-gym-ish thing. The park was the story, not me; I just happened to be there when the photographer was. The second occasion was a parade of some sort. I was dressed as a red-suited devil, pitchfork and tail and horns and all, walking in a crowd of children dressed as angels, holding the hand of a little blonde angel. I remember the caption: Good and evil walk hand-in-hand. Not the most original thing in the world. I still don’t know why I was a devil and everyone else wasn’t.
2.) What inspired you to write your first book?
Every wonderful book I’d ever read, mostly. In the early ‘90s, my family relocated to Alaska (for the second time), and some of my high school course credits didn’t transfer. In the last semester of my senior year, it turned out I was a couple of elective credits short. Most of the classes were full, so I had a choice: consumer math (e.g. checkbook balancing and things of that nature) or creative writing. I’d already been writing short stories for years, so I chose the creative writing class. I remember the teacher, Mrs. Gruhn, asking the entire class to provide a writing sample so she could gauge our skills. I must have written something with promise, because she put me on a separate track from the other students. My only assignment: keep writing short stories. I can’t remember if I did or not, but I hope I didn’t lord that over the other students. As a relatively new transfer student, I’m guessing I kept it to myself.
In any case, the class taught me discipline and some new techniques, and after high school I decided it was time to write a novel. I was seventeen or eighteen, and I wrote an 80,000-word book in about three months’ time. I worked furiously on that thing, and really thought I had something special. I was a kid; I didn’t know any better. Looking back on the book now, it’s very derivative, and of course, mostly unreadable. I’m grateful that it was never published, and never came close, despite my determined efforts.
But if you mean the first book that was actually published, well, that would be The Man Who Ended the World, a self-published novel that I wrote in 2012. My wife showed me a contest that Amazon was sponsoring. I think it was called the Best Novel Award, or something. At that time I’d been working on a novel — Eleanor — for eleven or twelve years. The contest was interesting, and I decided to enter. I didn’t want to attempt to rush Eleanor to completion just to meet a contest deadline, though; that seemed like a disingenuous end for a novel that meant a lot to me. So I put that book aside, and decided to write something fun and fast that I’d enjoy reading myself. I loved books about the apocalypse, but was never interested in end-of-the-world stories that involved zombies or mutants or aliens or vampires or what-not. So I decided I’d write a story about the end of things, and The Man Who Ended the World is what came out of it. It’s far from my best work, but it’s fun, I think.
3.) Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
‘Favorite’ questions are always difficult to answer. I find myself amending or changing those mental ‘favorites’ lists quite often as I get older. I grew up on Stephen King, who I began reading when I was seven years old (there’s a story there, but it doesn’t really answer your question), and I devoured his work. Many times, new King novels would appear in September, around my birthday, which made me feel as if the books were written as gifts to me. I loved so many things about his stories. Children weren’t sacred in his stories, which was a revelation to me as a child graduating from The Hardy Boys to It. Kids in a Stephen King story were just as likely to be torn apart as adults were, and that was dangerous and exciting. Over the years, I think what I’ve come to admire most about his books is the easy nature of his voice, like someone rocking in a chair and telling a story from start to finish. It’s never hard work to open one of his books.
But there are so many other authors whose work I love and admire, too. This is such a difficult question.
4.) If you could have dinner with any author, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I’d be so intimidated by the authors I would choose! I suspect the last thing I’d actually talk to them about would be their work, though. Authors are asked that sort of thing all the time, it seems, and so rarely get to talk about their own interests as ordinary human beings.
Carl Sagan, maybe? Stephen King. Zadie Smith. Margaret Atwood. Madeleine L’Engle. Ray Bradbury? Kazuo Ishiguro. James McBride. Maybe just one big dinner party with all of them.
Although I’m far from a social animal, so once they were all around the table, I might just nervously slip away and take a nap.
5.) What book are you reading now?
I sometimes juggle a few books at a time. Right now, I have three that I’m reading: Mr. Mercedes, by Stephen King; Music for Wartime, by Rebecca Makkai; and The Invaders, by Karolina Waclawiak. And I dip in and out of Neil Gaiman’s Trigger Warning, lately, to read a story to my wife in the evenings. And I just finished reading Ernie Cline’s Armada, Olen Steinhauer’s All the Old Knives, and Erik Larson’s magnificent Dead Wake.
6.) Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
She’s hardly new, but Annie Bellet’s one of my favorite everyone-should-know-her authors. She’s writing a series right now, the Twenty-Sided Sorceress books, that have just been a huge hit. But I loved her trifecta of stories—“Goodnight Moon,” “Goodnight Stars,” and “Goodnight Earth”—from The Apocalypse Triptych, a three-volume anthology edited by John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey. Powerful stuff.
7.) If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in any of your books?
Oh, certainly. Who wouldn’t? Sometimes you look back at your work and you’re surprised: “I wrote that? Damn. That’s pretty good.” And sometimes you look back and just have to look away. It’s all part of the process, of a writer’s growth. But I don’t go back and change things, because I think that growth can be very interesting to see. Certainly anyone who reads Eleanor and then reads The Man Who Ended the World will see some vast differences in the work, and might even be able to point out specific things that I’ve learned how to do better. “Oh, look: his characters are a little stronger now.” “Hey, he figured out what plot is. It’s about time.”
8.) Can you share a little of your current work with us?
If you mean my current project, then not really. It’s still being developed. I can tell you that it’s tentatively called Limbs—though that’s likely to change—and that it’s similar in tone to Eleanor, meaning it’s a blend of the real world and people with real problems with a little dash of the fantastic—but I can’t share it. It’s far too early. I started this project in the summer of 2014, after completing Eleanor (for the first time), and intended to release it as a short story. But the idea grew pretty big, and then my agent and I sold Eleanor to a publisher, and suddenly there was still quite a bit to do with Eleanor, and Limbs had to be set aside for a little while. That was fortuitous, though, because it gave the idea time to breathe, and when I came back to it, I knew it was going to be something richer than I first thought. There’s a snippet of the original short story roots on my web site where I shared it as a teaser last summer, long before I knew it was destined to be a novel. It’s not reflective of the story’s current state, but it’s an interesting little excerpt of the rough, early idea.
9. If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
Immortality. I’m aware that it would come with all sorts of terrible, awful burdens, like watching loved ones age past me, and then die, or being the last living member of a dead species, wandering a dead planet, writing bad poetry or something. But I also have a deep curiosity about where we’re going as a species, and I’d like to see if we’re around in a thousand or ten thousand more years, and how we’ve changed. I want as much time as possible, basically. I don’t like the idea of not knowing what our story arc is.
10. If you could choose to stay a certain age forever, what age would it be?
This dovetails nicely with my previous answer, doesn’t it? I suppose I’d stop myself right here. I’m thirty-six, on the cusp of thirty-seven, and that feels like a decent age. I’m not already too terribly old and wizened, but I’m old enough that people tend to take me seriously. I’d hate to be a twenty-year-old immortal, wouldn’t you? Or a ten-year-old one?
Go ahead, pimp whatever book you want:
Well, Eleanor, naturally, will be out on January 12 of next year. It’s available for pre-order just about anywhere you buy your books. This was a novel nearly fifteen years in the making, which I self-published in 2014 and which was then acquired by Crown Publishing, a division of Random House. It will also be published by HarperCollins in the UK, Rocco in Brazil, and Heyne Verlag in Germany (and hopefully many other countries!). I’m very excited about this, as this novel means quite a bit to me. I hope many people will feel the same way.
GIVEAWAY: Jason Gurley is going to give away a signed ARC copy of Eleanor (which releases in January 2016) and a signed copy of The Dark Age (signed by both Squish and Gurley). All you need to do is answer the following question in the comments:
What book affected you the most in your life and why?
This giveaway is open to everyone. The giveaway will end on Wednesday morning, September 16, 2015 at 8:00 am (est). Good luck to everyone.
I would like to thank Jason Gurley for joining us for this episode of 10 Questions With…
Jason Gurley has a new story that is going to be released in an anthology called, Loosed upon the World: The Saga Anthology of Climate Fiction. His story is called Quiet Town. Quiet Town is about what happens when a small family in a waterfront town pretends they don’t see the end coming. Margaret Atwood, Paolo Bacigalupi, Kim Stanley Robinson, and Seanan McGuire are also included in this anthology. Make sure you head on over to Amazon and pick it up. While you are there you should also preorder Eleanor.
Eleanor and Esmerelda are identical twins with a secret language all their own, inseparable until a terrible accident claims Esme’s life. Eleanor’s family is left in tatters: her mother retreats inward, seeking comfort in bottles; her father reluctantly abandons ship. Eleanor is forced to grow up more quickly than a child should, and becomes the target of her mother’s growing rage.
Years pass, and Eleanor’s painful reality begins to unravel in strange ways. The first time it happens, she walks through a school doorway, and finds herself in a cornfield, beneath wide blue skies. When she stumbles back into her own world, time has flown by without her. Again and again, against her will, she falls out of her world and into other, stranger ones, leaving behind empty rooms and worried loved ones.
One fateful day, Eleanor leaps from a cliff and is torn from her world altogether. She meets a mysterious stranger, Mea, who reveals to Eleanor the weight of her family’s loss. To save her broken parents, and rescue herself, Eleanor must learn how deep the well of her mother’s grief and her father’s heartbreak truly goes. Esmerelda’s death was not the only tragic loss in her family’s fragmented history, and unless Eleanor can master her strange new abilities, it may not be the last.
Is it the end of the world as we know it? Climate Fiction, or Cli-Fi, is exploring the world we live in now—and in the very near future—as the effects of global warming become more evident. Join bestselling, award-winning writers like Margaret Atwood, Paolo Bacigalupi, Kim Stanley Robinson, Seanan McGuire, and many others at the brink of tomorrow. Loosed Upon the World is so believable, it’s frightening.