10 Questions With Jason Gurley

Welcome Leighgendaries to the twenty ninth edition of 10 Questions With…

Today, our guest is:

JasonGurley_by_RodrigoMoyses_3
Photo © 2014 Rodrigo Moyses

Jason Gurley

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…

If you would like to learn more about Jason Gurley or his stories you can head over to his website.  Make sure you sign up for his newsletter while you are there.

You can also follow Gurley at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

*****

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.

41vW7CGLX2L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_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.

Collected by the editor of the award-winning Lightspeed magazine, the first, definitive anthology of climate fiction—a cutting-edge genre made popular by Margaret Atwood.

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.

If you enjoyed this interview you might also enjoy:
10 Questions With Andy Weir
10 Questions With Hugh Howey
10 Questions With Hank Garner

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69 thoughts on “10 Questions With Jason Gurley

  1. Great interview, Jason!

    The question for the giveaway is tough. I can think of several books that just seemed to be what I needed at certain points in my life. When I was around eight, my family had to move in the middle of a school year. I missed my homeroom teacher (who was awesome), my friends (who I’d known for almost half my life at that time), and basically the whole routine I had up until that point.

    We came home one day–I think it was from grocery shopping–and my homeroom teacher had left me a plastic bag filled with Beverly Cleary books on our front door. (It had been at least a 30-minute drive for her one-way.) Just the gesture made me happy, and the books gave me a connection with kids at the new school (who just happened to be reading them, too…as a kid, I thought it was coincidence rather than my teacher’s above-and-beyond research).

    I look back on that–the combination of the books and the kindness and caring that surrounded the situation–and I think that was the spark that made me an avid reader. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The book that has affected me most is Desperation by Stephen King. It was the first book I read (in middle school) that gave me an idea of what kind of stories I eventually wanted to write myself. My ideas have changed a bit over the years, but anyone who reads my current stories can probably see those early ideas shining through.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. One book that had a deep impact on my understanding of literature was 1984. I didn’t read it as a class assignment, I just happened to pull it off the shelf at the library without any idea it was a famous book. I’d never heard of it, actually.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a tough question since I have been an avid reader for most of my life, but my answer has to be a book published in 1943 – “We Were Free” by Constantin Joffe. This is a story about the part of his life when he was a prisoner in a German POW camp in WWII. I first read this book as a boy when I found a copy in my grandfather’s collection around 1950. I don’t know how many times I read it when I would visit my grandparents. After they passed away the books went to my uncle who was an Army officer.

    In 2010 tried to find a copy and was successful. Several used copies had been listed on Amazon as well as a review by the author’s son-in-law. I especially appreciated the review written by his son-in-law. I had always wondered what had happen to this man.

    For anyone with an interest in military history, especially WWII, this is well worth acquiring and reading. It brings to life what really happened in the POW camps during the war. When Mr Joffe writes about the man who received a white sweater in a care package and wears it to bed for warmth but the next morning the sweater was black from all of the lice. That one part I have never forgotten.

    I was especially happy that I was able to find a copy with the dust cover intact. It felt like I had just pulled it out of my grandfather’s collection once again.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I would like to say Lord of the Rings as that was the first book that I enjoyed reading, but in reality my life changed forever when I picked up The Eye of the World. Robert Jordan pulled me in from the beginning and I was doomed to a life of looking for my next book. Thankfully this is one addiction that isn’t nearly as unhealthy as most others.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The book that most affected me was Ulysess by James Joyce. Struggling through that in a master’s level class in college convinced me that if gibberish such as that was considered a masterpiece, I had chosen well by not taking a degree in literature.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve read so many books in my life, most for the pure unadulterated reason of escapism. When reading I find myself transported into the book and lose track of the real world. I can’t actually say that any one book has had a profound effect on my life since most of the books I read are paranormal/fantasy. I think the first book I read for pleasure (not for school) were Nancy Drew mysteries, although soon after that I was reading Agatha Christie books (I nabbed one of my Mum’s books she borrowed from the library – I was an advanced reader). I loved murder/mystery then and somewhere along the way it morphed in James Herbert, Stephen King and Clive Barker. I don’t look at the deeper message the book maybe trying to convey, since I’m following the story of the book in it’s world, not mine.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The fiction book that’s most affected me is a recent one, but just as pertinent. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman struck me, and struck me hard, and hasn’t ever let me go. I read it last year, took a few months breather from it, and felt it drawing me back again for another read. Then I read it to my wife at night as we prepared to sleep. It helped bring me to a place where I’ve actually become okay with things that go bump in the night. I’ve never been a terribly frightened person, but I have always felt there was a rational explanation for those bumps, and I don’t believe they are entirely natural or logical. What’s funny is that the more I read of the Bible, I’ve become okay with the IDEA of things that go bump in the night as well. It’s interesting how well fantasy and truth sometimes overlap without contradiction. And that’s what a good piece of fiction is supposed to do: bridge the gap between what’s true and what’s not, all the while teaching you something about yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You really must. Even if you’re an average reader, it can be done in a day. I feel, when all is said and done, Gaiman will be remembered most for it.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Tough question, but I’ll say Wool by Hugh Howey. Not only did that begin my journey into reading the rest of his work, which is among my favorite sci-fi, but it also started a friendship that has helped my writing career beyond any other. That and itts one of the greatest books I’ve read.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Lots of options but I’m going to go with Cabal by Clive Barker, for two reasons.

    Firstly, its idea that “monsters” might not actually be the bad guys really stuck with me. It’s partly because I tend to root for the underdogs and the anti-heroes and Cabal has an entire book full of them, but I was pretty solitary as a kid and the idea of a sanctuary filled with the weird and the strange really appealed to me.

    The second reason is that Cabal (along with a Barbara Hambly book called Immortal Blood) got me back into reading and reading horror in particular. It was also the book that prompted me to start thinking about the authors behind the books. Up until that point, I just read books in a vacuum, not really thinking that there was a living, breathing human being creating them. And that was what started me writing my own stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Great interview! Thanks!

    As for my choice of book, well, I’m going to cheat and say Stephen King’s Dark Tower series (all of them). Those books…! The very first SK book I read was The Eyes of the Dragon, I was like 8 years old and I loved it. Imagine my excitement when I found these characters again in the Dark Tower!

    Anyway, I’m pretty obsessed (I’m presently designing a DT inspired tattoo, because, yeah). I’ve read the series several times (at least 8 or so. I’m a sick individual) Each time I re-read them I feel insanely guilty; there are so many books I need to read, but I keep returning to this one.

    Why do I love it so much? I think it all started with the freaking awesomeness at the end of the first book, the stuff about the universe and a blade of purple grass… a-fucking-mazing.

    And, yes, SK totally sounds like a dude sitting in a rocking chair telling a story.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This is Where I Leave You (long before it was made into a movie) by Jonathan Tropper. For a book to make it to my favorites list, it’s typically a perfect storm of how I’m feeling at the time and the emotions that the book invokes while I’m reading it. I remember experiencing multiple emotions, often within the same chapter, on several occasions while reading this book. The relationships between family members and side characters feel authentic and it makes for an entertaining stand alone read without the need for a prequel/sequel. The older I get, the more I prefer books that don’t buckle under the pressure of requiring a typical “happy” ending. I don’t want the characters to be miserable by any means, but not EVERYTHING has to be right in the world for a character to be happy, or content.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I think The Catch Trap by Marian Zimmer Bradley (yes I know she has come under the crosshairs)… But that doesn’t diminish the book or what it meant to me at the time I read it. It gave me the knowledge understanding of what it’s like growing up gay… I know that probably just sounds silly, but the compassion and empathy I felt means a lot. It also meant a lot to the friends I shared it with!!! Oh and let me say that I now can relate to the flying trapeze act too!!! LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  14. “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott was my first venture into classic literature. I couldn’t put it down! I was in fourth grade and was paddled by the teacher when she caught me reading it behind my math book. Crying over (spoiler alert) Beth’s death scene is what gave me away. I was so amazed that I could laugh and cry over the same book; and I certainly aspired to be Jo when I grew up!

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  15. I know this sounds very cliche, but does the Bible count? Because that’s my honest answer. But in case that doesn’t count, The Rescue by Nicholas Sparks. I think there’s a handful of books that have definitely affected me, but reading this book and watching the main character work with her autistic son to teach him to speak really got to me. It’s what got me thinking about being a special ed teacher, which is what I’m in school for now. And to know it is based on how the author worked with his son is extraordinary to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Oh my! That’s a difficult question. Hmm, I don’t think there’s one book. I think all the books I’ve read as a collective have affected me. Just like the different experiences we have in our lives, all the books I’ve read have contributed to shaping me. They have made me understand different perspectives on various situations in life, taught me the wonders of love, the complexities of human thought and rationale, the power of one’s will and the driving force behind it, the joys of daily life, and many more. Each book is it’s own magical world and, when they are read, one that is lived alongside the characters, creating memories and experiences that stay with you beyond the end of the book.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I wish I didn’t have to say the Twilght series, but I do. It didn’t make the biggest impact to me, however it made me enjoy reading again. I had not read books in probably 15 yrs. I picked up Twilight 6-7 yrs ago and it made be enjoy reading again. I eventually moved on to bigger and better reads that I enjoy today.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Hmmmmmm….been thinking of this one for a little while now. There are a lot of books I could say, but I’ll go with The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov. Foundation is one of my favorites, but Caves of Steel cemented Asimov’s place in my heart with a detective story set in a futuristic world with robots.
    (although, I’ve been listening to the audiobook recently and it is definitely a 1950’s version of the future — definitely dated in many regards, but still quite good.)

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Great interview.

    A book that has significantly affected my life is probably “Exodus” by Leon Uris. It was probably the first book I ever read that I can honestly say I loved reading, which is particularly noteworthy because I read it almost 20 years ago at a time in my life I was not an avid reader.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. DUNE, by Frank Herbert. I first read it when I was a midshipman at the Naval Academy and being blown away by the world-building and the trials of Paul. There was a lot going on in my life at that time and I felt a kinship with Paul Atreides.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I remember reading a history book during my middle school years called “The Monitor & The Merrimack” about the battle of the Ironclads during the Civil War. It really sparked a love of American history that continues to this day. I read that book so many times!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I would have to say the book that has affected me most in life would be Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. It truly makes you think how the smallest interactions with someone can leave a huge impact on their life. It helped me be more aware about how I interact with others and to try to be kind to everyone because you never know what they are going through in life you never know what might push them past the point of no return.

    Liked by 1 person

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