Members of the Tellest team have recently had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the work of newcome author J.D. Clason, as he’s been working to spread word about his debut sci-fi, Salvation, an interesting look into the genre on a more personal level that still blends a nice balance of action and suspenseful thrills. Having the chance to talk to the author was even more exciting, though, as it was possible to find out more about the inception of the idea, Clason’s process, and what might come next. Read on to learn more!
Tellest: Hi JD! I appreciate you sparing some of your time as you work toward the full release of your first book, the wonderful sci-fi, Salvation, coming out this December. It’s always a steady bit of work moving toward that next milestone, and it does seem to absorb a lot of time, so you have my thanks for sharing a bit of what you have left with me and the new readers who are bound to meet you and learn about you. I’m very excited to introduce you to more people!
J.D. Clason: It’s my pleasure, thank you! The process is busy, but fun. I’m really enjoying the experience and the people I’m meeting along the way.
T: As a first question in these interviews, I often like to get into the mindset of how a writer ended up taking the first steps in their journey. Often, that starts by becoming a fan as well. When was the moment that you realized you wanted to write, and who or what was it that inspired you to take the first steps? Did you have a favorite author or a family member who pushed you in the right direction?
JDC: I’m not sure I could say there was any one moment or author that made me think I wanted to be a writer. I do remember in elementary school we created these booklets with a story we made up that anyone in the class could then pick up and read. There was something about doing that which really struck the right chord and stayed with me as I grew older. As I began reading more complex stories, specifically science fiction, my imagination grew, and I realized I wasn’t content just reading. I had stories in my head that didn’t exist yet, and I wanted to tell them.
T: You’re a bit of an adventurer by nature. When it comes to exploring new places, near and far, how does that kind of experience help to shape a story that you’re telling?
JDC: I think there is a lot to be gained by exploring the world you live in. Not only for the cultural experiences, but just learning how to put one foot in front of the other and to keep moving when conditions aren’t ideal. The more real-world experience you have with people, places, challenges, the richer and more believable your writing becomes.
T: Have you ever integrated a real-life experience into any of the stories you’ve been building in your literary worlds? Were there any far-off adventures that took you to places that you wanted to recapture in words?
JDC: I’ve always tried to avoid putting too much of myself into my stories. I’m not as interesting as some of these characters are so I would hate to ruin them by interjecting myself into them. I began writing my current project, The life of fish, when I was in a very dark point in following the death of my brother and friend. It was a way to get out some of the personal frustration and emotions I was dealing with at the time. While it isn’t biographical, the settings, emotions, and interactions the main character have in the story are very recognizable to me.
T: I’m very sorry to hear about your losses. I hope you don’t mind me asking, but during that time, when you were hurting, did you find that writing became a refuge of sorts? Or was it a struggle to get into the writing mindset again amidst any of the emotional turmoil you might have been experiencing?
JDC: During this period, it felt like I was venting rather than writing a book. I was angry and frustrated and had no one I was comfortable telling just how bad I felt. That was a terrible mindset to have, but thankfully writing about these things did become a kind of refuge. What surprised me was how much the story just poured out, like it had been bottled under pressure. I doubt I will put that much of myself into a story again, but sometimes you need find that release.
T: We know that Salvation is the story that you’ve been working on, but what’s the story behind it? What was the calling that told you that you had to write it, and how did it transform from a small idea into this wonderful debut?
JDC: Salvation came from a very different place than most of my ideas come from. It began as a critique of theocracies and totalitarian regimes in general. While the final product has evolved into something much different, the heart of the idea is still there. I have always been fascinated with religions and their origins. I wondered how a biblical story might be play out in a modern or dystopian setting. How would the people in power, the media, respond to a movement? How would someone barely making a living, or a consumer driven society respond? The intent was not to make any statements about our society, just to present an interesting setting and then readers can decide how they interpret it.
T: We’re currently living in a time where the interpretation of religion has the capability to go off in many varying directions. Considering it has the potential to be a tough subject, and one that people are very loud to talk about in some cases, were you ever worried about how your take on it would be received?
JDC: I’m glad you asked, because I was very aware of how the story of a religious leader could be taken. I knew my intent first and foremost was to tell an interesting story about the characters. People may read it and feel I’m attacking, or defending certain beliefs, but I think that is unavoidable. When you create complex characters who have beliefs and misbeliefs like we all do, you have to choose what those are. I accept some people will be critical of the general subject no matter how you present it. The point is, I don’t want to tell people what to think, I want them to decide for themselves.
T: Outside of your prose-based literature, you also dabble in poetry. What would you say are some benefits of playing with both styles, and what are some challenges that you face in jumping between them?
JDC: I love poetry. For me, poetry is the peak of the literary mountain when it comes to making words beautiful. Certain stories may or may not interest you, but an author who is a master with words is always a good read. I never considered myself a poet, but wanted to use it as an exercise to force myself to think more about my style, and how I was conveying an idea creatively. Learning to write in a box that poetry sometimes puts you in was a challenge, but in the end, I felt more confident in my ability to write and express myself.
T: I sort of have begun to conceptualize a writer learning how to better represent themselves through poetry as a football player taking ballet lessons to gain better control and understanding of their bodies. Have you found that creating poetry, and learning how to develop a flow and cadence has strengthened your prose as well?
JDC: That is exactly how I looked at it. Story and themes are important, but if you can express those ideas in a way that appeals to the readers sensibilities, and you will add that much more value to your work. I think it has improved my prose, or at least, made me think of better ways I can say something.
T: One thing that you’re particularly prepared for is a long journey. You’ve trained your body when it comes to things like half-marathons and triathlons. Would you say that writing a book is like the same sort of exercise for your mind? Could you see the finish line well before you reached, and knew through perseverance that you would reach it?
JDC: Absolutely, writing a book and running a half marathon is all about self-discipline. Anyone can run a race or write a book, it’s just one step or one word in front of the other. But, if you want to do something great, and add value to your time or your readers time, you really need to learn the right way to do it. You can’t cut corners. You need the mental perseverance to follow and keep to your plan even when you feel like you are falling apart, because you will have those struggles. When you finally cross the finish line and know you did it right, there is no better feeling in the world.
T: You’re not content to let Salvation be your only claim to fame. You’re also working on other material. What can you tell us about it, and how does it differ from your first book?
JDC: My next book, The Life of Fish, is completely different than Salvation. I wanted to take a break from sci-fi and try my hand at literary fiction and do something very character driven. I thought it was going to be easy, but as it turns out, writing a story about a single person and their how they are dealing with their life is way more challenging and personal than expected. It was at times, emotionally exhausting. I love the way it’s turned out and I think people will relate with the main character’s struggles, but I’ll for sure be returning to Sci-fi.
T: It’s not unlikely to integrate parts of oneself into a story, but absolutely a more personal journey asks a storyteller to open up to some foundational truths and struggles in their life that they hadn’t expected. Especially with a story that can’t lean on an ensemble as much, a character can seem to be holding up a mirror to the person weaving the tale. In your case, as much as you knew about yourself, did you learn new things as well? Was it also a sort of way of self-therapizing, or a cathartic experience?
JDC: I don’t think you can create anything without revealing something about yourself. Even with Salvation, a story that is so far from who I am, there is a little of who I am unintentionally sprinkled throughout. It’s therapeutic in that you can sort out how you feel about particular ideas. I was never a fan of religion. However, after researching the history, people, and places, I gained a respect for the influence it has had and even in some of the ideas they espouse. I wouldn’t have found that had I not chosen to go into that world and explore it.
T: Are there any other layers of yourself that you believe you’ll be trying to pull back in whatever projects come next? Or are you more interesting now in discovering more about the world—though I suppose we’re always learning more about ourselves whether we try to or not.
JDC: With the one exception mentioned before, I prefer not to intentionally put too much of myself into the story. I find it more interesting to explore the unknowns that life. I think that’s why I like science fiction or going on adventures because it is an escape from having to think about real things. If I do reveal a little bit about my inner workings in the process, that’s okay too, I’m sure it doesn’t hurt.
T: Reaching “The End” is a huge accomplishment, and it’s one that not many people ever get a chance to realize. There is a gamut of emotions that are possible as you reach that line. A feeling of success is certainly one of them, and it’s well-deserved. Everyone’s experience is different though. Some people see that end on the horizon and push harder than ever, while others may have a difficult time seeing the journey (or that part of it) draw to a close. What would you say your experience was?
JDC: I work fulltime, sometimes 7 days a week. I have a family. I really took every free moment I had to work on it. Sometimes, I would go to bed and my mind would be completely frazzled from having to thinking about every single word I was typing. Some nights I would write five pages. Other nights I would write a paragraph. It was an amazing feeling, watching this idea in my head turn into something tangible. You can’t really put into words how it feels to finally finish something that you’ve been thinking about for over a decade. Even if no one else reads it, I still feel that sense of accomplishment that can never be taken away.
T: And with that first book completed, how did that lead to a change in mindset, if any? Do you now sort of understand that, while not many people take on such a challenge, it’s really not so insurmountable once you have the expectations in place? Are the next books and stories you work on going to flow a bit easier, perhaps?
JDC: I learned a lot. I learned not to stress so much about the first draft, because first drafts are always going to be terrible. Now, whenever I sit down to write, I have that peace of mind that anything can be fixed. I think what intimidates a lot of people is they think you have to be some sort of genius and write out a masterpiece in a couple of weeks. In reality, it’s just an interesting idea, and a lot of repetitive work. Oh, and an editor. They are the real heroes.
T: A big part of putting your material out into the world is releasing a bit of truth about yourself as well. What’s something that not many people know about that you feel comfortable sharing with readers?
JDC: That’s a tough question. I think in any art you will have a lot of the creator coming through in their work, especially things that they normally wouldn’t feel comfortable talking openly about. If there is one thing people might be surprised to know about me is how uncomfortable I am marketing my own work. I am an introvert and painfully shy at times so intentionally making myself the center of attention is a challenge. That’s not even including imposter syndrome. However, marketing is so important to the success of a book, and I don’t want to see mine sitting on a store shelf collecting dust because I was too afraid to get out there and give it the attention it deserves. So far, it hasn’t been as bad as I convinced myself it would be, and I’m learning to enjoy the experience.
T: For other writers who might be scared to jump in, whether it’s for fear of getting started with writing, or the very real challenge of not knowing how to market, or where to go from there, what words of encouragement would you give them?
JDC: I would say to them don’t be intimidated. Yes, it is hard, and you will need to put in a ton of work just to learn the craft. You will have to leave your comfort zone to let people read and critique something you have put your heart and soul into. Even after all that, there is no promise you will be a successful. But, the one thing worse than all that is not doing it at all. That story will always be there, nudging you to tell it and you will regret keeping it to yourself.
T: And then on the opposite side of things, what’s one thing you would warn would-be storytellers to watch out for when it comes to a writing journey they might want to begin?
JDC: Two things. Stay away from vanity publishers. Anyone who offers to publish you for a price is not your friend. You can do it yourself for the prices they ask, and have control every step of the way. Having said that, don’t shortcut the process. You want to offer readers the best value possible and skipping revisions and editing will hurt the quality of your work to the point you were better off not publishing. Be patient, and your readers will appreciate you for that.
T: If someone wanted to know more J.D. Clason, where would they go? And what sort of things would you tell readers who are anxious to pick up your first book as they wait for the release date?
JDC: If you want to know more, my website is JDClason.com There you will find links to my books, poetry, and videos of some of my adventures I have uploaded to YouTube. Or you can just find me on Twitter or Facebook and start a conversation.
T: JD, thank you so much for spending the time with me and your readers. It was great getting a chance to learn more about the stories you’re working on, and to better understand your process. I’m very hopeful that you have a great experience releasing both of your books, and that a good amount of fans get to participate in that journey with you!
JDC: Thank you so much for talking to me. I hope the readers enjoy it as much as I enjoyed creating it, and we can all keep on this awesome journey!
I want to thank J.D. Clason once more for taking us behind the scenes of his process, showing us a bit of his debut story before it was released, and telling us about what is yet to come. It’s always great to talk to new talent, and Clason has the perseverance, determination, and storytelling potential to be at this for a very long time, and it is wonderful seeing his journey at its onset. If you’re interested in a great sci-fi story that will delight you, check out Salvation by JD Clason on Amazon today!
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