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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Author Interview: Jason Barret

The Long and the Short of It is pleased to welcome Jason Barret whose debut novel Dead or a Lie was released last month. He's currently working on a prequel entitled Dead or a Lie—Saint's Sword. The sword is introduced in Dead or a Lie and is a part of Jason's website banner.

In Saint's Sword, Jason takes us back to the 14th century where another hero and heroine, along with their band of ragged warriors, go in search of the sword, which has mystical powers and can destroy a vampire with the slightest scratch.

"I am really excited about the story because this diverse group of characters gives me a lot of room to create sub-plots and a certain amount of mystery," Jason told me.

He admitted that coming up with titles is one of the hardest things for him to do.

"Usually the titles come from the core idea of the book and may change as I get further into the book but for Dead or A Lie I had help. Once while reading a passage that contained the words 'dead or a lie' during a critique session my good friend, fellow author, and critique partner, ALee Drake, she blurted out, 'That’s your title,' and she was right. Everyone loves the title."

The plot always comes first to Jason. It's as he begins to develop the plot that he begins to understand his characters and how they react in different situations.

"By the time I finish a short version of the plot I have a good idea of how I want to portray each character. Then I develop each character’s goals, motivations, and conflicts so each character will react in the way I need them to while keeping them character. I also develop a bio for each main character including age, family history and physical attributes. The family history plays into the goals and motivation. For example: the heroine’s father deserted her and her mother so consequently she doesn’t trust men," he explained. "When this is completed I then write a full outline of the book which will be anywhere from 80 to 125 pages. Then I write the book, most of the time tweaking the outline because the characters sometimes take unexpected turns."

Jason still has to make a living in the real world, so what he does when he's not writing and what he would like to do are two different things.

"As a construction inspector I have the opportunity to meet new people and be involved in many different types of projects. For the most part I actually enjoy what I am doing and I’ve included a page on my website dedicated to the hard working guys I’ve had the pleasure to work with," he said.

His wife, Janice, bought him a 1972 MGB sports car for their anniversary one year and restoring it is what he likes to do for entertainment.

"I think she was sick of me always saying, 'I think I’ll get another MG,'" he admitted. "When we were dating I had a 1959 MGA which I got running. Notice there’s a difference between 'got it running' and 'restored'. It was in rough shape but we got around in it and had a great time doing so. I taught her how to drive a standard shift in it and I let her drive until she pulled the shifter out of the transmission. I thought we were dead! I guess when I was 'getting it running' I kind of forgot to tighten the bolt holding it in place."

He and Janice also like to kayak in areas that are far away from the civilized world and upstate New York, where they live, has many such places. They will quietly paddle around in search of photo opportunities of nature in all its glory.

"Well, Janice is the photographer and she just calls me Scout while in the kayak," he confessed.

In addition, he loves spending time with his family and make sure they all get together on a regular basis, even if it means a four hour drive to do it. He also plays golf, but only if he doesn't keep score. "Otherwise I get a little cranky," he told me.

"When did you first consider yourself a writer?"

"I guess when I typed 'The End' for the first time. I labored over the book for years, sometimes not even writing a word for months due shuffling my daughters back and forth to soccer practice, dance lessons, drama club, etc., etc., etc. Not that I’m complaining. We knew when we moved to the country that this was part of the bargain. I can’t tell you how many times I fell asleep in the car waiting for a late dance class to finish up. As a matter of fact I never told anyone I was writing a book because I didn’t know if I could actually do it or not. I remember taking my time, typing each letter slowly and deliberately, relishing the sound of each click of the keyboard, until I finished the last two words, 'THE END' and then hit 'ENTER'."

Jason's college concentration was in math and science, which left him little time for anything else. He was already married with one daughter and another on the way, so he traded hours at work to enable him to go to classes either days, nights, or weekends. He was desperate to get his major course work completed, so put off all his electives until last.

"Enter Alene R., my college English literature professor and the dreaded English Lit with Shakespeare and all that jazz," he said. "Suddenly, to my surprise, I was drawn into her course and began to understand the space between the lines. To make a long story short she tried to lure me away from math and science, and entice me to switch to literature. She did in a way-- I didn’t change majors but she did change my life."

On a personal note, he admits to having eaten a crayon. "Sure hasn’t every kindergartener? I still remember the waxy taste. Not sweet like I thought the red crayon would taste. I also remember that it took a while to get the taste out of my mouth and the wax out from between my teeth."

That, however, is not the strangest thing he's ever eaten. When he was a kid, he would sneak Milk Bone dog biscuits and crawl behind his father's baby grand piano and crunch them up.

"Actually they were a little mealy but all in all I don’t remember them being so bad. My brother squealed on me," he remembered. "That’s growing up I guess."

Another thing he did as a kid, which he feels in this day of Caller ID is probably a bit passé, is make prank phone calls.

"We would call a butcher shop and ask if they had pig’s feet. When they said yes we’d say 'you’d better see a doctor.' Click. We’d call a tobacco shop and ask if they had a popular pipe tobacco, Prince Albert, in a can. When they said, yes we’d say, 'Well let him out.' Click. Sometimes they’d yell at us over the phone and that was an added benefit. Ah, simple pleasures for simple childish minds. I am smiling now just thinking about it."

He wouldn't tell me what he thought scientists should invent.

"Every time I think of something I either see it on the shelf or in the news," he explained. "In Dead or A Lie I used a certain GPS technology and two years after I wrote it I saw it on the news."

Finally, I asked Jason what advice he would give to a new writer just starting out.

"First and foremost find a writers group. It is so difficult writing in a vacuum. Family can be supportive but only other writers seem to understand the issues that go along with writing. All of those things that are going on in your head that seem to indicate that you’re crazy are common among other writers but you have to be in contact with them to understand that. 'Oh, you have friends in your head? Me too,' or 'Oh, you got a rejection? We all have here. It just means you’re getting closer to being published.'

"But most of all there is something magical about walking into a room full of writers for the first time. I’ll never forget the feeling I got when I walked into a Deb Dixon seminar put on by the Central New York Romance Writers and I found myself with 60 other WRITERS! I also found my critique partners that day, ALee and Janine. A critique group is an essential element to successful writing as long as your group does it with heart and critique is constructive and never harsh or destructive."
You can keep up with Jason on his website,

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