Shout out to everyone that’s doing the best job they can with what they were given.
Do more with less. Smash expectations. Prove yourself.
(Borrowed from one of his tweets!)
He’s the guy behind Calculated Regrets, Mixed Messages and Empathetic, as well as thousands of hilarious tweets. I’m a huge fan of his work and I’m convinced you will be too. (Assuming you aren’t already.) Recently, Mr. Jast was kind enough to answer some questions so we can get to know the man behind the literature. As always, he does not disappoint.
1.|In other interviews you have done, you’ve told us you were born in Poland and immigrated to Canada, and that you started writing as a way to learn English. What did you find most difficult in your earliest years of writing and learning English? Did you ever want to give up?
No, it was easy. Do it wrong, get slapped by my mom. “You have to learn the English! The kids call you stupid if you don’t know the English!!!” [rough translation and I left out the parts where she threatened me with the rolling pin]
I never wanted to give up because the learning and improvement process is addictive and incredibly satisfying. I still learn new things to this day. Just yesterday, I learned how to use a comma. (That’s the dot with the little tail,,, like this,,,)
2.|What was the first thing you remember writing that you were really proud of? Approximately how old were you when you wrote it?
Besides childhood journals, which at best are comprehensible, in my late teens I wrote a thing called “Spring into Summer.” It was a first-person book that switched POVs for the four main characters. How did I do it? COLOR. Yeah, really. NIKKI TALKS IN GREEN. I don’t even know if that’s true. I don’t know if that’s her name. I don’t open the document for fear of reading it and enjoying it. Last thing I want to do is start stealing my own 15+ year old ideas, back when I was clever and innovative.
3.|It is no secret that you write in Women’s Fiction. It’s also no secret that gender bias sometimes plays a role in how authors are perceived in their genres, for instance, JK Rowling using a pseudonym to be taken seriously. Has being a man writing in Women’s Fiction presented any unique challenges for you?
Yes, this times a thousand. A lot of women subscribe to “for women BY women” for their work. Sure, that’s awesome except that there are certain things about my work that stands out because I am a man. It’s a relatively rare thing to have a guy write for women, it’s another for it to be someone like me that gives so little focus on gender norms or roles and writes it the way he wants it. I write and depict most of my female characters with the strength of prescription painkillers and the elegance of black dollar-store napkins.
4.|Almost everyone listens to music while they write; what types of music, or specific bands, do you lean towards while you write, and does it change depending on the feel of the scene you’re writing? If so, can you give us a few examples?
Indie shit you’ve never heard of so I can write real indie shit? Just kidding! [names 19 bands that you’ve never heard of]
Well, every project I write tends to have a feel I come up with first, oftentimes covered by a single artist or genre, at least. Favourite artists to write to include Metric, Muse, Conjure One, IAMX and Sneaker Pimps. Oh, and Christina Aguilera when I need to stretch my vocal chords in between chapters. My falsetto is starting to get mad range. My rendition of “Army of Me” is shockingly serviceable.
5.|Quite a while passed from the completion of Calculated Regrets, Mixed Messages and Empathetic to the time you published them. When did you first decide you wanted to publish your work, or had you always known? Who was the first person you told, and what was their reaction?
Well, my business partners and best friends were the first to read my work. I always sort of assumed everyone would be floored and throw soft bags of money at me, so I wanted everything published right away (but it actually took 5+ years!). Hate to drudge up the past, but one of my earliest readers was my ex. She told me it all sucked and I should stop writing because it sucked and I suck/sucked/will continue to suck forever.
So… that doesn’t even answer your question. How about this? Hashtag nevergiveup hashtag goals
6.|As a self-published author, what do you find to be the hardest part of the process, and why?
Well, limited resources definitely complicate things. Oh, you found a typo? That’s $50. You want to promote it to people you’ve offended with your anti-American jokes? Oops. Getting started is the hardest. Takes months to get a legit Amazon review. Takes months to get a second one. Soon, though, people start talking and suddenly people are happy to review your work. Being legitimate and having quality work isn’t something people normally assume out of the gate; they need proof and reassurance. TL:DR version: getting started is difficult.
7.|Family and friends aside, can you tell us what it felt like the first time someone bought your work? Did you celebrate in any way?
I took my $2 and bought myself a bus ticket since I sold my car to get the books made. In all seriousness, though, I couldn’t sleep. I tried to envision this stranger that made my day and wish I could get together with them and beg them to buy my other books since I know their Amazon account is functional.
8.|Let’s be honest, writing isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. Writer’s block: How do you cope? Does subject material ever take a toll on your mood?
Writer’s block, well… just walk away for a bit. Sleep on it. Drink some Jägermeister and listen to Salt-N-Pepa. The subject matter tends to affect me when I’m writing the darker, calmer passages. Sometimes it just crushes me when characters get hurt or want to hurt someone. I’m sad just writing about writing that. Thanks for that. *emoji thing with sad face*
9.|Many of your fans are already anticipating your upcoming thriller/murder mystery, Cassandra’s End. I know you aren’t going to give up any juicy details, but can you tell us where the inspiration for this story came from? Have you approached this particular work any differently?
I wanted to write something a little more complex and detached from my normal work, something more mainstream. I wanted some blend of a crime/thriller/70s/mystery vibe. I sat down with one of my friends and we hashed out some possibilities. A lot of those ideas were rearranged or scrapped, but the primary ideas remained. This is the first book I’ve written this slowly and with this much planning and outlining. I’ve been very careful and analytical about how someone would read it and what would go through their minds. Every page of the book asks 3 questions and answers 4 of them. It is, though, still very much a Thomas Jast book: strong female character(s), my quirky juxatapositional visuals and narrative (“the wet snow crunched like dried leaves”, “exhaustingly calm”, “hell-bent on forgiveness”, etc) and, of course, my usual focus on psychology. My hope is that all the elements work once it comes out of the oven. I forgot to set the timer so I’m not really sure how it is without poking holes in it to check.
10.|Speaking of your fans, you’re building quite a loyal base on Twitter. Is there anything you would like to say to them now?
Cliché version: I love you all and you give me a reason to sit down and write. I love interacting with everyone and sharing in the dream that is creative writing. Without you, I have no audience. With you, I can donate my earnings to the local orphanage and change young lives.
For-real version: I love you all even more when I’ve been drinking.