Tuesday, May 10, 2016
An Interview with Stuart Jaffe
MM: Stuart give us the backstory on your writing career?
SJ: Wow, that’s a long story. :) I’ve been writing for close to 20 years now. I spent about 10 years writing short stories, built up a healthy resume of publications, got an agent, and started writing novels. Then my career hit a bizarre wall -- well, bizarre for anybody that doesn’t know a writer. My agent took my books to all the majors, usually to an editor fairly high up, and the response always came back -- we love Stuart’s writing, we love his characters and ideas, love his story, love, love, love ... we’re not going to buy it. Ugh! Sadly, I’m not the only writer to experience this. I hit my head against that wall for several years and considered quitting, but then self-publishing became a viable thing, so I thought I’d give it a try. Six years later, I’m having a blast with readers who are excited about my next book and my next one and the one after that! I’ve also published through some small presses, so I guess I’m a hybrid writer. Nobody can guarantee you a successful writing career, but I can guarantee you one thing -- all writing careers are a wild, unexpected ride.
MM: Tell us about your books and genres?
SJ: I write in a variety of sub-genres of science fiction and fantasy. My bestselling series is the Max Porter Paranormal Mysteries which follows a modern man in North Carolina who discovers his office is haunted by the ghost of a 1940s detective. I take real (odd) history of the area and mix it with ghosts, witches, curses and such. The first book (which is free as an ebook) is Southern Bound, and the sixth book, Southern Curses, releases in May!
I also wrote The Malja Chronicles - a post-apocalyptic fantasy in which magic caused the apocalypse. Sort of a Xena meets Mad Max vibe. That was a six-book series that finished up last year.
Now, I’ve started the Nathan K thrillers with the first book Immortal Killers. It’s about a man with the ability to harbor two souls in his body. If he dies, he loses one soul and keeps on going. This gives him a type of immortality which he uses to go walk the Earth and help people. I also have stand-alone novels, short story collections, and a serialized story. I put out 4-5 books a year, so if you like my writing, there’s plenty to enjoy.
MM: Let's talk about your writing schedule?
SJ: I write full time, so my day is usually a mix of writing sessions with book production, promotion, and such. Each writing session can go from 30 minutes to an hour. Oh, and cooking meals, picking up my son from school, laundry, and other normal daily kinds of things. The order of the day is not so important to me. The goal, writing-wise, is word count. On a slow day, I might get 700 - 1000 words of new fiction done. On a good day, I’ll hit 2300+. I’m constantly trying to improve those numbers. It comes with time and practice. Also, we live in the middle of nowhere, so I have long drives to get anyplace. I have an audio recorder that I carry around, so on a long drive, I can get a few hundred words with ease.
MM: Both personally and professionally tell us what you look forward to this year?
SJ: Professionally, I look forward to attempting to write a series that has been in my head for many, many years. It’s the one I’ve kept putting off because I did not think I was ready or capable of making it work. But I know enough now that I think I can do it. I try to make sure that whatever I’m writing, it has some sort of challenge in it that pushes me to grow as a writer. This is going to be a BIG challenge. And yes, I’m being vague about it because it’s way too early to say anything more. On the personal side, I look forward to gigging with my blues band, The Bootleggers. I play lead guitar and we’ve just started doing gigs. Hopefully, that will continue to grow.
MM: Be our tour guide and tell us about where you live?
SJ: I live in rural North Carolina. When my family first moved here, we lived in Winston-Salem, the location of the Max Porter books, but my wife always wanted a farm, so once we could afford it, we did it. It’s not a full commercial farm, but rather a hobby farm -- 10 acres with chickens and a horse and plenty of other critters. It’s quiet, mostly, and peaceful. Other than stupid politicians embarrassing our state, I’d say we’re pretty happy here.
MM: What would your characters tell us about you?
SJ: I doubt any writer would want to know the answer to this question. After all, it’s my job to torture my characters as much as possible for your entertainment. The less I hear from my characters on this subject, the better.
MM: Past or present what authors would you like to share a meal and stories with, what would you ask them?
SJ: Robert Heinlein, John Steinbeck, and Stephen King. Heinlein got me interested in reading. Steinbeck got me interested in the art of writing. King showed me how to mix Steinbeck and Heinlein into one. I wouldn’t really have any serious questions. I’d just want to hang with them and soak up the banter.
MM: Okay now let's get to know you a bit more. Are there shows you like to binge watch? Do you reread any books that you have enjoyed in the past? What is your favorite place to vacation, meal, dessert, song, movie and after a long writing day how do you distress?
SJ: We ditched television in favor of Netflix a long time ago. So, in a way, everything is a binge watch: House of Cards, Daredevil, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Attack on Titan, Foyle’s War, I could on and on. Writing full time at home means I get to watch a show during my lunch break. I’ve seen a lot of shows. ;) As for books, I almost never reread. There are already too many books to read in a lifetime, and I want to get in as many as I can. Favorites (well, more accurately, things I like a lot -- I can’t deem any one the absolute favorite): meal -- cheesesteak; dessert -- anything my son bakes (he’s fantastic at it); song -- Axis: Bold as Love by Jimi Hendrix (has one of the best guitar solos ever recorded); movie -- aside from all the usual like Star Wars, The Godfather, Citizen Kane, etc, etc, I’m going to add Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to the list; and vacation -- what’s a vacation?
MM: What would you like to say to your readers?
SJ: I’d like to say what I try to say as much as possible. Thank you. Without readers, none of this amounts to anything. To me, if nobody reads my work, it’s not complete. So, thank you. Always.
MM: What was the best view you ever had and where was it?
SJ: Without a doubt, on my honeymoon. We were cruising through the Greek isles, it was around midnight and I was sitting on the back of the ship in the Mediterranean. On either side of me were two islands with small towns. Lights flickered in and out as they passed behind the trees. It looked like thousands of fireflies in the darkness while all I could hear was the quiet lap of waves against the hull. And I had just gotten married, too. One of the most peaceful times in my life.
MM: in closing if you could pay your writing advice forward to beginners what advice do you have for them?
SJ: The best way to succeed as a writer is to sit down and have a brutally frank and honest talk with yourself. You need to ask yourself what you really want. If you really want fame and fortune, be honest about it. Perhaps you only want to write the fiction you want and don’t care about the reader. Be honest. Because the path to each of these things is different. To earn a living as a writer differs from being a fulltime writer regardless of the money which differs from fame which differs from not caring what you write as long as you make a living writing which differs from ... you get the idea. If at the start, you get a clear idea of what you want, you’ll make better choices for your career. And, of course, never give up.
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