Monday, May 26, 2008

Interrogate the Author: Starring Jason Pinter

So after my short absense on the scene, mainly because of really bad time management issues and lots of events on my schedule, it's time to return with another exciting issue of "Interrogate the Author", but this time we are going weird. Jason Pinter is best selling author of the criminal Henry Parker series that don't have even a slight trace of the paranormal. However after reading his second novel in the above mentioned series "The Guilty" (reviewed HERE) I wanted to get inside his head and I think I did a pretty decent job at it. Here is the product of my rambling.

1. Hello, Jason. It’s definitely good to have you here at “Interrogate the Author” with me, the delightful host Harry Markov. Now tell me how comfortable do you feel here, considering that you are only non-fantasy authors that have sat on my virtual chair?

Pretty good considering it's only virtual. As far as I know there's no device that allows people to jump through computers and attack me. But give it time. Thing is, even though I don't write in the fantasy genre (yet), I grew up idolizing writers like Terry Brooks and Brian Jacques. They were the first authors I truly loved and admired.

2. When did you decide to become a writer? It’s not like deciding to be a fireman. A person does need qualifications like grammar and well talent. When did you discover you possessed those?

I be had gud grammer my hole lif. Seriously, I've really always wanted to be a writer. When I was younger, probably seven or eight, I would always write short stories that were "inspired be" (i.e. ripping off) whatever author I was infatuated with at that time. So a lot of fantasy quests for various magical artifacts, lots of sword and demons, lots of blood. I loved it. As for talent, I guess that's all relative. I don't think there's a specific time in any writer's life when the light comes on and you say, "Wow, I have talent!" You simply write, take constructive criticism and try to improve your craft every time you write.

3. I see from your biography that your writing aspirations were directed towards screenwriting rather than novels. Are you a movie fan? My PC I think has shown more different movies than the regular cinema, so I understand the love for the 7th art.

I'm a huge movie fan, and for a while I did want to become a screenwriter. I had a friend in high school and our plan was for me to write the movies and him to produce. Now I write novels and he runs several successful restaurants, so go figure. I probably see a movie every other week--more during the summer.

4. What exactly made you think twice about screenwriting and for that matter why crime? You are one of the birds that go with the normal and since I have known only writers, who like to exploit the paranormal, I am curious.

Probably just because I loved writing and I loved movies, and my dream job was to combine the two. I know a lot of authors that have worked in film, and the experiences have run from just wonderful to absolutely terrible. At some point I might try to give it a serious go, but for now the books are my #1 priority. My father is probably the biggest reason I started writing crime novels. We used to live by wonderful mystery bookstore called the Black Orchid, and he would always come home with bagfuls of mysteries, and when he finished he'd always give them to me. That's when I started to love the genre, and especially those that transcended it or crossed over.

5. One of your first bloopers so to say in the first steps in your career was to find an agent before writing anything? What age did you do this, how did you learn that you needed a book first and for that matter did you succeed?

I was a junior in college, and I learned basically from all the form rejections I got from agents who "weren't looking for new clients." Which really means, "We're not looking for you." At that point I realized there was much more to being published, so I did my homework, research the industry, and that's how I ended up interning at a literary agency for a $10 a day stipend.

6. Many writers never really debut with the first ever written manuscript and well you kinda did. I bet that has to do with the fact that you spent five years as an editor or maybe you had a secret manuscript that failed.

I do have that manuscript that failed. It was written before THE MARK, and I couldn't pay anyone to publish it. There's a lot I like about that book, but there are some major problems with it, but most importantly it taught me how to write a novel. Being an editor helps mainly in that you read so much. To be a writer you really need to read everyone--good and bad--to see what works and what doesn't.

7. Speaking of your editor past, I am interest to know the answer: “What do editors want for crying out loud?” and whether “This is not what we are looking for” is polite for ‘you suck’. I am keeping this for the records of course. Statistics and stuff. I’m not biased, nope.

It depends on the editor. Editors, I think, are for the most part polite and despite beliefs to the contrary are aware that every book, no matter how good or bad, is the result of tremendous effort. So there's no pleasure in turning something down (unless the author or agent has been rude or disreputable). A good rule of thumb is that the longer and more specific the rejection, the more thought went into it. If an editor really likes a book or a writer--but maybe didn't get to bid for one reason or another--they'll be a little more specific and often ask to be kept in mind for future work. But again every editor is different. Some simply write form rejections for everything simply to save time. Acquiring books is really a zero sum equation for editors. Either that buy it or they don't, and every moment spent writing a long rejection is a moment that could have been used to help an author under contract make their book better.

(SPOILER ALERT!!!) 8. Now let’s talk about a bit about your Henry parker series. “The Mark” has been released in 2007 and in it Henry parker gets shot in the leg. Now since I haven’t read it and this is the most repeated reference towards the first book I have to ask. Why is it so important?

I wanted this series to be the kind in which actions in future books do have repercussions. Henry isn't a superhero, he isn't some Kung-Fu ninja badass. He's a guy in his twenties who often gets in way over his head. I feel like this gives readers a little more emotional attachment to the characters, since they know every punch he takes, every doubt he has becomes a part of who he is.

9. “The Guilty”, number two in the series, shows Henry in a real tight spot, pressed by the media and on the tail of a new serial killer. How did you come up with the idea for this adventure?

I had the idea for THE GUILTY while I was writing THE MARK. I loved the idea of old myths and legends, especially the one featured in THE GUILTY. So my plan was that if THE MARK didn't sell, I could take that story and make it a standalone novel. And if it did sell, I could take the characters from THE MARK and use that story as the backdrop for a new book. Thankfully the latter occurred.

(SPOILER ALERT!!!) 10. I am also curious to know how the idea of The Boy was born and why you traced him back to Billy the Kid? Are you a fan of the Western mythos?

I'm fascinated with the myth of The Kid, partly because he's one of the most iconic figures in American history--there's a part in the book where it's mentioned that Billy the Kid has inspired more books and movies than any figure outside of Count Dracula, and that's true. Yet despite this, so little is known about his, his origins, his motivations, so I decided to take that myth and play around with it, especially the actual conspiracy theory that he didn't die at the hands of Pat Garrett in 1881.

11. The research around all the two of these major people Billy the Kid and Jesse James seems tremendous to me. How much of the information in the book is real and how much fictional?

A great deal of is real. The theory about his death, Brushy Bill Roberts, the alleged meeting between the two, the attempt to exhume Billy's mother and compare DNA, it's all either true or part of theories that have been given different measures of credibility over the years. I think readers will find a whole lot to keep themselves busy with after finishing this book.

12. Since I love the villains I am interested in the way the Boy thinks. The logic behind his actions is solid and even though twisted makes total senses. Have you had additional help from real psych killers to help build his character?

One of my favorite lines ever is that every villain is the hero in his or her own story. So even though The Boy is a sick, twisted dude, in his mind everything he's doing makes total sense. That's something every clinical psychologist will tell you, that no murderer ever felt like they were doing something wrong. In their mind, it was the right and just thing to do. Their moral compass is just a bit off center...

13. Now a bit about the schematics of the novel. The use of POV struck me as odd in the novel. What were you trying to accomplish by giving Henry 1st person and isolate everyone else in 3rd person?

I did this in THE MARK also, mainly because I wanted many of the supporting characters to have voices in order to flesh out their characters. I hate stock characters, people who just exist seemingly only to further the plot. I wanted every character to be understood, if not sympathized with. Henry is obviously the main character, but I want my books to be like a complex tapestry--in pop culture kind of like "The Sopranos"--where you don't need to focus on Tony in every scene to make things compelling. And having supporting characters who are well-defined, I think, enriches the reading experience.

14. Now Henry Parker is a good person and a journalist. Somehow these too don’t quite mix, but he is believable. How did you decide that he should be a journalist? I sense some Clark Kent moment.

Nope, no Clark Kent moment. I wanted Henry to exist in an industry you don't see too often in crime novels. There are tons of cops, FBI agents, P.I.s, politicians, doctors. I wanted to do something different. And I also wanted his profession to provide another kind of struggle. Henry despises reporters who are also celebrities, and the irony is that after THE MARK he becomes one himself to his chagrin. I thought that would make an interesting dichotomy for the character and could open up possibilities to explore it in future books.

15. What can we expect from the next novel in the series? There have been some loose ends like Henry’s relationship with Amanda and now that he saved Mya Loverne he is back in her life. I smell another love triangle and new trouble for Henry.

I don't want to give away too much, but as I said every wound leaves a scar. People don't just go in and out of Henry's life without leaving a mark (har har). I never really thought of THE GUILTY containing a love triangle--if you read it, I think it's clear who Henry's feelings belong to--but I liked the idea of him being unable to let go of a person who has been hurt by his actions. Redemption is a big theme of the series.

16. In fact how long is your series going to continue and what are your future plans regarding the end of the series? Do you plan on venturing into the field of the paranormal?

As of right now I'm contracted for seven books. If there are more stories to tell with Henry--and assuming readers want more (i.e. they keep selling)--I'd love to keep going as long as they stay fresh and interesting. At some point I'd love to try something new, whether it's sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal, or even the YA series I've been kicking around in my head.

17. Knowing that you are a full time writer actually peaks my interest and yes I drool at the opportunity to not have to go to work. It must be fun to make your own schedule and what is your writing routine?

It's a double-edged sword. I love making my own hours, but it also means you need to be self-motivated. At work you're being paid to do a job, at home you don't get paid unless you write. Deadlines become more important, and distractions are the death of a writer. If you can block those out and stick to a schedule, yeah, it is pretty great.

18. How do you prefer to write? Some like to outline, some like to do it at the spur of the moment, others do both.

As part of my contract I have to show my publisher an outline. I don't think I'm particularly good at writing these nor do I prefer to do it like that, but thankfully my publisher is very understanding that the outlines will likely bear little similarity to the finished manuscript.

19. We are almost near the end and here come the usual questions. From your blog we see that your blogs are international now and Henry gets to speak in quite some languages. Can you share what your agent has done with foreign rights?

My agent sold world rights to MIRA, so they control distribution internationally. As of this moment, my books are available in nine countries in five different languages, and more will be added as the year goes on.

20. For that matter would you like to see Henry portrayed by some hot actor in a movie version of the Henry parker novels? I hear the industry needs thrillers.

Film rights to THE MARK were optioned. As for casting, that's so far from my hands that it's almost not worrying about. I'll certainly hope if the movie gets made the parts will go to talented people. I'd rather a good actor than a hot actor, and thankfully some readers have submitted their choices for who should play Henry (Ryan Gosling, Emile Hirsch and Jake Gyllenhaal are the current favorites).

21. Now for a grand finale. How did you feel, knowing that you were interviewed by a teen, who speaks English as a second language?

I'm impressed by both of those! I speak about a third of a few languages, but haven't fully mastered anything besides English (and some would even argue that point). So congrats to you for reading so many diverse books, and for being about ten years beyond where I was at that age. I'm getting jealous. Let's end the interview before I figure out how to jump through your screen..

Now wasn't that exciting. Every hardcore fantasy and sci-fi fan has to add diversity to their reading diet, so here is the much wanted opportunity to do so with this author and his work. Now to learn more about Jason Pinter, either visit his site or become a reader of his blog "The Man in Black". Be sure to check out "The Mark" (his first novel) and "The Guilty", all on Amazon.

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