The Writing Life of: Jason Smith
This week on ‘The Writing Life of:‘ I am thrilled to be interviewing author Jason Smith.
Jason Smith began his career in television production before becoming both a network TV and radio personality. He has spent the last dozen years with ESPN, the NFL Network, and Fox Sports Radio. He currently hosts “The Jason Smith Show”, heard nights on FSR and iheart radio.
His other highlights include an Emmy Award for his work on ‘Sportscenter,’ marrying well, memorizing “Caddyshack” and the ’86 Mets. And not necessarily in that order.
And he’s glad Revis is back. ‘Found‘ is his first novel.
1) Do you remember the moment you decided that you would like to become a writer?
I think I’ve always wanted to write, even when I was in college. I just never thought I could actually do it. My wife was the one who convinced me to write ‘Found’ after I told her about my idea for it. And she gave me a great plot point that was the moment that pushed me over the edge from “Maybe I should write this” to “You know, I HAVE to write this.”
2) How did you go about following your dream?
I sat down at my computer and thought I would try to do a chapter and see how it went. If it didn’t go well, at least I could say I tried. But the first chapter went well, so I decided on a second.
I continued in this manner until I had seven or eight chapters done. It wasn’t until then I realized I could actually see it through to completion. It’s still weird to think of myself as an author. I see it on my Twitter page and I shake my head at it.
3) Is there a particular author that inspires you?
I’ve read just about everything Stephen King ever wrote, but it was ‘On Writing’ which probably had the most influence on me.
After I decided I was going to try to write ‘Found’ I remembered he had published his book of advice to anyone who wanted to begin the writing process. So I resolved myself to read that first before putting anything down on paper. I was so nervous that I’d read it and find out that authoring a book would sound too daunting I wouldn’t even want to start. But I was surprised – it was very inspiring. After reading it, I couldn’t wait to begin. It really is a genius work.
He has a way of easing all of your fears about it. But I still struggle with the correct punctuation plenty of times. Do you think I could call him and ask when to correctly use braces, brackets, dashes and ellipses?
4) What is your average writing day like? Do you have any strange writing habits?
My average writing day goes one of two ways: I either get a block of three hours or so in the afternoon to write, or I write for about an hour late at night, after I’ve had all day to think of what I want to put down next. I find those to be the most effective ways I can make headway.
Oddly, one of my favorite things to do is to take my laptop out for lunch, and write in a restaurant for awhile. Much of ‘Found’ was written at a local El Pollo Loco, a mexican fast-food restaurant. And bless the workers there, who kept refilling my drinks for me while they probably wondered why the heck this guy won’t leave.
Everyone has to find the best way for them to focus and shut everything out. That way works for me. I don’t know if it does for everyone, but at the very least my way you’ll eat fantastic chicken.
5) Do you write Longhand, Type writer, Computer?
I always type on the computer. Probably because I’m a decent typist. I can type about forty words a minute, which helps. Also, there’s too many corrections I make while I’m writing that doing it longhand would just be messy and an unnecessary extra step.
I’m so grateful to Mrs. Chester for sixth period typing in tenth grade, and for making me stick with not looking at the keys while I was learning. I firmly believe typing is the most important high school class anyone will ever take. All the other information you learn in high school you’ll forget. But typing? It’s practical and it’s forever.
That is most definitely NOT the class to daydream or pass notes to girls you like. Save that for something less important, like cooking or hygiene. After all, if you don’t know how to shower by the time you’re fifteen there’s not a lot that can be done for you.
6) From all your books, do you have a favourite character?
It’s funny, but the character I liked the most in ‘Found’ is Belinda. She was a very small part in my early drafts but I really liked her.
I asked a couple of my friends to read my first versions and they both said she jumped off the page, so her part got larger as the process went on. I pictured her as a younger ass-kicking Geena Davis from ‘The Long Kiss Goodnight’ the entire time.
7) Do you plot your books completely before hand or do you let your imagination flow whilst in the writing process?
I like to have two things in mind when I write: where I’m going immediately (the next couple of pages) and where I want a certain plot point to finish (either later on in the story or at the climax). The rest sort of comes as I write. In fact, one of the biggest directions I took in ‘Found’ was completely unplanned – but once I hit on it, the pieces of the last half of the novel fell into place pretty easily.
Concerning your latest book:
Author – Jason Smith
Publisher – MaxQ Enterprises
Release Date – 13th May 2015
Not all the good in the world is known – the same can be said for the bad. People, places and events that seem random, really aren’t.
How are we to know whose lives will be affected, or destroyed? Will one wrong move make the difference? Will one bad decision end somebody’s life?
No one knows what will be lost – or who will be Found.
*Updated – 23rd November 2017 – Jason’s book is no longer available on Amazon. When it is back on I will add the link.*
8) How long did it take to get from the ideas stage, to the date of publication?
My idea for ‘Found’ came in the spring of 2008. I had gotten through the first third of it, but then my mother passed away. Shortly after that, my wife Pam and I had our first child, and a few months later, Pam’s mother passed as well. So my priorities shifted for quite awhile.
I probably didn’t get back into writing again for another year after that. Luckily I was able to fall right back into it – my thoughts were never far from the story, even though I couldn’t dedicate the consistent time to write.
From there it took another six months to complete. So now we’re well into late 2011. It took over a year to find my publisher, which turned out to be the same company who published a book on sports talk radio hosts I was interviewed for a few months before (I’ve been a sports radio and TV personality for the last dozen years). I sent my manuscript to her and she was very receptive and wanted to publish it. We had conversations first followed by the editing process which went the better part of a year and a half.
Finally, in the spring of this year, it was published by Linda Young and MaxQ Publishing. So it was nearly a seven year journey, which Linda told me is usually about two years longer than normal for a first-time writer.
9) Did you suffer from writer’s block at any stage? How did you overcome it?
I never got to the point of writer’s block, per se, but there was a time when I didn’t know how I was going to get from where I was to how I wanted the book to finish. This was around the halfway point of the novel.
There was a good week to two weeks where I didn’t write anything, because I couldn’t think of what was next. I had all kinds of crazy ideas but I didn’t like any of them, so I stepped back and realized I was making things too difficult and looked for something simpler to grab onto. When I did that, it struck me immediately what I had to do.
After my wife read the book and I told her about the time I couldn’t figure out what was next, she told me to tell her the next time so I wouldn’t keep her awake tossing and turning.
10) How did you come up with the name(s)for your lead character(s)?
My main character, Noah, I wanted to give special meaning to. He undertakes an incredible journey, so I wanted a correlation to the person we all think of when we hear that name. Most of the other names, I had ideas of how I pictured their characters, and when I saw them, I asked myself ‘What would you expect the name to be of a person who looks like that?’ The sharper the character appears to you, the better you can write them.
I also put in a thing that ties the last names of all the characters together, but more in a fun way than anything else. I keep waiting for people to guess it.
11) If your book was made in to a film, who would you love to play the lead character(s)?
I always had ideas of the characters – some I envisioned as actors, some more as people I know in my life. But I’ll defer to some of the suggestions I’ve received from my family and friends, because they’re much better than me telling you about a random cousin who looked the part.
For Noah, I’ve gotten Kyle Chandler and Sam Rockwell. For Simon it’s been Gene Hackman and Sir Ian McKellen. Which is weird to hear, because I’d always thought of the late Jack Albertson when I pictured him. Its strange the visions you have for the characters and how others see completely different people.
12) Did you get anyone in particular to read your work before sending it to the publisher i.e family member, friend etc?
Besides my wife, who served as my first editor, I took a very big chance. I gave it to her book club to read after it was done, and before I sent it out to any agents or publishers. I wanted their opinions before it went out into the world. No one knew I was writing a book, so it was a surprise to them.
It’s a women’s book club, so men aren’t allowed, however I was granted the exception when they were going to discuss my book. I was nervous because I knew I’d be able to tell if anyone was putting on a face if they told me they liked it when they really didn’t. But that didn’t happen. Instead, I got notes! Lots of notes. I was so overwhelmed and grateful. I jotted them all down, whether it was constructive criticism or ideas on how to do things a different way.
It turned out awesome, and I incorporated a few of their suggestions into the final product. I thank The Red Wine Book Club in the acknowledgements, as well as the husband of one of it’s members, who pushed me to make a bigger decision regarding the fate of one of the main characters. They could all make a lot of money as consultants, but if you tell them that, then I’ll have to pay them next time.
Excerpt – Chapter One – Adrift
Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff Joe Suggs received the alert just as he was thinking about stopping for coffee. It didn’t come from the normal radio dispatch, but from theunusual green box that sat on the passenger side seat. The low hum startled him as it hadn’t sounded off in a few months. It took him a couple of seconds to realize it was the box pulsing and not something coming from outside his vehicle. All thoughts of coffee went away.
He smiled and started to play with his mustache. He was back in. A flood of relief washed over him. He’d been afraid that whatever made it work was broken. He knew it didn’t run on batteries and he’d spent plenty of idle time thinking about how it operated, but it was beyond him.
The box itself was pretty simple. It resembled a recipe holder in size and design, complete with a clasp on the front that didn’t open; it wasn’t supposed to. Suggs knew, from experience, what he needed would be digitally displayed on the top of the little box. He confirmed what he needed to know, then removed his thumb from the clasp. The information disappeared.
He liked the electricity that came from moments like this; wondering what he was going to be asked to do. Suggs asked why he couldn’t just get a text to his cell phone. It was explained to him that they couldn’t risk him not receiving the message. What if your cell phone goes dead and you can’t charge it? What if your phone was off? What if your phone broke and you couldn’t get a new one for a few hours? There were a lot of what ifs. Timing was crucial and he had to be able to return the call within minutes.
Suggs pulled into a supermarket parking lot, to one side off the front entrance. The digital display, on the box, had shown a phone number. He had the number memorized, but he was told to always check first before calling, just in case. Suggs followed the routine exactly, every time, as he thought somehow they would know if he didn’t.
Just as he pulled a cell phone from his pocket, a man dressed in jeans and a Dodgers’ sweatshirt, whose original color was a mystery, moved past him and started sifting through a dumpster looking for returnables. Joe hit the siren for a quick whoop. The man jumped and turned to face him. He put his hands together in a praying gesture, backed away from the dumpster and headed around the corner of the building to the front of the store.
Suggs took in a deep breath. He pulled a small pad of paper and pen out of his shirt pocket. His 6’ 3” frame once looked good on a 200-pound body, but now he was closer to 250, so moving in tight quarters, with full police gear on, wasn’t his favorite thing in the world to do. Suggs flipped the phone open, but almost dropped it. He steadied himself before he typed in the number. He held the phone to his ear and tapped his pen on the pad as he waited to hear the familiar voice. After two rings, and a click, he heard a soft voice.
“Joseph, so marvelous for you to get back to us so soon,” the voice on the other end, named Simon, remarked. “I have a little assignment for you, but it has to happen now.” A sense of urgency ran throughout his voice. “It could be the most important thing you have done for us yet.”