J. A. is short for Jason Andrew, but friends call me Jay.
I was born in February 1982, but I’ll be honest I can’t remember what sparked my love of reading. If I had to wager a guess, I’d say that it was watching my dad sit in one of the chairs in the living room with his nose in a novel. They say that emulation is the highest form of praise. Whatever the reason, I remember reading 500 page post-apocalyptic science fiction novels by the time I was in the 3rd grade. It was at this time that I started writing. It was fan-fiction. I started writing sequels to my favorite science fiction books because the authors weren’t writing them fast enough for my taste.
By freshman year in high school, I had graduated to fantasy with the Eye of the World, the Sword of Shannara, and Wizard’s First Rule. For an introduction into the genre, I’m not sure whether books of that scope were a good choice or a bad one. Personally, I believe they were a good choice, but I’ll admit to being a bit biased. But it also drove the scale of what I was writing. By this point, I had begun my first collaboration with my best friend. Marcus and I would sit on his front porch swing and brainstorm, and then I would go home and write as quickly as my hand could scribe. It was a young adult story about a group of high school students that found themselves the only remaining people and was set in my hometown in Virginia. There was magic and machine guns and ATVs (oh my!) and, let’s be serious, what else does a high school boy need in his stories?
I attended James Madison University between 2000 and 2004 and I produced my first original work. I use the term “original” loosely. It was a Mary Sue story about me and my friends in a fantasy setting. Characters had always been the hardest part of writing for me. I had a lot of trouble making my characters sound unique and interesting. It’s something that I’ve worked hard on, and I still believe it to be my greatest weakness. But, I am trying to turn my weakness into strength.
I continued writing through graduate school periodically, but it took a back seat to work. Graduate school is no joke and I spent 14 to 16 hours a day working on projects and research for a little over two years. After graduating, I took a job in Pennsylvania. I continued to write for another year, until my hard drive failed catastrophically.
Wait, don’t hit that comment button just yet. Of course I backed everything up. I had a spare hard drive, less than a year old, that had everything I had ever written in the digital media format. Within a week, while pricing out a replacement computer, my spare hard drive failed too. Okay, now you can hit the comment button and say “I told you so.”.
I will be the first to admit that it was incredibly hard for me to begin writing again. I was upset, disheartened, and completely depressed. It was almost two years before I put digital pen to digital paper again. At that time, I was dating the brilliant and sage woman who would become my wife. She knew that I always wanted to be an author and she asked if she could read any of my work. I’m paraphrasing, but the conversation went a little like this:
“Sorry, hun. There’s nothing to show you. The hard drives are trashed. I don’t have anything to show you.”
“So write something new.”
Did I mention how smart and wise she is?
Why not? I hadn’t written in two years, but that didn’t stop the stories from flowing in my head. I accepted the challenge and started writing. It was seat-of-the-pants writing, a military science fiction project involving cloning, betrayal, and genetic enhancement. I wrote the 120,000 word manuscript in 6 weeks in the evenings after work. My loving and supportive wife let me write after dinner every night, undisturbed.
And the manuscript was complete and utter crap. I’m not just being harsh on myself. I hadn’t planned the book at all, so every time I had a new idea of how the story should go, I would take it in a new direction. The result was unfocused and possibly schizophrenic. It’s completely unreadable with a deus ex machina ending. But, I finished something new. And that was what I needed more than anything else.
I shelved Tank (the working title) and started working on my techniques. I started reading more, and listening to audio books when I didn’t have time to read. I wrote and tried new things and listened to podcasts on writing. I was serious about the craft for the first time in my life. I started Stormgate after that and have worked on a few pieces of shorter fiction, some set in the same world. I also outlined and started the sequel, a book called Irongate.
I’ll go out on a limb and say that the fiasco with my hard drive was the best thing that happened for my writing. It forced me out of the realm of the known and into the unknown. Instead of being bound to projects already started but not completed, I was free to start something new. To scavenge ideas from failures, sift the platinum from the sand, and consolidate it. It made me a better writer.
So here I am. Right now I’m polishing Stormgate and adding additional detail. I have thoughts about a second point of view character and a second story arc that may turn into something. The first two chapters are posted on the Sample Chapters page and I hope you’ll take the time to read them. Please feel free to leave me feedback on this post. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the introduction to Alesia and the world of Chosen.