AFOW Interview #9 – Jason Pere

Today, I am featuring author Jason Pere whose story “Ugly Girl” is included in the anthology “A Flash of Words,” alongside my own brand-new story, “The Californian.

If you had to do one thing differently with your story, what would it be?
If I had to change something? I suppose it would be unfair to the question if I simply opted to change some nonessential detail like character gender or age. I think that perhaps the most meaningful change that I could have made to “Ugly Girl” would have been to push the narrator’s self-loathing past the point of self-harm and have the story end with her suicide.

What was the inspiration for your story?
I was a teenager once upon a time and I remember that oh so very scary place known as adolescence. Teens face many monsters during the years when they are making the final approach towards adulthood. Of all the monsters that an adolescent will battle, their own sense of worth is often the beast that will dig its claws in the deepest of all. I vividly remember how I hated myself as a teenager and had my own “Ugly Girl” experiences during those years. I would say that some nostalgic angst was the biggest inspiration for this piece. And yes, I still have my moments when I’m not too fond of my own company these days, though not nearly as badly as the days of yore.

Was there a time when writing where you had to sit back stunned at what just happened? If so, what was it?
There have been a few times that I’ve brought myself to tears because of what I’ve written. And no I’m not saying my material is so poorly written that it transforms me into a sobbing mess. Most often the stunned moment that I can count on is when I finish a story. The rush that comes with completion is like no other and the only thing I can really do once I’ve waded through the telling of a tale is to sit and endure a sort of creative postpartum depression.

What do you think is the key to writing a compelling flash story?
One image or thought. I think that the province of flash fiction is to convey a single focused sense experience.

Do you write every day?
I take the weekends off but Monday through Friday I like to aim for 1,000 words a day as a soft goal. I tend to take it easy if I’m working on multiple projects at once and I do have some “one sentence” kind of days on occasion but I’m not happy with my day unless I spend at least some quantity of time writing during the week.

Does your sexual orientation play a roll in the development of your character?
For “Ugly Girl, no it did not. I do let my orientation and personal perspective on sexuality, intimacy and relationships color a lot of my characters in strange and unusual ways.

Was this the first time you wrote a flash fiction story?
I started going to a monthly writing group at my local library and that is when I met another writer who introduced me to the idea of short fiction. He constantly shared incredibly rich pieces that were five hundred words or so and that really inspired me to try my hand at it. So I wrote “Bit”, it was a neat five hundred word piece of good ol’ zombie apocalypse sci-fi. I actually had so much fun with that little piece of fiction that it ended up turning into a full length collaborative novel that I wrote with five other authors from all around the world.

What was your favorite story in the book besides your own?
Can I be honest, I have not read “A Flash of Words” yet. I know, shame on me. I am pretty terrible about my reading/writing balance. In fact there are a large number of anthologies and collaborative novels that I have participated in that I have yet to read. I guess “A Flash of Words” will just have to take a number but I am egger to dig into the book and see how other authors put their spin on short fiction work.

Apart from writing, what do you do for fun?
I am a professional swashbuckler. Ok, no I’m not but I like to say that and see what kind of reactions I get. However, if you have an honor duel that needs fighting, an enemy’s love interest that need wooing or a chandelier that needs swinging from, I’m at your service.
If you couldn’t tell by now, I’m a major dork. I like movies, video games, board game and pretty much all sorts of things that allow me to spend as much time immersed in fantasy words as possible. When entertaining imagination is not at the forefront, I have two sweet little dogs that require my attention and a darling wife who allows me to be her very best adventure buddy for things domestic and exotic.
Also baked goods, specifically consuming them.

Which author(s) influenced your writing the most?
David Gemmell is my biggest influence. I mean I named one of my characters in “Calling the Reaper”, in his honor and as a sort of tribute to one of his most iconic creations. He’s an author who has made me cry with the power of his work. I think the thing I enjoy most about David Gemmell is his ability to introduce you to a group of characters in one chapter and then subsequently frustrate you by switching to a new set of characters in the second chapter after you’ve fallen in love with the previous batch of imagination offspring and then have you so swiftly enamored with the new cast that you are enraged when he goes back to the original bunch in the third chapter.

Can you relate to any of the characters in your flash fiction story?
I certainly felt like an “Ugly Girl” more than my fair share. I’ve known what it’s like to be so unhappy in my own skin that I want to cut my way free. I can clearly recall the sense of being trapped in a prison that has no walls or locks and all I had to do was ask to be freed but somehow I had no words to express myself so I turned masochistic and bitter.

What is your writing space like?
Only those of pure heart and the bravest spirit have the fortitude needed to navigate the cluttered mess that is my office desk. Apart from the stacks of papers and knickknacks that surround my laptop, I enjoy a rather comfy office chair that has a nice knit seat cover that my wife so thoughtfully crafted for me. My side of our home office is adorned with copies of my novels and canvas/poster board prints of my book covers as well as a collection of meaningful family photos.

Did your story turn out the way you planned, or were there some surprises along the way?
Start to finish “Ugly Girl” went as planned. It was only one hundred words in total length so it never really had much opportunity to grow into something that was able to surprise me before I was done writing it.

How long did it take to write your story?
I think it only took a matter of minutes to write the story. I asked for some feedback from some of my writing buddies and they gave me some notes. I probably spent more time editing and polishing it than I did initially writing it but still the total amount of time spent on this story was no great investment.

Do you think writing flash fiction is a challenge with the word restriction?
Yes it is but oh is it a fun challenge. After you’ve written a good deal of short fiction you really don’t feel cramped by word count limits. You start to get a sense for what ideas will end up being a specific word count. I will tell you this I would rather write short fiction all day than I would spend an equal measure of time working on an epic novel.

If you were on death row, what would you want your last meal to be? 
I would want breakfast. I love the mornings and all the promise of postnatal that they bring. Dinner has such a heavy and final quality about it and those are concepts I would prefer not to think about when facing my imminent demise. Specifically I would want coffee, apple juice and water to drink then a plate of eggs benedict with asparagus to satisfy classy savory element, thick cut crispy bacon, some silver dollar pancakes drenched in butter and lightly syruped and a huge cinnamon roll that was underbanked to subtlety gooey perfection. To chase it all down I think a couple of cyanide pills would be my mint of choice as it would let me go on my own terms and escape whatever spectacle my jailors intended of making of me.

What is a quote that you find inspirational/motivates you to write?
“I will know who I am. I will keep my mouth shut. I will learn from everything. I will train every day.” That is a quote that I learned from an actor/director friend of mine during a post-production party for a small film trailer that I had worked on. The words stuck with me as sort of a survival mantra and serve as some sound life advice for my day to day activities.

Pick up a copy of “A Flash of Words” in paperback or eBook at any book retailer worldwide, including Amazon. If purchased directly from Scout Media, you will receive a FREE companion soundtrack CD!! #ScoutMedia#AFOW

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