Today I interviewed the deliciously eccentric Thomas Jast. His new book, Exit Strategies, featuring his character, Alex Aberdeen, is now available on Amazon. This is his fourth published book. Come have a slightly scary peek at the world in which Thomas Jast lives. Have you poured a glass of wine? Good. Let’s begin.
How long have you been writing? What are you working on now?
I did writing journals in Grade 1 to learn English. I assumed that every child was a literary superstar so I overcompensated and hammered out page after page. Little did I realize that writing was going to be my favourite artistic expression and that it would continue forever. I started writing “novels” at age 13 with my older sister’s PC. They were terrible and I truly believe someone would pay money to stop reading them. (And yes, I still have every word I have ever written backed up to a half-dozen locations.)
I’m currently working on a comedy project called Derek Must Die with my BFF Vito Andrews, and this fall I’ll be starting on my next project, Under Gemini Skies, a twisted story of two small-town girls whose friendship disintegrates when one of them gets a taste of wealth and freedom… mixed in with a murder plot, a revenge scheme and an unhealthy dose of psychology, of course.
Exit Strategies is the third book featuring Alex Aberdeen. What appeals to you about her? Why do you keep coming back to her?
I felt that Alex didn’t get a proper ending in Mixed Messages since the original third Alex book never came out. Exit Strategies is entirely new and is set years later, but does the things I didn’t have the skill (or guts) to do back during the original writing period (2009-2010). I have bravely (foolishly?) labelled this novel as a romance and categorized it as such. It’s a love story featuring Alex using everything I’ve learned in life. Mostly bad things. A lot of horrifying things. And it’s kind of dirty and graphic in parts, which isn’t something I’m used to doing.
Do you have more books planned for her?
Always. I have the titles “Trust Issues,” “Systematic Habits” and “Burning Bridges” rolling around in my head. Each one is going to get darker and darker until the text is basically black on black pages. But no earlier than 2020, since I’m moving onto other things for a while. Alex will evolve along with the rest of my work, I hope. Comparing Calculated Regrets to Exit Strategies is unusual because I didn’t even attempt to make them feel similar. I never want to write the same thing twice, which is what a lot of serialized books feel like.
The art on your covers is unique. Can you explain the process of designing your covers?
I generally try to find a “moment” in the book that has a strong visual element to it, something that can be summed up as a single still frame. From Empathetic onward, I found myself moving more toward graphic design, iconography or pictograms. Since indie works are generally found and judged by small Amazon thumbnails, I seem to think that bold, simple images with high contrast stand out more. I’m hoping to catch someone by surprise, have them check it out, and then browse the reviews or a sample.
I’ve used CreateSpace years ago on a different project and it was fine. However, as a computer and graphics design nerd, the flexibility and high technical standards of IngramSpark appeal to me. I love the inherent complexity. I love the difference between “black” and “60-40-40-100 CYMK.” That’s my jam.
You publish on Kindle only. What made you decide to go Select rather than publish wide?
I really like Kindle’s KDP Select plan where you get paid when people read the books as part of Kindle Unlimited. As an indie author, many people will give your work a chance if there’s no risk. For a fellow author friend of mine, maybe 80% of his revenue comes from “free” reads and he couldn’t get that with any other plan.
You’re querying a different project. Can you share how that journey is going for you?
I haven’t done as much as I would like but will resume later on this year. I query that book because it’s not my usual indie style and I feel it could be a mainstream success if it lands in the right place. I have no delusions of what is appropriate where: I am aware that a majority of my work is niche and enjoyable for a select audience. But to answer the real question: Querying is soul-crushing and frustrating and probably one step removed from walking around in hell in bare feet.
Do you have any tips or tricks for authors who may be thinking about querying?
Don’t query your first-ever completed novel. It’s probably much rougher than you think, no matter how great the ideas are. You will do much better as your writing skills evolve. The trick is to still *want* to query after all of that time…
You have a limited social media presence. Can you share your opinion on the idea that writers must have a strong social media platform to sell books? Why or why not do you think this is true? If you agree with this opinion, can you give a reluctant author tips on how to work around this?
Leaving Twitter was the very best thing for me and my work ethic. It was a platform of sorts and it did get my name out, but it also paralyzed me from writing new material. What used to take a month now took six, and the competitive and (dare I say…) negative atmosphere eventually sunk me. It depends on what kind of person you are. I’m an obsessive, clingy, dedicated type and what engages me tends to have a way of backfiring. My social circles on there were improved with my peer editing, chat groups, and existing friends. Pushing your indie works on uninterested strangers isn’t very effective so that shouldn’t be the primary reason to use social media. Make yourself and your personality known, and eventually people will want to check out your work.
Exit Strategies will be the first time I release something without the cushion of Twitter, so we’ll see what happens.
What’s next for you writing- and publishing-wise?
Writing one novel a year and releasing a polished novel from the previous year. I want to top Cassandra’s End and am having trouble doing that so far, in both scope and refinement. I want to write a mix of indie and mainstream works because I don’t think one single style or group of content can truly improve your general writing craft. I always want to be out of my comfort zone, even if I fail in the end. I have many completed books I’ve scrapped and don’t regret a thing.
Thanks, Tom, for talking with me! I love chatting with writers about how their journeys are going.
You can find all of Tom’s books on Amazon. Calculated Regrets and Mixed Messages are both on sale now on Kindle for .99 until July 18th. Take advantage of this awesome sale and get to know Alex Aberdeen.
Thanks for reading! Come back soon.
(Photo credits: Thomas Jast’s personal photo, covers taken from Amazon.com)