Writer Wednesday – Jason S. Walters

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Let’s start with the basics. Who are you?
I’m Jason S. Walters.

Tell us (briefly) about you…
I’m an author, essayist, and publisher best known for running Indie Press Revolution (IPR), a distributor of micro-published roleplaying games. I live way out in the Nevada outback with a daughter with Down syndrome and animals too numerous to mention.

…and a bit about what you’ve written…
I’m an author of numerous roleplaying game books including Lucha Libre Hero, Scourges of the Galaxy, and You Gotta Have Character. I’ve also written a couple of novels, a short story collection, and a smattering of published essays, short stories, magazine articles, and the like.

…and what you’re working on right now.
I’m going through and editing the second edition of my short story collection An Unforgiving Land, Reloaded line-by-line. This will also be the final edition and version of what has proven to be my most popular book. I’m no Walt Whitman, and have no desire to spend the rest of my life doing new versions of the same book. So I’m trying to get it *just so* this time.

What are your earliest book-related memories?
Due to my parents diligent efforts I learned to read at an extremely early age. By the age of six I was able to read Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows on my own, and at the tender age of seven I had become seriously hooked on science fiction – and, in short order, this grew to include its sister genres of fantasy and horror. My parents started me out with Tom Swift books, and I moved rather rapidly on my own to authors like Issac Asimov, Heinlein, HP Lovecraft, CS Lewis, and Jack Vance. At the age of twelve I was particularly enamored by Vance’s Demon Prince books. They were dated even when I was reading them in the 1980’s and Vance knew it, but the whole “manly revenge on galactic supervillains” thing was about as much awesome as a preteen boy can handle without actually hurting himself.

What are your three favorite books?
China Mieville’s The City & the City is a particularly fine book and a great example of fantasy realism – possibly the genre’s best example, actually. I’m also quite partial to Heinlein’s classic libertarian science fiction novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Both are books with a lot to say about society and human nature. But when it comes to a novel that is positively exploding with ideas (and not all of them good ones), I have to admit a great and somewhat embarrassing fondness for Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. It’s stylistically weak, dreadfully long, and incredibly pedantic – but you have to give the strange old gal credit. She managed to pack and entire philosophy, worldview, and way of life into what amounts to a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel complete with death rays, invisibility fields, and submarine pirates – and do it in such a way that nobody really thinks of the novel as being science fiction at all.

Plus, say what you will, the cult created by her book doesn’t involve Body Thetans, Xenu, or endless lawsuits.

How many books to do you read at any given time? What are you reading now?
I generally read two or three books at once. Right now I’m reading Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary (it’s much better than the movie), Albert Jay Knock’s autobiographical Memoirs of a Superfluous Man (one of the snarkiest books ever written before the word snarky was invented), and Thor Heyerdahl’s Fatu-Hiva – Back to Nature. Party because I love crazy old Thor and enjoy reading anything by him, but also because I found a free copy at the Gerlach post office.

Finish this sentence; when I curl up with a book, I ___
…want it to not make my fall asleep right away. It doesn’t sound like much, but often it seems that it’s too much to ask. And I have a three-year-old with Down syndrome, a 40-hour-a-week job, a hobby business, and various construction projects. So I fall asleep *really* easily!

To re-read or not to re-read that is the question.
I like to crawl back to my favorite dozen or so books once every few years – if for no other reason than to remind myself of why they are my favorites.

How likely are you to read a book that’s been recommended to you?
It depends very much on the person recommending it. There are people whose taste I trust and admire… and people whose taste I trust and admire far less.

How likely are you to recommend a book (that isn’t yours)?
Very. I recommend them all the time. Hopefully I’m one of the former types of people, rather than the later. (See above.)

What do you look for in a good book?
I look for it to be clever, interesting, and informative. It’s fun to learn, and there’s really no reason that practically any book can teach, regardless of its subject matter.

Why do you write?
Because I don’t seem to have any choice. For me writing is more like an obsessive-compulsive disorder than anything else. It’s just something I have to do sometimes

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
A bookseller; which, in fact, I am.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Any number of sources. And, of course, they’ve changed over time. I find the Black Rock Desert where I live to be a powerful muse. I also find my own daughter’s struggles to express herself despite her handicap to be very inspiring and thought provoking.

What has writing taught you about yourself?
That craft is very important to me, and worth being patient to achieve. Anybody can crap out a few thousand words onto a piece of paper. The hard part is going back over those same thousand words in an attempt to “de-crap” them.

How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
I’m not sure I have a writing career at this point. I came pretty close to having one three or so years ago, but now I’m just a guy who tries to fit writing the odd story, game, or novella into his busy schedule – and then attempts to get them published somehow. And many of the people in my day-to-day life are only vaguely aware that I’m a writer; which is fine. Life is short, and most of my friends have their own interests and problems in any case.

Are there any stereotypes about writers that you don’t think are true?
I would say that for most of us flashes of great inspiration are few and far between. Unlike the portrayal of writers you see in film and television, there are only occasional eureka moments. The rest of the time you just hack it out as best as you are able, and hope that by doing so you eventually get better at it.

What do you see as the biggest challenge today for writers starting out?
Getting anyone to notice them. There’s just so much stuff out there now – much of it very bad, some of it quite good, and a lot of it free electronically – that it’s hard to get anyone to read you at all.

Have you made any writing mistakes that seem obvious in retrospect but weren’t at the time?
Yes. When I sold the business I spent 15 years building up I should have dedicated myself *exclusively* to writing, rather than setting out to create another business while also trying to write. If I’d done that I might actually have a career as a writer today, rather than being a guy who constantly tries to find time to write.

Is there a particular project you would love to be involved with?
It would be great to do a roleplaying game adaptation of China Mieville’s novel Railsea. Right now as a publisher I’m wrapping up development of a book based on Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International universe – and I’ve got a few other projects cooking for after that – but it would be nice to do at some point. It’s a great setting; like Moby Dick, but with trains instead of ships and giant moles instead of whales.

How do you deal with your fan base?
Politely: after all, there are more California condors than Jason Walters’ fans!

Finish this sentence; my fans would be surprised to know ___ about me.
That I was once a member of the Ecclesia Gnostica Mysteriorum: an alternative Christian religious movement based on the ancient heretical teachings of the Gnostics. So I was once all New Age and stuff!

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