Interview with Jason Downes
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I never really know how to answer this question. I suppose in many ways I always wanted to be one. I imagine the desire to do it began at school in English class when we would be given assignments to write a short story or essay. I loved that. It gave you the freedom to stretch your imagination and put it on paper.
It was the first real experience of creating characters, even if they were just your friends and you putting them in strange situations, it was all about telling the story and making it fun.
Then as I got older I left it behind in a way but I was always eager to try it again but not being in school anymore there didn’t really seem to be a point in it. Even though I was reading books until my eyes saw letters when they were closed, it was almost like that desire to write was quieted in the books I read.
Then one day I sat down and wrote a short story and it just felt right. I tried another and then another and really it all flowed from there.
What genre do you write and why?
Well for the most part I write horror or something that has supernatural tinges but over the last few years I have been writing in other areas. My first novel, Pony Fleming is a comedy drama set in Dublin and follows the title character through a nine month period where in he finds a job on the railway, breaks up with his on and off girlfriend and faces the proposition of fatherhood when she tells him she’s pregnant. Now some may say this fate is a horror story in itself but in the traditional sense, there isn’t a ghost in sight.
Of the other work I’ve had published all of it has been horror/ghost stories. I was very lucky to find a publisher who A: liked them and B: sells them. Postmortem Press and their owner Eric Beebe have done a lot to keep me ticking over in this genre and they too will publish my next novel which is a horror called The Barn.
I like writing horror for the same reason I like to read it, scary is fun. We all like it, that moment where you don’t really want to see what’s coming next because you know it’s not anything good but yet you cannot stop from looking, reading, watching or whatever. It may get a kicking from certain circles but I love it, it’s great fun and you know if all of the horrible things in the world only happened between the covers of a book, things would be much better.
Tell us about your latest book
The Barn is a horror set in Bergen County NJ. It begins with the town of Aldwood in the 1700’s as it is putting the finishing touches to a barn they have built in order to store food for the winter in the event of an emergency and to have somewhere to gather in the summer.
However before the barn even has a chance to open it becomes the focal point of violence when a young business man, Carl Moran who is in debt to the local loan shark and has borrowed from another family friend also, is working late when his less patient debtor catches up with him. Things unfold and murder stains the barn before it even opens.
The murder stirs and feeds an ancient evil that is chained to the land. An evil which is centuries old has been disturbed by the building of the barn having been confined there by the local native tribe many years before. Upon its awakening the demon is weak and needs to grow stronger in order to gain vengeance. It does this by influencing weak or vulnerable minds that come onto the land which it is bound to.
As the years go by the violence grows and feeds the demon. Throughout the book we see the many evils of the world utilized to feed the monster, racism, rape, child abuse, murder and greed, many of the unsavory elements to human nature become food for the evil that now resides within the barn.
As each act of murder ends and the spirit of the victim left behind, they begin to band together and join forces with the descendants of the native tribe who originally captured and trapped the demon.
Once the demon finds a host in which to leave the land through it then falls on the small group of spirits and humans to recapture it before it wreaks havoc on the tribe and the town.
What marketing methods are you using to promote your book?
This is an area of the business where I am still very much finding my feet. I suppose this interview is a prime example of what will be done. As I do this interview the book has not been released, by the time people are reading it the book will be available most likely. It is scheduled for a late summer launch.
I will target as many media outlets as possible, radio probably being a great way to reach readers. For my first novel I did a reading and interview on Edin Road radio that gave me a good half hours exposure. Working along with the publisher we will no doubt press ahead in print media also and of course the social outlets such as facebook and twitter.
This really is an area where when you begin your career or hobby of writing and are looking for sales or exposure, it can be a little confusing or overwhelming. Even those big publishers won’t do too much to push a book unless you’re a heavyweight. It really is up to the author to think of creative ways to push the novel out there and into the eyes and hands of the book buying public.
What formats is the book available in?
Pony Fleming is available in paperback and e-book. The Barn will be the same. Postmortem-press have recently ventured into the audio book market and it would be very exciting to hear someone read the book in such a way, so who knows? Maybe audio too. For now, both will be paper back and e-book.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
There’s always so much going on here. With a fulltime job and two little girls the question should be when do you get to write! However, when I’m not writing or working I like to play with the girls, or strum a little on the guitar. My interests are a lot similar to most peoples. During the year I’ll watch Liverpool FC and the NJ Devils, or just hang out with family and friends and knock back a beer or three.
This last year has been hectic what with doctors for our oldest but in general it’s low key here. Not something most people think of when they imagine what a horror writer does when not writing. It’s the one genre which probably has the biggest misconceptions from the reading public toward the authors than any other.
Alas I don’t have any coffins or black curtains in the house, there are no skulls on the wall, and we don’t stay up very late…we do however have cobwebs at times.
Who are your favorite authors?
There are a few authors whom I return to again and again, not all are horror but here we go in no particular order, Stephen King, James Herbert, John Connolly, Ken Bruen, Roddy Doyle, Tana French, and Brendan Behan. Having had my work published with PMP I also became exposed to some great new talent such as Joe Williams, Jessica McHugh, Ken Cain and Brad Carter among others. There really are few joys like finding a new author you can really like, the only similar experience for me is finding a band that until you hear them for the first time had never been on your radar and then….BOOM! You’re hooked.
What advice do you have for other writers?
I’m smiling here to myself because just last night my cousin back home in Ireland sent me a message and told me he had just written a novel, the first in a saga which has been in his mind for years, and he wanted some advice.
Well, the usual advice is very much one of the truest, read. The more you read the more you’re exposing your mind to other styles and ideas. Read it all, fiction, biographies, history, you name it read it.
Then don’t give up. Keep going. Even if you get 40,000 words in and you know where it’s going but you can’t finish that story, try again. Trust me on this, I know. My first attempt at a novel ended up that way. I left it alone, wrote some shorts and then Pony Fleming. That first draft of my first attempted novel was never finished but the idea stuck and after some rejigging it became The Barn.
Keep going, no matter what. Even if as you write the first draft you know it needs a ton of work, keep going. That’s what the editing process is for. You can fix it; you just need to get that idea that’s burning your brain cells out down. Once it’s done then step away. Have a drink, eat a steak and leave it be for a few weeks then go back after you have had time to let the excitement settle and you can look at it honestly and see the parts that won’t work, then fix them.
At this point find someone you can trust and let them see it; it will help to have another pair of eyes for errors but also to give you some clear and constructive criticism. Stephen King said write the first draft with the door closed and the second with it open, sound advice because that first draft is about getting your story down without interruption, when it’s done it’s done, let it breathe and don’t be afraid to share it, after all, you just wrote a book right? And what is the purpose, the existence of a book for but to be read.
What’s your favorite quote about writing/ for writers?
If at first you cannot see it, let your imagination be it.
What’s the best thing about being a writer?
The freedom. Without a doubt. The freedom to create anything from your imagination and mold characters into a world that is your own making. Being able to create an escape from real world issues for readers and maybe take them to a better place even for that short amount of time that they have your story in their hands.
Where can people find out more about you and your writing?
My author facebook page is a start. Or go to postmortem-press.com to see the books my work is in and then you have www.ponyfleming.com
Anything else you’d like to add?
Just to thank everyone and anyone who has purchased books with my work in it. Also my wife Jess for her support, Lord knows it isn’t easy and Eric Beebe for being brave enough to champion my work and that of others. Support your small presses they are vital, and also this site for the interview. Thanks.