Our Interview with Jason Baldwin-Stephens!

                                                        Days Like These

Jason Baldwin-Stephens’ debut novel takes a look at the lives of students at a New England University. While the more scholarly types may see this as a dissertation on love, fear, maturity and coping with the bridge from childhood in the the “real” world, the simple description is that it’s about just how clueless college guys are when it comes to everything.
                                                   Bio provided from author’s site
It was our pleasure to get a chance to know Jason and his thoughts on going from young adult to living in the “real” world.  He gives a look as towhat high schoolers have to look forward to and maybe help those who have been to college to reminisce. So please give a warm welcome to Jason!
1.      What makes for a good hook in your stories? Where does your inspiration come from?
A: I tend to like stories that focus heavily on characters when I read and that definitely affects which ideas I latch onto and feel compelled to write.  There have been many times I’ve come up with an idea for something that has an exciting plot but the characters end up not  working for me so, the project gets put aside for another day.
As for a good hook, I think the writer’s approach just needs to be fresh to the topic on hand. If your story takes an approach that people may not have seen before, it will pull them in. For example my short story, The Masterpiece, is about an established artist whose identity gets purchased by a large corporation. Essentially it’s a story about identity theft but one in which the law is protecting the thief and not the victim.
 2.      Are you an organized writer? Do you do things like take notes and make lists of characters?   Or do you free write and work it out as you go?
A: That all depends on the project.  For short stories I tend to write quickly and find that notes only get in my way.  Days Like These, on the other hand, is a lengthy novel set on a college campus. While the novel focuses on four main characters, the cast of characters is much bigger than that and I never would have gotten through it without a few notes to keep things straight.
When it comes to plotting though, I never make notes. I just keep the start and an ending in mind, though by the time I get to the final draft of something the ending is seldom the way I originally envisioned it being.
  3.      What is your normal writing day like? Do you write when you are inspired or do you have a schedule?
A: Though I wish writing was my full time job the simple fact of the matter is that I’m just starting out and I have a full time day job so, the writing has to occur around that.  Generally, I write at night but I’ve found that writing first thing in the morning is really when I’m most productive. Unfortunately, that usually means 4:00 AM for me if I want to get some real work done and make it to the day job on time.
  4.      Who is your favorite author and how did they inspire you to write?
A: I don’t know that I can say I have just one favorite author.  Some of the ones that are tied for that spot are: Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King, and John Irving. I’ve also recently read a few of Jennifer Egan’s novels and she is definitely at the top of the list now too.
As to how they all inspired me to write? The short answer is that they were there for me to read and to realize that, “Hey, I would really like to give the writing thing a try.”
  5. It’s easy to see that you have a passion for writing but is there any part of it you don’t like?
A: I don’t think so. There are certainly days where things aren’t flowing and that can become extremely frustrating but in most cases, the feeling you get the moment things start gelling again more than makes up for any of the times when the work seems insurmountable.
  6.      Do you make time to read and if you do what are you reading right now?
A: I always make time to read, even if some days I only manage to squeeze in a few minutes. Currently I’m reading: American Rust by Philipp Meyer though I’ve only just started on it.
  7.      How did you get into writing in the genre of fiction on self-exploration? Is there personal life experience in the writing?
A: I wouldn’t say that it was a conscious decision to work in this genre. It just sort of happened that these are the  types of stories that I seem to get the most inspired to write. I would like to branch out more and try out some other types of fiction (I know I have a Horror story in me somewhere it just hasn’t surfaced yet) but I think at the heart there will always be that sense of self-discovery with my characters.
As to personal life experience, I’m not writing biographies but every writer incorporates something of their personal life into their work because you have to imagine how characters would react to a situation. If I feel a close attachment to a character, if it’s one that may have a few similar personality traits to me, then when something happens I will take a step back and think to myself, “Okay, how would this make me feel? How would I react?” Once I get that sorted then comes the harder question of, “Okay, if I would do this, then how would the character react?”
The characters that I don’t like in my work, those are the easy ones because then all I have to ask myself is, “What’s the opposite of what I would do here?”  (Empty Shells was a really easy short story for me to write.)
 8.      Your books have been published with Amazon.com, Does this mean you see the publishing industry headed this way?
A: One thing I have never claimed to be is a Futurist. I’m definitely opinionated (just ask my wife) but I’m no good at predicting the future.  That being said, I think that we are at least going to see the brick and mortar stores fade away over the course of this decade as more and more people convert to E-readers.
 9.      Do you have any online sites where others can read more of your writings?
A: At the moment, no. That’s something that will be happening. I’ll let you know when it does.
10.   Do you have any more stories in the works? What kinds of stories do you plan to write next?
A: Writing Days Like These took a long time and I’m kind of just now realizing that not only has it been a while since I’ve written a short story but I miss writing short stories so, I think the next thing you see from me may be a few of those. Other than that my brain keeps bouncing between two very different ideas; I’m going to write both of them I just haven’t decided which one will be first.
 11.    Who would be your first choice to play the main character in your book “Days Like These”?
A: Ahh, you’ve got me there. I’m in my thirties now and though I hate to admit it, all my first choices are too old for any of the leads.
All kidding aside, I think I would like to see most of the big parts played by unknowns.
  12.     If you could meet anyone from any time who would it be and what would be your first question?
A:  I’m really torn here. I want to say something profound but the honest answer is my Mom’s father. He passed away before I was born and my Mom has always told me that he and I have the same sense of humor so, my first question would probably be something like, “Hey Carl, would you believe me if I told you I was one of your grandkids from the future?”

Short Stories: