After a short break, I’m back with another interview. This week Jason Blatt is in the hot seat. And…here we go.
-What book and/or experience made you want to be a writer?
I don’t think I could limit it to any single experience or book. At a very early age I started making up my own stories. My mother would bring these notepads home from work, and I’d lie on the living room floor and spend hours making very crude comic books. So I’d make up these fantastic drawings of underwater bases and people turning into monsters and aliens and explosions and twists. No written dialogue though. Even then I was already hearing the “voices.” I don’t think that experience is necessarily unique; it’s just that I never really stopped doing that. That probably sounds weird, huh? I probably shouldn’t say that out loud too often. When my drawing ability didn’t keep up with the weird characters in my daydreams, I started to paint with words. I suppose a big part of it was having parents who encouraged me to read. One of my favorite Christmas gifts was an illustrated edition of A Christmas Carol. I still have it. And I’ll never forget the day my father came home after work with a brand new set of World Book encyclopedias. All those dogeared pages! The world was made up of all these amazing stories, some truer than others. But still—I was in love.
If I had to name names: Ray Bradbury, Douglas Adams, and Hunter S. Thompson. I blame them. Their work not only inspired me to write, but made me a reader, too.
-What genre do you write?
My heart is in comic fantasy. There’s just so much freedom in that realm as a writer to me. Besides, there are enough serious writers out there. I decided a long time ago that if I ever said anything profound it was accidental. That’s not to say that comic fiction can’t make a point. It often does. But that’s what I love about the genre—it’s very diverse and has a rich history. Otherwise, I don’t like to start out by dictating a story by genre conventions. If I think it will make a better story, I’ll try it. At least in the early drafts. I plot some, but it always changes as I work.
-What projects are you working on now?
My main project right now is my Seton Hill MFA thesis novel, a comic science fantasy, but I’ve also been working on some short stories that expand that novel’s fictional universe.
From my MFA WIP:
“Now that,” Atticus said, “is a hell of a thing.” He stared at the crumpled body, scratched his head, and finished what beer he hadn’t spit all over himself and half the kitchen. His three-legged Miniature Schnauzer hobbled in from the other room. Admiral Nelson was always a moody son-of-a-bitch, but especially when Atticus was behind schedule. He curled up on the mat by his empty bowl, looked up with his one good eye, and let loose a disaffected groan. His miniature paw rubbed the black patch covering the empty socket of his other eye.
“And how are we this morning?” Atticus said.
“You know, this simply won’t do,” the Admiral growled.
“We’ve got a bit of a situation.”
“We most certainly do.” The Admiral nudged the bowl forward with his nose. “Now--what are you going to do about it?”
“I’m not talking about food.”
“It’s what I’m talking about,” the Admiral said, “and until you resolve this oversight I really can’t be bothered. Not before morning num-nums.”
“Said the four hundred-year-old alien to his talking dog.”
-For other aspiring writers, any tips?
When I was 19, I tried to write my first novel. It was called Red Martian Camp and was loosely based on my experiences as an undergraduate at Penn State University. I had about 75pp when I showed it to someone I considered my first mentor, a high school English teacher. He told me to keep it to myself. It was a very long time before I had the confidence to try again. So remember that anyone’s advice or feedback is just that. If you hear the call and believe in it, don’t let anyone dissuade you from pursuing it. Just keep things in perspective.
-What’s your favorite book/genre to read?
I try to read as broadly as I can, but I can always rely on Terry Pratchett or Christopher Moore for something I know will hit the spot. I love the Modernists, Jazz Age fiction (what style!), Hammett and Chandler’s detective stories, John Le Carre, Cormac McCarthy, George Saunders, P.G. Wodehouse. David McCullough’s John Adams—great book and a fantastic historian (and fellow Pittsburgher), who knows how to tell a great story. E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime. Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. Jose Philip Farmer’s Tarzan Alive! And I’m always expanding my knowledge of comic fiction. Right now there’s some Robert Rankin in my short stack, along with Gary Wolf’s Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, Carl Hiassen, Nightlife of the Gods by Thorne Smith.
-What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever written?
I haven’t written it yet, although I’m not sure I’m ever completely satisfied with a creative project. Several months ago I completed a short film and I was already thinking of what I’d change/add as it burnt to disc. Artistically, being satisfied is a kind of complacency to me. But there are deadlines. I suppose you learn to deal with it. Then again, I’m just getting started, so what the hell do I know?
Born in a small rustbelt town north of Pittsburgh, Jason Blatt is currently a candidate in Seton Hill University’s MFA in Writing Popular Fiction program, where he’s working on his first novel. A graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, he holds degrees in English/Creative Writing and Film Studies. He briefly studied film production at Pittsburgh Filmmakers, where he was the recipient of a First Works grant in 2011 for his satirical short film “Teabagger.” At some point, he plans to return and earn his certificate in film production. In another life, he studied political science at Penn State University, where he worked on local campaigns in State College, but mostly dealt with an early onset of advanced cynicism. Thanks to his Great Dane and a healthy sense of irreverence, he still has hope.
Want more from Jason? Says he…
I’m on Facebook and Twitter @jayblatt. I’m fairly absent from both (until the novel’s finished at least), although I’m saving a ton on birthday cards, which is nice. Once I’ve completed the draft of my novel, I plan to direction some attention to creating a blog. “More to Come,” as the old Tonight Show intertitles used to read.