Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Author Jay Young

Welcome to Writers' Wednesday! We have another great author interview scheduled for today, this time with Christian historical author Jay Young.

But before we get started, hurry on over to The Long and Short of It and read the glowing review of my newly released novel, One Night in Boston. My favorite part: "Boniface has a delicate touch, her flashbacks are smooth, clarify the tale, but do not slow the pace. Her word choice and comparisons are lovely..." (Thanks, Nancy!)

Also, today I'm featured in an interview over at WOW - Women on Writing. If you're not reading this e-zine, you should be! It's a terrific resource for any writer. And Angela did such a nice job with the interview!

Moving on, make sure you read the sticky note above, and post a comment if you're interested in being entered into the Tote Bag Contest. Hey, what do you have to lose??

Finally, take a moment to offer a hearty congrats to Marianne, who has not one but TWO short stories releasing today with The Wild Rose Press. She's running a contest to celebrate, so drop by her blog to enter.


And now, without further ado or distraction, let's get to know Jay Young.

Hi Jay! Thanks for joining us today. Can you tell us a little about your background?

I was born in 1970 and grew up in Rockville, Maryland. My future wife and I grew up attending the same church and started dating in high school. I went on to study Accounting and MIS at Baylor University and got married after my Junior year. Upon graduating, my wife Cheri and I lived in Sacramento, CA for twelve years where we had four children. I worked in the computer field and served as the Worship Leader at our church, playing and recording with several bands and teaching guitar on the side. In 2005, we moved to San Antonio, TX where we’ve been living happily, trying to keep up with these wonderful kids and life in general.

When did you first begin writing? Was there an event or moment in your life that triggered your desire to write?

When I was a kid I wanted to be an author when I grew up, but somewhere along the line I gave up on it. When we moved to Texas in 2005, I decided it was time to spend less time focusing on music and try something else. I had toyed with the idea of writing, but I couldn’t think of what I could possibly write about. SQL Programming? How to play the guitar? How to change diapers? Then one night I was out riding my bike and I decided I would pray about it. Immediately the idea for the novels sprung into my head. I realized that I had several ideas and several parts of scripture that I had been studying that would fit into an exciting story. By the time I rode home, I already had the storyline and most of the characters in mind. It was like God had been holding this gift-wrapped box for me for twenty-five years, just waiting for me to ask for it.

Now, I’m a huge reader and a huge music fan, but one of my biggest hang-ups is the lack of diversity and quality in the modern Christian music and literature scene. There are a handful of Christian bands and authors I really dig, but there simply isn’t much available for Christians who enjoy “edgier” entertainment, so I wanted to write a novel for all the guys like me. Late 20’s / Early 30’s. Grew up reading X-Men and watching Thundercats. Loves Pulp Fiction. Reads Stephen King. Watches the Simpsons every week. Owns every Metallica album and sees them every time they come to town. Probably has some tats and closed-up earring holes. Loves Jesus with all his heart. I think there are LOTS of guys out there who fit that mold who are just waiting for a story and characters they can relate to, and that’s what I’m trying to do with the entire Heroes Series. Surprisingly, I’ve heard from many readers in their 60’s and 70’s who really enjoy the books as well. The language I use tends to be pretty mature, so I think the books lend themselves more to older readers than to children or pre-teens.

The novels incorporate a lot of heavy-duty scriptural insight and conjecture, so Biblical scholars can enjoy the stories on a deep level, but I’ve also tried to make the stories accessible to folks who barely know anything about the Bible. The novels see-saw back and forth between modern and ancient times and use a variety of POV’s and narrative styles.

Tell us about your latest work.

I’m right in the middle of a five-book series. Book One introduced all the characters and set up the storyline. Book Two was all action-packed payoff. Book Three takes place three years after the end of Book Two, so I’m introducing a few new characters and a very involved back-story involving the patriarch Levi. We tend to think of poor Joseph, sold by his brothers into slavery and what a great guy he was, but I’m digging into what drove those brothers. Levi in particular is such a fascinating character, driven by so much pain.

I’m also dealing with my main character confronting his estranged father who had abandoned his family, so there’s lots of pain surfacing in that story as well. Basically Book Three is about pain – especially pain caused by the mistakes of a father. That’s the deep stuff, but I’d say the book is at least half all-out action. I love writing battle scenes – big and small. I also love digging into the characters to see what makes them tick – where do their actions come from; what is God doing in their lives; how do they cope with trials and confusion; all that good stuff.

What do you find most difficult about writing? What do you find most exciting or rewarding?

For me, the fun part is writing the outline. I spend a few weeks writing a complete outline and timeline before I write a single word. I love putting together the pieces of the puzzle and imagining the characters in the outline process. By the time I’m ready to write, it’s more like coloring inside the lines, so I can focus more on the language and emotions without worrying about the story going off track. The most rewarding part is reading a particular paragraph or chapter and finding myself moved emotionally – knowing I hit the right emotional notes along the way and hoping that other readers will feel the same way when they read it.

The hardest thing for me is deciding how to start a chapter. At what point in the story do I jump in and how much should be told in flashback? What POV should I use? What verb tense should I use? How can I make the first paragraph engaging, but set a tone that’s maintainable? It takes almost as long to write the first paragraph as it takes to write the rest of the chapter.

What advice would you give to aspiring, unpublished writers?

It actually doesn’t take much time to write – it just takes an effort. I think about the characters and plot while I’m driving or lying in bed or doing something non-constructive. I jot notes or write on my lunch break or when I get an idea. I’ll write a few times a week for about an hour or two after the kids have gone to bed if my wife’s watching a show I don’t want to watch. I’ll take 4 – 6 hours on a Saturday once or twice a month and really crank out the words. Instead of working on home improvements or watching American Idol and Survivor, I just use those extra hours to write and it all adds up. With Microsoft Word, Google, and Wikipedia, everyone has the tools to at least attempt writing. And with e-queries, e-books, webzines, POD publishing, and self-publishing, it’s easier than ever to get your writing out to the rest of the world.

What kinds of books do you like to read? Who is your favorite author?

I love Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Horror, and some modern-genre stuff, like Chuck Pahlaniuk. My all-time favorite author is Orson Scott Card. The humanity he instills in his characters and the complex dilemmas he puts them through are just brilliant and moving. More recently, I’ve been inspired by Carol Berg – a computer programmer turned author who writes truly engaging Fantasy novels. I’d have to throw Robert R. McCammon into the mix as well. And since I’m throwing in authors, let’s toss in Dan Simmons. I was reading his Hyperion series when I began writing my own series and I’d like to think a little of his brilliance rubbed off. Just a little, though.

Thanks so much for a fascinating interview, Jay! Want to know more about this author? Visit his webpage below. And leave a comment letting us know you were here today!

Jay L. Young is the author of the Heroes Series – an epic series of Christian Fiction novels which chronicle the battles and tribulations of Noah “No” Argentar and a band of heroes called The Faction. His novels have been described as “the X-Men meet the Old Testament”. The first novel, titled “Heroes Of Old” was released by iUniverse publishing in 2007, followed shortly by the second novel, titled “Spirit Of Heroes”. The third novel in the series, titled “Sanctuary of Heroes” is scheduled to be released in late 2007. Two additional novels, titled “Tribulation Of Heroes” and “The Will Of Heroes” will complete the five-book series.

Jay Young

Jay Young's Amazon Page


Heather said...

Glad I found your blog---interesting-looking books, a book set in Boston (where I went to college and met my husband), an interview with a writer who grew up in Maryland (where I live now)... all sorts of fun. :) I'll have to check out WOW later this afternoon too!

Booklogged said...

I agree with Heather - Wonderful blog. I'll be back for a longer visit. Right now I only have time to let you know I want to be included in the contest.

Jim Melvin said...

Jay, this was a fascinating interview. I especially enjoyed your comments about how you set up a detailed outline before you begin. Few writers that I know of have that kind of discipline. But I'm sure that it pays off in the long run.

Jim Melvin said...

And Allie, congrats on all your latest accomplishments!