Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Episode 12: Back to School

Asshole: Hi and welcome to episode twelve of the Smart Weiter's Blog number two, the only place on the web where people cry at how dumb society has got, or feel the need to throw up on expensive electronics. This is our first episode featured in HD, meaning of course that we're Half-Dead but in my opinion, I've been pale and cold since this job wormed its miserable way into my life. Tonight, we travel back in time to that place we never went to, where all the girls drink yagerbombs, the guys all get stoned and take five hours walking home and all the cops hate everyone; College! I really liked the scene in this book where Bluto brought the horse into the Dean's office and shot it with a blank, somehow killing the horse.

Brim: You’re thinking of Animal House.

A: Really? I could've sworn it was this book.

B: Yeah, no.

A: Well, my mistake. In that case, my favorite scene in this book was when that girl made that dick head frat guy a smoothie only to pack it full of colon blow right before his big test where-

B: I'm going to stop you there. That was Van Wilder.

A: Seriously? Well what the fuck happens in this book?

B: Read it. You'll like it.

A: This thing is 200,000 words! I wouldn't get that word count if I taped together my whole stack of Playboys.

Super Wowro: And where do you keep those? You guys don't really need me, right, I mean I’m like a prop up here.

A: You weren't supposed to talk yet fuckface.

SW: All right. It's cool.

A: That is Super Wowro, our special guest host today for some cross promotion bullshit we're doing here.

SW: Me and Mario Karloff will be reviewing the professionals.

A: That's enough from you. We need to introduce our guest. Jason, state your name and what your brick is about.

B: It's a book, not a brick.

Jason: Hey guys! Thanks for having me. First off I want to point out that it is a long brick, I mean book, but if you were to edit out all the swears it would be a much much shorter novel.

Days Like These is basically a novel that takes a look at the lives of three guys in the same dorm and the hoops they make themselves jump through for the women in their lives. The campus cops also play a pretty big role in it too. In fact, Becky is probably my favorite character even though she gets less page time than Ben, Dave or John.

The book definitely has some Animal House type moments to it but unfortunately I'm not as funny as Harold Ramis so, I had to make up for it with more swearing and arguing between all the characters and bring the focus more to what, I hope, is a relatable college experience for a lot of people and a relatable experience to what it's like to try and be in a "grown up" relationship at a time in your life when you don't really know what it means yet to be a grown up.

Plus, it gave me an excuse to write a few dick and fart jokes.

B: So what made you want to write this novel in the first place?

A: Not enough women to chase around campus?

SW: I made a college before...yeah, took me a while.

B: Wow.

A: Megablocks is running out of ideas.

SW: No really, it took me forever but I took all the megaman villains from the first 9 games and put them all together. It was pretty sweet.

B: You mean collage?...let's please get back to Jason.

J: What made me want to write the novel? Umm, let me try and give you the short version. I didn't finish college on my first go around and about four and half years back I finally re-enrolled to finish up my BA in English.

A couple of things happened when I did that. First off I started writing again, which was something I had done a lot in my teens and early twenties but eventually fell out of the habit of doing as I focused more and more on my day job. The next thing that happened was I took a playwriting class with Tom Dulack, and ended up writing a play that was somewhat biographical about me and my friends during a certain period of our lives.

While all that was going on I was back on a college campus for the first time in years; once kids figure out that the thirty-something year old sitting in the common area isn't some adjunct they kinda just don't care that your sitting there and talk about whatever they want to talk about. I wasn't eavesdropping on anyone but it became really clear pretty quick that things hadn't changed all that much for any of the students since when I was in my early twenties.

All around the same time my play was getting wrapped up and a reading was being done of it, I sorta figured out that while I loved the play, I really didn't get out all the things I felt I had to say about being in your early twenties. Once that fact connected with the realization that things for the college students of today weren't all that different from what things were like back in the nineties, I knew that I could tell this story that was rolling around in my head.

Originally I thought it would be a nice, condensed novel of about 200 pages. After a week of working on it I realized that I was just going to throw everything I had into it and not worry about things like word count, commercial appeal, etc.

B: That is refreshing to see someone say they don't care about the commercial aspects.

SW: It's not like people make money off these books anyways.

B: Has this writing experience put the itch in you to write more or was this a one-time thing?

A: I'm taking a shit. 

SW: That's awesome bro.

J: Yeah, the itch is definitely there. Because Days Like These took such a long time I really thought I was just going to focus on short stories this year but so far that doesn't seem to be happening.

I have two things I'm working on right now. One is more of what you would probably expect based on the novel and the few short stories that I've self-published; the other project I have going is turning into more of a chance for me to let my imagination run free a bit. It's something that seems to be turning into a mix of horror, fantasy and science fiction. I'm hoping to have at least one completed before the end of the year.

SW: I have a question. Judging by the constant question of pot use in this book, what is your official stance on it?

A: I bet he's a pothead.

B: Strike that from the interview.

A: Fuck you. I'll strike you from the interview.

B: What does that even mean?

SW: Do you guys ever talk to the interviewee or just bicker back and forth?

A: Fuck you too.

J: Hahaha. You know out of any friends and family who have read the novel and any other interviews I've done for it, you guys are the first to ask me about that. I think in a lot of cases people read it and just make some assumptions but the truth is that I'm more than a little past the pot using stage of my life.

As for the legalization of it? I think when you look at the mental and physical long term affects it can have it's no worse or better for one than alcohol, and it's certainly less damaging to one than cigarettes.

Why it figures so prominently in the book? There's a number of reasons and I think if I went into some of them I would enter spoiler territory. Certainly part of the reason was that you can't write about kids living in a dorm without touching on the subject. I also didn't want to go the route of having the "potheads" as just some background comic relief either so, with the case of at least one of them, I brought them front and center.

I want to say more here but I really can't think of a way to do that without giving away a few things.

A: Pretend we're sock puppets.

B: Maybe you guys should read the book.

A: Maybe, but I'm going on record right now as being the only sane one of us. It is my turn to question this person though. I spent some time sleeping on my friends floors at colleges and went about their days with them. If there is one thing I agree with you, it's on how much time is wasted in planning what to do and just going from place to place throughout the night. What the hell is wrong with college kids? Why can't they just pick one spot and stay there?

J: I'm sure if you polled a bunch of college kids right now their answers would be pretty different from what I'm about to say here but I think it has a lot to do with where they are in their lives. When you think about it the general portrayal that college gets, the one that most kids grow up with, is that college is this giant opportunity to explore things and to find yourself. And, that's what you really want/need to do at that stage in your life.

However, the reality is that when you get there your stuck in a little dorm room that you are sharing with at least one other person and unless you are going to school in a city somewhere most of your week, when not in class, is spent staring at the same walls and hallways in your dorm and talking to the same people. So, you have this mindset that you are supposed to be off and experiencing new things constantly but it's impossible for college life to live up to the myth that has been created around it.

Add all that together and when it comes time to actually go out and hit the bars and parties, I think most college students feel, at least in their subconscious, that they are missing out on something more fun where they aren't at; next thing you know someone in the group you are hanging out with is suggesting you check out what's going on in the room down the hall, the bar across the street from the one you are, the party off campus, etc.

Of course you also can't rule out the "looking to hook up" factor. You get a bunch of people between the ages of 17 to 21 all on one campus and a big part of their motivation is to find someone when they go out.

SW: Looking to hook up is the only reason to walk across EIU at three in the am.

A: You've done no such thing.

SW: Sure thing man.

B: Yes...well. Jason, your writing is much different than a lot of what I've seen coming through the indie circuit. Most people tend to favor a high degree of dialogue with almost no descriptions at all, almost like a script. Then there are others who tend to overbear the reader with constant narrative with little to no dialogue that can almost overbear the reader. You, on the other hand, have blended the two together quite nicely. Was this an intentional style that you went with or just an unconscious thing?

J: Thank you for that compliment, Brim. I wish I could say that I was experienced enough for that to be a purely conscious decision on my part but it's really just the way my style has developed. I love dialogue and I think that's where I, as reader and a writer, really learn who the characters in a work are but for a novel that's only half the story. I know the term world building is generally something that is only used in reference to the Fantasy Genre but every novel needs a little bit of world building in it for the story to feel real for the reader. If you look at something like say, To Kill a Mockingbird  by Harper Lee. The street that Scout and Jem live on is almost as detailed as Mid-World is in Stephen King's The Dark Tower series.

So, I did approach this with a desire to make the fictional university where my novel is set to be, hopefully, detailed enough that you can picture the school. One of the things that I also realized when working on the second draft was that I had over-detailed some aspects of it and a lot of the second draft was spent ripping out huge sections of description that were just unnecessary. Then, I ripped out a little more with each following draft. What I was left with by the time all the drafts and editing were done was this mix of dialogue and description.

A: You mean this thing was longer!? Where do you get the time?

B: Some people don't spend four hours a day beating off

A: Okay well that's only a sixth-

B: And eight hours playing video games.

A: I happen to have an addiction!

B: And twelve hours sleeping...

A: Fuck you!

J: Yeah, it was a lot longer. Between the first draft and the version that was published I edited out close to 60,000 words.

At the time I started working on it I was working full time and going to school part time so to get it done I found myself getting up at 4:00 AM more often than not to get the writing done. First thing in the morning is really the most productive time for me for writing. The editing was a little easier because when the time came for that I had finished school already.

Luckily, I have a very understanding wife.

B: Well Jason, it’s been great having you on the show. Was there anything you wanted to say before we let you go?

A: Yeah like how awesome I am?

J: Just want to say thank you for having me. You guys are awesome.

A: And what is your virtual toilet paper? Blogs, twitter, facebook; all the things that have made life that much worse.

J: I guess I'll remind everyone first that Days Like These is available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble so if you have a Kindle, Nook or tablet that supports either app, get it now. I also have some short stories available but just through Amazon at the moment.

As for the other stuff? You can find me on Facebook and a page for the novel there as well. I also have a Twitter account but where I've been most actively recently is on Goodreads.

Thanks again, guys.

A: And thank all our wonderful fans who sit there with their hands on their private parts stroking or strumming that special part of themselves at the very thought of me.

SW: And your massive head?

A: Who the fuck are you again?

SW: Haha, check out me and Mario’s new show where we take professional books we love and try to give them bad reviews or something like that.

B: Just buy Jason’s book.