My name is Jason Cantrell. I can most easily be found on Twitter @cantrelljason, though I’m also sporadically on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jason.cantrell.501 and I have a personal blog at http://writingpossibilities.com/
2. Other than writing, what is your favorite hobby or thing you enjoy for fun?
When I’m not writing, I’m usually reading (primarily fantasy, sci fi, mystery, drama, and academic texts related to communication and language). I’m also fond of video games, usually those in similar genres to the books I read. I’ve also been playing Dungeons and Dragons since I was about 13. I play a pretty wicked Rogue.
3. How long have you been writing? How many books have you written? They don’t have to be published.
I started writing fiction in fifth grade. I’ve been pursuing it seriously since I was a teenager. From the ages of 15 to 21 or so, I attempted (and failed) to write novels on a few different subjects. Several of them were based (sometimes loosely) on my D&D campaigns. In the long run, this was too restrictive, because I felt obligated to keep things in line with what “actually happened” in the game. After getting up to about 100 pages in my last failed attempt, I changed gears and started on a sci fi novel about time travel. “Rogue Traveler” took me five years to complete as a first draft, and it’s never been revised.
I eventually gave up on “Rogue Traveler” and stuck it in a drawer. Now, since September of 2012, I’ve been working on an urban fantasy series titled “Arcana Revived.” So far, I’ve released one short story (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FH1JVM0) titled “Radiance.” I’ve also got another 9 short stories and 3 novels written in the series, with a 4th novel in progress. The first novel, “Manifestation” is currently on Draft 5 of revisions. I expect to release it later this year. I also plan to release another short, “Belladonna,” about the same time. In the long run, the entire series of novels and shorts will be available in print and ebook versions.
4. What genres do you like writing the most? And why? Is this genre the same as the one you prefer to read?
I’ve always leaned mostly towards fantasy and sci fi. Urban fantasy was sort of a logical next step, since it blends some of the elements of each genre. So I can write a story about magic-powered super-soldiers, but also give them advanced combat gear with HUDs, thermal imaging, and other fun stuff.
In between revising “Manifestation,” I’m about 24,000 words into the as-yet-untitled 4th book in my series. As I complete each one I’m unable to resist diving into the next, and there’s sure to be a 5th book at the very least (probably more).
6. How do you typically begin your projects? Do you create outlines and character profiles or jump in head first with the initial idea? And do you focus on just one at a time?
I started off with a series of short stories that are now considered non-canon. My main characters each starred in a number of independent shorts, many of which were collaborative writing projects. I eventually decided to branch out and leave the collaborative writing sites in order to write my own independent work. Since I had several well-developed characters with interesting concepts, I decided to throw them into a world together and see how they interacted with each other. “Arcana Revived” was the result.
I don’t outline. I tend to be a pantser most of the time. I’ll sit down at the start of a novel with a certain far-off goal that ultimately serves as the climax. For example, one goal might be “By the end of the book, get Character X and Character Y into a climactic final battle.” I then write towards that goal and see how long it takes to get me there. The various twists and turns along the way usually develop based on the characters’ individual personalities and aspirations.
7. What aspect of your writing do you consider your strength? Your weakness?
My biggest strength is probably my characterization. Playing D&D and other roleplaying games for years helped me develop a good sense for making interesting characters. I like to follow them along a long journey and watch them grow.
My biggest weakness, in my opinion, is probably setting and description. I tend to struggle with those things and always need to go back during revisions and fill in details that I don’t think were adequate on the first draft.
8. After publishing, the next trouble facing writers is marketing. What do you typically do when marketing your novel? Do you have tips you’d like to share?
So far my marketing for “Radiance” involves the occasional link on Twitter (kept to a minimum to avoid spamming my followers), and frequently mentioning the story on my blog. A link to the ebook has a permanent place on my blog’s sidebar, so any visitors to my blog are at least aware that the story exists. I also occasionally do free advertising through projectwonderful.com. You can also pay for advertising on that site, but I’m saving that until I have a novel out.
9. What advice would you give a writer who is starting out?
Everyone always says “write every day.” But more specifically, I say, write short stories on the side of your main project. If you’re writing a romance novel about a character meeting their “one true love,” try writing a short on the side about their first date ever so you know what their early romantic experiences were like. If you’re writing an adventure story about a great war hero, write about the very first time they ever had to kill someone on the battlefield. If you’re writing a mystery, write a flashback to the detective’s first crime case ever. These shorts can give you insight into the character you write and their mindset, as well as helping you to develop their backstory.