Many authors are even more interesting than their fiction, or at least equally compelling. Even if their own autobiographical experiences are not explicitly revealed in their creative work, the heart and soul of their personal lives imbue and inform their imagination.
This same breed of author will produce for profit, and also for the sake of self expression, with equal commitment and passion.
And this peculiar literary species draws from a variety of sources for inspiration, whether private, academic, cultural, or otherwise, weaving a tapestry of tales that reflect their eclectic tastes, interests, and knowledge, without confining themselves to the conventions of any particular genre.
Jason Ridler is one of those authors, even though there’s only one of him.
This is a simple question that doesn’t require a simple answer: why do you write fiction?
Simple answer: I'm good at it, it's fun, it helps build a body of work that will outlive my carbon based existence, it makes me some cash to maintain my below median income lifestyle (the new American Dream), and to prove to myself and others I got stories to tell that are worth some of your four-score-and-ten and beer money.
There's also a deep answer about learning about who I am as a person. But I write about that shit all the time at my column, FXXK WRITING.
You have an eclectic background, to say the least: punk rock musician, actor, historian, cemetery groundskeeper. How do these various experiences inform or influence your work as an author?
It means I have no career map I can borrow. I need to make my own. And that is tough. It means I also bash between two poles: writing whatever I want and writing for an audience. I'm a commercial writer, but I'm also a punk rock kid, so I struggle with conformity. My historical training means I'm good at research and have a wealth of knowledge about military affairs . . . and yet I hate writing military fiction of almost any kind. Contrarian to the last! Doing improv helps me brainstorm and keeps me social, which I desperately need as an introvert-extrovert: to write well you need to know people. Improv introduced me to a community of collaborative artists and goof balls that enrich my social life, and as an art, Improv champions guts, instinct, failure, mistakes, all the shit people polish out of their writing to make it vanilla and palatable. And tending after graves as given me loads of insight into how we view death, life, and how best to use WD-40 and a lighter to excavate a hornet's nest from a grave mound (true story).
Which is why THE BRIMSTONE FILES is a magic sweet spot. I get to do history (it's set in 1970s LA, and I love that era when the Peace and Love Generation implodes into a heart of darkness), I get to do comedy (it's a supernatural thriller but our hero is something of a comedian), there are tons of musical elements (before I was a punk rock kid I was a heavy metal skid, so this is the era of Zep and Sabbath and Uriah Heep!), and, amazingly, the opening chapter of HEX-RATED is set in cemetery!
Do you have a preference between traditional and self-publishing, and if so, what are the pros and cons of each, as you see it?
Traditional. Especially smaller presses. I'm good at promotion, but I'm not good at relentless promotion. Having someone do design, editing, and marketing is a great relief. That said, I've learned a lot from getting HEX-RATED ready for its debut about all these things so I can do it well for my work with Nightshade Press, but also for my gritty indie novels. Like I argued years ago, hybrid careers have emerged as the new normal.
Self publishing allows you to have work available that may be outside the mainstream, and I did reasonably well with BLOOD AND SAWSDUST and A TRIUMPH FOR SAKURA. BLOOD AND SAWDUST is about a fat vampire who takes falls in an underground fight circuit. A TRIUMPH FOR SAKURA has a black mentor and a Japanese woman protege in a dystopian version of America (it's INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE meets MILLION DOLLAR BABY). Given how much white washing of pop culture happens, I found a lot of resistance to SAKURA from agents and publishers. And no one wanted the fat vampire version of Fight Club in BLOOD AND SAWDUST. So, I make nickles, dimes, and quarters from them. My hope is that the Brimstone fans will become Ridler fans and check out my back list, which has a similar vibe,
What are your influences, literary or otherwise?
You can feel the influence of all these artists in my work: WWE wrestling, Marvel and DC comics, The Replacements and other early post-punk bands that took punk elsewheres, Tom Waits, contemporary writers like Joe Lansdale and Gary Braunbeck are instrumental in my development as a writer, same with Steve and Melanie Tem, Jeffrey Ford, Elizabeth Hand, Meg Abbot (phenomenal writer). Older vintage, Harlan Ellison, Herman Hesse, Raymond Carver, Ernest Hemingway, Robert E. Howard. Films that define me more than others: Star Wars, Big Trouble in Little China and, my favorite, The Whole Wide World, the biopic romance of Robert E. Howard and Novalyn Price. No pun intended, but this one kills me every time.
What’s next for you?
HEX-RATED is available for pre-order and launches in August! GET IT NOW SO I HAVE DONUTS TOMORROW! The sequel will be released in about a year. I have a massive pop history project due this summer from Stackpole, and my writing book, FXXK WRITING: A GUIDE FOR FRUSTRATED ARTISTS will be available next month. I also teach writing classes in Berkeley, CA, so if you're in the area and want to learn how to write what you love, let m know! Friend me on Facebook to keep up with the shenanigans.
Cheers, and congrats on the new series!
Read more about Hex-Rated on the Simon & Schuster website.
Check out all of Jason’s books on his Amazon Author’s Page.
Explore Jason’s official website, “Ridlerville.”
PHOTO: JASON RIDLER