Interview with Jason E. Dzembo

What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I keep my alarm clock on the dresser across the room and it makes this REALLY annoying noise. So, my primary reason to get out of bed most days is to turn the damned thing off! BUT, the reason I set the alarm and get up on my own on the weekends is my family. They make me want to be better than I was yesterday.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was a spoiled white kid. Not spoiled the way these entitled little snots who won't get off my lawn are today, but spoiled in a way where my parents made sure my brother and I had everything we needed and many things we didn't even know we wanted. I'd almost say we were sheltered. When I got older and I realized just what's involved in providing for a family, and I also learned that providing for us often meant a lot of work and juggling for my parents, I really came to appreciate it more. I had only just started to get an inkling of that when I was younger. There was a point in time, while hanging out with some friends, that it suddenly dawned on me that not everyone had a trampoline in their back yard (BTW, sidebar - this was back in the 80's when we still had cool things like jarts and no bicycle helmets. Safety was kind of an afterthought. I can't tell you the number of times my brother and I bounced on the trampoline and either ended up landing on the much-less bouncy ground or, worse, straddling the orange metal support bars. Or, even worse, one of the many rusty metal springs that kept the trampoline taut and, when straddled, would pinch you in a very painful way in a very sensitive area. But, I digress...)
So, yeah, I was one of the lucky ones growing up. My parents were great and I grew up sheltered from the harsh realities of the world. A lot of my life, in one form or another, finds its way into my writing. In fact, creating these idyllic fictional worlds allowed me to bring some excitement into my life. In the pages of my mind, I could be the hero I always wanted to be. If my life hadn't been so vanilla and ordinary, I might not have started writing in the first place. It gave me an outlet for the adventure I sought.
Who are your favorite authors?
Obviously you mean other than myself? Sue Grafton, the late Lillian Jackson Braun, Agatha Christie. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, of course. Dean Koontz, Brad Thor. And Douglas Adams.
Describe your desk
That's a difficult one to answer, as I haven't actually SEEN my desk in many moons. I think it was some kind of grey laminate material. Or was it made of wood. Maybe wood. The point is, there are so many calendars, papers, folders, paper clips, old birthday, Christmas and Father's Day cards from the kids, pictures, pens, food containers, and, well, just...stuff on my desk that I'm not really sure what it looks like anymore. I know it has a few drawers, does that help? And, really, I have to say this is a bizarre question anyway. I thought this interview was about me. If you just want to ply me for information about furniture, maybe you should call IKEA. Just sayin'.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
When I'm writing, like when I'm really focused on it and the words are flowing smoothly, the "real" world just kinda dissolves around me and I get immersed into it. There are times my brain is going faster than I can type and it's almost as if I'm reading the story while someone else types it with my fingers. I can't wait to see what happens next.
What do your fans mean to you?
My what now? I'm sorry, the concept of fans still baffles me. Like most writers, I'm my own worst critic. But if people enjoy reading the words I write, then I guess I get pleasure knowing I've entertained them. And, let's be honest. Without readers, there's no point in writing. So, to my...fans, thank you for making me a writer.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Nope. Next question.

Well, okay, I'll elaborate. I've been "writing" since I was a kid hamfisting my way across my mother's Selectra typewriter. I started out by stealing episodes of "Knight Rider" and "The Greatest American Hero", substituting myself for the protagonist and my friends as supplemental characters. You haven't read quality material until you've read about a ten year old with a talking car. I eventually learned to come up with my own settings and stories. Though I've changed the names, there's still a lot of me in each of my characters.
What is your writing process?
"Process" is such a formal word. I write when the mood strikes me. I get an idea. It percolates in the recesses of my mind for weeks, months, years. Eventually I sit down and let it flow out of me. When I get stuck, I play computer games, eat excessively and find any other way to procrastinate. Often I end up painting myself into a corner because God forbid I should plan ahead. This will happen and I'll throw my hands up, swear a lot and give up on the project. Months later I'll go back, read through what I've written, realize it doesn't really suck much and give it another go. When I get to the end, I stop writing. Then I edit. And re-edit. And decide again it's not good enough and wait a few more months before I do another edit and finally decide if I don't release the book then, I'll be stuck in this perpetual cycle of editing and rewriting ad infinitum.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I am a member of four Masonic Lodges (secretary in three of them), have a full-time job and a part-time job, two twenty-something daughters who cost me hours of lost sleep, and an active seven year old granddaughter. I've also discovered the Internet is full of cat videos and something called World of Warcraft... Throw in time to sleep and eat and it's a wonder I get any writing done at all.
How do you approach cover design?
Much the same way a squirrel approaches an electrical transformer - flailing, chittering and with no idea of the impending doom that awaits me. Graphic design has never been my strong suit and, aside from a few covers I drew in pencil when I was young, I have designed a grand total of two covers now. The cover for Fellow of the Craft was quite simple. Black background with my name and, more importantly, the title prominently displayed. On one edge, a design that looks roughly like the edge of a square and compass. And, the coup de grace, I used MS paint to put a little dollop of blood on the tip of the compass piece. Real amateur hour, honestly, but I was pleased with the result. So please that I went on to design a cover for Vices & Superfluities. A little time on the internet (to get a stock curtain background and a stripper pole (which is actually a piece of a picture of a curtain rod flipped ninety degrees and stretched out) and some more time with Paint, and, viola!

In the future, I may see about getting someone to design my covers who actually knows what they're doing.
What are you working on next?
I've got three projects that I've been tinkering with right now. The main one is, of course, the next book in the Patrick Brady series, tentatively entitled There Is No Death. I'm also playing with the first book of a totally different series, The Humboldt Effect. It's an epic science fiction / generational saga, spanning the 20th century. One man's struggle to save his wife from the same disease that killed his mother results in a change to his descendants genetics that causes them to develop superior abilities. Both books are about halfway done. It'll be a coin flip to see which of these I do first. There's also the third book, Unresolved, the first book in a different mystery series with a twist that I'm not revealing at this time.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have a Nook Color, and grudgingly, I find myself using it more and more. I still prefer "real" books, though, the ones made out of trees. The words are the same as the e-book, the authors will incite the same emotions, the same reactions. But the media in which those words is written is often as important as the words themselves. A physical book is a comfort, a friend on a rainy day or laying in bed at night or on the beach during the day. The pages have texture, the book has weight. You can smell a book. There have been times, I admit, that I have even tasted a page or two. A e-reader has its uses and its benefits, but in the end it is cold and impersonal and unloving. It delivers the same message but without emotion, without feeling. I feel genuine pity for those generations in the not too distant future who may never know the true joy of turning the actual page of a book, in eager anticipation of what happens next.
Published 2015-09-21.
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