Author Interview: Jasyn T. Turley

Phil, Tim, and Dakota are three survivors taking refuge in Atlanta, Georgia. The year is 2027, ten years after a nuclear fallout decimated the known world and left it in shambles… Trying to survive and stick together, no matter the odds, they must rely on their faith, bond, and past experiences to live through their tribulations. In this world, a fool’s chance is usually their only chance.

Jasyn T. Turley is the author behind the zombie thriller series, Weeks. I caught up with Jasyn about Weeks, his writing routine and plans for the future. Click here to buy Weeks on Amazon.

How did you first get into writing?

So that’s a long story, I’ll compress that into a nutshell. WEEKS essentially was a game me, my brother and our friend Katie had played for quite a while. Eventually I was so consumed by WEEKS and even passionate enough, that I had to vent it out from my head. So I took a spiral notebook paper, and on a nine hour car ride to Colorado Springs, I wrote out book one. Then on a nine hour car ride back home to Kansas City, I wrote out book two. Things just took on a snow ball effect from there!

Wow, so was it a case of the three of you making up your own characters who eventually became the three main characters in Weeks?

Yeah, essentially as it played out, I was Phil, my brother was Tim, and Katie was Dakota. However, while mostly all of the events in the book actually took place in our game, a lot of the character and dynamics, etc. etc. was done by me, so there are stark differences

Who would you like to play Phil, Tim and Dakota in the film?

Oh man, I’ve got a loaded answer for this one too! First off, Thomas Jane for Phil, Tyrese Gibson for Tim, and Alice Braga for Dakota (I even kinda of hint at this in the book). It’s funny though, because every time I mentally picture them, for some reason I always picture those actors. So much that when doing writing the early drafts of Book One, that’s how I saw them. So even my concept art reflects that too, at least when I drew them out

What was the hardest thing about writing Weeks?

Well, I started writing Book One and Two back in the summer of 2009. I can’t put a number to all the many rewrites and edits it had gone through. I say the hardest obstacle was deciding which rewrite was going to be my last and be the published edition.

What is your writing routine like?

For the time being, it’s waking up at 8:15, get my computer loading and coffee brewing. And after my morning routine is done, I write between 9am to noon or 1pm Monday through Friday, before I go into work. The weekends are kinda of whatever happens happens. Right now I’m about halfway through Book Three’s rough draft, and the routine serves me well I think. I try to optimise my mornings the best I can.

Plotter or pantser?

So this is something of a recent struggle for me. Right now Book Three has been tumultuous for me, just the rough draft. I’ve gone through at least eight drafts, some different some similar. The common denominator? The outline. So right now on my current draft, I let the ideas come and go as they will, I didn’t write any of it down. Went back to my original idea for Book Three, which I wrote out in 2010, and implementing my new ideas with that. The same thing occurred with Book Two, I think it’s because I write better as a pantser.

Who are some of your favourite authors? Have any authors had a particular influence on your own writing?

Well, D.J. Molles is the biggest influence for me as a writer, as well as my favourite author. His Remaining series was very informative, because I have no military, weapon, combat, fighting experience or anything of the sort. Mr. Molles obviously does, if you read his bio and books it’s obvious. So I learned a lot, taking out the fact from the fiction of his books, getting an idea of how those things I know nothing about worked, and it even backed some of the research I had done prior. All of which really helped me write Phil, Tim and Dakota. Because they’re veterans essentially. I don’t know if I wrote them as believable soldiers, that’s for the reader to decide, but I think I did enough and part of that is thanks to D.J. Molles. Plus, his books are just a fun, good read all together. Other authors I like is H.L. Walsh, Kevin M. Turner and Stephen King are probably the ones I can name right off the back. Because the biggest chunk of things I read are also history books.

Any tips for new authors working on their first book?

Yes, there’s this video, one my most favourites (P.S., I don’t care that my grammar was bad there 😋), is a video from storytellers on YouTube, called ‘How to be Creative: How an Artist Turns Pro.’ It’s very informative I think, and helps me when I hit moments of despair. ‘Just write’ and ‘make it a work ethic to write’ are the biggest takeaways from that video I got. Like Stephen King said, and I paraphrase: ‘Routine is the bed of creativity, so get comfortable…’ or something like that.

What are your plans for the future?

Well I’m a dreamer and fantasise all the time. My dream of being a published author has been achieved after ten plus years. Now my next dream is to make being an author my full time gig, but that’s going to take some work. So smaller goals/dreams to work up to that. With Book Two on the horizon, the next step is to get Book Three done. I’ll keep grinding away, because full time or part time, I feel whole when I do write. But I’m making a network with other indie writers, and I feel like that does help a lot.

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Due to a recent surge in interest, I am presently committed to a significant number of reviews/interviews over the next couple of months. If you would like an interview or review, I would still love to hear from you, though it is unlikely that I will be able to begin work immediately.

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Writing Religious Fiction: An Introduction

To talk about ‘religious fiction’ is to discuss a very broad category of fiction. There are so many different religions and so many different sub-genres of religious fiction within each belief system that it is difficult to encapsulate them all in a single discussion (I was actually planning a series on the subject initially and I may yet come back and write that series in the new year). To be clear, I am not going to focus on any particular religious beliefs in this post, nor am I going to use this platform to propound my own beliefs, important as they are to me. My goal, as always on this website, is to focus on how to write a good story with a religious theme, whatever that religion may be (including atheism, if we can define it that way) and to be as sensitive as possible to the multivarious beliefs out there. That being said, I do have particular beliefs of my own, so I hope you’ll bear with me while I try to navigate these tricky waters.

The first and best tip I can give for writing religious fiction is this: don’t set out to write religious fiction. Most books I’ve read under the heading ‘religious fiction’ tend to be woefully awful stories (except for Ben-Hur; there’s a reason it’s endured all these years and been made into a movie more than once). Write a good story while remaining true to what you believe in. As with any other theme, if your goal from the beginning is to write a Christian romance or an Islamic spy thriller, you’ll end up writing a story simply to prove a particular point. There are two glaring problems with this approach:

  1. This won’t yield a very good story. It will yield, at best, a thinly disguised sermon. More on that here.
  2. A work of fiction can’t really prove anything, since you can make anything happen in your story just the way you want it to. You can make hardened Darwinist characters become creationists or born again Christian characters become hardened Atheists. Heck, you could make a homosexual Muslim couple convert to Christianity and start a side business in fortune telling after they have a vision of Krishna. It’s all just fiction. The fact you can make it up does not prove it to be true or laudable and readers of any religious persuasion will not be fooled if you contrive a fictional situation to prove a particular doctrine.

The first and best tip I can give for writing religious fiction is this: don’t set out to write religious fiction.

If we’re being honest, writing fiction with a religious theme is a far more simple matter than we imagine. The usual rules apply: start with your characters. Give them strengths and give them weaknesses. Give them motives, give them goals and give them a stinking great problem to overcome.

If you want religion to be a central theme, you can always make religion part of the conflict (e.g.: crises of faith, suffering persecution, etc) but for goodness sake, don’t just make it the solution to the central conflict (e.g. Bob fancies Lucy so he prays about it and they get married). There is, however, an even better approach than this.

Take Ben-Hur, for instance. Ben-Hur is, for the most part, a story of a Jewish man trying to avenge himself against his Roman enemies and trying to find out the fate of his mother and sister, whom he had believed to be dead. It is only in the course of this that occasional encounters with Jesus nudge him, little by little, towards a faith which he fully embraces in the concluding pages of the book after the main conflict has been resolved. So let the theme emerge naturally and develop it exactly as you would for any other type of fiction. The truth as you see it will shine through in anything you write.

I would also be very, very, very cautious about including God, or whatever other power you may believe in, as an active character in your story. The only exception I would make would be if you were lifting a particular theophany directly from an established religious canon (e.g. you might have Moses meeting God on Sinai or Saul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus). There are a few reasons for this, but there are two biggies I can think of:

  1. As before, it becomes very easy to ‘prove’ any point you want simply by having God appear in your story and affirm it to be so. However, your readers aren’t stupid. God didn’t write your novel. You wrote it, and you aren’t God. Putting words into a deity’s mouth will only patronise and annoy your readers. If you make God do or say something which he hasn’t done or said in the established canon of your religion, then it is a made up thing. You have left religious fiction behind and have started writing a crude fantasy.
  2. If God or gods should appear in your story you are in severe danger of the dreaded deus ex machina, where a story’s conflict is not resolved as much as it is simply set aside with a simple miracle.

On the subject of deus ex machina, beware of miracles. Miracles might be something you believe in, but they don’t work well in fiction. If your characters simply pray and their problems get fixed, you’ve still created a deus ex machina ending and that’s bad writing in any genre.

Also one more thing: remember to be objective and respectful. Don’t create unfair caricatures of other belief systems, nor unjustly exalt practitioners of your own religion above others. Show the real world in all its ugly truthfulness or else you run the risk of writing hollow propaganda, which will fool no one.

I realise this has been a bit of a whistle-stop tour of how to write religious fiction and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface today. Maybe I will write that series in the near future. We shall see! Until next time… !

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Every Tuesday, I post a new edition of Spotlight: a short post which shines a proverbial spotlight on a published novel or collection of short fiction. If you would like to have your book considered for a future edition of Spotlightdrop us an e-mail including a short synopsis of your book and a link to where we can buy it. Better yet, send me a copy of your book and I can include a mini-review.

I’m still looking to interview fiction authors here on Penstricken, especially new or indie authors. Whether it’s books, plays, comics or any other kind of fiction, if you’ve got something written, I want to hear about it. If you’re interested in having your work featured on Penstricken, be to sure to drop us an e-mail or message us on Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest.

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