Writing Superhero Fiction with Indie Author Jason Titley
Jason Titley is the author of 'Unbroken Spirit'. Like two of his sons, he has a condition called Brittle Bones and spent a lot of time in hospital as a child, where he whiled away the hours reading. Jason's love of books came very early on, and he often wrote short stories or comic books. In this interview, Rachael chats with Jason about writing superhero fiction.
How important is research to you when you're writing your first draft? What research do you have to do for your genre? For my book I did a lot of research as part of the story is set in our own world and encompasses points in history. I wanted to be as accurate as I possibly could with dates and place names, apart from that I think fantasy books on the whole are born and written in the imagination so no real research is needed. When did you realise you wanted to be a writer? In other words, why are you a writer, and how important is it to you? I have been a keen reader from an earlier age, my disability meant a lot of time in hospital, sometimes up to three months at a time. This was before the internet, mobile phones or game consoles so reading was my escapism. It has become very important to me in the last couple of years after I broke my femur in 2015 and it is refusing to heal meaning I have a lot of time on my hands. Writing has now replaced reading as my escapism, my way of keeping my mind occupied and challenged. What inspires you to write? My four year old son Harry inspired me to write this book. He loves superheroes but superheroes are always perfect, I wanted him to have a hero he could relate too. Some writers have a playlist they write to for each book, or a song that motivates them. Is this the case for you – if so, can you share some of the recommended songs? I find it easier to write without any distractions, I set up looking out onto my garden and that is all the motivation I need. I think I would end up singing along instead of writing anything. Where do you get your ideas? My ideas come from all over, I have woken up in the night and written down ideas for how characters develop or plot twists. I keep a pad and pen by the bed just in case, during the day I jot ideas down onto my phone. A photo or a piece of music can trigger an idea also. Do you have a schedule for writing, or do you write only when you feel inspired? How often do you manage to write and when you do, how many words can you manage in one sitting? I don’t have a schedule for writing, sometimes if the plot is being a bit difficult then I maybe take a couple of days off before coming back to it. Normally I can sit and start writing and before I know it three hours have passed, sometimes I find it very difficult to stop writing when I am in a good flow. The amount of words can vary in one sitting from 1000 to 5000. Writers are often labelled as loners and introverts; in your opinion, is there any truth to that? Personally speaking I would say I was the opposite, I love to interact with people. I find this helps in developing character traits and can sometimes inspire a plot route you wouldn’t have taken on your own. What would you say are the easiest and hardest things about writing a book? What do you love and hate the most about what you do? I have to say writing the book I found easy, it was as though the story had just been waiting to get out. For me the hardest is letting someone else read it and hoping they like it. Promoting the book is also very difficult and time consuming, I seem to spend more time promoting than writing at the moment. Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long did it last and how did you overcome it? I have experienced this, I overcame it by trying to write some short stories, I finished up writing ten in the end and have published those as an anthology. In a way my writers block actually helped. When you write, do you prefer silence or busy surroundings? Do you eat or drink anything when you're sitting down to write? What sort of environment do you prefer? I definitely prefer very little distractions, I am too easily distracted to have stuff going on around me. Drinks depends on what time of day I am writing, during the day its tea or coffee, if its an evening it’s a glass of red. My go to place to write originally was looking out into my garden, however I now have created a small office in my home, when I say small I think Harry Potter may have had more room under the stairs. When you finish writing a book, how long do you wait before beginning the editing process and why? Do you edit your own work, or hire someone else to help you? Once finished I give myself a week before editing, I find that break is sufficient to get me into the right frame of mind for the process. So far I have edited my own work and that is purely down to cost. Many people advise not to judge a book by its cover. As an independent author, what are your thoughts on cover quality? Would you say it plays an important role in sales? I think a cover is extremely important, as an avid reader myself a good cover is what you make the first connection with any book. It is the starting point in your relationship with that story. Some people believe independent (self-published) authors produce books of poor quality in comparison to traditionally published books, often down to editing and cover design issues. What is your opinion on this; what would you say to those people as an independent author? For me personally, I wonder how many amazing stories would not be available if not for self published authors. Getting an agent or a book deal is much harder than writing the book in the first place. If the book has a few mistakes in it then so be it as long as the story keeps you gripped. What is your experience of publishing so far? How have you chosen to publish and why? What do you feel are the benefits of this method? So far I have published on Amazon, the process is very straightforward. For me its rewarding to finally be able to hold an actual copy of my book. If I had had to go down the normal route it would still be sitting on my laptop unpublished. Your only constraint is the limit of your imagination, every story deserves to be told. If you were asked to give advice to primary school children about writing creatively, what top tip would you share with them? Your only constraint is the limit of your imagination, every story deserves to be told.
If you were asked to give advice to secondary school children about writing creatively, what top tip would you share with them and would this differ at all to the previous question? Tell your story your way, don’t get bogged down in negativity or critiques, it is only one persons opinion Lots of authors struggle to market and promote their book/s. Do you have any top tips you can share with them, and what have you found to be most effective? I wish I had some tips, this is the holy grail of advice. Promotion is definitely the hardest part, try anything and everything until you find what works best for you. What is your opinion on the benefits of writing on mental health issues including anxiety and depression? Would you recommend it as a form of self-therapy; of looking inward and reflecting? If not, why? I’m sure everyone who writes pulls on their own experiences, it wasn’t until I read my first book back that I realised how much of me was in the story. Yes it can be a form of self therapy, it can give you an extra connection with the reader also. If you are speaking from personal experiences then your book will take a much purer form, you can only get so much from research. Do you believe that writing can be learned, or that you must be born with a passion and/or talent? Of course writing can be learned, it is a skill to be mastered like any other. The more you do the better you will be. You must have a passion for it and the talent is getting people to invest in your story telling. Do you believe that it's more challenging to write about beliefs, morals and values that conflict with your own? How do you feel about books that explore unusual, 'risky' themes? When reading these books, do you feel at all uncomfortable? I would imagine it would be more difficult if you are writing about something you don’t agree with, I’m not sure how much effort you would put into something like that. World-building applies to all genres, even to those where it is not necessary for authors to create unique societies, landscapes and species. No matter your chosen genre, what top tip can you give aspiring authors when world-building? When world building I would say don’t put out too much too soon, intersperse the information throughout the story when it is needed. Too much information in one go would put me off. How do you view and define success? What does it mean to you, and do you currently feel successful? If not, what would you need to achieve to reach success? For me success is people purchasing my book and enjoying it, whether it's 1 or 100 it makes no different. What is the secret to becoming a bestselling author, if you believe there is one? Do you agree an Amazon bestselling status counts, even if that status was for a free or discounted book? I have no idea what the secret to becoming a bestseller is, a good story, good promotion and luck. Of course the Amazon status counts, whether the books free or not. How do you deal with rejection, criticism and bad reviews from friends, family and strangers? What would you say to someone struggling with a lack of support, or worried about online negativity? I think any single bad review I put down to personal opinion, if there seems to be a common theme then maybe I would look at what the issue was and see if it could be rectified. Online negativity I would take with a huge pinch of salt as you do not know if that person is being truthful or not. A lot of people these days take great pleasure in trying to knock people down. If as an author you are lacking in support look for groups on social media, there are plenty which are for authors supporting each other. When shopping for a book, what do you look at first? For example, book cover, price, title, publisher, reviews etc. Cover is always first port of call for me, then the blurb on the back. I sometimes look for authors I am familiar with also. Which retailer do you prefer to shop through for books and why? Does this differ online to brick and mortar? Unfortunately book shops are very thin on the ground these days, it's Waterstones for me. Do you prefer hardbacks, paperbacks, e-books or audiobooks and why? I do prefer a paperback, its how my interest in reading started before e-books. To hold a physical copy and turn a page is still a great feeling How do you find trustworthy professionals and freelancers to work with? Do you have a procedure for vetting someone, and what would you recommend debut authors do to ensure they are not taken advantage of? I would base anyone I chose to work with with reviews on their previous clients. For debut authors I would again join author groups and get advice from authors who have been around for years. How do you determine the pricing for your books? When I published my first two books, I set the pricing as low as I possibly could, I think I just wanted as many people to read my books as possible rather than make money. As I am still fairly new I cant see this philosophy changing for my next book either. Who is your favourite author and why do you enjoy their work more than others? Tolkien is my favourite, he was the first author that gave me an escape. As a child I spent a lot of time in hospital and reading became my escapism. Tolkien gave me a love for fantasy that has allowed me to write my book. From all the roles you play as an indie author, if you could hand over one job to someone else to complete for free, what would that task be and why? Definitely the editing, it can be a very long tedious process, especially when you have ideas for other books fighting to be written. What are some free or low-cost tools you can recommend to debut authors? These can be anything from writing software to websites, blogs to organisational tips and tricks. Grammarly is a good one for me, always catches any little slip ups. Do you agree that it's important for authors to read a lot of books in the genres they are writing? Of course it is, I’m not sure how you can write a book in a genre you know very little about. What is the biggest mistake you believe debut authors make and how would you recommend avoiding it? Vanity publishers are a no no. It seems like a great breakthrough when you get offered a deal but you have to pay some money too. There are so many free ways to publish yourself its definitely a no go for me.
Read more about Jason's book below: Jack is twelve and moves to a new house due to his families financial problems. Jack spends his days when not at school watching the other kids play outside and reading comics dreaming of being a superhero. Jack suffers from brittle bones, this makes him withdrawn and scared about going out to play due to the risk and the awkward questions from the other kids. He makes friends with two other kids in the street Ben and Grace when they knock on his door to get a ball that has gone into Jack’s garden. Whilst searching for the ball they happen across a magical gate that takes them to another world. In this world the three friends are lauded as heroes and saviours. They find out that there are six realms in this world who for years lived in peace, until one realm became corrupt and evil wishing to conquer and control the other realms. The once peaceful realms had to create armies to counter this evil, in a last gasp effort to rid themselves of this evil force they created a great spell and cast them into another world created by the spell. Unfortunately during the great battle some of the people from the other realms were taken into this other world and became trapped. The other world is Earth and the friends are given a quest to find the other chosen ones to defeat the enemy once and for all and save both worlds. Jack is reluctant to do it due to his condition until they are taken to the tree they worship as their god, here the three are given swords imbued with magical powers that transforms them into warriors and removes his condition enabling him to go on the quest and become the hero he has always dreamt of. Whilst inside the tree they learn about the gods that created the world they are now in and what caused one god to turn evil, corrupting the race he was supposed to look after. In this realm they find two more of the chosen and find that the final one is back on Earth/ Eventually they cross back into our world, once here the lack of magic transforms them back into children again, however on their return the evil that has lain dormant for so long is now making its move. The evil entity casts a spell returning magic to our world but at the same time destroying technology as science and magic cannot exist together. His armies sweep across the globe as all weapons become useless and armies are overrun. As all this is going on in the world they have outposts of hidden cities where magic has been kept hidden from the modern world, these become havens for the survivors. As magic sweeps back across the globe the three friends regain their powers and the quest for the final chosen one begins.