Jason has designed many beautiful covers for some very talented writers over the last year or so, and let’s be honest; most of these covers kick the crap out of their Traditional counterparts. But creating beautiful cover’s isn’t the only thing that Jason does well.
His Movement novels take readers into the far reaches of space, to a bleak future and a desperate fight for nothing less than the survival of the human race. Greatfall gives readers a taste of what life is like in one of Hugh Howey’s Silos, and it’s pretty gruesome. His novels are detailed and engaging and his characters tend to jump right out of the pages.
With the accessibility of the ebooks now, short fiction is starting to make a comeback. I really enjoy Jason’s novels but I love his short stories. They don’t feel like short stories at all and some are so powerful that I was thinking about them days later.
With Deep Breath Hold Tight releasing today (read my review here) and his highly anticipated Eleanor coming out June 27th, not to mention all the cover work he’s got on his plate, Jason was able to find a few minutes to chat with me about his work and how he stays on top of it all.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Jason Gurley:
Jason Gurley: I’m a big fan of sitting down, and what else can one do while sitting except chat? … Well, okay, a lot of things. But I’m happy to be here. Thanks for inviting me!
JH: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
JG: Such an open-ended question! My favorite baseball player, when I was a kid, was Darryl Strawberry. I want to be Superman when I grow up. I’ve never been to the bottom of the ocean.
I’m thirty-five. I’ve been writing books since I was eighteen, though I can tell you right now that you don’t want to read the first three. They’re the kind of books that eighteen-year-old boys write, which is to say they aren’t all that good. I’ve been self-publishing since early 2013, but dreaming of sharing my stories with readers for as long as I can remember.
JH: You have created a fantastic original world with the “Movement Trilogy” and your numerous short stories have given readers brief glimpses into your imagination. You have also spent time in other people’s worlds, i.e. “Greatfall” and “Neptune Confidential.” Can you tell us the differences (if any) of working in another’s literary world to your own and which do you enjoy more?
JG: Thanks! There are definitely differences between those two experiences, both for readers and for me. Greatfall is a novel set in the world of Wool, the oppressive, dystopian series written by Hugh Howey. And Neptune Confidential is a short story that takes place in the Veronica Mars universe. When I write fan fiction, I have to actually be a fan, and as a fan, I like the secret stories that don’t get much attention in the canonical works. While Wool tells the origin story and uprising of the silo, Greatfall imagines a silo that’s been cut off from humanity, and asks the question: What if this silo entered an age all its own? What if it developed into a theocracy? And Neptune examines one of the great supporting cast members of Veronica Mars — the abrasive, snarky, duplicitous Vinnie Van Lowe — and tells the story of his great lost love.
Of course, Greatfall turns into a brutal horror novel, and Neptune opens with the murder of Vinnie’s love, so clearly I’m not good at happy alternate realities.
There’s a lot of fun to be had writing in another person’s world, taking their characters and rules out for a spin to see what can be done with them. But as fun as it is, it’s nowhere near as enjoyable as constructing your own.
JG: That’s really kind of you to say. And I’ve heard those sort of compliments, and they’re so nice to hear. But while I’ve been a designer for fifteen or sixteen years — that’s how I make my living even now — I’ve only designed covers since I started self-publishing. It seemed natural that I would design my own book covers. It was never my intention to go into business as a cover designer. But you design one cover for Hugh Howey…
JH: With your cover design business taking off, how do you manage your time between that and your writing?
JG: Ah, the million-dollar question. Well, it’s not quite that simple, really. Writing and designing book covers are only a fraction of my life. I have a very fulfilling career as a designer, solving often complex and interesting user experience problems. I’m also a husband to a ferociously ninja knitter, and we’re parents of a two-year-old who is probably going to grow up and be an architect who specializes in blanket forts.
You used the word ‘manage’, but what I think I’m actually trying to achieve is balance. I’m just one guy, with as many hours in a day as everybody else. I spend as much of that time as I can with my family, and I give my best to my design career, and when my free time rolls around, I have to prioritize things. And as much as I do enjoy designing book covers, I’m not a book cover designer. I’m a writer.
It’s safe to say you’ll see fewer and fewer book covers as the year continues, but hopefully you’ll see more and more books with my name on them instead.
JG: I don’t know how scientific I can be, but I certainly think about beautiful books all the time. As an independent author, it’s extremely important for me to remove as many barriers to my books as I can. I want a reader to look at the cover and see something as impressive and evocative as anything that comes from mainstream publishers. I want them to open it up and see thoughtfully designed interiors. And most importantly, I want to give them a great story. An awful lot goes into making that happen, and it’s very difficult to do all of that on your own. I try to do all of it on my own — at least the writing and designy parts — but beginning with Eleanor, I’ll have some help from an editor (the exceptionally talented David Gatewood, an indie sensation in his own right) and a last-line-of-defense proofreader, just to make sure the reader gets as well-crafted and cared-for book as possible.
JH: “Eleanor”. That word almost seems like a mythical creature, a legend so powerful and mysterious that great care should be taken when speaking it. Stephen King said of “The Dark Tower” series that it was his magnum opus, would it safe to say that the same applies to you and “Eleanor?”
JG: I’d certainly hesitate to compare it to anything as grand as that. But it is, for me, the novel that has consumed me the longest. I started writing Eleanor in 2001, and she’ll be published later this year, after more than a decade of writing, rewriting, torching, resurrecting, and even a slight detour into graphic novel territory a few years ago. The book began as a vehicle of sorts for some soul-searching I was doing, but as the years passed and I didn’t need to search so much anymore, it finally began to break free of those restraints, and it’s grown into its own complicated, beautiful, dark, twisted thing.
It’s a little different from most of the other books I’ve written, though. It will be interesting to see how people feel about it. I certainly hope that it finds some passionate readers, after all this time.
JG: Well, definitely fewer book covers. I haven’t been accepting new commissions for a while now, and I’ve even made the difficult decision to end some projects that haven’t begun yet. That was difficult for me to do, and I certainly hope the authors who now have to find a new designer understand that it was a decision that I needed to make in order to achieve even some semblance of balance for myself and my family. I’m grateful that most have been understanding and supportive, and can relate in their own way.
As for writing, where I hope my energies will be freshly applied, readers can expect two things for certain: Eleanor, which could be published this summer or even earlier, assuming my editor doesn’t think I’ve written a huge doorstop; and The Travelers, the final book of my Movement series. What’s most exciting for me, however, is what comes after that. For the first time in thirteen years — after Eleanor, which has been a dream and a curse at the same time — I’ll be able to ask myself the question, “Huh. I wonder what I should write today?”
I really can’t wait to see what the answer is.
JH: Jason, it has been a privilege to chat with you and thank you again for taking the time to speak with me. I look forward to “Eleanor” and everything else that follows!
JG: It’s been a pleasure, Josh — thanks so much for letting me hang out here with you awhile!
You can get news about all of Jason's books, as well as information about his brillant cover designs at his website: jasongurley.com. Drop by his Facebook Page and be sure to follow him on Twitter @jgurley
Check out my review of Deep Breath Hold Tight (which releases today) and get your own copy!