This post marks another installment of my “7 Questions With an Author…” series, where I ask published authors an unchanging set of questions and share their responses here.
Today’s co-featured author is an online acquaintance of mine named Jason Boyett. He’s a bestselling author with more than 10 books, an events speaker, an embarrassingly prolific writer with published work on Salon, The Daily Beast and The Washington Post as well as a dedicated dad and husband.
Jason is one of my favorite authors. I’ve bought all of his books and I’ve read half of them thus far. He is without a doubt, one of the most talented writers I know.
It’s a privilege to present 7 Questions With an Author: Jason Boyett.
1. Tell us about your book?
My new book is called Pocket Guide to 2012: Your Once-in-a-Lifetime Guide to Not Completely Freaking Out. Like my other Pocket Guide books, it takes an equally snarky and educational look at a big idea in a small, easily digested package. The big idea, in this case, is mankind’s end-of-the-world obsession in general and our doomsday 2012 obsession specifically, which means the book discusses the ancient Mayans, their calendar, alien invasion, asteroid impact, John Cusack, and many more ridiculous topics. While all my books up to this point have been published traditionally (the whole agent and big publisher process), this one is my first self-published e-book.
2. What led you to write it?
I’ve been wanting to write it for several years. In 2005, I wrote a book called Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse. This was at the height of the Left Behind craze and my book focused primarily on the Rapture, Second Coming, and other stuff in the Book of Revelation. Once the 2012 mania started creeping into the cultural consciousness, I began to think it deserved a Pocket Guide treatment as well. Despite some interest from publishers in updating Apocalypse or writing a standalone 2012 book, I eventually decided self-publishing was a great option for a book like this with a shorter “shelf life.” (After all, it won’t be of much interest after SPOILER ALERT the world doesn’t end on December 21, 2012.)
3. Who is a writer that inspires you and why?
This has little to do with my own writing — at least up to this point — but J.R.R. Tolkien has always been a huge inspiration. I read The Hobbit in 6th grade and then went on to read the Lord of the Rings trilogy in 7th grade (the first of several personal trips I made through Middle Earth). I remember being stunned at the amount of cultural, historical and linguistic detail Tolkien layered onto the world he created: made-up languages, family trees, mythologies, all in service of the story he wanted to tell. I was just floored by that level of creativity, and more than anything else, those books are what turned me on to the creative power of writing and the possibilities of storytelling.
4. What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book?
The research. Not only did I need to explain all the predicted 2012 scenarios, describe where they came from and then debunk them, but I also include two chapters which detail many, many of the times humans have predicted the end of the world throughout recorded history. It’s not a comprehensive list, but it’s pretty long. I’m not content to just accept what Wikipedia tells me about some historical event, so there was a lot of digging involved before the writing could even take place. I enjoy research but making sure I get the facts right can be a painstaking process.
5. What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
I’m afraid my advice isn’t too different from the advice given by most writers: write a lot and read a lot. While natural talent is a factor, writing really is a skill that can be learned, both by practicing it (writing) and by absorbing it (reading). I read voraciously when I was a kid, and I can’t wait to finish my big writing projects today because it means I can start reading for fun again. But mostly you need to write. You aren’t allowed to call yourself a carpenter when you’ve built one wooden shelf. But if you build a wooden shelf every day for a couple of years, then no one will look at you funny when you tell them you’re a carpenter. If you want to call yourself a writer, then you should be writing stuff on a regular basis — regardless of what it is or whether it gets published.
6. Where do you get your ideas?
When I was 13, browsing a garage sale with my grandmother, I stumbled upon a small, ornate box labeled 1001 Ideas for Books. I’ve been making my way through it, very slowly, ever since. Not really. My ideas for books are always subjects I’m interested in. With my Pocket Guide books, each idea started as a big topic I wanted to learn more about, from Sainthood and the Afterlife to the Apocalypse and the 2012 phenomenon. My memoir, O Me of Little Faith, is about spiritual doubt, a subject that has been on my mind — i.e. I’ve been living it — for years. I figure if I’m interested in something, other people may be as well. That’s pretty much it. There’s no market research or anything along those lines.
7. Anything that you’d like readers to know that I haven’t asked?
This may have been my last nonfiction book…at least for awhile. I’ve had the fiction-writing itch for the last few years and am ready to try something new in my career. The next new Jason Boyett book you read — whether self-published as an e-book or published through traditional channels — will be a novel. I’m not sure what exactly I’m going to write next, but you can be sure it’ll be fiction.
About Jason: Jason Boyett is the author of several books, the most recent of which is the Kindle e-book Pocket Guide to 2012. It joins several other books in his Pocket Guide series of titles (Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse, Pocket Guide to the Afterlife, etc.). Jason is also the author of O Me of Little Faith: True Confessions of a Spiritual Weakling (Zondervan). His writing has appeared in a variety of publications, including Salon, Paste, the Daily Beast, and Relevant. He blogs at jasonboyett.com and tweets at twitter.com/jasonboyett.