Jason LaVelle is an author and photographer from West Michigan. When he’s not spending time with his beautiful wife and four children, LaVelle works at a veterinary clinic, helping animals of all kinds. With his two pugs, Dragon and Mr. Sparkles, his Chihuahua, Mari, and his annoying dachshund, Lady, LaVelle pretty much lives in a zoo. After he’s done playing with the pugs and tucking the kids into bed, LaVelle ventures down into the basement, where his umbrella cockatoo, Bella whispers in his ear like a demonic muse, forcing him to explore the paranormal world inside his mind.
Read to the end and receive a free copy of one of Jason’s eerie novellas!
When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? How did you start?
As a child, I was terribly depressed. Unhappy with my life, my family, my world, I used books as an escape, a true escape—from everything. I fell in love with fantasy, with westerns, with anything that took me as far from reality as possible. I believe I was in fifth grade when I wrote my first story called Frog 5, a silly story about a five-person team of supernatural adventurers. My classmates seemed immediately intrigued, and I remember even my teachers thinking that the story was compelling and entertaining. As I entered high school, I began writing terrible poetry, and sadly, that continued for several years. Then I went to school, and went to work, and started a family. I didn’t pick up writing again until I was in my late twenties/early thirties when I began to compose my first novel, The Cold Room. I didn’t have any formal training, apart from a few college creative writing courses. I wanted to write a story that I would enjoy reading, a mix of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Michael Crichton. I’ve had a lot of great feedback from my first novel, a lot of praise that really melts my heart, and I think it was that praise and encouragement that urged me to write another.
Can you tell us a little about what kind of book(s) you’ve written so far?
My books are thrillers. They all have a fast-moving plot that focuses on real, well-rounded characters as well as a story arc that ensures readers will want to turn the pages quickly. While I consider all of my stories thrillers, I would also add that The Cold Room and The Dark Of Night are supernatural horror as well. Delia is a love story gone terribly wrong about a badass woman, a vengeful lover, and ultimately redemption. Pathosis and Ecocide are apocalyptic adventures that follow a teenage girl as she navigates through a world that is collapsing around her, think of The Walking Dead meets The Hot Zone.
What genre(s) do you write in? What is it that you love about them? Would you ever write anything other than your genre?
My publisher is in charge of what I write at the moment. I will be producing five, action suspense thrillers for this publisher, all of which I hope to release in the next two years. Outside of that contract, I hope to produce a collection of short fiction that will range from literary fiction and drama, to all-out science fiction adventure. I honestly love writing in all genres, it’s fun to let the ‘muse’ just run off with my thoughts sometimes. I have written straight-up horror and also erotic romance. However, I have to be responsible and accountable to my readers and be sure to give them the kind of fiction I know they love to read from me.
You have five novels available now. Congrats!
Can you tell us about your path to publication?
I wrote my first novel with no real plans to publish. I was too intimidated by the publishing market and up until then, self-publishing had been something only vanity presses did. A good friend who turned out to be an indie author urged me and guided me through the self-publication process and I was very happy with the results. My first novel has sold more than ten thousand copies and continues to sell more every day. I didn’t begin looking for a traditional publisher until 2017, and I secured one with relative ease. After an initial query, the publisher responded, told me the book was shit, but if I was willing to go through a brutal editing process he may consider it. Well, after crying in my Eggos for a week, I hired a hard-ass editor and got the job done. The publisher accepted the manuscript and gave me a five-book deal.
What are some of your go-to genres when reading and who are some of your favorite authors? What is it you love about those genres?
The list is long, but my all-time favorite authors are Stephen King, Michael Crichton, Piers Anthony, Dean Koontz, Richard Preston, John Grisham, Clive Cussler. Later on, I learned new favorites: Victoria Schwab, Pierce Brown, Andy Weir, James Rollins, David Baldacci. These authors write in many different genres, but they write them well. They have the ability to take me off the page and completely immerse me in their worlds, which is something I have craved since I was young—that escape.
Are you a pantser, a plotter or somewhere in between?
I am a thinker and a pantser. I will spend days or weeks thinking about a scene, then sit down and hammer it out. However, I may spend a year or more researching a particular subject, epidemiology for example, so that I can write about it so convincingly that even specialists in that field would be able to enjoy the book. I love the idea of being able to plot a novel, but I also think plotting takes away the fun of writing for discovery, which is not only when my best writing happens, but when I’m having the most fun at it.
When you first get an idea, how long until you know you’re ready to begin writing and what does that progression look like?
This can sometimes be minutes or months. I don’t have a process for this. If an idea hits me that is so full and ripe with promise, I will try to start writing it immediately, that very day. Other times I will make a note of a cool idea for a story or scene and keep it in my files and go back to it when I’m stuck on a project or looking for the next book to write.
What does a typical writing day look like for you/what is your process?
Oh wow, well, that’s a little funny. I work as a vet tech during the week, and on my days off I try to write. However, I have four kids and about a dozen animals, so even my time off is busy. I like to sit down and write at least a thousand words at a time, then I’ll go back to thinking about the story and carrying on with life. On a really good day I can get a dozen pages written, but if things are crazy here at home, I’m lucky to get in a page or two.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned on your writing journey so far?
Holy cow, grow a thick skin! No matter how good you are, no matter how long you’ve been writing, the trolls are out there, and they want blood. People will say terrible things to you online, in your reviews, in your ratings. Let that shit go, in fact, don’t even look at your reviews, not yet. Check your ratings every few months, but not more often than that. It’s easy to get lost and upset when you see a bad review come in, and it can take weeks to emotionally recover from it, so until you’ve gotten yourself calloused up, stay away from them.
It is such a crazy and competitive market. How do you tackle the marketing and promotion of your books?
I don’t, haha! I’m a terrible marketer. I try to connect with and chat with potential readers as much as possible on social media, but as far as marketing goes, I will leave that to my publisher. They will be able to guide me and teach me what methods will work best for my market.
How do you feel about Amazon exclusive versus going wide?
I’m not a fan of anything exclusive. It’s a play by Amazon to own everything, and while their exclusivity offers some minor benefits for running specific promotions, they still cut out a full third of the reader market. There are many people to be reached on iBooks, Barnes & Nobles, Kobo, and it would be silly to ignore them.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers about writing? What about the process of trying to get published?
Write for love, not for money. Only a select few of us millions of authors will ever make a living wage from writing. Focus on your craft, learn the words, listen to your editors. Make your goal to share the stories you’ve created with as many people as you can, and make those stories the best they can be. Read as much as possible, then pick up and read more. As one of my writing heroes, Stephen King said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write.”
Jason is so generous that he is offering a free copy of his novella, Lot 187, just by clicking the link below.
Thank you so much, Jason! Where can people find out more about you and your books?
Come hang out with me on Amazon!