Welcome! Thanks for taking this time so we can find out a little about you. J How did you start your writing career?
Pinpointing the start of my writing career is kind of a chicken or egg question for me. I started writing for fun when I was around 10, making up stories about super-teams and incredible circus fleas in-between comic books and homework after school. The interest to write hit me at a young age, but I never really wanted to be a “writer,” per se; instead choosing to take classes in school and treat it like more of a hobby. In college, I was sure that I wanted to be a lawyer, becoming a Political Science major at George Washington University, but I continued to take writing classes, falling just a few credits short of having a double major in English as well. After college, I had no interest in law or any kind of political career—sorry, Mom and Dad—so I worked as an assistant in a couple of publishing companies and took continuing education classes at Gotham Writer’s Workshop and NYU in the evenings. I’d always kept an idea diary, jotting down my story ideas, and I noticed that they were becoming more and more complex, and weren’t just short story ideas anymore. After losing a dead-end job, I decided that maybe it was time to turn the writing into more than a hobby. I studied my craft and continued to write down my ideas, working towards the day when I would be a good enough writer to do them justice. After a long time studying—and being a stay-at-home Dad—I finally decided that it was time to finish the book I had been puttering around with for years and start whittling down my huge list of ideas. So, I became a writer at some point between 10 and 37, and am now trying to make the title stick.
How do you describe your writing style?
I’ve developed my writing style around a comment I received from a fantastic writing teacher who helped put me firmly on the path to being a writer. He told me that my writing style is “very clear. And [my] words don’t get in the way of [my] story.” I strive for a clear, accessible writing style, choosing to place the subtlety and depth of my stories in the plotting and themes/thematic overlays. Also, I feel that the mental imagery must be strong, so I strive for a highly visual description that is easy to access. Each one of my books is, and will be, very different than the last, but I strive to make sure that my style will give my readership something comfortable to latch onto.
Plotter or Pantser? Why?
I am a plotter for all of the details, thematic overlays, and general tone and scope of each chapter, but I am a pantser for dialogue and certain characters that I want to be quirky. I like organic dialogue, and I find I get there best when I have a general idea of where I’d like a conversation to go, but I let the characters talk for themselves, so to speak. I let the story play out like a movie in my mind, and describe what is happening, letting the odd characters kind of flesh themselves out and take the conversations where that type of character likes to go. So, the answer to your question is “yes.”
Does your significant other read your stuff?
I hope so, because she is my critique partner, my beta reader and my editor, as well as my manager and kind of my agent, too. She wears a lot of hats. I lucked out with a very brilliant wife who makes a lot of the people one would normally need to get a book off the ground, and into the public’s eye, unnecessary for me. Self-publishing is very hard, but she makes it easier and a lot more manageable. She reads my stuff, and then improves it; she’s pretty awesome.
What was one of the most surprising things that you learned while writing your books?
I learned how to truly write without judging from my main character, John, in From a Killer’s Mind. It is a common refrain for learning writers, but until you come up with an extreme case of it, the notion can remain nebulous and hard to really understand. Some scenes were quite gruesome, and I actually had to step away from the keyboard and take a few deep breaths, but I made sure that my language was not accusatory or judging, and that I allowed the scene to play out as it had to, with no narrative commentary. I also wanted to engender some confusing sympathy in the reader, so that they would start to understand this horrible character they were reading. Two of the themes I overlaid in this novel are that even those deserving of harsh justice are deserving of some understanding, and that the worst criminals often started out as victims: neither one of those themes would have worked if I was judging my main character.
Tell us about your next release.
My next book, Written in Hell, will be out in the next few months. It is about a mediocre writer who failed in life, but is huge in Hell, and was given an invitation he could not refuse. The story follows him through his travels and travails in Hell. I believe that it is a new and non-clichéd take on Hell, and just a really bizarre, fun story. I have another untitled work that I am just beginning to write that is an apocalyptic story set in the future, interspersed with some themes of hope. I’ll be mixing up narrative voice and person to actually drive the plot, trying to create an interesting structure to the story. I plan to stay busy.
What would we find under your bed.
Not a dead body. I swear!
John has been a successful serial killer for his entire adult life, committed to his craft without detection or disruption. He’s spent years perfecting his process and meticulously planning out each kill, honing his abilities to horrible heights; however, when one kill doesn’t go as planned, his confidence is shattered, and his dark life starts down an even darker road, to either his salvation…or his ultimate downfall. John finds his private sanctum infiltrated by chaotic characters from the most unlikely of places, putting him through an existential crisis of the soul. As John loses control, his true crucible begins.
From a Killer’s Mind, the debut novel of writer Jason Helford, is a mind-bending, scary, and emotionally honest trip through the life of a serial killer, laying bare the killer’s soul for all readers to see. The remarkable twist at the core of this novel is something that will leave you open-mouthed, shocked, and completely hooked, until the very last page.
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