What makes you a “real” writer?

I write.  What makes me a professional writer?  Well, that depends on who you ask because until I get a spot on the NYT bestseller list or win some award or twelve there will always be some clown with a better idea of what “real” means.    I have a BA in Writing.  I’m about halfway through my MFA program.  I’m a member of the Horror Writers Association.  I’ve won awards.  Does that make me more “real” than someone who didn’t finish high school but has been published for forty years?  Or someone who has never published a thing but has written consistently every day for forty years?  Or someone who made a million dollars publishing their own dinosaur erotica?   I’m a writer because I write.  I put my words out to be read, sometimes for free and other times for pay.  I talk about writing.  I study writing.  I work on projects.  And I write.

That last one is the most important.  I write even when it sucks to even try.  And I write when it stops being fun and I have to work at it.

What’s the difference between a Writer and an Author?

The definition of Author is the creator of a work and the scope of “work” is vague.  I guess – to me – there is a lot of overlap between the two.  The industry may define it in a professional context.  An author, in terms of copyright law, is the owner of an artistic product.  Sometimes that product is intellectual property like a character or a setting and not just a fully realized work.  It can be a song or a dance or both.   So, to me, they are two roles of the same artist.   The writer creates; the author owns.

Why do you write?

That’s the question of exploration at Seton Hill this term and I’ve never really known why any more or less than why I’m left handed or why I lean liberal on a lot of issues. There is no one reason and the combination of reasons has changed over the years. Right now I write because I’m trying to tell a particular group of stories. Part of the reason is that I need a sense of legitimacy within the profession (which gets back to that whole Author/Writer question) and because I want to tell people stories. I want people to be entertained and I want to be the one entertaining them. I write because after all these years of putting words together stopping is not an option. I tried. Can’t do it. Not drinking is easier. Not eating junk food is easier.   I thought that since I spend so much god-damned time doing it, I might make some money off of it and get some kind of darling little sticker that says “ME AM WRITER!”

What would clearly tell you “I made it!”

Hm. Cosplayers portraying my characters at conventions. People debating decisions my characters make. Those people getting angry at me because I did something to their characters or story.   People talking about my stories like they were real events and people. There’s a point I passed through where I felt like this salesman with a box and people looked at me like “hey, he’s got a book…he’s a writer” so it became that people knew me, engaged me, but didn’t open the book. Now, the more people who listen to the audio or read the books, the less it’s about me and more it is about the content. When I see that my work is being discussed independent of Jay the Author, I’ll know I’ve made it.

What are you working on right now?

Preliminary scripts for the final season of HG World, which is an audio drama series in its sixth year.   I miss working with some of the great people who made the show rock over the years.  I’m looking forward to starting off the new series with old and new characters.

I just signed a contract for two anthologies.  I’m working on a script book for BearManor Media, which is part textbook, part history.   On top of that I am working on my Masters Thesis, a novel in the Geek Noir genre.

What would you like to tell your 18 year old self about the career ahead?

Don’t stand there waiting for the train. It ain’t coming. Start walking the tracks. The stories are more interesting and you’ll be a lot farther along than if you wait as long as I did.