Today we welcome Jay Sandlin.
Book ‘Em: Tell us about you and your life outside of writing.
Jay Sandlin: Outside of writing, I am a father, husband, small business owner, Geek Journalist, and PODCASTER! I have a debate podcast called #WhoWouldWin? where my co-host (fellow author) James Gavsie and I debate match-ups between comic book characters!
I also love to review books for TheGWW.com and have many on my TBR list. Most recently, I reviewed “Stan Lee: The Man Behind Marvel” and “Previously on X-Men”. It was amazing to network with both authors of the respective books and feature them on my podcast. I look forward to having more authors on the show in the future. I am completing my Masters in History in December this year at the University of North Alabama. My focus is in Oral History and I spent several months interviewing a 92-year-old WWII veteran. This amazing man went on to work with the Manhattan Project and NASA during the decades of the Cold War. He died only weeks after we completed the inteviews. I was lucky enough to preserve the audio recordings for posterity.
We hope to publish my thesis after I sit for a defense panel in December, so stay tuned.
Book ‘Em: Which books have you written? What are they about and why did you choose to write them? Do your books have a message? Are they fiction or nonfiction?
Jay Sandlin: I only recently decided to make writing the focus of my life. At age 29, I felt incomplete and lacking in my decisions and path. I have run a successful business since I was 24, but I knew that selling insurance and financial services was not the legacy I wanted to leave behind. For years, I had my name on a sign. I wanted to die with my name on books. So, I began to write. I spent most of 2016 just writing. I drafted, outlined, and wrote manuscripts until I settled on something I liked. I self-published two books in 2017. The first was called Outbreak Mutiny and it was an alternate history, with superheroes. I chose to write that one mostly after finishing a course on the Cold War. The Cold War is truly a history of the twentieth century, and I decided to toss in some superheroes to major events. The story evolved from there into my own timeline and series imprint called “The Novel Comics.” I also published a children’s book called Little Wolfie at Riverhill School. I wrote this book as a fundraiser for my son’s school and featured the school in an attempt to teach diversity. With the news blaring daily about bans on certain groups of people, I wanted my son to know that different did not always have to be bad. The great thing about Little Wolfie was that we held a contest for the students of the school to act as the illustrators for the book! I was amazed when I received hundreds of incredible drawings. We put them together and featured the students as the stars of the book. All the proceeds went to the school and I am thrilled to write a sequel in the future! Little Wolfie is available here:
Book ‘Em: Do you have a work in progress?
Jay Sandlin: I have many works in progress. On October 30th, 2017 I signed with Corvisiero Literary Agency. I found out about an Agency Workshop only an hour from my house in the month of August. I had been looking for an agent for months, and just knew I had to attend. The location was great, but the best part was the chance to pitch my book to agents in person. I received an offer for representation in October from Jennifer Haskin. Jennifer has now become one of my closest friends and confidants as we work towards getting my MS ready to shop to publishing houses. Marisa Corvisiero is also my agent and I am constantly inspired by her vision and hardworking attitude. She truly won me over when we met at the workshop. My MS is a YA-Superhero novel called The Last Outpost. A brilliant writer named Caleb recently edited it, and I think he and I would be best friends if we ever get the chance to sit down and binge watch The Flash or another CW hero show. I appreciated all of his critiques. No writer loves rewrites, but we all do them! Aside from that, I am the head writer for IronCloud Comics. IronCloud is a new, start-up, publishing house for exciting adventures featuring superheroes in Sci-Fi stories. We will release our first storyline in 2018, so stay tuned! I’m also working on a manuscript involving a female cyborg gladiator set in the future. I love writing!
Book ‘Em: What was the most difficult section/piece you ever wrote? What made it difficult?
Jay Sandlin: This sounds like a cop out, but all writing finds difficulty in some stages. It’s impossible to quantify why. Generally speaking, when I reach a wall, I take a break from the manuscript and go on to write something else.
Book ‘Em: What sort of research do you do for your work?
Jay Sandlin: This is a difficult question, because the research depends on the project. For my Master’s thesis, I had to research the viewpoints of many historians and present them in a historiography format, with detailed citations. For fiction, I can shoot from the hip and make it up as I go along. The great thing about writing historical fiction is I can include events and facts from real-life and look super prepared and well researched. BUT I can simultaneously go off-script and play with the timeline with no regard whatsoever for facts. This is a writer’s privilege, as established by the Writer’s Fiction Concordance of 1745. For “The Last Outpost” I did research the 20th century extensively during my Master’s courses. The Ken Burns documentary on the Cold War was an excellent tool to plan a decade-by-decade timeline for what happens in my own series through the ages. For instance, the destruction of the USS Maine warship in 1888 was a major event in the Spanish American War. I researched it and included it in my story. Then I decided, in my story, it sank because of a badass female hero with heat vision. See? Research for writing is the best kind, because the facts are as fluid as your story requires!
Book ‘Em: Which books and authors do you read for pleasure? Is there an author that inspires you?
Jay Sandlin: Lately I have been reading authors for book reviews for pleasure. Some of my favorites include John Scalzi, Chuck Wendig, Timothy Zahn, Delilah Dawson, Christie Golden, Jim Butcher, Jim Bernheimer, and Ernest Cline. Many authors inspire me. Jim Bernheimer’s series “D-List Supervillain” showed me that superheroes could be written successfully in a novel format.
Ernest Cline wrote his first novel, Ready Player One and now it is set to become a major film directed by Stephen Spielberg. Cline said his life completely changed within a year after meeting his agent for this novel. Most of all, I am inspired by J.K. Rowling. I sat up at night reading the Harry Potter books until I only had three hours of sleep before school the next day. At the workshop, Marisa told us all the story of how Rowling was too shy to ask to borrow a pencil on the train when she came up with the idea for Harry Potter and his friends. From there, droves of agents rejected her until one finally accepted her idea. Once accepted, she had to change everything. I’ve met many writers who are hostile to edits and collaborations. Some refuse to change their book because it is “their baby”. To any writer thinking that right now: STOP. Even J.K. Rowling had to change Harry Potter. If Harry Potter needed a rewrite, so does your book. And, obviously, the rewrite turned out pretty well for Rowling. Why not give it a try?
Book ‘Em: Was there a person who encouraged you to write?
Jay Sandlin: Above all, my father encouraged me to write. He realized I was meant for a different life even before I did. He waited patiently for me to realize it too. When I told him I was going for my Master’s Degree and planned to start a novel, I received endless waves of encouragement. He is still my cheerleader. It’s also helpful for any writer to have close friends who love to read. My best friend Adam reads everything I put out and isn’t shy about offering his honest opinion. There are many others as well, but he was there from day one. In addition, I also received discouragements to write. One friend in particular went on a long rant one day about it. He told me that I had zero experience in a competitive field that would most likely chew me up and spit me out. I thanked him for his opinion but paid no mind and kept writing. Then, the same day I signed with Corvisiero, I sent him a screenshot of my contract with the elegant words: “NaNaNaNaNaNa!”
Book ‘Em: What would you say are your strengths as an author?
Jay Sandlin: I would say my greatest strength is my ability to build worlds and fill them with an eclectic cast. I have a good memory and can keep track of complex relationships. Unfortunately, the complexity often works against me. Editors have to tell me to reign in my purple prose, expositions, and info dumps. The best part of working as part of an agency is everyone is trying to produce a polished product to present to publishers. (Say that 5 times fast, go ahead).
Book ‘Em: How often do you write, and do you write using a strict routine?
Jay Sandin: I write every day. Period. Writing is like a muscle. You exercise it, or it grows soft and useless, like James Gavsie when he tries to debate me on our podcast! However, I may not write on the same project every day. Like I said before, i’s good to step away from a manuscript. Let it breathe while you work on something else. For instance, on any given day, I may be writing a book review, editorial, Top 5 list, or answering interview questions. Like right now! I can’t say I have a strict routine, because I never know when ideas will strike. That means I always have my phone nearby with google docs keyed to my toolbar. This allows me to work in a google doc no matter where I am and my work will be available on all devices.In the 21st century, all writers need two types of drive: motivation and cloud!
Book ‘Em: Five years from now, where do you see yourself as a writer?
Jay Sandlin: Ideally, I would like to be earning a living as a writer. This is a lofty goal. Only a small percentage of writers are able to practice their craft without some kind of side hustle to pay the bills. If it does happen for me, it won’t be because I’m a better writer than others who have yet to earn a living bringing worlds to life.
If it does happen it will be because….
Book ‘Em: If you could offer one piece of advice to a novice writer, what would it be?
Jay Sandlin: “Am I willing to put in the time and effort to achieve my goals?” If the answer is no, then you’re likely to join the ranks of the majority. The majority all had dreams but scoffed at the hoops they had to jump through to turn them into a reality. I remember in my high school days, a very pretty girl I knew wanted to be an actor. She may have looked the part, but she was unwilling to get a SAG card, go to auditions, go to acting classes, or work to improve herself beyond being a pretty face. She had hoped someone would magically “discover” her one day in an Alabama Wal-Mart and take her to superstardom. Spoiler Alert: It did not happen. When I began my dream, I knew I was starting a long marathon. After all, I was just one of millions of wannabe writers fumbling my way through the Internet. I made it a point to read articles, talk to writers, and searched daily for an agent. After I wrote my manuscript, my first goal was to find a literary agent by the end of 2017. This was a major event, because many great writers never acquire an agent. If you wish to find one for yourself, you must be able to HANDLE REJECTION. Lots of it. Like, every day. When I was searching for an agent, I sent out hundreds of query letters. Most went unanswered or I instantly received a generic rejection. I’ve been in sales and acting my entire life, so rejection was nothing new for me. However, I understand how it could be jarring for someone not used to receiving more snubs than I did for my senior prom. For me, it made all the difference to pitch in person. Therefore, the best possible advice I can offer is to attend a writer’s workshop anywhere you can. It can make all the difference in the world to tell your query to an agent face-to-face and you are sure to learn some valuable lessons if nothing else. I’ll never forget driving home from the workshop. It was August in Alabama and the air conditioner went out in my car. I was soaking through my shirt, but I could not stop smiling. Something inside of me knew that day had changed my life forever. Make that change for yourself and find a Corvisiero Workshop near you: https://www.corvisieroagency.com/workshops.html
Lofty goals are simply daydreams without planning and deadlines. It doesn’t matter if your goal is writing, acting, directing, or even managing a local store. You have to be working in the field to rise to the top. If you are serious about your dreams then you have to ask yourself one question:
Book ‘Em: What would you consider the best compliment a reader could give your book?
Jay Sandlin: A great compliment is simply knowing that someone read my book from start to finish. Few people write books. Even fewer who attempt to write books ever finish their novels. If you have finished writing a book, you’re already ahead of the curve! Who cares who likes it? Write the novel for yourself before anyone else. I don’t expect everyone to love what I write.
I suppose the best compliment would be for someone who normally reads a completely different genre to read my book and tell me they enjoyed it.
Book ‘Em: Provide an excerpt of your writing that you would like to share with our members.
Jay Sandlin: Alright, because you asked so nicely, here is an exclusive! You will receive the first few lines of my upcoming novel The Last Outpost (as they are now) right here:
“Time is a river and I am the Chronicler of the Temporal Streams. I stand on the shores of reality and watch humanity’s path from its banks. By my hand, the records of time and space were carved in walls of stone. Though my power is great, I cannot directly interfere with the flow of time. Only the worthy may find my guidance. I fear it still may not be enough to save this world. I am but a remnant of a dead race; the keeper of the Last Outpost and Warden of Reality. I am the Archive.
Jay on Corvisiero Website: https://www.corvisieroagency.com/jay-sandlin.html
Jay’s Podcast: https://media.zencast.fm/whowouldwin
Jay on Twitter: https://twitter.com/JSandlinWriter
Jay on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JaySandlinWriter/
Jay’s Book Reviews, Editorials, List Articles, and more: www.JaySandlinWriter.com