Today we are meeting the entertaining author, Jack Massa, who grew up in New Jersey and attended college in Florida and Massachusetts, earning an MFA in creative writing. His thesis was a science fantasy novel, Mooncrow, which was published by Berkley Books in 1979.
Jack spent the next 30 years in Atlanta, Georgia, learning and practicing the magical skills of the digital age. Bits of his fiction and poetry also surfaced from time to time. His science fiction story, “PrayerWare,” was published in the first Bantam Books Full Spectrum Anthology in 1988, and was later selected for a British Best-of-the-Year collection.
In 2013, Jack returned to Florida, where he lives with his magical wife, wonderful son, and a pet orange tree named Grover. He continues to practice technical prestidigitation while also focusing on writing stories.
Let's get to it! Welcome, Jack, what is the current book you are promoting?
Ghosts of Bliss Bayou. It is a YA paranormal mystery set mostly in rural Florida. I’ve written fantasy and science fiction for a long time, but this is my first YA story, and one I am really proud of.
That's awesome! What inspired this book?
Lots. I’m interested in all sorts of things, and for me bits and pieces from all over the place gradually accumulate into a story.
I had an idea for an urban fantasy series featuring a psychic detective. Then I thought that making the protagonist a teenage girl would be interesting—and maybe marketable. And giving her a partner who was real pragmatic and had connections to the police would make it more plausible. Then I read about hallucinations and adolescent psychology, and shamanism in primitive cultures, and magical societies in Victorian England.
But the story really came together when my wife and I visited a little town in central Florida called Micanopy, which was built in the 1800s. And I thought, “Yeah, this is where my story happens.” And the next day, we took a glass-bottom boat ride at Silver Springs State Park (which is incredibly beautiful) and I thought, “Right! The town is built near a natural springs.”
So, inspiration comes from everywhere!
I completely relate. I didn't realize how similar our concepts started out (Clear Angel Chronicles is about a psychic who partners with a detective to solve crimes) but the end product is very different, for sure! What is your next project?
I’m working on a fantasy adventure series set in a world called Glimnodd. Glimnodd is full of magic—witches and sorcerers; sentient creatures evolved from plants, fish, and birds; and magic winds that change the seas to ice and back to water. I like to say, the high concept is “Chinese Taoist Magic meets The Wizard of Oz—with ice pirates.”
The first book is called Cloak of the Two Winds. Currently, I’m working on the sequel, A Mirror Against All Mishap. It will be out later this year *fingers crossed*.
That sounds like such an awesome concept! Cannot wait to read that series! How do you write your books?
That’s a great question. Many writers say they are pantsers, which I think means they just sit down and write the story “by the seat of their pants,” without planning or outlining. I am the opposite—I have to plan ahead, in a lot of detail, to know where I’m going.
But I also learned early on that if you plot and plan too much, you end up with a story that feels wooden, the characters don’t seem alive. So I like to plot my way into scenes and then let the characters take over—put them into tough situations and then sit back and see how they react. That seems to work best for me.
I like that philosophy. I always have a plan for a beginning middle and end, then let my characters grow and develop to shape the story accordingly. Gives us the best of both worlds, right? What is one great lesson you have learned as a writer?
I’ll give you two:
1) Writing is a skill, like playing tennis. You can learn to understand the game by watching (that is, reading) people who are really good. But you will only learn to do it yourself by practice. Lots and lots of practice.
2) If you write any kind of genre fiction, plot and suspense are important. If you write fantasy or science fiction, then setting or “world building” are very important. But I think all of these are less important than characters. Fiction is about people. If readers love your characters, they will follow you anywhere.
Great lessons! We don't fall in love with stories, we fall in love with characters, for sure! Thanks so much for joining us today, Jack, it was a pleasure!
Are you as excited about Jack's stories as I am? learn more on his website triskelionbooks
Connect with Jack.. Did you find Jack as fun and entertaining as I did? Follow him on Facebook and Twitter @JackMassa2 for more fun!