Jason Starr and The Next Time I Die

In this episode, we hear from a crime writer, comic book writer and now sci-fi writer, Jason Starr.

Jason: I'm Jason Starr. I am a crime writer, comic book writer. And now a science fiction writer, because my new book has a,science fiction hook to it.

Paul: Absolutely. It's amazing book. I don't think I've eaten a book so quickly in quite a long time.

Jason: oh thank you. Yeah, that's, that's the, that's always the goal, to have books be a page Turner.

And,I'm always thinking in terms of cliff hangers at the end of chapters and just wanting people to turn the pages, that's the best compliment you could get.

Paul: So yeah, usually you do, you do more crime stuff. What, what made you sort of take a bit of a, a change in direction?

Jason: Yeah, my, my first crime novel was actually, published in the UK by, no exit press, sort of a, an unusual route for a, for an American, writer to get published in the UK first.

But they were my first publisher. And they've published just about all of my, crime novels. They're still in print with, no exit, Orion did a couple of the books, but then subsequently no exit even did those. So I was, I've been with them for a long time. Yeah, no, I started writing, crime fiction basically because it was this what I was reading.

I think there's a shift when a, a writer, writes what they like to read. I think initially. When, when a, when most writers are starting out, trying to, write perhaps like in a different voice that become natural to you. So it, it takes a while to like find out what your voice is, what you really wanna write about.

So part of it was cuz I just enjoyed reading crime fiction so much. and I love old film noires from the forties and fifties, that was definitely a big influence. And then I started reading the books that were based on those, movies, like, James M. Kane and Jim Thompson. Well like Dave, David Goodess, for example, Raymond Chandler,Patricia highsmith and then moved on to Elmore Leonard, Who's still a, a favorite of mine.

George V. Higgins, like the, the crime writers who are writing, like dialogue driven books, but I, but I've always read other genres also, including, sci-fi. Philip K Dick is one of my favorite writers as well. So it's always been in the back of my mind that I'd want to, attempt a, a sci-fi book at some point I just wanted, I need to find like the right way into it.

Paul: So where did the idea for this in particular, is this something that is sort of been in the back of your mind?

Jason: Yeah, I think it was in the back of my mind. And also just sort of, what if. Sort of story. I think most ideas come from writers asking themselves. What if, what if this happens? What if, starting from a situation, at least for me, it's usually not coming from the character.

It's usually from a situation by asking myself what if, so in this case there's like a very big, what if, cuz they there's a whole shift in, reality and. Yeah. I mentioned Phillip K Dick, but I love, alternate reality, stories, in, in novels, but also in movies, everything from, it's a wonderful life to sliding doors to, any, anything with that sort of theme.

There was a movie frequency. I remember I really liked in the 90. So I, that those sort of, that sort of entertainment has always appealed to me. I knew if I wrote that sort of story, though, it would have to have my own twist on it. So this is sort of depending how you read this book. The next time I die, it's either, a crime novel or a sci-fi novel.

It really could be both in my mind, and I wanted to write a book that had like a, a sci-fi hook to it, but was ultimately also a psychological thriller and, a crime novel. I think anything I've ever written could be defined as psychological thriller at its core. So even if I'm writing, like in this book, It has sci-fi in it.

One of my earlier noir crime novels that no exit was doing like cold caller, fake ID, those books are straight ahead. Sort of Jim Thompson, James M Cain sort of crime novels, but in my mind they're also psychological thrillers. Cause it's also about the tension of what's going on inside the character's mind at the same time as there's thrilling events going on in the story. There's also, I guess like a dichotomy of like what's going on in the character's mind and what's going on in the action of the story, especially when I'm writing in first person. Like I am in this book.

Paul: Yeah. Cause it was quite refreshing when I first, when you first sort of start reading the book, you're immediately drawn into it by the fact that it's first person and then you're thrown into a mystery, which kind of hangs over the whole book.

And then it's not obvious all the way through because there's so many different layers that keep being built up and it's all through first person. And you're all looking through this person's eyes and it's really, it really draws you in because you are in that mystery with them.

Jason: Yeah, that was definitely the vibe I was going for, to experience this world and these change in realities, from the point of view of the character, like I don't see, this book possibly being told, like in third person, it has to be like a first person novel.

I mean, that's where the suspense is coming from, the, you're you're experiencing the events as the character, Steven blitz, the narrator, experiences them. But what I was talking about with that tension and the psychology and the action, you don't know if steven is a reliable narrator. He, so that's sort of like the game you could play.

When you tell like a, a first person novel, the reader only has the narrator's, version of events and the narrator's experience. And there's like an underlying tension where the reader has to figure out, do what should I trust this narrator? Just because this narrator is telling me this is happening and that's happening.

Did readers like behind it all, sort of like in a subtext of the whole book asking themselves, like whether they should, trust this character and have their own, version of it. So some of some readers, you know, might not trust him from the get go. They might trust him cuz he could be, I'm not gonna give anything away.

He might actually be, reliable in the end, but Yeah, I, I, I rely on the reader to do that. So to me, that's why the book ultimately like a, a psychological thriller and that, that this is sort of my, where my twist on these, on the sci-fi crime novel comes along also because, he, he's telling you a version of events that might not, might not necessarily be true, but his version of himself might not be true. And that's where the psychological part comes into it. There's, there's a change in reality in the books, but. There's a big, there's a bigger question. Maybe we'll get into it later, but of, of nature versus nurture in the book about whether, if you could go, if you have a choice of door one or door two, and you make decisions that alter the course of your life.

Yeah. You'll might wind up with a different job, a different relationship, but, is it gonna affect the core of who you are? That's that's basically the, question I'm I. Discussing, it sounds like so serious discussing meanwhile its just like a, you know, a beach read, but, but , but, yeah, that's the serious question that I'm addressing

Paul: it is because it's funny. I, I was reading through it and as I say, I basically swallowed it whole. It does have different layers to it. If you, if you want to see it, it's there for you to look at. Like, just the simple thing of it refers to different perceptions. Like your perception of something will be completely different to my perception of something.

And as you say, I don't wanna give anything away on the book, but sort of his perception. Is also different to his own perception, which will make sense to people who have read it. But it's just because of this, his slightly different view on it. It changes things entirely.

Jason: Yeah. There's that theory. I mean, I have like a, again, it's, it's gonna sound incredibly pretentious, but there's a, Kierkegaard quote at the beginning of the book.

But, but about like living, in, you know, like experience, like there. Concurrent versions perhaps of your life existing simultaneously, like right now, like maybe in different,dimensions. So that's sort of what I'm, getting into, but again, it's like in a crime fiction sort of way. Not like in a, I don't think I take a deep dive into like very hard sci-fi like, I'm, I'm dealing with those issues and questions. And there's certainly like a sci-fi way of viewing all of this. But, but I think ultimately it's still like a crime novel, cuz you're just, it's about like crimes that have taken place. Who did it, like, you know, those sort of questions.

Paul: Yeah the sci-fi basis is almost a way to make you look at it slightly differently rather than that's what the story is hinged on. It's, it's there to sort of make you think more. Yeah. Cause even, Again, I was trying not to give things away, but there's a couple of characters. And towards the end, you are kind of the main characters looking at the differences between him and someone else.

But then he starts to question himself, actually, am I that different? Like the events that unfolded?

Jason: Yeah. So, Yeah, it is one of those books. Like we don't wanna give too much away when you're talking about the actual, plot, but he, the main character is a defense attorney and he's, representing, this it's a very high profile case, that he's working on.

And it's about to start when the events happen. And he knows like in one reality, this guy. And the reality starts in our reality. He knows what this guy has done. He's seen the autopsy photos. He knows this case inside out. He knows everything about the victims, but in the new reality, That doesn't seem to have happened.

And there seemed to be a different set of victims. So he has to unravel that sort of, mystery. And then yeah. Then he ultimately begins to compare himself to that, to his client. And those are my favorite scenes to write actually like the, that, that character, the, The killer he's representing.

Paul: Yeah. It, it really comes across cuz it's so you can tell the emotion, the, the psychology of both of them kind of working against each other in that way.

Jason: Yeah. I love this goes back to like, just why I love like alternate reality, like, you know, the sliding doors sort of stories. When you see, another, version of the same person in another reality, and then, Yeah. I mean, there are differences and. In this book, there are some things that are better about this new world in the events that have taken place, but also in the character. But there are also some things that are worse. So like, I want to deal with like that gray area also. So it's not like, this is like a wish fulfillment sort of if only, you know, This happened, the world would be great and he would be great.

Everything would be perfect. Just like in our world, there are good things and bad things.

Paul: No, I, I'm very excited about this book, but I'm trying not to give anything away. It's very hard.

So was there any sort of idea in your mind, because as you say you've done comic books, you've done other sorts of things. It's I noticed there's been option as a film now, which is amazing. Was there ever a point that you were looking at maybe doing this in a, a different format or was it always a book in your mind?

Jason: This one was, always a book because, I saw this as like a first person story where I wanted, wanted to get into his, like I was saying, like his psychology. I mean, I think it's a way to do it. I mean, it could certainly work, I think, as a graphic novel, I, to me. It would be just to go on a theme here, it would be completely different reality if it was like a graphic novel, because once you just make one decision about how the book's gonna start, for example, which scene you're gonna start with, it starts like a domino effect that takes it. In another, direction in my experience, I've occasionally I've been hired to, adapt my own books to screenplays. I've never actually tried to turn a book into a, graphic novel, but whenever I've tried to write something that was in one medium and it becomes something else, in my experience, It just takes on a life of, of its own.

And I rarely even look at the source material anymore. Like I know the basic story, but every scene starts changing and it's, and it's, and it's different. So I think this book would've been very different if I did it as a graphic novel, I probably would've thought about like what the big visual. Set pieces are in the book.

Cause that's what you have to do in a graphic novel. It's sort of stringing together those big sequences. The action would probably be much more at the forefront as opposed to the, psychology. It would just be, you know, when, when, when something's a graphic novel, you, you, it has to be about the images, obviously.

So. You wouldn't want it to be too wordy. In this book, a lot of it is like what's going on in his head and that, that sort of tension. So I think some of that would be lost. And, and then in doing that, it would become a different story. So, yeah, no. So I never thought about this being a, graphic novel and my in, in my experience, writing graphic novels and comics, I've written for Marvel for DC, My and some original graphic novels for vertigo and, boom.

And my latest who are at, AWA, casual fling and, red border, in just about every case in the original stuff, I've written that wasn't, licensed characters. I've had it's, it's involved like a long, pitching process where. It might take pitching multiple ideas before an editor, is interested in something I'm doing.

And then there's a lot of back and forth with the editor, maybe multiple editors. And it sort of takes on a life of its own. Like it wouldn't have been something I thought of as a novel because it just evolved like completely differently when I'm writing, a novel I'm extremely secretive. I don't discuss it with anyone. I, I'm I'm working on a book now and like literally nobody knows what it's about, except me. Like, I haven't told anybody, I have this idea whether it's real or not. If you talk about something too much, it lets the energy out and then it never gets done. Maybe that's why sometimes we'll meet people at parties we'll just go on and on about the book they're gonna write and, that never gets done. But I think they're just letting the energy out. So I always tell like, no, just keep it to your, like, if you have a great idea. Or you think you have a great idea, just keep it to yourself. So it could sort of, hatch, you know, in the, you know, in the egg rather than, just letting all that energy out, plus somebody at that cocktail, party's probably gonna steal your idea.

Paul: Well, yeah, there is that. No, that's true though there's quite a few times. Like I've had a project in my mind and I spend so much time telling people about it and kind of trying to get feedback and assurance. It never actually happens because I'm spending all that time talking about it.

Jason: Well, I mean, yeah.

I mean, you could just, yeah. I mean, if, if that look, sometimes I think there's a reason, For like, I, I'm not, if someone's in a, writing workshop, for example, and you want to, bounce your idea off people because it's gonna energize you and, motivate you to finish it. So, I mean, so look, every writer, that's why I'm saying like, this is just like my personal way of doing things and every writer has their own way.

So some people like. Thrive on getting that sort of, feedback early on and it helps them, motivates them to finish a chapter of the book, cuz you're gonna share it with people. So. There's no real one way of doing it, but yeah, no, in general, I do think it's a good idea. Like once you have like an idea of where it's going, you know, if, if you're not sure about where it's, where it's going, I do think it's a good idea to bounce it off people, because like sometimes talking about it out loud, you catch like a, a plot point that might not work or something like somebody says to like, oh, that wouldn't make sense.

And then just hearing yourself, say it out loud. Like got you through that plot point. So that would be like an instance where it is a good idea to talk about it, but I would try to get in the habit of like, doing as much as you can, like, on your own, like answering those questions on your own, it's just like a better chance of finishing it.

Paul: That's good advice. Yeah. Also, as you mentioned, there is sort of nature versus nurture thing, that you explore in the book and particularly with the main character who is. Ostensibly the same person, but as we sort of find out as it unravels and he's finding out more about himself, it turns out that actually he he's a completely different person.

And as the book evolves a bit more, you find out that he's exploring himself and actually, maybe they're not as different mentally or psychologically. It's the way that they've acted.

Jason: Yeah, no. And this is what he tells us, cuz he's the narrator who's saying like I'm no D you know, I know who I am. I know who I really am, so I wouldn't have done X, Y, and Z in this new reality that, that that's just not who I am.

So he kind of is like the judge and jury of himself and declares himself,innocent. I guess the question I, I, I try to raise in the book though, is. Again, cuz he might not be telling us the truth. He might not be reliable. And do those events really change that or, or is the, nature of who a person is, who they act actually are?

For example, his client who's, he knows is a, a psychopath because he, represented him. He, he, you know, he's the, lawyer, for his trial. So he knows his case inside out. He knows his history, his psychology, like he's seen all of that. He's talked, he's interviewed his psychologist and therapist, cuz he's prepared for this trial he knows who this person is and he knows that any event, if that person had chosen door a or B and did the sliding doors got onto the train?

It would, he knows as, as the attorney that. and what he knows about, psychopaths is that like, that's just how you are. If you're a psychopath you're born in that way. And, It would be very difficult or impossible for like events to actually, change the core of who you are. So that's one of the questions he asks

Paul: and this book does have so many layers. I think there people can get so many different things out of it if they want to, as you say, it's size fiction, it's crime. It's also psychological. Yeah. There's, there's so many bits to it. I mean, there's are these all parts of. Things that you've been interested in in the past, as you say, you know, you've brought bits of them into your, your crime novels in the past. Has this been a running thing for you?

Jason: Well, I haven't really done much. Sci-fi like, well, I haven't done any in my original, novels. They've been definitely straight ahead. Crime novel, psychological thrillers. I did a couple of, urban fantasy novels that penguin did,in the us and UK, the pack and, and the craving.

So that was like a. Another genre switch, but I, the only sci-fi I've really written, is in my comics, like in my Wolverine, comics, the Gotham or the Gotham novels that tie into the, TV show Gotham, especially the second one had a, a sci, it takes place between season two and season three of the show when the monsters are, released in, Gotham.

So there's definitely like a sci-fi theme in that, in that. The tied in my ant man novel had like, sci-fi in it, obviously, cuz it's an man with the, ant man suit. But I had not done any,like a straight sci-fi novel on my own. So that's something I definitely wanted to do. Have some other ideas maybe, going forward.

So it's not, might not be the end of me writing. Sci-fi but So it's, it is definitely something I wanted to explore in one of my own, novels.

Paul: So yeah, if we can sort of have a bit more of a dive into you as a person and for people that are, you know, interested in the, the people behind the book, as it were behind the pen, how would you describe yourself outside of being a, a writer?

Jason: That's it just a writer. What else? Well, I grew up, and I still like, like, love sports, go running, love movies, theater. I'm yeah. I see a lot of plays around the New York area concerts. Yeah, definitely into fitness and yoga. Yeah, I'm the, I'm the crime writer who practices yoga this little,dichotomy.

But fairly normal. I mean, I traveled a lot when I was, I mean, I. Travel when I can, when, when there's no, outbreaks around the world. But, when I was younger, I, lived in Mexico for a while. Traveled around Europe many times, studied abroad in the UK and England, in London. So yeah, so I've, I, but probably not as much traveling lately, but except in my mind.

So maybe that's where I wrote the,sci-fi novel during, COVID sort of an escape from reality. . Like ability to travel you can't travel.

Paul: Yeah cause I think there's, there is a perception of people that, writers are, there are a particular type of person and it's nice to sort of. As you say you are just kind of a normal guy who know, who happens to write all these things as well so it's just nice to hear .

Jason: Well, I've always, yeah, I think there's some writers who, talk about like how they, Again, we were talking about like trying, you know, finishing a book and, strategies for doing that. I, I also teach in an MFA program, in, writing at, St. Francis college in, Brooklyn.

It's actually a low residency MFA program. So it's only, we have two residencies a year, so anybody's interested in. Starting with me or Marlon James is there and, other great,writers. Also, I, I just started a comics and graphic novel track. So you could actually get an a master's degree in, in writing comics.

So, check it out online. St. Francis St. Francis college, MFA you, I think you have to integrate writing,into your. Into your life and it has to become sort of a, habit is the best way to do it. I don't think it should be something if you really want a career as a writer. I mean, some, again, this is just, I should, I should preface that, cuz I think this is just like my, my belief.

There's some writers who, who I know personally, actually, who. In order to finish the book, need to need to go away to like a writer's retreat or cut off from reality and, and write the book and I need total silence and they can't socialize. They tell people like I'm not available for the next two months because I'm working on my book and they have to like shut out the entire world.

So yeah, like I've never been that way. I, I believe that, like, it just has to be part of, a routine for me. So I think of it like going to the gym, like you, You write for a certain amount of day, of time, time per day and have a page count. Ideally like even, you know, I wouldn't even make it, like I tried for a thousand words on most when I'm like deep into a book, but, if you're really busy, like whatever it is, just pick a number, a hundred.

Hundred words a day, 200, just do it like every day. Just like you're going to the gym and it's, and it's sort of like working out, like you don't see any progress at first. Like you still, still have your belly. When, you know, when you're going to, you know, when you first join the. The gym, but, if you stick to it and you do it, you stick to your routine, you eventually start to see like some progress and, a book form.

So I don't think it has to be this dramatic lifestyle change. Like you have to be like, be a writer to write. Like, I think you just have to, make it part of your life.

Paul: Cause it's funny. I, I hear people say, you know, if you wanna be a writer, you need to write something every day. Doesn't matter what it is. Just something you have to write something.

Jason: I think that would be the best way. Do it, well, look, there are some writers who write and bursts. I believe Lee child, for example, writes, his books like for a few months, a year, like he's working on the book and then he's, doing promotion, he's traveling, doing other things.

And then like he write his book again for three months. So everyone has their whatever works for them. I think the simplest way though, just to get into the habit of writing initially is to yeah. Is to make it a habit and just, yeah, like you were saying, just do a little bit every day.

Paul: No, I think there'll be a lot of people that'd be interested to hear that cuz it's yeah, there are certain perceptions and I know people find it hard to get that outta their mind to, I wanna be a writer, but you need to be doing all of this. So I think there will be interested to hear that. Would you class yourself sort of a geek about books?

Jason: Yeah. I mean you could see, I have my. Geeky comics. I have my, Batman posters behind me there. Yeah. I guess so I guess, yeah. I mean, I guess the stuff I'm interested in would, would qualify as geeky.

Paul: What, what would your earliest experiences do you think be, or sort of either geek culture or geeking out about something, not necessarily sort of comic books or something that really you've engaged that part of your brain.

Jason: Yeah. I mean, I think it's generally for me, I guess it's the, sort of pop culture you're interested in, and how obsessively you're, you're interested in it. Yeah. So I think if you're into comics, you're not necessarily geeky, but if you are, if you start like going to every ComicCon and you're just obsessed with comic, I think it has to do with like how obsessed you are.

With something that's sort of offbeat and yeah, it's like that intensity. I mean, you could be geeky because you're into like, Marvel movies, but it's not as geeky. Like I think the more obscure something is the more geeky it is. Like if you're like into, We hard sci-fi novels. That's geekier than, than if you were just into like seeing Marvel movies, which is like easier.

So I think like the more effort you put into it, and then it starts affecting your style and you might start wearing like geeky. T-shirts. You like your hair, your hair, beard, the glasses. Yeah. it just starts like seeping out of you once you, you absorb the, the content and then starts coming out.

Paul: Did you remember sort of the first time that something switched in you like that?

Jason: Well, I was very into sports when I was younger. So, you know, I was just playing, baseball, tennis. Yeah. I would say like when I got very into, Just like reading a lot. Yeah. Like reading all the time. I, I, I got, I, I didn't read a lot growing up, but when I started writing in my early twenties, I read an incredible, amount.

I was writing plays at the time, so I read a ton of plays and I read classic novels and yeah. So I think that was when I started, again, I think it's, there's. If you're just talking about like what geekiness is. I think there's like that obsessive quality that like tips it over. I don't think you could be truly geeky if you're not, obsessed.

Paul: Hmm. That's interesting. Cause you, you said that you weren't that interested in reading beforehand, but then you started writing and it sort of engaged that part of your brain. What made you start writing then if you hadn't been much of a reader beforehand?

Jason: I guess it was just, a, a shift like when, when I was in college of, of being able to books, on, on my own and get into them.

When I, when I was younger, it just seemed like books were work. Teachers were signing in school and you had to read a chapter by Monday and, you know, a game would be on and I'd be watching the game. I was like, oh, I have to read now. So it just seemed like something that wasn't, defined to me as being,pleasurable.

So I had more freedom like in college to explore things also. I just think, I've always seen like writing as like. Expression and partly a career to make money, but also like there's a therapeutic sort of,aspect to it. So I think when I started writing, I realized like, any anxiety or, other emotions I was feeling like could go right into, the book.

It was probably like a healthier way of like expressing, that anxiety rather than like, you know, to Harbor yourself, like to just go and, you know, write, write books. I mean, I think I'd always been thinking back. Like I think I was, creative, like, you know, in what I was thinking about, I did read a lot of comics growing up.

I was actually more interested in art than in, writing, growing up. I was, I drew like just as a. As a hobby. I was really good at copying. Like I would, I could copy like a page from a comic book and it, I could still do that like really well, like I could copy it well. So there's probably some hidden art talent in there somewhere, but, but, but, but writing became like the, like an outlet, I guess.

Paul: So sliding doors, is there a different version of you somewhere out there? Who's an artist?

Jason: I think like on wall street, like making a lot of like. Money. Like, I'm a trader. I thought, I thought that's what I was gonna do. When I went in, went to college, I thought I was going to like work completely opposite, like work on wall street.

And yeah, so some of my early jobs were like sales jobs. I still like, I mean, if I was doing something else, like being an agent, like a, a Hollywood agent, sounds fun to me to like, make, you know, to be making the deals. And yeah, that seems like, so. That I would, like, I, I wouldn't, I wouldn't find that like, painful, like I like, like most work seems very painful to me, but, that seems like they would be enjoyable.

Paul: Yeah, I guess that it sort of tickles the creative part because you can, you still have that interaction. You can create, you are creating things and you've got a kind of an input on the way that things come out. You're not just sitting at a desk.

Jason: Yeah. And I like making the deals and stuff like that.

Paul: So never, never gonna be an artist then just enjoyed the copying things, but it never really tickled that part of your brain.

Jason: Maybe. I don't know. Maybe I could get back into it. I. The artists like I've worked with are so good that like, there's probably no point in even attempting to, match their abilities.

Paul: Yeah. You see what they can do, and then you get worried that you can't match that.

Jason: Yeah. I think my comics though, you have to, even writers, like have to think visually cuz you are.

Yeah. I mean, some people who've never, Who don't read a lot of comics or who just, aren't that experienced in how they, you know, how they're created, like assume that like the art might even come first before the writing, but it's, it's almost always the, writing. Comes first that there's a script created just like a, like a screenplay.

So the artists, the writers are really, you know, you have to think visually in the sense of like what the page looks like, the space that you have to work with, things that you're not thinking about when you're writing a, a novel where you have seemingly endless space. So it does help if you, if you think artistically as a, as a writer, it certainly helps for graphic novels where you really have to think about what the images are like telling the artist, like what's gonna happen visually in the scene and then letting the artist do it because they're, they always take it to like another level, but like, it still has to start with the writer.

Paul: So how did it come to be then that you, you got involved with with graphic novels? Was it something that you sought out or was it something that was approached to you?

Jason: Well, I wrote. Introduction. I'm trying to think of what was the first thing to, to Brian AAR's, vertigo book, 100 bullets to one of the collected additions.

One of the editors had read some of my crime novels, so he asked me to write introduction to that. And then I wrote one for Jason Aaron's book scalped. So by doing that, like I got into conversations with the editors about, Doing my own graphic novel. So I wrote a graphic novel called the chill.

I don't even remember how I got, but I, but involved, but I, I wound up doing some,some DC comics, including, doc Savage, series,that Brian Azzarello was involved with at DC. And then, then I move, an editor from Marvel contacted me and I wound up working on Wolverine and then it sort of just took on a life of its own as sort of like a, I still, I still see myself primarily as a fiction writer.

But I'm definitely have had like a, a, a parallel life as, you know, writing comics. And I like, and I like the going back and forth because comics is so collaborative. You're working not only with the artist, but the editors. And it's a nice compliment to like how solitary it is writing, especially when you're like me and you're just keeping the idea in your head and you're not discussing it. So that, so then, so then it, creates more of a need to like have some sort of balance.

Paul: Did it sort of change the way that you, you viewed your writing at all, having to do this collaboration, with everyone along the way, did it make you look at your, your other writing in a different way?

Jason: I would say just off the top of my head, I would say that the biggest effect it's had on, novel writing for example is like, like I was saying, like, In writing a comic, it takes much more, pitching and, and discussing stuff in advance. Like I said, like, I like to usually keep it to myself, but with a, a comic, you need to discuss the idea and you need to get an editor on board, and then there's a lot of back and forth on the outline.

So it has, I think I've become a more detailed outliner. In my books because I have to prepare such a such elaborate outlines for graphic novel. Also you're pitching screenplay ideas, etc. It, it also requires a lot of plotting. So I think it's helped my outlining of, novels. Hopefully when you read the next, the next time I die, which is on sale on sale now, in the us and UK and Australia and Canada, it, I mean, I think the plotting has become like my strong suit.

Like when I, when I started writing initially in college and I was writing plays, it was, I was just writing a lot of very dialogue driven stories. And then in my crime fiction, plotting definitely took on that's. It's another reason why I, I started writing crime fiction because plotting is so important in crime fiction and that's something I really latched onto, but I think working in comics has even improved my plotting, more so, Hopefully, you'll see that the next time you die, the hope, you know, it reads fast and I want it to be a page Turner, but plot is, was complicated to pull off, even though it seems, hopefully it just seems smooth, but, there's a lot of different, storylines.

Everything had to come together and that sort of planning and plotting, I think comes from writing comics. .

Paul: There are multiple things that sort of weave in and out through the story. And they're always in the back of your mind and you never, you've managed to make it in such a way that you never lose track of what's going on, but you also don't forget it, which I think is sometimes the trouble that people can get into is they'd leave something at the beginning, pick it up at the end and all the readers are going, wait, what was that again? But you've managed to weave so many things in and out so carefully. That you never lose track of anything. It all makes sense.

Jason: Yeah. Hopefully it comes together like that. Yeah. I mean, I love stories like that, where, where an ending might, seem completely surprising, but completely inevitable at the same time.

Those are my favorite, types of story. So I'm definitely going for that sort of vibe when you get to the story and hopefully it's a sort of story. When you get to the end, you want to look back and see. And read that first chapter then with a different perspective.

Paul: No, I think you've done an amazing job it's especially when you go into sci-fi you are at risk of kind of going too deep into it and it all just getting a bit weird, I think is the best way of saying it.

And a lot of people fall into that trap, but you've done it in such a way that it's there. And it's really interesting, but it doesnt melt your brain as you're going through it.

Jason: yeah, no, I agree with you. It's a, there is a line like that you want to come close to, but not like go over. So I was definitely aware of that when I was writing the book.

Like, I, I mean, this is why, like, why I still see it, like, or you can see this as a crime novel also because like, I'm, it's still like, from the point of view of, this first person narrator, who is. Really he's solving a mystery and working on a, you know, caught up in a crime novel that happens to be taking place in another, reality.

So I think he himself is not as obsessed with the, or as focused. I mean, he, on the, on this reality that he's in as much as he is, is like finding out secrets about himself. So I think that's what that, that's what keeps it sort of grounded and because it's. It maintains that it's an internal story.

Paul: So I'm wondering as someone who's so involved in books, in different forms in graphic novels, what would you say if people aren't sure about giving new types of books or graphic novels, a try, what would you say to them has been the power of them for you in your life? What have they done for you in your life?

Jason: Well, you don't know what you're missing if you're not,reading them. I, I think like a. I mean, the main reason for me like to read is just like, you're creating like a world in your head. I mean, it's certainly easier to, watch Netflix. And I certainly like love binge watching shows myself and,movies are great, but you're, you're seeing like a, a, a perspective that the director and the other creators are preparing for you. Like, as you see from one point of view, in a book, you really have you, you're creating a movie in your head, you're casting it yourself. You're creating the, you know, the, the, the writer is giving you a, a basic guideline, but it really opens up like, the imagination and. There's no better feeling like you get lost in a book it's like a real high, it's like a rush, like when you really get lost in a book and, you lose track of, of time.

And, so if you haven't done it, like it's hard to, explain, but that, I think this is why some people like who, You know, love reading just can't stop because it's just like a, I don't wanna say a drug cause that like has like a negative impact, but a healthy drug. It's a healthy drug. And it's like in, you know, I think like in a necessary escape, when, especially when, you know, there's, darkness and uncertainty in the world, I mean, I just wrote an essay about this, but I don't think that means that like, You can't read dark stuff and still be entertained because sometimes you have to process the darkness in the world.

By reading dark fiction, dark reading, dark fiction could be an escape. Also it doesn't like to me, like escaping reality doesn't mean like, You know, just, just, you know, romance, novels and, you know, love stories, you know, it could mean,Stephen King novel. It could mean, you know, something that's dark and edgy.

And I think most people feel that way. That's why those that's sort of entertainment is so popular.

Creators and Guests

Jason Starr and The Next Time I Die
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