How did you get your first book published?
It wasn't easy. I sent out many queries to agents and got a huge pile of rejections. I had done a lot of work as a telemarketer, which made me incredibly stubborn and determined (not coincidentally, my first book was Cold Caller). Finally I found a wonderfully supportive publisher in the U.K., No Exit Press. So I did it, initially, without an agent.
How long does it take you to write a book?
The actual writing may take around four months, but I'll usually do several drafts, so it ends up being at least six or seven months.
Where do you get your ideas?
Real-life situations. It could be from something that happened to me, or something I observed, or an event that makes me ask myself, What if? Then I kind of get a movie pitch in my head, where I can describe the whole book in a sentence or two. I always start with plot, rather than characters, but once I have the plot the characters take over and always alter the plot. My ideas never come from news stories or extensive research.
What writers influenced you?
The first adult novel I really loved was This Perfect Day by Ira Levin. When I started writing in college, I read all of Ernest Hemingway, John Cheever, and Raymond Carver. I have a Masters degree in Playwriting so I read a ton of plays, and some influences were David Mamet, Harold Pinter, and Samuel Beckett. I've always been most attracted to clean, concise writing, no matter what the form. Some other novelist influences were Paul Auster, Ian McEwan, Paul Bowles, Charles Willeford, Patricia Highsmith, and James M. Cain.
Do you have any suggestions for how to get my book published?
Be relentless. If your book is good, it will eventually get noticed. Explore online publishing options for short stories. It's very important to get credits, to help open doors with agents. If you're writing one book, and have been working on it for years, that might not be the best route to take. The most important suggestion I can make is keep writing. Few writers sell the first book they wrote (I didn't). When you finish your first novel, immediately start your next one. You never know which one will hit.
Can you sign my books?
Yes, I'd be delighted to. As long as you supply return postage I'll always do my best to make it happen.
Is Jason Starr your real name?