This is the second of two author interviews this month. Today’s interview is with June’s most-read author, Jason Stout, whose story “Larry Legend” received high star ratings from readers.
Jason is an attorney for a Fortune 500 company, has five children and a lovely wife, teaches Sunday School on the weekends, and still finds time to write (and answer interview questions!).
Interview with Jason Stout
EDF: What should people expect when they see a story with your byline under it?
JS: Someone described one of my stories in a review as “winsome” and “introspective.” If I could capture that every time, I’d feel pretty good about my writing.
EDF: How much of Larry Legend is autobiographical, if any? Do you frequently draw on your personal life when looking for ideas for your stories?
JS: Part of Larry Legend comes from my experiences growing up in French Lick, Indiana. All of the places mentioned–the Kimball piano plant, the skating rink, the Villager, the Jubil–are rooted there, though none of them exist anymore. And I did win an autographed basketball from Larry Bird as he was embarking on his career with the Celtics. I played with it nonstop until the signature faded, but never really regretted it. The rest is pure make believe.
French Lick was a great place to grow up and what concerned me most about the story was unduly painting the town as a backwater residence of last resort. That’s not the case at all–but the story dictated I go a certain way, so I did.
Incidentally, the short stories that have been the most successful for me have all drawn, in some part, on my own life. Maybe that’s a tip-off that I’m relatively early in my writing career.
EDF: Your website lists you as “Author and Attorney”. Has your background in law helped you as an author? Conversely, has your ability as an author helped you in law?
JS: I’m an employment lawyer for a Fortune 500 company and get a lot of satisfaction and enjoyment out of what I do. Ultimately, the ability to put ideas into words–efficiently and effectively–is the hallmark of a good attorney and a good author. I labor to achieve that in both fields with varying degrees of success.
EDF: Congrats on the new addition to your family. Your son “Quentin” is your fifth child. How do you manage to find time to write with such a large family making demands on your time?
JS: Thanks! Quentin is now four months old and we’ve just moved to a new house, so we’re pretty busy these days. It’s always a struggle to find the right balance between work, family and writing. Luckily, my wife, Tiffany, is wonderful at giving me time to write when I have the itch. I’m not a “scheduled” writer. The best approach for me is to write “in my head” as much as I can, mostly as I’m driving. Sometimes, by the time I get to my laptop, the story (or chapter) is done and simply waiting to be typed. Then, I can take time after everyone is in bed to edit and re-write.
EDF: You are currently a Sunday School teacher and youth group leader at your local church. Do you find that religion plays an important part in your fiction?
JS: Church life is pretty important to our family and we spend a lot of time at St. John UMC here in Atlanta, Georgia. I have written a few stories that feature religious themes or settings and am half-way through a novel that is unapologetically Christian in its worldview. Realistically, though, I haven’t had much luck in placing my religion-based short stories anywhere. To make up for that, I write some non-fiction “inspirational” (for lack of a better word) pieces that I put up on my website.
EDF: What has been your best moment as a writer so far? Your worst?
JS: The “best” moments abound. Having Larry Legend widely read here at EDF is certainly at the top. Along that same line, I recently published a story, “Resume”, in Pequin that got a good response. The editor told me he had twice as much traffic in the first two days the story was on his site than he normally gets in a month. That felt pretty good. My first story, “Survival”, was an Editor’s Pick for a magazine I admire a great deal, Flashquake. Getting random emails from people saying, “nice work,” helps feed the ego a little too.
The “worst” moments can be summed up in three words: rejection, rejection, rejection. Talk about ego-bruising!
EDF: What is next for you as a writer?
JS: I’m pretty new to the craft and so my first priority is to continue improving my writing skills. Only good things can come from that. One aspect of writing I underestimated is the amount of time required in submitting stories and then, once accepted, promoting them. I feel obligated to editors who take on my work to provide as many eyes on their publications as I can. I hope to show editors that if they like my story enough to publish it, I will do my best to repay that trust. Figuring out how to balance all of that–writing, editing, submitting and promoting–with my “regular” job and family demands will continue to be a work in progress. Right now, I feel like I’m just getting warmed up!
And let me say, thanks again to Every Day Fiction for publishing Larry Legend and for being a great source of superb flash fiction. I feel honored to be included in the fine company of EDF authors.
EDF: Thank you for your time.