Jamie Mason is the author of several books, including KEZZIE OF BABYLON, THE BOOK OF ASHES and GAVIN’S WAR. He has worked variously as a think-tank analyst, a business manager, a professional musician and a private investigator. Now semi-retired and living in the woods of Vancouver Island, he devotes his time to writing and savoring the vanishing Canadian wilderness.
Some of your characters, like Kezzie and Gavin from Gavin’s War, are completely unforgettable. Where do you find inspiration for creating unique and realistic characters? Is it something you think about? What’s your process like?
Thank you for saying that about my work. It confirms certain things about some of my choices, and I appreciate it. I suppose I have embraced writing as a “do” or “way” in the Japanese sense – a holistic approach to creating good art that encompasses an event-horizon beyond ego and money. For me it’s about being humble before the art, about approaching it seriously and trying to contribute something of value to the conversation. For me, being a writer is about using art to understand the world, to discover truth. I pay a great deal of attention to people and how they make me feel and I use those observations to tell stories and try to make sense of existence. Observing people is a big part of that.
There is a theme of survival-ism and self-reliance in some of your work. How much of that comes from research? How much does your professional and personal background inform your writing?
These themes, I suppose, exemplify how I understand the world personally, more than anything else. I really dislike the victimhood mentality, and I’m a big believer in taking personal responsibility for one’s life. But sometimes there are things beyond our control and in my case it’s the arrest of my parents. Growing up, I was surrounded by people who made bad choices in life, so I started adulthood at a real disadvantage. Instead of moving along a well-oiled path from promise to opportunity to advantage to a comfy retirement, I’ve been forced to move and change jobs frequently and overcome a lot of personal obstacles, so I don’t know any other approach to life aside from “lock and load” and “let ‘er rip.” I’ve had a lot of adventures that have landed me in sticky – and occasionally very dangerous – situations. It hasn’t been terribly fun most of the time but it’s been great fodder for fiction. My characters reflect the School of Hard Knocks, and its stringent graduation requirements.
Last year you published ROULETTE, a James bond novel. What is it like writing such an iconic character? What challenges come along with that? Where does ROULETTE sit within the cannon and what does your take on James Bond have to offer that hasn’t been done before?
James Bond predates almost any other cultural or literary influence in my life. My father owned a set of the PAN paperbacks and I started reading Bond before I’d even seen my first movie. For me, Bond is a symbol of mid-Twentieth Century England and so encompasses some of my culture’s primary imagery, ideals and nostalgia. I’ve never known a time where Bond was not there, just as I have never known a time where England was not a presence that overshadows all.
I decided to write ROULETTE as a kind of hymn to Cold War Canada. Like the Italian Front of World War I that Hemingway immortalized in A FAREWELL TO ARMS, the Canadian front in the Cold War is an entirely neglected landscape for fiction. And there was a great deal going on: the Avro Arrow jet program, the Bomarc missile deployment, the Quebec separartist crisis, Russian agents sneaking in and out across the American border … I was amazed no one had tied any of this stuff together yet! So the novel became a kind of time capsule of a very important spring in 1959. (NOTE: The action in ROULETTE takes place between the events ficitonalized in MOONRAKER and DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER.) Writing Bond was easy. I re-read the first three books in the Bond canon (CASINO ROYALE, LIVE & LET DIE and MOONRAKER) and then sat down to write. It was like falling into a warm bath: familiar language, writing style, time and place. I could situate it all perfectly visually and verbally. I just picked up the thread and went from there. Turned out rather well as an intentionally imitative tribute – an hommage, if you will – to Ian Fleming.
What are you working on now? What’s coming up that readers should be aware of?
My short story “Eclipsed Seasons” will be appearing in the October issue of Abyss & Apex magazine. It’s a time travel, World War II thing. And a novella, TIME OUT, should drop around the end of the year from Wolfsinger Publishing.
At the moment, I am nurturing the afterglow of a 6,000-word vampire story I’ve just written (only the second one I’ve ever done) that I’m quite pleased with and am working to sell. And I’m working on a story for an anthology about the Beatles. I recently completed two crime novels that I hope to start pitching shortly.
I am also continuing to run my own small micro-press, which publishes military adventure fiction. If you like that kind of thing, you can check us out at stormrhino.com
Where should readers go to learn more about your work?
I encourage readers to check out my website, which has all sorts of nice graphics and links to read and purchase my stuff online: https://www.jamiescribbles.com/