Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Interview with author and actor, Stephen Jared


As an actor Stephen Jared has appeared in feature films and television series, as well as commercials for both radio and television. His writings, including articles and interviews, have appeared in various publications. In 2010, he self-published an adventure novel titled Jack and the Jungle Lion to much critical praise, including an honorable mention in the 2011 Hollywood Book Festival. He is currently at work on a sequel. Together, they will be the first two stories of an extended series.
Various neighborhoods in and around Los Angeles have been called home for more than twenty years. Prior to that, Stephen was a kid in Cincinnati where he excelled at watching a lot of good movies. The Indiana Jones series pointed him in the direction of Hollywood's classic era. Today, his literary works are largely inspired by old-Hollywood and the action-oriented pulps.

Stephen is thrilled to have Solstice Publishing release Ten-A-Week Steale. The idea for the novel came out of a desire to utilize a lifetime of research on early Hollywood, however, it soon evolved into a violent tale about a soldier and a politician who turn from loving brothers to bitter rivals, with the silent film community as a backdrop. Further information about Stephen’s work as an actor and a writer can be found at www.stephenjared.com


Where did the inspiration for your novel, TEN-A-WEEK STEALE, come from?

My whole life I’ve been a massive fan of classic Hollywood films. So, the concoction starts with those old Bogart and Cagney films. Add to that a love of Hollywood history and its most exciting time being the 20s and 30s. I’ve lived in Los Angeles for over twenty years. My passions and personal experiences gave me a strong setting, a foundation, a tone. And then I thought, “I wonder if I could write something that took place back then that captures the feel of those old movies, and has relevance to our present day world.” Soldiers and politicians rushed to the forefront of our news over the last several years in a way they hadn’t since the early seventies. I decided to write about a soldier and a politician who are very much opposites, and yet they’re brothers, with silent film-era Hollywood as background.

Tell us a little about your road to publication. Was it a long one? Do you have an agent?

I had a short adventure novel set in the 30s that I knew would never get a chance from a publishing house. So, I self-published it. I managed to get nice reviews, won an Honorable Mention in the Hollywood Book Festival, and was told that only five percent of books submitted received recognition. With Ten-A-Week Steale being a more accessible genre, much closer to proper length, I decided to try for an agent and got only rejection notices. I couldn’t get anyone to read page one. I submitted it to two publishing houses that didn’t require an agent. One was Solstice and they thankfully picked it up. From completing the novel to seeing its release took about eighteen months.

The artwork on your cover is very interesting. Can you tell us a little about the artist?

Atula Siriwardane. He lives in Sri Lanka. I saw a piece of his online and it knocked me out. He worked extremely hard on Ten-A-Week Steale. I’m particular about the cover art – I’d imagine more so than most writers. I think Atula ended up very pleased with the work he did on it, and he should be. He did a terrific job. I wanted something that resembled old-Hollywood movie posters, but with a completely different feel from the previous release. 
What or who inspired you to start writing? And how long have you been writing?

The years between ’75 and ’85 were incredible for movies. And, as a young boy growing up at that time, I was defenceless against their powers of seduction. I couldn’t wait to be old enough to move from Ohio to Hollywood and take my shot at getting involved. I wrote screenplays for years and came close a couple times but never sold anything. I placed well in a screenplay competition. I wrote at least fifteen screenplays. One day it dawned on me – Hollywood doesn’t make the kind of films I like much anymore. Why am I banging my head against the wall? I had producers tell me they liked my scripts, but that studios wouldn’t be interested. For a long time I ignored this. But at some point my efforts seemed to become ridiculous, especially as almost everything Hollywood was making was part of a brand name. My stories were of no interested to them. Meanwhile, I had been writing some journalistic pieces and getting them published. In 2010, I decided to take one of my old scripts and adapt it as a short adventure novel.
Has your career as an actor helped or hindered you as an author?

Given how incredibly difficult it is to succeed in either profession, I might have been better off focusing on just one. A narrow, tunnel-vision determination is necessary, unless you’re super-connected. That said, I think I’m a better actor thanks to being a writer, and I think my writing has been informed by my acting in a positive way too. Also, on a personal level, I think both professions come with a risk of leap-from-a-tall-building madness. For years, when I received disappointment from one, I would simply focus on the other. Perhaps as a consequence, I’m still standing.  

As a veteran actor, you must have some interesting stories. Would you care to share one with our readers?

I played a small role in Seabiscuit. It was a huge thrill to be on-set in period costume with those stars, and perhaps most meaningful to me – Steven Spielberg was there. His friends Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy, who produced all the Indiana Jones films, produced Seabiscuit. These people were directly responsible for me dreaming of a career as an actor and storyteller. Here I am on their set shooting a film that takes place in the thirties! Almost a year later, the film was a couple weeks from release and I couldn’t wait. One Wednesday morning I got a call saying I was cut from the film. It was a pacing issue – the little scene I was in slowed the film and the runtime was already long. It was crushing. Three hours later I got a call from my agent giving me information for a commercial audition for the next day. It was for a fast-food chain called Jack in the Box. I had zero enthusiasm for this at first because I was still upset. But a voice inside me said, “You’ll get this, and it’ll make up for the loss of Seabiscuit.” I’m not a deeply religious person, not metaphysical, never have premonitions about anything, so it was a very strange thing to have a voice that spoke with such certainty. I hadn’t been doing commercials. It was June and this was my third commercial audition for the year. It’s not uncommon to audition for a hundred commercials and get nothing. Anyway, it turned into a job that stretched over seven years. I ended up doing nearly twenty commercials for them. It changed my life. You never know what’s around the corner. It’s like the Sinatra song goes, “Riding high in April, shot down in May!” except in Hollywood it’s more like, “Riding high at two, shot down by four!” That’s life.  

Where do you hope to be in 5 years?

I just hope to be working hard. I like to work. Not working is difficult for me. I also hope that five years from now comes slowly. The previous five years went by in a flash.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Hemmingway once said that a writer should eliminate the favorite lines and see if the story still makes sense. That had a big impact on me. Basically I think what he’s saying is the same advice given to actors, which is to make the work disappear. One should never see the work an actor does in a performance. Same thing with writing. If the reader glimpses the writer’s efforts it becomes a distraction. Acting should look effortless. Writing is the same. You want it to appear as if it came about spontaneously. I hear people all the time complain that this actor or that actress just plays himself or herself and is the same in every movie. If great acting was all about becoming someone else, someone far removed from who they were in their last performance then Meryl Streep would be the only decent acting talent on the planet. Watch You’ve Got Mail. Look at how spontaneous Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan seem. Consider that every line they utter was done multiple times from multiple angles over and over and over again – and yet the work is invisible.   

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

Honestly, nothing comes to mind. When weaknesses are mentioned I try to learn and feel grateful to be learning. When strengths are mentioned I just think, “Yep, I know. Pretty amazing, huh?”

Tease us with one little thing about your fictional world that makes it different from others.

I write with old-Hollywood in mind. It’s a big romantic language. It doesn’t shy from being sentimental. It goes for the throat. I think subtlety has a place of course, but it’s also a little over-rated. People often feel smart to discover the barely perceptible things, and they like that. But I’m not interested in massaging anyone’s intellect. I want to make readers feel something. I want to make them laugh and cry. I want to punch them in the gut. I want to remind them they’re alive.    

Where can your readers follow you? (include all the purchase links and social media links you want)

I’m easily found on Amazon, Solstice Publishing, Facebook, Twitter (@stephen_jared) – and my own website, www.stephenjared.com

Thank you, Stephen, for stopping by and best of luck with all your endeavors :D

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