Friday, January 13, 2012

Interview with Jason Heller and Giveaway - January 13, 2012

Please welcome Jason Heller to The Qwillery as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Taft 2012, Jason's debut novel, will be published on January 17, 2012. You may read Jason's 2012 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blog - The fine (okay, accidental) art of genre-busting - here.

TQ:  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Jason:  I have to be out in public to get anything done. Contrary to how a lot of my writer-friends operate, I can’t write at home. Granted, it’s quiet. But there are just too many distractions: TV, guitar, refrigerator, comic books, bed. When I’m out at a coffee shop, I don’t really have any choice but to pay attention to my laptop. Or else it’ll get stolen.

TQ: Who are some of your favorite writers? Who do you feel has influenced your writing?

Jason:  Most of my favorite writers—from H.P. Lovecraft and J.G. Ballard to Kurt Vonnegut and Roald Dahl—have a striking element of weirdness to what they write. Of course, the above writers aren’t remotely alike. If there’s a unified influence that I can say I’ve drawn from them all, though, it’s this: The world is not as it appears, nor should it. That would be boring, right? There are all kinds of cracks in reality, and writers are morally obliged to fill those cracks with satire, fantasy, horror, and/or utter nonsense. Some call that escapism—but to me, it’s a beautifully perverse form of realism. I can only hope that Taft 2012 contributes to that tradition in its own small way.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Jason:  A plotter, definitely. I love plotting stories. I get giddy when I’m doing it, just letting the stakes and reveals and reversals ramp up and branch out at the same time. My enthusiasm for a story swiftly dissipates if I don’t have at least a semisolid plot in place. You can’t stand up — let alone run — without a skeleton.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Jason:  Without a doubt: self-doubt. It’s easy to take for granted the instantaneous cause/effect of working a more typically structured job. I write full-time, and the uncertainty can take its toll on the already tender ego of a writer. First-world problem, I know! But when the bills aren’t paid and you’re staring down a deadline and the prose is flowing like molasses running uphill in January, it can cause a bruising reevaluation of one’s life choices and/or sense of overall worth. (Then again, writers do tend toward melodrama, don’t they?)

TQ:  Describe Taft 2012 in 140 characters or less.

Jason:  After vanishing in 1913, the hapless William Howard Taft reappears to find the 21st century both radically strange and strangely the same.

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Taft 2012?

Jason:  Being someone with no academic background in history, I read quite a few books on Taft, but I relied heavily on two in particular: William Howard Taft: An Intimate History by Judith Icke Anderson and The William Howard Taft Presidency by Lewis L. Gould. That said, I didn’t feel obligated to adhere to any one biographer’s vision of Taft. After all, Taft 2012 is wholly satirical and speculative; my Taft is a man yanked from his own time, halfway through his life as we know it, and reawakened in ours. My portrayal of him is not supposed to be realistic or even plausible. In some cases, I went out of my way to make Taft outrageous or ridiculous. In others, I probably made him far nicer and more reasonable than he actually was. Then again, that’s one of the main themes of Taft 2012: We as writers, readers, and voters often project whatever we want onto politicians. For better or worse.

TQ:  Did you consider any other former deceased presidents as candidates for your novel?

Jason:  My esteemed editor, Stephen H. Segal, came up with the basic idea for Taft 2012 before recruiting me to realize it. As far as I know, Taft had always been his first choice; there’s just something about his stature (or lack thereof) in the annals of presidential history that make him perfect for fictionalization. The timing was also perfect: Taft was voted out of office in 1912 (and, in my book, vanished in early 1913), so the hundred-year disappearance made for a nice, round number. It also helped that he was a Progressive Republican, a term that now seems to be an oxymoron—and that set Taft up as an instantly self-conflicted person by today’s terms.

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? Hardest and why?

Jason:  Taft was the easiest. Once I did the research, my admittedly distorted vision of him just fell into place. The hardest was Irene Kaye, the little girl who wrote Taft a postcard in 1912—and who’s now a 106-year-old widow living in a nursing home, and Taft’s only link to his own time. Part of that difficulty was the fact that I based Irene on my own, late grandmother (who just so happened to have been born the week Taft was voted into office). Needless to say, it brought up quite a few memories, both happy and bittersweet.

TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in Taft 2012?

Jason:  There’s a string of scenes in which Taft and his faithful Secret Service bodyguard, Agent Kowalczyk, take an incognito road trip to Chicago. They find themselves in a punk-rock bar on New Year’s Eve, and let’s just say Taft winds up getting lucky… and quite unlucky.

TQ:  What's next?

Jason:  I’m currently working on a pair of dark fantasy/science-fiction novels: The Walking City, which is YA, and Ocean of Bone, which is for adults. I’ve also just finished the first installment of a middle-grade horror series that Quirk, the publisher of Taft 2012, will release later this year. They’ll be appearing under a pseudonym, so it’s all very hush-hush at this point!

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Jason:  Thank you! As Taft himself might say: The pleasure, fellow citizens, is purely my own.

About Taft 2012

Taft 2012
Quirk Books, January 17, 2012
Trade Paperback, 256 pages

He is the perfect presidential candidate. Conservatives love his hard-hitting Republican résumé. Liberals love his passion for peaceful diplomacy. The media can’t get enough of his larger-than-life personality. Regular folks can identify with his larger-than-life physique. And all the American people love that he’s an honest, hard-working man who tells it like it is.

There’s just one problem: He is William Howard Taft... and he was already U.S. president a hundred years ago. So what on earth is he doing alive and well and considering a running mate in 2012?

Jason Heller’s extraordinary debut novel presents the Vonnegut-esque satire of a presidential Rip Van Winkle amid 21st-century media madness. It’s the ultimate what-if scenario for the 2012 election season!

About Jason Heller

Jason Heller is a Denver-based writer who contributes regularly to The A.V. Club and Alternative Press. Quirk Books will publish his debut novel, Taft 2012, as well as a series of middle-grade horror books (to be announced). He's also the nonfiction editor of Clarkesworld Magazine and is represented by Jennifer Jackson of Donald Maass Literary Agency.


Taft 2012 Website
Taft 2012 Facebook
Taft 2012 Twitter

The Giveaway


What:  One commenter will win a copy of Taft 2012 from The Qwillery.

How:  Leave a comment answering the following question:

If you could time travel, when would you go? 

Please remember - if you don't answer the question your entry will not be counted.

You may receive additional entries by:

1)   Being a Follower of The Qwillery.

2)   Mentioning the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter. Even if you mention the giveaway on both, you will get only one additional entry. You get only one additional entry even if you mention the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter multiple times.

3)   Mentioning the giveaway on your on blog or website. It must be your own blog or website; not a website that belongs to someone else or a site where giveaways, contests, etc. are posted.

There are a total of 4 entries you may receive: Comment (1 entry), Follower (+1 entry), Facebook and/or Twitter (+ 1 entry), and personal blog/website mention (+1 entry). This is subject to change again in the future for future giveaways.

Please leave links for Facebook, Twitter, or blog/website mentions. In addition please leave a way to contact you.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Friday, January 20, 2012. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*


  1. I would go to the future, maybe 80013 for a random number and observe. edysicecreamlover18@gmailDOTcom
    GFC Krystal Larson

  2. +1 I would definitely time travel to the Renaissance!

    +1 GFC Follower (Blissfulrains)

    +1 Tweeted!!/Blissfulrains/status/157930614790701056


  3. I would go to the time of King Arthur and Camelot. Please enter me in contest. I am a follower and email subscriber.

  4. I'd love to have a look at Jane Austen's period!
    would love to see how they lived.

    +1 comment
    +1 blog follower

    aliasgirl at libero dot it

  5. If I could time travel I'd go 100 years in the future. Seeing the difference between 1912 and 2012, I'm sure there would be some amazing things to see.

    Barbed1951 at aol dot com
    GFC follower

  6. I'd time travel back to when I was 12. I'd like a do-over thanks.

    GFC: Mary Preston


  7. I would love to go back to ancient Egypt, during the times when the pyramids were built.

    +1 comment
    +1 GFC

    Tracey D
    booklover0226 at gmail dot com

  8. I would go 20 years in the future.

    +1 GFC Andrea I
    +1 Comment

    1+ tweeted!/lillieblue613/status/159006568925499392


  9. I would travel to the 1800s.

    I follow this blog.


    + 1 comment
    + 1 follower

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