The Innovators #8 with….author/poet Jared Kane

This week, I’m excited to feature my favourite author, Jared Kane. His novels (Decline, Mya and The Underside of Wars) are some of the most thought-provoking and beautifully written books that I have come across since my university days studying English lit. He is also an incredibly talented poet who crafts some of the most profoundly dark and stirring poems found on social media today. Read on to find out more…

Introduce yourself and your work.

I’m Jared Kane, a writer of books, short stories, and poetry. I’ve had poetry published by both online and print publications. My novels are currently self-published, and are regrettably in the corner, unwilling to raise their hands to draw attention to themselves. They don’t want to be noticed at this party because they make the most noise, but because they are the most beautiful and profound thinkers in the group. Sometimes those types stay in the corner and are never discovered.

Explain the significance of your Instagram handle, Whirlpool of Crows.

I went through a couple before I landed on this one, and really, I only stuck with this one because it is how many first found me. It’s four syllables of seventeen of a haiku I wrote: a whirlpool of crows / swirls above, justifying / our murderousness. It also features in my first novel, Decline. And I have it tattooed on my arm.

Your first novel, Decline, reads very much like poetry. Tell me why you were inspired to write it like that and why a nameless/anonymous protagonist?

I wanted Decline to differ from all the other post-apocalyptic/dystopian stories out there. I conceived the story before the glut of post-apocalyptic media hit our shelves and screens, but by the time I finished it, a lot of these stories were already out there. So, I took inspiration from a Salman Rushdie book I read once—I’m not sure if I even liked the actual book that much, but the manner in which he wrote it, it felt like you could pull out any random paragraph, arrange it like a poem, and a beautiful poem it would be. At least, that’s how I felt at the time. So, I set about writing Decline with a different mindset: to couch the story in poetic language.

The nameless protagonist is a bit of a shameless homage to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Also, the novel is very “stream of consciousness”, like the reader is inside the narrator’s head, hearing what he hears, and seeing what he sees. I feel like his name would be superfluous, and maybe even colour the reader’s impression of him (everyone knows a John, or a Dave, or a Dominic—maybe less so the latter—and if the narrator was “John”, the reader might see their John’s face or hear their John’s features).

Explain the meaning and significance of the quote “Temporis Destruit Omne – Time Destroys Everything” as it applies to your second novel, Mya.

Temporis Destruit Omne is another one of my tattoos now—I hope there’s no Latin scholars out there who pipe in about how terrible my translation is.

Mya is a very intimate book. Without getting into spoilers, “Time Destroys Everything” guides most of what happens in the narrative. It’s a very intimate belief and feeling of mine: it doesn’t matter what you build, what you create, who you become, it will all crumble to nothing in time.

There is no such thing as history and future, past and present—aside from what your senses are perceiving right this moment (itself an interpretation of the mind), everything else is dust or in a state of either becoming dust. A character in Mya proposes the theory of Eternalism, which is a sort of answer to this philosophy. Eternalism is the belief that past, present, and future all exist at once and are equally real (to put it mildly, this is the nutshell version, and I’m absolutely not an expert). This is reassuring in a way: all those times you had, or wish you’d had, they’re all out there still and possible, even if you will never return to them again.

The Underside of Wars protagonist, Matthew Talbot, is a writer frustrated with the state of the literary world and its inability to appreciate his work or give him his “break.” How much of that comes from your own experience as an indie author?

Underside is maybe my most personal book. This will be a very vulnerable answer.

The main character grapples with a lot of things I do, thinks some things I think, feels some things that I feel. Matthew’s experience does reflect my personal experience to some degree when it comes to personality shortcomings and substance abuse. He’s a bit of a cipher. While Matthew is supremely confident in his abilities, that confidence is so shaky that he’s fundamentally unable to accept being unsuccessful, or for success to look different than he always imagined. I am very confident in my ideas, my writing, and what I’ve created. And it can be very hard to accept being passed over. It’s all the more devastating to accept the possibility that I may never be successful (insofar as I define “success”). If that comes to pass, what else is there? There’s a lot more plot in Matthew’s journey, but those quandaries and principles are pretty central.

You’ve described your three novels as a trilogy. With different characters and storylines, how do they fit in/ mesh together as a trilogy? Do they need to be read in a specific order?

I call them my Apocalypse Trilogy. It’s more like they exist in the same universe, and fall somewhere on the same timeline. There’s no direct connection between them except for some easter eggs in Underside that point to it taking place a certain amount of time after Mya. If there was an order, it would be Mya, Underside, then Decline. They absolutely do not have to be read in that order. Though that’s not a bad order in which to read them. A new reader would probably find the language in Mya and Underside more accessible. Then, hopefully after they’ve read those two, they’d be willing to undertake the challenge of reading Decline.

What role does music play in your creative process? What else inspires your creativity? What bands/artists are currently on your writing playlist?

Music is everything to me. Life without music would be food without taste. I have a psychological dependence on music, sort of the way someone can become addicted to gambling: like a gambler feels a shot of dopamine when they pull the slot lever down, so do I feel a surge of dopamine when I hear the music I love.

I always match up a song with what I’m writing. If it’s a sad moment, I play a sad song. If an action sequence, I play a more aggressive song, and so on. I know some writers have difficulty focusing when they’re listening to music, and especially music with lyrics, but I don’t hear the lyrics. All I hear is mood.

In that regard, I have thousands of songs on my writing playlist—it all depends what type of dopamine hit I need at the time! For example, Decline is a quiet, sad, philosophical post-apocalyptic novel, so my playlist for that book included a lot of Lycia for the quiet, sad moments. For the more heartbreaking moments, the playlist would become more aggressively despondent, like Psyclon Nine’s “Under the Judas Tree”. Mya was very much influenced by songs from Yendri, while Underside is more raw, and had music from Amenra and Black Mare (see Black Mare’s “Ingress to Form”). Right at this moment in the block universe, I’m cycling through those three playlists (I still keep a separate playlist for each book on iTunes) as I write these answers.

What else inspires my creativity? Maybe everything, maybe nothing. I’m usually most inspired when I feel a lugubrious emptiness. It’s a profound need that feels deeply hollow. Ironically, it’s difficult to write at those times, because my mind will conjure up the same words and lines over and over. Instead, I’m most productive during times of (and I’m paraphrasing . . . someone . . . I can’t remember who, and I don’t remember the quote well enough to search it) sober reflection on past inspiration.

I’m sure you’re the cosmic love-child of dead poets. Who do you think they are ? What writing talents have you inherited from each of them?

I love this question. Anything that makes me turn around and consider my bookshelves is welcome. It’s like returning to nature after the city.

I’ll say William Wordsworth and Thomas Hardy, which is starting right at the beginning. From Wordsworth, I gained a sense of wonder at nature and a feeling for romanticism that is much more vast than our current crass concept of “romance”. From Thomas Hardy, I inherited a dark and tragic outlook. One is basically a response to the other. Hardy probably continues to have the most influence on my writing. His books can be one thing for 300 pages, and then deliver a gut punch out of nowhere in the last chapter (or last two pages in the case of The Woodlanders) that makes you completely re-evaluate your feelings about the entire book.

What do you hope readers will take away from your work? Do you prefer they read your novels or your poems or both? If they only read one of your books, which one would you most recommend?

I hope that my work evokes an emotional response from readers. The best books I’ve read, I’ll put down and feel different afterwards. The light will be a different warmth, and everything around me will look a little different than it did before. Sometimes this feeling lasts a few hours, a few days, sometimes it’s forever. I want my writing to land on that spectrum for readers. Honestly, as I veer back to the question of “success” that came up several questions back, that is true success. If I can make a reader feel that way, then let the rest of the chips fall where they may.

If I had to choose, I’d rather my readers read my novels. But I don’t write long-form poetry, so read both! Depending on the reader, they might want to start with Underside or Mya because they may go down easier to start.

Where can readers find you?

Readers can find me on Instagram @whirlpool_of_crows, where I post poems and other blurbs, while The Underside of Wars, Mya and Decline are all available on Amazon.

Thanks, Jared!!

Go check out his books…

The Innovators #4 with………Author Billy Ray Middleton, Jr

Introduce yourself.

My name is Billy Ray Middleton Jr. I am the author of ‘The Silhouette’ and do a podcast called ‘Blabbercast.’ I also occasionally do Instagram videos/podcasts @ ‘AuthorBillyRay.’

When and why did you start writing?

I started writing around thirteen, mostly thoughts, feels, poems and things of that nature. I liked playing with words and getting things out when I felt the urge. It’s therapeutic to spill your mind on pages.

What role does creativity play in your life?

Creativity is important for me since there are so many things I won’t experience, so in my own worlds I can experience anything I want. Also, I like going outside of the box and creating a unique style of art, whether it be writing or working with video. I enjoy the term ‘Chaotic Beauty.’

Tell me about The Silhouette: who or what inspired the story and characters and why a Lovecraftian romance?

The Silhouette went through many phases over the years, and as most artistic works, it kind of becomes like a child to you. I had an idea for a girl who was physically damaged but still very sweet through her trauma when she could have easily rejected the world that was cruel to her. I asked myself a question, ‘Is love physical more than anything else?’ I wanted to open the door to a curious question of the word ‘Love’. I wanted to put two characters in a situation where they never saw each other, but were right next to each other where only their words and little ticks were on display. Basically, loving someone 100% for only them, the real them, not the external sexual stuff.

The book fell into the Lovecraftian style since it was the best fit for it. I wasn’t thinking about Lovecraft as an inspiration when I wrote it. The book simply fell into it. I’ve always enjoyed the not-knowing aspect of his works and others who do the Lovecraft thing. Our minds do well with blank slates and mysteries.

When and why did your podcast start? Who or what is featured?

In 2013, me and my closest friends started ‘Blabbercast.’ My best friend really wanted to do one and since I can never shut the F up it seemed right up my alley since I talk a lot. I enjoy a Kevin Smith vibe or Howard Stern. I don’t like filters, I know people think different and speak different in private, I always say ‘Let it out. Act like its the glorious 90’s still. This era of fake-ness is lame.’

Who or what inspires your writing?

I actually hated reading since everything was so wordy and never got to the point. So my first inspiration was to try to take some of that out and write more screenplay-like. I like dialogue, and I use it. I like fun and scenes that move, not blabbering on for ten pages about nonsense. The indie books — (yours did this great, Melanie {awe, thanks Billy}) — moved at a perfect pace; I really have enjoyed those reads without the corporate machine behind them F-ing everything up. In fairness I have read some I liked that were mainstream. I love William Peter Blatty, I thought the Exorcist was mind blowing. George R. R. Martin is great as well. I found the Game of Thrones books pretty quick since he moves it quickly or makes scenes, at the very least, interesting.

Any writing quirks?

I don’t have many quirks. I never have had writers block, I just have the ‘I don’t like it’ thing and I never write to just write, I need it be acceptable to me, and then hopefully a lot of people enjoy it, but I need to enjoy it and have fun, whatever happens after that is meant to be or not.

Best advice for other indie authors?

My best advice is to have fun. Ignore all the BS writing rules. They don’t exist. Period. Have good grammar and ‘Do you’ as they say. Don’t be put in a box. Don’t worry about reviews so much either. I found most people review poorly and are hypocritical. If their favorite author wrote something incognito and they were told it was an indie author, they would be extra harsh on it. The look on their face when they found out it was their favorite author? Mind blown! LOL Obviously reviews are important as is people’s opinions. I just feel people in the literary world are too constrictive. That doesn’t work on me.

What is your spirit animal?

A dog. I don’t know if my explanation will fit in with the spirit animal thing, but when I see a puppy my heart sings. My black heart turns red, and I smile and must pet it. I love them. Their loyalty is far superior to humans and it is true unconditional love.

Favourite author and book?

George R. R. Martin – A Song of Ice and Fire, It’s just such a massive accomplishment and I had so much fun reading those for two-months. His dialogue is just so good, and the imagery is fantastic.

What are your upcoming projects?

The newest novel is on the way. The Nicest Parts of Hell – I am not giving too much away. All I can say is I am going to some strange places. Rockstars, psycho’s, serial killers, and blood and love. A lovely Friday night.

Thanks Billy! Check out The Silhouette on Amazon. A highly recommended read that I really enjoyed!!

A season without doubt

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No one doubts my abilities more than me. No one. Every idea that pops into my head gets over-analyzed and shot full of holes, usually to the point of death, before it even gets to see the light of day.

For the past year, one of those thoughts has been about stepping up my indie game and starting to help other independent artists in my own little way through social media promotion.  My doubts about the size of my social media reach and my ability to actually help anyone get noticed (I mean I can bearly help myself in getting my own books sold and my own poems read so what in the world would I have to offer to someone else!?) constantly got in the way.  But then recently, I was interviewed by an indie with her own little social media reach and it made me realize one really important detail that I had been forgetting:  quality is more important than quantity. 

Having one person – just ONE genuine, interested person, offer support to you and your work IS enoughThousands of followers on social media doesn’t necessarily equate to thousands of supporters of your work, it doesn’t necessarily equate to thousands of sales or reviews of your books.  In a world where everything is a numbers game (get more likes, more followers, more comments!) this idea runs contrary to what most people believe, but believe me, it’s true.

For me, that one interview equated to a higher level of support than all the “likes” I had ever received on Instagram. The invitation to be interviewed (someone was interested in me?  In my work? ) was a much-welcomed and, honestly much needed, ego boost that has supported me in a spiritual and emotional sense so much more than in a physical (book sales) sort of way.

Being an indie writer (or musician, or poet or artist in any shape or form) is really hard!  Self-promotion is really hard!  I’ve been doing it for a year and a half now and have often found myself feeling alone and adrift in an ocean of other indies, unable to swim or navigate the waters of self-promotion as well as others seem to be, and sometimes I’ve bearly been able to even keep my head above the water as the thought of quitting the whole indie scene, of giving up my writing, has occurred to me more than once.

So, with all of that said and all of that realized, and with that much-welcomed injection of support and inspiration still running fresh through my veins, I am finally going ahead and doing what I’ve been thinking about doing for the past year now: I’m starting up my own series of indie interviews and social media promotion.

The Innovators will be a bi-weekly series of interviews with indie authors, poets, musicians, and artists and it will start in September via this blog and my Instagram and Facebook pages!

I hope you will join me!

Progress not perfection

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I often wish that my typing was in step with my thinking.  I wish the words would flow from my fingers to the keys as fast and as often as they come to my mind.

But they don’t.

Most often I just sit, thinking – over-thinking – in front of my keyboard, my fingers at the ready……and nothing happens.  It’s not that I don’t have words, I don’t have ideas. In that regard, I can’t turn the tap off.  Most of the time I have too many ideas, too many thoughts to express – have I mentioned I am currently working on three books??

The problem, I know is me, getting in my own way. ALL. THE. TIME.  I worry too much about how to say things or even should I say things (my first novel Hope Quest dealt with incest and I struggled for months over whether or not I should include that at all).  I also deal with crippling self-doubt that anything I write will want to be read.  What’s the point of writing if no one is reading??

 

I recently got a new shirt to practice my yoga in. Across the chest, it announces: “Progress not perfection.”  After three years, I have come to embrace that idea in my daily yoga practice.  Yoga is not about having a perfect body or having perfect poses.  It’s about challenging yourself (mentally and physically) and also embracing yourself wherever you are on your spiritual/physical journey.  It’s very much a self-centered practice, done by you and for you only, no audience necessary or needed.

 

I’m starting to come to realize that I should embrace my writing in that same way.

I don’t do the most graceful backbends, but I still do them.  I don’t yet have the ability to do handstands in the middle of the floor, so I do them against the wall. I don’t overthink when I am practicing yoga.  I don’t stress, I don’t doubt.  I flow through the motions without worrying whether or not I can or even if I should.  

If I sit down at my desk with that same mindset ( perhaps that same “progress not perfection” shirt, too!) maybe, just maybe, I will find my writing flow, too – and having an audience would just be an added bonus.

 

My books are free today!

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To celebrate the one year anniversary of Hope Quest book 1’s release, BOTH books in the series are FREE today on Amazon!  Link to Hope Quest book 1: Blackbird and link to Hope Quest book 2: The Lightning.

This story developed in my head for twenty years before I finally sat down and wrote it (the entire trilogy in an eighteen-month period!). The main character, fourteen-year-old Hope Quest and her coming of age story to find the origins of her strange star-moving talents came to me in a series of dreams when I was fifteen and going through some very dark times in my life.  She was very much like a life-line for me and in writing her story, my hope is that it will be the same for others, particularly teens, although it is meant for all ages.  Just know that book 1 does contain some triggering material in it related to abuse and drug use.

If you read them and like them, please consider leaving me a review on Amazon!  Those reviews are gold to indie authors like me!!

Say the word

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In Buddhism, there is a concept of a restless, unfocused way of thinking called the monkey mind.  It refers to the relentless chatter in our head which needs to be “quieted” or “calmed” if we are to become mindful and focused.

Before the pandemic, I lived a fairly peaceful internal life. Practising yoga, following Buddhism (albeit loosely), having structure, routine and a sense of purpose in my everyday life was key to maintaining that sense of mental peace, but it was somewhat tenuous (the monkeys were caged, but the locks were frail and rusty). The pandemic, it’s subsequent lockdown and abrupt end to all of my routines shook up everything in my life and ultimately, freed those monkeys.

Running amok, tossing bananas here and shit there, my monkey mind would swing wildly from task to task, moment to moment, even book to book in my Kindle, only allowing me to focus on a sample here and a page there, until one day I came across an idea so simple, yet so profound, it stopped all the monkeys in their tracks.

In Design Your Day, Claire Diaz-Ortiz explains how deciding upon a word of the year has become a simple, yet powerful tool in her life.  “Every year, you should choose a word to represent the year you have in front of you.  Think long and hard about one word that will serve as a guidepost for what you want to do and be in the year to come.  And remember that a year needn’t start January 1 – you can start your year at any time!” 

As a lover of words and finding myself mid-way through May, this sounded exactly like what I needed to do. I spent the next day thinking about my word.  The monkeys were a fantastic help in throwing out hundreds of options.

Finally, I decided upon one that felt right. Both positive and representative of what I need to do to (regain focus) and what I want to do (write my memoir), I decided that my word of the year shall be: reflect.

I use it now as a mantra, repeating it to myself whenever the monkeys start swinging around in my head and so far, they seem to like it too, providing me with some much needed calm and quiet so that I can reflect, and ultimately, write again.

 

 

 

 

 

in pursuit of imperfection

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“Can you answer me this?” the dm began.  “Should my poetry have perfect punctuation? Or will the message be missed?”

For the first time ever, I had a young poet reaching out to me for advice.  ME.  It felt weird and somewhat awkward thinking of an appropriate response. Who was I to give advice to anyone?  Most days, especially lately, I barely know the what, never mind the why, of anything I do.

Despite writing poetry on and off for twenty-plus years, having had some pieces published traditionally and putting out two collections independently, I certainly don’t feel as though I have any expertise to lend about what I do.  Mostly, and honestly, I just do it for me.

For nearly my whole life (seriously, since I was five), I’ve written creatively because I’ve felt compelled to do it.  It’s how quiet me communicates best and it makes me feel better to have done it, even if I feel as though my work gets largely overlooked and is mostly misunderstood, I still persist because I’d feel infinitely emptier if I didn’t.

And there is no perfect way of punctuating that.

“Poetry is about expression,” I replied after careful consideration to the young poet.  “And that tends to get emotional and messy at times so forgive yourself if you forget a comma every now and then.”

The message won’t be lost – at least, not on me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mistakes brought me here

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At fifteen, I ran away from one bad home situation into an even worse one. Within a year, I was introduced to a lifestyle of rampant drug use and went from a straight-A student to a high school drop-out. Sitting by candlelight one night, the electricity having been cut-off due to non-payment again, I sat filling out application forms for dead-end, minimum wage jobs, when a life-changing thought occurred to me like a lightning bolt:

No one is going to save me from this.

I realized in that moment that I had made a mistake – a big one.  My life was falling apart. I was going nowhere very quickly and I knew that no one was going to sweep in and save me.

I had made a mistake, but in accepting that mistake and learning from it – rather than beating myself up emotionally and staying stuck in that situation -I realized that I could change things and, more importantly, I did.

Within a year, I had painfully extricated myself from that life into a better one.  I went back to school, earned a few university degrees and have been on the road to a much better life ever since and I owe all of my success and my happiness to those mistakes I made along the way.

Although painful, I am strangely grateful to them. Without those mistakes, I wouldn’t have worked as hard to get what I want.  Without them, I might not have known what I wanted and I certainly wouldn’t have learned to appreciate all that I have now.

Since becoming an indie author in the past year, I have recently begun to realize that I have been making a whole lot of mistakes along the way.  I have put out four books and have struggled to get them noticed, read, reviewed.  It’s been frustrating and disheartening, but I’ve begun to realize that it’s not because of me or the books, but because of my lack of marketing and distribution channels.  More importantly, I know that I can change that, I can fix it.  And I will.

Mistakes can lead to failure, but viewed in another light – even by dim candlelight- they can also point the way to success and there’s no shame in learning that at any point in our lives.

 

 

 

Redefining “responsible”

“No matter how far you’ve traveled down the wrong path,

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it’s never too late to turn around.”

Memes don’t usually give me pause for thought, but that particular one did.  A few years back, I began to question the path I was taking in my life.  I was happy with most of it – I had a great marriage, happy, healthy kids, a nice house, a decent job.  But there was this constant little voice nagging in the back of my head – what about Hope? what about your stories? 

What about them??

Shortly after the birth of my first, I gave up on my creative writing dreams.  I had had minor success as a teen and in my twenties with publishing my short stories and my poems, but with all the responsibilities of parenthood and a growing family, etc, I figured that writing – particularly all the time spent imagining, daydreaming – was something best left for the carefree (eg: not new parents) and best left out of responsible “adulting.”

Years went by, two more kids arrived and as the responsibilities piled on, my yearning for writing only increased in response. For so long, it had been my outlet, often my only outlet, for dealing with depression – something that has plagued me since adolescence. The writing wasn’t just a hobby, it was my therapy, my coping mechanism.  It was a large part of who I was and how I had handled my depressive thoughts in the past, and without it, I began to realize that not only was I risking falling into it again but I was also denying myself that important outlet of my own self-expression.  I wasn’t allowing myself to be, well, me.

It was just that important and I realized then that I absolutely needed it back in my life.

So, I stopped.  I stopped my journey down that long, arduous (at times, dry and dusty) road of responsible “adulting” and I turned around.  I bought a writing desk, a laptop.  I carved time in my day (sometimes even just 10 – 15 minutes!) and I gave myself permission to write again.  I changed my definition of “responsible parent/adult” to include imagining and daydreaming (and getting more tattoos and listening to new bands and going to concerts again!).

I’ve honestly become a better version of me – even a better parent – for it.  My kids are inspired by it – I’ll never forget my son’s look of amazement when he saw my book on the library bookshelf for the first time. He saw me in a whole new light then, just as I’ve started to see myself in that newer, brighter light too.

This indie author path is a bumpy and uncertain one, for sure, but two years and four books later, I am more than happy to be on it – even if at times I feel completely irresponsible and, not to mention very lost, along the way.

I’m figuring it out as I go.