Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Interview with Jack Castle

Today I have the pleasure of talking to Jack Castle, author of the Stranger World series. 

How did you get into writing Science Fiction and Fantasy? 

 First, thank you for having me. I love talking about writing with anybody who will listen. To begin, I’ve always-always wanted to write stories, even back when I was a little kid. My friends were content to simply shoot each other with a “Bang, you’re dead,” but I always had to come up with these complicated backstories like we were time travelers from the future sent back to W.W. II to carry out some secret mission that would save the world.

For some reason, my character always had to be twenty-four. I never did figure out why. As for my publishing journey. I suppose it really comes down to three key moments:  First, deciding how I wanted to write. Secondly, the road to traditional publishing. Thirdly, deciding to self-publish my SciFi/fantasy series Stranger World.

Back in the late nineties, George Lucas selected me to play a Han Solo look-a-like for Disney’s Star Wars Weekends at MGM (now Hollywood) Studios. It was a great gig and I got to meet and work with a lot of the stars from the movies. We also got to meet a lot of other stars, like June Lockhart, who you may recall was the mom from the original Lost in Space series. June walks into the green room one day and, while we’re all waiting for show start, she goes around the room and starts talking to everyone. At some point, she looks at me and says, “And you young man, what are you going to be when you grow up?” Now, I was about 24 at the time (oh, there it is) and I should have told her that I was going to be a stuntman in movies. I was already doing various stunt shows in Central Florida and had small parts on shows like Sea Quest and Mortal Kombat the series. But I surprised myself when I told Mrs. Lockhart, “I want to be a writer.”

I distinctly remember June tilted her head to the side while she gave it some thought for a few seconds, and then said, “Young man, before you start writing, you should go out and experience the world first. Go on adventures, like river rafting, and scuba diving. Then, once you’ve lived an adventurous life, then, only then, should you sit down and write about it."

So that’s what I did, my wife and I traveled the world. I took stunt jobs overseas. I worked as both a tour guide and a police officer in Alaska. I’ve been charged by a polar bear in the Arctic and I’ve explored ancient temples in the Yucatan.

You certainly took June's advice to heart. How did you become traditionally published?

For years, whether I was a Captain of a Ground Missile Site on a secret base (now declassified) in the Aleutian Islands or building a stunt show train ride for a theme park in the Pacific Northwest, I was always jotting down notes and writing little stories on my down time. After two decades of this, one day back in 2015, my wife catches me tossing these 20+ years of manuscripts into the kitchen trash can and asks, “What are you doing?”

To which I replied simply, “Netflix. With all there is to watch on television now, nobody is ever going to read another book again.”

My wife thought about this some more and said, “Before you throw them all away, why don’t you send one in first.”

Listening to the one true voice of reason in our household, I decided if I was going to send ONE in, I was going to do it right. So, using the same methodology I had used as an investigator while working with the Joint Terrorism Task Force, I began researching how to go about getting published.

There was a lot of misinformation out there about getting published. So, being the diligent investigator I was, I started going directly to the source and talking directly to literary agents, acquisition editors, and owners of publishing houses. Using that information, I matched up an acquisition editor with my first novel, Europa Journaland sent her a carefully crafted query letter and (when requested) an equally methodical book proposal. My research must have paid off because within 24 hours after reading my book proposal, I was offered a contract. Five months later Europa Journal released and it became the #1 best selling book on Amazon for two days straight.

After that, Edge SciFi/Fantasy published two more of my books I wrote in Alaska, one a supernatural thriller based in a creepy remote Alaskan town called Bedlam Lost and the other a mystery/thriller titled White Deathbased loosely on my time in the Arctic when I was rushed by a polar bear on my first day. The books sold well and every time they hit #1, agents started calling. 

It sounds like you had success with traditional publishing. What made you decide to try self-publishing?

In 2016, my daughter got sick and became bedridden and, feeling helpless, I wrote her a story. It was about a dad who is seemingly killed in combat overseas and wakes up in a mysterious, upside-down world (think Wonderland), and how he must find his eight-year-old daughter. Each day I’d write her a new chapter about their harrowing journey through this bizarre and perilous landscape and each night I’d read it to her before bed. Soon, we had the humble beginnings of a story. At the time, I was still under contract to finish White Death, but I showed the Stranger World story to about two dozen beta readers and they all agreed that the story must be told. So I finished it. But I knew this story was something special and I wanted a bit more control over the editorial and formatting process. I also wanted a lot more input on the cover. So I hired the best people I could find and afford at the time and eventually we released it. To my surprise, the first book outsold all my other traditionally published books put together. I wrote another one and before long, Stranger World became a six-book, bestselling series on Amazon, with a lot of really nice reviews and a small, but tightly knit (and very passionate) following. I have short book trailers I play at Barnes & Noble book signings.

How is your daughter?

She made a full recovery.

That is best success story! What are you working on now?

I will be teaching How to Get Published classes at Lake Sumter State College.

Thank you for joining us on Blood Red Pencil. 

If you live near Central Florida and are interested, you can click on the hyperlink below to register for the class At Lake Sumter State College at 9501 US Highway 441, Leesburg, FL 34788 January 20 - February 3, 2022: 

https://go.asapconnected.com/?org=5293#CourseGroupID=55534

Check out Jack Castle's Stranger World series on Amazon. It a fantastical mash-up: part Alice In Wonderland, part Westworld, and part time travel.
Follow Jack Castle's Amazon Page

Stranger World Trailer 

Jack Castle Video Interview



Posted by Diana Hurwitz, author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit DianaHurwitz.com for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

6 comments :

  1. Jack, you have one smart wife! Thanks for joining us at the BRP.

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  2. LOL... I will certainly share that with her and thank you for having me. I can't even begin to tell you what a joy it has been working with Diana on my next book series! The way she interrogates me for every last detail, is constantly pushing me for more speed and how we discuss the new world, characters and relationships into the wee hours of the morning, it's just been a dream come true for me. However, she did forbid from ever using ellipses ever again.

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  3. I am so in love with this series. It needs to be on the big screen or little screen stat.

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  4. I love stories like Jack's. It's so hard these days to make a dent in publishing that a success story is music to my ears (yes, cliche, I'm sorry). Well done and much continued success going forward.

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  5. Nice interview, Diana. Thanks for introducing us to a new author.

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