Friday, June 8, 2012

Space Opera author reflects on his hero Jak Phoenix

With two novels and a short story to his name (and a few good reviews) Canadian indie author Matt D. Williams reveals what he likes about his low-achiever hero Jak Phoenix and his writing goals.
1. Why space opera? What elements of this genre do you enjoy most as a writer?

As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been attracted to sprawling space opera-type tales with an inherent lighter tone. There is just something about an action packed pulp story told on a grand scale that gets my heart pumping and my mind racing. The big heroes, the diabolical villains, the explosions, the space pistols - fun stuff.

There are many very talented authors out there who are doing exceptional work with harder technical sci-fi. They would flatten me in a second if I attempted to join that game, but that type of story just doesn’t suit my personality. I set out to make a series of books you could pull out of your back pocket on a rainy Sunday afternoon and be quickly lost in a fun escapist adventure. Like life, the Jak Phoenix series will grow a little darker as it matures, but I will always be sure to remember where this tale came from.

All in all I set out to write a book I would enjoy as a kid, a teen, or an adult. Something a “regular” person could enjoy, even if he or she were oblivious to most science fiction. I wanted to read something that would make me feel the way I felt the first time I saw Luke and Han arguing over a princess while trying to blast their way out of an evil space station.

2. What are your writing habits like?

I’d love to be able to tell you I live by a strict regimen of writing 1000 words per day, but instead I’ll be the first to admit I don’t write nearly as much as I would like to. That being said, I just finished a small renovation on my office and set up a nice recliner in the corner beside my book shelf. My productivity has already skyrocketed.

Luckily, I am able to crack down when it’s needed. While writing the first draft of the second half of Jak Phoenix 2, I actually started to develop a pretty strict routine, trapping myself in the basement and coming up only after a minimum of two pages of (MS word) text were complete. During the first editing phase, I was finishing roughly a chapter every two days. Through the next editing phase I was cleaning up a chapter a night.

Of course I have a new set of challenges to keep me away from writing this year, but I just started putting some ideas down on paper for Jak Phoenix 3 and the ideas are already flowing nicely.

3. Your hero Jak Phoenix is a sobriety-challenged slacker who has problems with authority. What characteristics of Jak do you like the most?

I like the fact that Jak Phoenix is a flawed character, to say the least. He isn’t shy and doesn’t care what people think of him and I envy that trait. He’s able to walk that fine line between complete disaster and success. He’s the bad boy without being mean spirited. His hesitation to do much for anyone else is from being burned too many times in his past. He has put up a shield of sorts.

By the end of the second novel you can see that he might have the potential to become a little bit unhinged. When he goes out on a limb and things blow up in his face you start to get a sense that despite his reckless exterior, he is breakable.

In the teaser for this interview on your site you had a really funny comment about Jak’s name. There is something about that coming up in a future story. I can’t tell you now, but I think you’ll be entertained by a little snippet of backstory on the origin of his name.

4. How does it feel to be an indie writer?

I love the freedom to be able to work when I want, for as long as I want. (I’d love that in my career life too - Maybe I’m a bit like Jak Phoenix there) My destiny is in my one else’s. My success or failure is completely dependent on how hard I choose to work, and at least if I don’t succeed I’ll never have the disappointment of a negative outside influence causing problems with the marketing or representation of my work.

I also appreciate the fact that I can work with anyone I choose. For instance, I love the fact that I discovered artist Jeff Thomason from an interview I did on my site. Out of the blue, he sent over some artwork, which I loved so much I promised him he could do the cover of my sequel. A year later, I had the freedom to hire Jeff to do that cover for me. It was all up to me. No interference.

That being said, if a publisher plops down a bucket of money right now and says they can take Jak Phoenix “to the top,” I’ll definitely have something to think about.

5. What other creative activities do you enjoy besides writing?

I have been playing the guitar for at least 16 years and I bang on the drums from time to time. I used to write and record a lot of my own music, but I’ve scaled that back to just jamming with myself, to open up more time for writing.

In the last couple of years, cooking has become one of my favorite hobbies, and really a lifestyle change. I try to make as much of our food as possible with a combination of ideas from recipes and experimentation. I never really appreciated how much creativity is involved in cooking before. It really makes your mind work as you figure out which flavors go well with what and how different cultural dishes come together. I’m a big fan of eating, too.

6. Any additional comments?

Tracy, I can’t thank you enough for all the support you’ve given me over the last year. Please contact me anytime and let me know what you’re up to. Best of luck on everything! I hope you enjoy Jak Phoenix 2!

To everyone reading, here are some places where you can find me on the web:

Main site:



Here’s an overview of some of the places where you can find my books:

Jak Phoenix

Barnes and Noble NOOKBook 
Amazon Kindle Store

Jak Phoenix 2: The Markazian Deception

Barnes and Noble NOOKBook
Amazon Kindle Store

Jak Phoenix: Paid in Full (A FREE short story!)