Author Interview: Jay Sandlin
I hope you’ll enjoy getting to know Jay Sandlin, author of Outbreak Mutiny and creator of The Novel Comics, as much as I have. This fascinating and witty fella has a lot on his plate, but he still agreed to an interview with yours truly. Enjoy!
Hi, Jay. Thank you for granting me an interview. I’m excited to learn more about you and your novel.
Thank you, it’s a pleasure to talk with you and your readers. I’m excited to let everyone know about The Novel Comics!
I’m sure your fans and those just getting to know you would love to know more about you. Give us the scoop. Who is Jay Sandlin?
I’ve been asking my therapist that for years…Kidding. I’m a small business owner, student, husband, and father. After owning and operating my business for years I felt a tug of emptiness. I still had dreams to realize and wanted to set an example for my son.
I enrolled in the Master’s Program for History in my Alma Mater. I’ll graduate in December with that degree. I also have had a lifelong passion for superheroes and all thinks GEEK. I decided to combine those two passions and make a career out of it.
Thus, the Novel Comics was born. It is a shared universe of superheroes, characters, and events in an alternate timeline I created. My first release, Outbreak Mutiny came out in mid-April and is available exclusively on Amazon in paperback and eBook for just 99 cents.
Wow! Impressive. You’re quite the busy bee. I’m sure your son will be proud.
Some of the best tips come from fellow writers. What tips do you have for new writers?
Write, write, and write. Never let your impatience halt your progress. I was the least patient person on the planet when I started this process. Now I may be in the 80th percentile. You have to recognize it’s a day-to-day process. Then ask yourself, “What am I doing today to reach my goals as a writer?”
Set deadlines for yourself and then don’t beat yourself up when you don’t meet them. In writing everything took longer than I imagined it would.
All great tips for keeping your focus on what matters. Thank you.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Did you always want to be a writer?
I always held a deep love for reading. I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was under the playground equipment reading Shadows of the Empire by Steve Perry and the other kids my age were kicking around this rubber ball filled with air. It seemed so pointless. Why were they engaged in this mundane activity when I was entering new worlds in a galaxy far, far away?
It wasn’t long before I was the one creating my own worlds. Of course, I didn’t stay consistent. I needed time to grow and mature before I came back to a childhood love of writing. I stuck with theater for years and that was my creative outlet. Then in 2015 I appeared in three shows back to back: a comedy, musical, and a drama. When they all wrapped I was left filling unfulfilled. After the curtain closed my efforts felt like they had evaporated into a vapor that would only linger in the minds of the few audience members for a few days.
I turned down all requests for auditions after that and still do today. I realized that print could last forever; and through the written word my art could achieve immortality.
An important step forward, realizing your goals and making them happen.
I’m often surprised by what inspires my stories and where those ideas lead. What gave you the idea for Outbreak Mutiny?
At the time I was on a beach trip. I was reading other novels about Superheroes while taking a Master’s course in the Cold War. The history of the Cold War is essentially the history of the 20th century. The course was organized in highly compact blocks of time through the decades of the tumultuous century.
While reading the Superhero novels on my break, I felt like I was in a unique position. I knew everything about Superheroes and was a History buff as well. I decided to combine those factors and insert heroes into the events I was currently studying.
That quickly evolved into an alternate timeline altogether. You’ll recognize some names, places, and events from actual history in Outbreak Mutiny, but as you can see from the reorganized borders in my world things are very, very different:
That’s a wonderful origin story, a great example of writing what you know. I love the use of the map. It really drives home the changes in your world.
Without giving the story away, what can you tell us about Outbreak Mutiny?
The tagline gives away the idea: It’s an alternate history. With superheroes. We all remember the early 20th century saw the Baby Boomers, correct? That was an Outbreak in the American population. It’s also remembered as the “Greatest Generation.”
In my world, they had the Outbreak Babies. These were human beings who manifested superpowers after serious trauma or life threatening accidents. They came to the attention of the world in 1918 when the USS Maine was sunk by an Outbreak Baby with heat vision off the coast of Havana Cuba during the Spanish-American War.
This is a novel, but because of my love of comics I label my chapters as “Issues”. In Issue 0, we find the US on the brink of losing the Outbreak War; the first war fought between nations using beings with superpowers.
It does not go well for the United States.
I love the idea of combining history and superheroes, but I think the merging of the novel and comic really sets your novel apart.
What types of superpowers can we expect to see in Outbreak Mutiny?
Anything is possible! For a handy guide, I created character stats to go with their artwork. I have to thank my friend and fellow host, Ray, on The Naked Porch podcast for giving me the idea and putting these together:
What a great idea! I love these. They remind me of the character cards in some of the tabletop games I’ve played. Just brilliant!
In what ways does Outbreak Mutiny set itself apart from other superhero stories?
That is an answer I would prefer to leave up to readers. I would say it is different because I’ve built a world; not just a story. The Outbreak timeline is another Stream in the vast network of worlds that run parallel but never intersect with one another. Their future looks bleak, and I hope readers get invested in what happens next. I think the greatest strength lies in the characters.
With interesting characters and plot, I’m sure readers will love shouting about their most beloved parts.
Which of your characters is your favorite? Why?
I’m going to cheat and pick two. I love Clockwork. He is the Steampunk Savior and the founder of the Armorer’s Guild. He’s a man operating a Power Suit that he designed himself and built with his vast fortune. It would be like if John D. Rockefeller decided to become Iron Man back in his day. He encouraged his peers to also step up and defend the weak with their ingenuity. They may not all have superpowers like the Outbreak Babies, but with their wealth and intelligence they can do their part. He’s also the stereotypical, corny, superhero. He has catch-phrases and even plays his own theme music through speakers mounted to the armor.
Secondly, I would say Buccaneer. I can’t say much about him. I can tell you he’s a revolutionary with heat vision and doesn’t trust many people. You’ll have to read to find out anything else.
After seeing those character stat sheets, I can see why it’d be hard to pick just one!
As someone who loves worlds created around superheroes, what will I love about your superheroes? What will fans of the genre love about your story?
I would tell people who already love Superheroes to view my world with this in mind: What if superpowers were real? If they were, there would almost certainly have been dictators, leaders, and even Presidents that wanted to manipulate or even weaponized them for their own benefit.
If that were the case, could the world have become the way I wrote it in my fiction? A regime like my villains, the Reich, could just as easily have united behind a charismatic Outbreak Baby like they did Adolph Hitler in the years leading to WWII.
That is why slavery is a major theme. When the powerful control our destinies and guide our fate, freedom is lost for all. The tagline on the book cover jacket states that the choice in my world is clear: “Die free, or live in chains.”
When faced with that choice, what will you choose? What do my characters choose? Let me know what you think, @JSandlinWriter on twitter.
Some thought-provoking questions. I hope readers will head over to Twitter for some fun discussions with Jay.
What is The Novel Comics? And what is in the future for The Novel Comics?
Outbreak Mutiny was the first in the Volume Series. The next release will be Outbreak Mutiny Volume II and will contain the next set of Issues (chapters). I plan to continue those indefinitely as the main series.
In addition, there will be short stories or other collections in the same shared universe under The Novel Comics Anthologies title. That will serve as a method to tell backstories and other tales of characters in the Outbreak world independently of the Volume series. The first I hope will focus on the origin story of Caliente Blu, the heroine from Issue 0. She seems to resonate with many readers, male and female.
It sounds like this world will provide you with a wealth of material for the future. I’m sure fans won’t be disappointed.
When you’re not writing “Alternate Histories with Superheroes,” what do you like to do with your free time?
100% of my free time goes into being the best possible father I can be to my three-year-old son. He is the bright spot of my life and all that is best in me. I am still working towards my Master’s degree and hope to teach online or work as a Guest Lecturer in my free time next year. I’m also working on my Master’s Thesis which I hope to transition into another book. This one will be a nonfiction bit of Oral History based around a series of interviews I conducted with a local WWII veteran, Manhattan Project worker, and NASA employee during the Cold War.
I’m sure your son will love your story as much as your fans!
Several of the authors I’ve interviewed were drawn to other creative pursuits. Are you the creative type? Any painting, woodworking, or other creative endeavors?
Yes, I already mentioned my love of theatre. That calmed down in the last couple of years but I still perform regularly with my friends in the improve troupe The Wickets. Check us out on Facebook at facebook.com/ItstheWickets.
And as an advocate of geek culture, I like to stay active with movie/book/trailer/comic reviews and regular appearances on podcasts. I am an occasional guest host on The Naked Porch as well with my friends Ray, Chris, and Danielle.
Your workload would wear down any normal human. Perhaps you have a little superhero in you.
What three books are you most likely to recommend to a friend?
I’m glad you specified “friend” because my recommendations to my enemies will be far different. For my friends into fantasy, I recommend the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher; The Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines; Confessions of a D-List Villain by Jim Bernheimer; all STAR WARS, especially Timothy Zahn. I can’t wait to pick up Thrawn this weekend.
For my enemies, I don’t know, you might like Moon People by Dale Courtney.
Haha! Yes, I suppose I didn’t need the “friend”.
Any new projects in the works for fans to keep an eye out for?
Quite a few. I have a series of Children’s Books that will begin in August. They will follow “Little Wolfie” the son of the Big Bad Wolf and the lessons he learns attending new schools and making new friends. My oral history book will also be available this year or the first of next year. I’m wrestling with two titles: “The Sunday Historian” or “Six Pages Per Shot”. You’ll have to contact me on twitter and tell me which title you prefer.
In the meantime, you can find my book on Amazon. Visit me at TheNovelComics.com, JaySandlinWriter.com, Good Reads, or just come by Twitter and talk any GEEK topic day or night. Thanks for having me and I can’t wait to hear what you all think about Outbreak Mutiny.
Thank you, Jay, for taking the time to answer my questions. It’s been a delight getting to know all about you and The Novel Comics. I can’t wait to finish the book.