Jason M. Kays is represented by Pump Up Your Book Promotion, an innovative public relations agency specializing in online book promotion.
Jason M. Kays is an intellectual property attorney with fifteen years experience in both information technology and entertainment law. He is an accomplished jazz trumpet player, and his passion has always been music, technology, and convergence of the two in today's digital age.
Kays is also the author of a new technological crime thriller, Virtual Vice, which has been described as “a treat for all crime thriller buffs and for anyone who just loves a well-written book.”
We interviewed Kays to find out more about his latest release and his life as a published author.
Thank you for this interview, Mr. Kays. Can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?
I grew up in a small logging town ninety miles northwest of Seattle, Washington. My parents and many in my immediate family — aunts, uncles a younger sister — are teachers, so there was always an emphasis placed on education as a lifelong continuing process. I began writing creatively in the fourth grade — short horror stories. In the fifth and sixth grades I tried my hand at science fiction, but wasn't my cup of tea. I enjoyed English Lit and writing courses during my high school and college years. I was offered a fellowship to work on my doctorate in English Lit, but had already accepted a seat in law school.
Following a judicial clerkship that involved a good deal of research and writing, I practiced appellate work for a year. This work was very taxing, as it involved representation of inmates in maximum security prisons. It led to my introduction to the Copycat Killer, Veronica Compton, in the famous Hillside Strangler case. She had been unfairly and repeatedly denied a parolability hearing for political reasons. I was able to both secure a hearing and win her release, garnering some national press exposure in the process. The notoriety and my local reputation attracted the attention of a nationally known Rock and Roll promoter. Since I've always been more of a frustrated jazz artist than lawyer, I jumped at the opportunity to collaborate with him in his return to Seattle from Texas during the peak of Grunge music's popularity. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains are all Seattle area artists.
It was during my seven years as an entertainment attorney that a series of dramatic and colorful events and people inspired various storylines. Insight into the inner, often mob-connected, workings of the entertainment industry was dispiriting but fascinating. Exposure to that world necessarily entails exposure to the flesh and drug peddlers. Representatives from both camps were at saturation levels. The cocktail of youth, celebrity, sex, drugs and money results in excesses of epic proportion. Great fodder for fiction.
Much of this I will never be able to write about due to attorney-client privilege and a general sense of self-preservation. A good deal of what transpired is fair game for fiction. It was the latter that provided the inspiration for my latest book, Virtual Vice.
Do you write full-time?
Yes. Lawyers are wordsmiths by trade and training, and we write for a living: that's at the core of our work. I still consult as an intellectual property attorney, but am focusing most of my time and efforts on creative writing. I took a sabbatical from the practice of law to devote myself entirely to turning out this book in a two year period. I'm presently working on my second novel, also a work of creative non-fiction.
At what point in your life did you make up your mind you were going to become a published author?
Becoming a published author was never the focus of my work. If one is destined to write, I think it's almost a compulsion: you must express yourself through prose or verse. It's like breathing; it's not a choice. Notoriety, critical acclaim and commercial success are minor concerns and of little consequence, as historically both have been atrocious barometers of a work's literary merit. As I saw Virtual Vice take shape, I felt it was worthy of publication. Interest was expressed by a prominent literary agent in representation, but this was contingent on my making the novel entirely non-fiction, something I was unwilling to do. This made me even more determined to see that the book reached an audience on my terms. To help towards that end, in addition to offering the book on Amazon and through four other e-tailers, I released the work as an audiobook. May 2009, it was the second most popular download on Podiobooks.com, with 8000 downloads in four days, and remains on their top ten list, so it appears that it's finding that audience.
Was there anyone in your life that you can give credit to helping pave the way?
My high school English Lit instructor, Phyllis Elliot, the owner of my hometown bookstore, Port Book & News's Allen Turner, a college Shakespeare course instructor, Professor Anawalt, parents, fiancée and my feline muse, Consigliere.
What was your favorite book to read as a child?
Bram Stoker's, Dracula.
What is your favorite book at the present?
Any work by Shakespeare, but particularly his histories.
Can you tell us a little about your latest book?
In short, the book follows the rise and demise of a sociopath, Scott White, who transitions from the organized crime of the Cali Cartel to the organized crime of Wall Street. He begins his professional life as one of the largest cocaine distributors on the West Coast. When the DEA closes in, White evades apprehension and launders the drug money by founding an Information Technology startup, Metropoleis III Multimedia. Certain organized crime contingents remain silent partners in his new business. MIII is a Seattle based broadband content provider, streaming audio and video from live rock concerts to subscribers over the Internet. Although business is thriving, its CEO soon falls back to old habits, structuring MIII as a Ponzi scheme and embezzling from investors.
When White is found out, he flees Washington for Arizona and mounts a similar scam. As external scrutiny, and civil and criminal suits mount, CEO White begins to come unhinged, as do his progressively more crazed and bizarre business ventures. Targeting the Sedona market, he attempts to tap into the New Age zeitgeist. After several false starts, he uses his broadband media delivery system to back an equally opportunistic religious huckster in peddling a New Age theology to the masses via the Internet. The New Age cybervangelists garner the attention of a global press for all the wrong reasons. The klieg lights quickly put White's silent partners ill-at-ease and all hell breaks loose.
What was the inspiration behind your book? Why did you feel a need to write it?
The book is creative non-fiction and 85% factual. It was inspired by my representation as a lawyer of a most unpleasant client during an eighteen month period. That period was followed by five years of intermittent pro bono work with various law enforcement agencies to hold him accountable to investors he had defrauded. This effort, while saving would-be investors millions in losses, did not stop him from running his Ponzi schemes. He continues to this day, active in the Huntington Beach, California, area, having partnered with a real estate developer. Ironically, they are currently planning deployment of a New Age church in Hawaii.
What kind of research did you have to conduct to write your book?
Since the lion's share of the book draws from my personal experience, research was limited to the historical accuracy of the interrelationships of competing organized crime families, with a focus on the Mexican and Colombian drug cartels. I also researched modes and patterns of gang warfare. Lastly, I performed a fairly exhaustive research of Seattle's early days during the 1970's as a venue for touring Rock bands.
Why did you choose your particular genre?
Creative non-fiction allowed me the freedom to recount historic events while maintaining dramatic tension and continuity. The 15% portion of the accounting that is fictional provided the opportunity to get more creative and interweave fact with fiction in a way that allows for social satire and parody.
Do you write mainly by day or by night?
I write mainly by day, as I am task oriented and treat the process seriously, as I would any 9-5 job. I am also a night owl and tend to do my best work in the evenings. Often I'll come up with a new story arc or character in the evening then hammer out the details during the day.
Do you ever get writer’s block and what do you do when that happens?
I simply do not write during these periods. They typically don't last more than a day or two and are a result of exhaustion, tedium or need for a different creative cognitive perspective.
Can you tell us a little about the publisher who published your book? How have they been to work with?
Book Surge. A mid-sized print on demand publishing house wholly owned by Amazon. I looked at all prominent POD publishers out there, and Book Surge's product was far superior. Their rates are higher than the competition's, but you do see a return on your investment in the quality of work. Their editorial team is superb.
Do you blog? If so, what can you tell my readers about the advantages of blogging as a useful tool in book promotion?
I do. Both under the musings section of my website, www.VirtualVice.net, and on my blog, proper, www.VirtualVice.us. Blogs help the writer with the creative process, provide his fan base with insight into that process, and also allow for expression outside the confines of the more structured novel format. From a marketing perspective, blogs are one of the best tools to brand one's name and keep content current and indexed by the search engines.
Do you have a website? Do you manage it yourself or do you have someone run it for you?
I do. It can be found at http://www.VirtualVice.net. I contracted with professionals to design and mount the site — three coders and artists in total. Once the site was published, I have been responsible for its maintenance. The site was engineered so that updating content is streamlined, but I feel it's imperative that authors have some basic web skills, given this is at the core of all contemporary publishing PR work. This holds true regardless of how and with whom an author publishes. Even when published by conglomerate publishing houses, there is an expectation by the imprint that the author will be actively engaged in the marketing of his book.
How do you deal with a bad review?
I'm too busy working on the next book to bother with reviews, positive or negative: I don't read them.
What’s next for you?
A novel focusing on the shifting roles of sexuality and erotica in American culture with the introduction of the Internet. How erotica made the Net commercially viable and drives much of the innovation in ecommerce and technology today. A look at the colorful pioneers in this market sector and how they left irrelevant the Hugh Hefners, Bob Gucciones and Larry Flynts of the world.
Thank you for this interview, Mr. Kays. Do you have any final words you’d like to share with my readers?
In today's world, with the inundation of information and entertainment in all its forms, for any author to attract and hold an audience is exceedingly difficult. I would encourage both new and established authors to embrace technology in exploring alternate ways to connect with their readers. Offer a sample chapter or two via audiobook format or downloadable Adobe pdf file. Use the Internet to brand your name and your books. Thank you to Blogcritics and its readers for this forum and opportunity to participate in the ongoing dialogue.