Today on CSReview we welcome an actor and a prolific writer in the horror genre J. Gabriel Gates, author of a sci fi thriller Blood Zero Sky.
CS: Welcome to CSReview, Jake. When did you decide to become a writer? Did you feel like you had a story in you and it needed to come out?
J. Gabriel Gates: Like many creative kids, I started young. After reading The Hobbit in third grade, I remember walking around with the first thirty pages of a fantasy novel I’d written in a dog-eared D.A.R.E. folder. I’ve taken some detours since then, but I really never wavered from wanting to write books. If I didn’t have lots of stories I needed to tell, I’d be in some easier profession.
CS: What is the difference between an actor and a writer? How do you manage to balance your career in both fields?
J. Gabriel Gates: There are probably more similarities than differences. Both disciplines involve acts of creation that are wonderfully fun to participate in, and both are miserably difficult and heart wrenching fields in which to make a living. The advantage of writing over acting is that, in acting, you require someone else’s permission to practice your art. You have to find an audition and win the role. You need a theater or a movie camera, a cast, a set, and—generally—a budget. Basically, you need the sanction of a director or producer to do what you love. There are gate-keepers for writers, too: you need a decent publisher to get your books marketed and distributed into the hands of readers, and you probably need a decent agent to get a decent publisher, but the great thing about writing is that it lasts. I wrote the first draft of my most recent book, Blood Zero Sky, seven years ago, and it just came out last week. Unlike an acting performance that’s so ephemeral it disappears the moment it’s happened (unless it’s captured on film, which costs money) once you write a book it exists forever. No one can take it away from you (as long as you back up your files!) and somewhere, some time, if you’re lucky, it can find its way to readers. It’s that feeling of creating something relatively permanent that can give a writer a feeling of satisfaction even if they haven’t managed to get published yet, and actors don’t get that.
As for balance between the two fields, right now I’m concentrating much more on my writing than my acting. When I was younger and living in Los Angeles and trying to get some life experience under my belt, I concentrated more on acting, but the scales have gradually tipped to the point where now 99% of my energy is devoted to writing, simply because it’s the craft that I’m best at and that I love the most. I did, however, just start teaching an acting class once a week in the evenings, and I’ve found it to be a lot of fun.
CS: Do you ever cast yourself for the role of any of your characters?
J. Gabriel Gates: As I’m writing I inhabit the bodies and souls of all my characters—even the girliest or the nastiest of them! As for actually playing any of my characters on TV or in film, I haven’t had the opportunity to do so yet, but it’s definitely on my bucket list. Right now there’s a deal coming together to make a Web series based on my teen urban fantasy series The Tracks, and there’s a small role for a young theater teacher named Mr. Brighton that would be fun to play. We’ll see if it happens.
J. Gabriel Gates: At its core, Blood Zero Sky is a patriotic American story meant to cause readers to examine some of the systems of thought that, I feel, are limiting and endangering our way of life. Specifically, it examines the relationship between corporations and the government and poses the question “can we trust corporations, which are basically systematic engines of greed, with the responsibility of governing people?” You can guess what the answer is, but I think it’s a question that bears some serious exploration, particularly given the current political climate and the influence of money in politics. Because of its themes, Publisher’s Weekly called Blood Zero Sky “A Brave New World with a consumerist edge.” I think that sums it up pretty well.
CS: What is your source of inspiration? Do you have a muse?
J. Gabriel Gates: I believe in taking my inspiration wherever I can get it, so I can’t say that I have any single source. I listen to NPR a lot, read as much as possible, watch the news, and try to stay conscious of my own life experiences and relationships. Spirituality and metaphysics are also important to me, so I read up on those things whenever I have the chance. But when you’re creating whole worlds, as one does when writing a novel, you can’t afford to be one-dimensional. I just try to suck everything I see and experience into my subconscious, and hope that when it comes out again in my work, it has a coherence and a resonance that will affect people.
CS: Tell us one superstition common in the acting profession. And one common among writers?
J. Gabriel Gates: Most of the superstitions among the acting community are pretty well known. You say “break a leg” instead of “good luck,” for example. For people who are acting in productions of Macbeth, it’s also supposedly bad luck to say the name of the play. Actors usually call it The Scottish Play instead. I haven’t run across any pervasive superstitions like that among writers, but there is definitely a great deal of nervous hand-wringing in both professions. The common thread in both is that preparation, hard work and professionalism go a long way toward creating success—and reducing anxiety. In writing, the main thing is to make sure you’ve revised your story to the point where it’s as polished as you can possibly make it—then revise it again. After a certain point, though, you’re invariably just sitting there wishing and hoping for a phone call from that agent or editor who has your fate in her hands. For that, I’d recommend some stress-reducing remedies like exercise, prayer, meditation, and the occasional brimming glass of wine. That’s about as close as I come to superstition.
CS: Most interesting observations, Jake. What are your future plans, projects?
J. Gabriel Gates: I’m currently writing the third and probably final installment of my teen series featuring magic, kung fu and star-crossed love in a gang-torn small town, The Tracks. It’s called Shadow Train, and it will be coming out in the spring from HCI books. I’m also doing some final polishing on a new teen horror novel in the vein of my popular horror book The Sleepwalkers. It’s a project that I’m very excited about, so I’m hoping to get it published and into readers’ hands soon. Stay tuned!
CS: Thank you for a wonderful interview, Jake. I wish you all the luck in the world fulfilling your dreams.
J. Gabriel Gates is the author of the teen fantasy series The Tracks (Book 1: Dark Territory, Book 2: Ghost Crown), horror novel The Sleepwalkers and the newly-released sci-fi thriller Blood Zero Sky. For more information on him and his work, please visit his website: www.jgabrielgates.com
You can also “like” him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter at @JGabrielGates.
Copyright Camilla Stein ©2012. All rights reserved.