Jason Ryan Dale is an aspiring non-writer living on the East Coast of the United States. He has tried not to write for many years, since neither his personality nor his skill set is suited to a career as an author. A nice position in an insurance office or a steady job in a coal mine should be enough for him, but again and again he has found himself writing simply for his own peace of mind. Recently Dale has given up his ambition for a normal life and begun to labor, against all reason, on his literary works.
TDBW: When did you start writing?
Jason: Ever since I could walk, I would wander around my back yard imagining I was a superhero, a knight, or maybe someone from Star Wars. By the time I was ten, I took it very seriously, creating my own characters and acting out their adventures for two or three hours every day, swinging plastic baseball bats and throwing around soccer balls, pretending they were weapons. I invented hundreds of characters and developed epic stories, all of it lost because it was all inside my head. Still, I consider my writing to be just an extension of those daydreams.
TDBW: What was the first story you remember writing?
Jason: I guess I was in college before I ever finished a real story. I didn’t do it with any kind of goal in mind. I just started scribbling when I got tired of reading school stuff. They weren’t good, but I’ve cannibalized them over the years, using plot points and characters in my work today. I believe the first one was about a collector for a loan shark who has to tell his girlfriend about what he does. (Come to think of it, those characters would fit well into my next story.)
TDBW: What genre is your most preferred?
Jason: I started out with crime fiction and never exhausted my passion for it. There is a paradox in every crime, and therefore in every crime story. Stealing, murdering, running a con job, these are all acts of betrayal, but in most cases they require collaborating with others. Criminals are constantly suppressing empathy for their victims, but they must cultivate empathy for their friends. It is a complicated dynamic that can play out in an infinite number of ways.
TDBW: What challenges you the most in your writing?
Jason: To do a day’s work writing fiction, you need to focus totally on a very small part of the whole. You end up reading a thousand words or so over and over out of a ninety thousand word novel. I sometimes lose perspective, forgetting how one character fits with another, or how one subplot is important to set in motion a different story arc. Sometimes I get lost in my own maze.
TDBW: What is your favorite thing about being an author?
Jason: The relief I feel after a good, productive day of writing. People in my life sense when I haven’t been writing. I get anxious and short-tempered.
TDBW: How many books do you currently have available?
Jason: One novel (Lost in Wildwood), one novella (The Dead Pond), and one short story (Tina and the Big Bad Wolf), all on Amazon. I like having bite-sized pieces of my work for readers who aren’t sure how much time they want to commit at first.
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TDBW: What projects are you currently working on?
Jason: I have a core stable of about a dozen characters I’ve worked with over the years. Right now, they are scattered in their own narratives, some of them in limbo because the arcs I had for them are played out. I think I’m finally going to write the keystone story that brings them all together.
TDBW: Do you have any books coming out soon?
Jason: I have a novel in my drawer called Jocelyn’s War that I think is very good. I hope to get it out by the end of 2017.
TDBW: Who are some of your favorite authors?
Jason: John le Carre is my favorite. His plots are always exciting, yet his character development is always strong. Elmore Leonard I admire for his humor and his sense for life’s absurdity. His characters are always trying to bring their lives in order and only succeed in increasing the chaos, which I love. Robert E Howard uses the English language better than anyone I know of. Larry McMurtry is the best at capturing people’s psychology. I feel like I know his characters so well I could carry on a conversation with any of them. Joseph Conrad is the writer I most admire, though I admit he gives me a headache sometimes.
TDBW: Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what band(s) do you play?
Jason: No. I only listen to music to unwind when the writing is done for the day. Tom Waits and Nick Cave if I want something heavy. Sixties rock and roll or eighties heavy metal if I just want some adrenaline. Alternative country the rest of the time. If I want to distract myself a little while I write, I sometimes watch TV. Trash TV.
TDBW: Tell us some more about yourself including your website and where we can find you on social media sites:
My website: http://www.jasonryandale.com
TDBW: Care to share a bit of one of your books with us?
Jason: This is a scene from Lost in Wildwood that I like a lot.
(Joshua) knew the little man even though he had never seen him before. Sitting on a patio chair, sipping lemonade, there was nothing about him that would have pricked Joshua’s attention without the gruff escort that delivered him here. His gray and white hair suggested he was somewhere in his seventies. In a golf shirt, khaki pants, and a round, floppy-brimmed hat, the man bore no signs of either official or presumed authority.
“Hello there,” said the man, with neither friendliness nor hostility. He gestured for Joshua to sit at the chair across from him at a white marble table.
The patio where he sat looked out onto a large, kidney-shaped pool. As Joshua walked along the water’s edge, wavy lines of light shone onto him, as well as the shaded walls of the house behind his new accuser. Rimmed with hedges, the pool area was a square within the larger square of the rest of the property.
“Hello,” Joshua said humbly. He had heard the man’s name a hundred times during the course of his life, mostly in hushed voices out of Gaetan and a few others. His first name was Marcello, but he was always referred to as “Marty,” and always in a pointed, solemn tone, as if there was not another “Marty” in the whole world and never could be.
“Do you know who I am?”
“Yes,” Joshua said, giving his voice as much authority as he could muster and still remain respectful.
“Good,” the old man said simply. “It’s a pain in the ass explaining it to people. Would you like some lemonade?”
“No thank you.” Sitting down, Joshua cursed silently when he realized that his back was to the pool instead of the wall of the house, where all smart people in fear for their lives prefer to have their backs. Pretending to make himself more comfortable, he shifted the chair slightly to the side, giving him a little better view of the yard.
“You like rock and roll, Mr. Keogh?” Marty’s voice had the ripples of an old, buried accent.
“I…” Joshua struggled, “yes. Sure.”
“Real rock and roll, not that trash they play on the radio.” Producing a remote control from his breast pocket, Marty sat up and pointed the thing towards the house. The yard on either side of them flooded with scratchy noises from instruments that Joshua barely recognized.
“It’s not your fault,” said the gray man. Joshua realized that Marty was shorter than he was, yet his voice was deep and forceful. “They stopped playing it before you were born.” He sipped more lemonade, not looking in Joshua’s direction. “Do you know why you’re here?”
“No,” said Joshua. For a second, he considered offering some honorific like “sir” or “Mr.” In his current state of mind, though, it would be a slippery slope towards pleading for his life.
“None of the boys told you anything?”
“Not even Gaetan?”
“So you know who I am,” Marty stated, his deep, dark eyes finally shifting onto Joshua. “Do you know anything you think I should know?”
Joshua leaned across the table. His throat was dry, and he needed to swallow in order to speak. “If I did, I would have said something before I sat down.”
Marty made a “mmm” sound. His face hadn’t changed, but Joshua knew the answer had pleased him. “Ever used a fake ID, Mr. Keogh?”
“Not since I turned twenty-one.”
“When was that?”
“Really?” said Marty, raising his brow. “Just last March?”
“Someone said you were a businessman.” Marty looked confused. “An experienced businessman.”
That’s an epithet I’ve never been given before, thought Joshua. “I’ve been supporting myself on and off for the last five years.”
“No kidding.” Marty sounded genuinely interested. “But you’ve never done anything that I’ve heard about.”
“You’ve never done anything that I’ve heard about,” Joshua said seriously. “I’ve never read your name in the papers, or seen your face on TV, like so many others I could name. Does that mean you’re less successful than they are, or more?”
Joshua’s stab had landed just right. Marty smiled and took another swig of lemonade. I’ve impressed him, thought Joshua. Maybe he’ll give me a lollipop before he dumps the quicklime on my corpse.
“Back to fake IDs,” Marty said impassively. “Do you know what they’re used for?”
“Well,” said Joshua, “besides selling them to teenagers, maybe to fuck up your paper trail I guess. Buying things that require an ID that you don’t want people to know you have.”
“Motels, too,” said Marty, looking into his eyes. “When you want to check into a motel without anyone knowing it was you.”
Joshua’s limbs begged him to shiver. Just as long as he doesn’t offer me any lemonade, he thought. I’ll never be able to keep my glass from shaking. Mimicking the professors he’d known in college, Joshua nodded his head up and down long enough to denote interest and not long enough to encourage follow-up questions.
“The gook who runs the check cashing shop on Dean Street,” Marty said casually, “why does he buy fake IDs?”
Joshua’s teeth began to chatter softly. He hoped he stopped them before it became noticeable. Pursing his lips to stall, Joshua searched his entire head for an answer. “I wouldn’t know. Does he buy fake IDs?”
“He did about a month ago,” said Marty. “My people checked it out. Three of them, from a Greek, not far from Bradley. You live in Bradley, isn’t that right?”
“Like I said before,” said Joshua, “they must have been for teenagers. Nick’s not really an ambitious kind of guy. That’s why I get along with him.”
“This gook,” said Marty, “Nick, you called him. He ever introduce you to a guy named Kieran?”
“He ever mention him?”
“Big, blond guy?”
The back of Joshua’s neck froze, bracing itself for the bullet from a silencer barrel that he saw in his mind’s eye. “Doesn’t ring a bell.”
“I met this gook one time,” said Marty. “I don’t usually talk to small timers, but somebody said he was alright. A pretty smart operator. Do you think he’s a pretty smart operator?”
“Sure,” said Joshua. “I guess.”
“Well,” said Joshua. “I…I would. I guess. Probably. He and I aren’t really in the same business.” For the first time today, Joshua’s strong, nimble brain was failing him, awash in the same mortal terror that overcame him during the shootout.
“Oh,” said Marty. “By the way, if the heat’s getting to you, help yourself to the lemonade.” Joshua hoped his smile conveyed No thank you and was glad when Marty continued. “How well do you know this…Nick?”
“He’s, you know, a face in the neighborhood. We hung out a few times.”
“You never did business with him?”
“Would you do business with me?” Marty was leaning back in his chair, a confident, satisfied smile on his lips. “Because I have some business that I need to do with you.”
A quick snap sounded behind Joshua’s back. A little twig was warning him that someone had come up from behind. The bullet was already in the air, its path traced by Joshua’s imagination, straight into his skull. His lungs took one last sweet sip of air and, slowly, without knowing why, he turned to look at what was coming.