I know I keep saying that interviewing authors is my favorite part of my
job hobby, but the interview I’m sharing with you today is extra special because it’s my first phone call interview that I’ve done. I was honestly a little nervous going in, but Jay was so easy to talk to and he had so much to say about his novel, The Unifier, his life, and writing in general. I did say “makes sense” way too many times because I am chronically afraid that I’m not making sense in a conversation and thus have a tendency to over-validate others, but I’m sure you guys will enjoy reading this interview as much as I enjoyed chatting with Jay!
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity
Jocelyn: Hi Jay, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview today. I’m very excited to get the chance to talk to you about everything. For those who are reading this interview right now, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Jay: Yep, so my name’s Jay Thomas, I’m 25 years old. I am married to my beautiful wife Melissa, and I also have an 11 month old daughter named Charlotte. They are my absolute everything, everything that goes well in my life is because of them.
I have been writing since I was 12 years old. I’ve always had a passion for storytelling and I’m very excited that I’ve been able to take this project to the forefront and share it with everybody.
Jocelyn: That’s absolutely amazing, especially that you managed to publish a book while you were starting a family, having a child. How was that process of writing it with so much going on?
Jay: Yeah, so the key thing is balance, making sure my family has everything they need. I’m a full time employee as well, so I do my day job 9-5, get home, spend time with the family and it’s writing from 9pm to 1am typically every night. So that’s my schedule during the week. It’s a bit intense, but this is a passion I’ve had so I really really wanted to run with this.
Jocelyn: That makes sense. You mentioned you’ve been writing since you were 12 years old, what made you start writing?
Jay: I’ve always loved movies and books. I’ve always had a passion for fantasy and creating these worlds from absolutely nothing. It’s always been a fascination of mine. It was my father who pushed me to write and explore this passion I had. He actually pushed me to the point where I wrote my first screenplay when I was only 12 years old. It wasn’t very good, but that’s where it all began.
Jocelyn: No, that’s incredible. I remember writing stories when I was younger, and I’m sure looking back on them now I’d be appalled that I ever thought they were good enough to show off to people, but that’s how it starts.
Jay: Oh yeah, that’s always how it starts. It is quite funny because I still have that first screenplay I wrote when I was 12 years old and I look back at it like, oh this was something, but it kind of all began from there, you know, so in that way it’s very important to me.
Jocelyn: Makes sense. So do you still write screenplays or have you transitioned into just novels?
Jay: So, this novel The Unifier came from a screenplay I wrote when I was a senior in high school. I wrote the screenplay, went off to college, and then kind of got lost in the mix of life and going to school. I re-engaged the idea not too long ago and I said, you know what, as a novel I feel like I could really delve deeper into this world I created. That’s where I fell in love with the idea of, you know, “i could really build something from this screenplay” and that’s where it all came from.
Jocelyn: That makes sense. It’s very cool how you took it from one medium and transformed it into another.
Jocelyn: Can you tell us a little bit about The Unifier?
Jay: Yep, so The Unifier is a story about the protagonist Lucian in a torn world that is separated by three kingdoms, each kingdom having their own mutation which gives them an ability, in a sense. Each kingdom has their own gifts that they use to fight against each other. On the surface it seems these three kingdoms have always had issues that arose from the early makings of the world.
From there, it turns out the Unifier is the prophecy. He has all three mutations that give him a gift. His goal, so to speak, would be to unite the three kingdoms. On the surface, that seems to be the plot and the story, but there’s a lot of behind the scenes organizations and people that are working against the unifier and making sure he doesn’t come to fruition and become the prophesied ruler.
Jocelyn: That makes sense. It sounds almost like Avatar meets Game of Thrones.
Jay: Honestly, I’ve heard Avatar, I’ve heard Game of Thrones, and I’ve also heard Divergent as well as a comparison.
Jocelyn: Oh yeah, I can totally see that.
With all the world building that comes with writing a fantasy novel, especially one one this scale where you have multiple universes with powers and everything, how did you even start that process?
Jay: I’ll be honest, a lot of notes. Each chapter actually starts with a bit of preface on the world. I took these hypothetical scrolls that exist in the world, and each chapter gives a bit of insight on the world. As you progress through the book, you start to learn about the world a lot more, which I found to be a nice little touch to how the scrolls relate to each chapter and give you a bit more insight on how the world actually works.
Jocelyn: Yeah that’s very cool. I think some of the best books are when they give you insight into the world while you’re reading it, so that it’s not just that you’re learning about the characters, you’re also learning about the behind the scenes and everything. That makes you relate more.
Jay: Yeah, and I’ll be completely honest, the whole making of the second novel– which I’m actually on the final touches of– a lot of it has been making sure I develop the world, but it’s also been staying consistent to what I already established. I have a newfound appreciation for people that create successful and well liked second novels, movies, etc. I found it very challenging making sure certain constants remain in place. You always hear about how sometimes sequels of movies aren’t too great, so I’ve gotta hand it to the people who make successful sequels because it is exceptionally hard.
Jocelyn: That makes sense, I would imagine it’s hard keeping track even of simple things like the birthdays that you mentioned in the first book. You gotta line all of that up plus all of the complicated stuff that you said.
Jay: 100%. It’s been 1- very fun, very rewarding but also very challenging.
Jocelyn: That makes sense. Kind of along that vein, what was the most unexpectedly difficult part of getting your work from a draft screenplay into a fully published, out into the world novel?
Jay: Most challenging I would say probably along the same lines of consistency. Building this world from scratch, it’s kind of challenging to make sure everything aligns with one another but also has its own unique twist. You take any of the successful worlds, whether it be Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and it’s kind of challenging finding something that people are going to relate to because it is a completely different world. I found it also rewarding when you find a niche they can follow and actively enjoy. So I would definitely say finding that, whether it be consistency or relation or representation of creating a world from nothing.
Jocelyn: Yeah, that makes complete sense. What authors have influenced your style of writing?
Jay: George RR Martin, I’ll be the first to say, that would be the easiest. I want to take this world and run with it, whether it be the five novels I’m preparing for the series or the screenplay adaptation.
Jocelyn: Are you actively planning a screenplay adaptation?
Jay: I have brought it up to the publisher, I definitely have an interest. I have my hands tied finishing up the second book, so I definitely want to explore that once the second book is done and ready for release before engaging the third one.
Jocelyn: That makes sense, good to kind of figure out one project before you move on to the next. I’m a chronic jumper of projects and it never ends up well for me, so…
Jay: Oh I know, and unfortunately I’m only one person. There’s only 24 hours in a day. Between work, writing and building a family, it’s challenging.
Jocelyn: Yeah, that makes complete sense, I’d imagine you’re very overscheduled.
Jay: Yeah, yeah, overscheduled, stretched thin. I don’t regret any of it, I’m more than happy where I am and I’m excited to see where my life will go as a writer and a storyteller, but definitely busy.
Jocelyn: Makes sense. Can you tell everyone reading this where they should follow you to keep up to date on when the second book is going to come out, your social media, anything you want people to follow?
Jocelyn: Awesome. Well thank you so much for taking the time to talk today!
Jay: Thank you so much Jocelyn. I really appreciate it, and I appreciate you taking the time to get to know me a little better.