Jason J. McCuiston: The Man, the Myth, the Legend

Jason McCuiston writes stories that will keep you up until tomorrow you will hate today you. But that’s too bad. You need to finish the story. His initials are also pretty nifty.

I’ve gotten to know him a little bit, and he’s a pretty cool guy. We’re into some of the same stuff — writing, fantasy, science fiction, comics — and oddly enough he lives in a city the same name of my city, though in a different state!

On March 1, his next book, The Last Star Warden, Volume 1 will be released from Dark Owl Publishing. Jason was kind enough to answer some questions!

If I were to meet you on the street, would I immediately say, “Now there’s a guy who looks like a deranged writer”?

Deranged, certainly. As for writer, possibly as you are also one. We can sense our own kind, but the vast majority of folks would think I’m simply an aging nerd or jock stuck forever in the fashion of the 1990s.

You’re a writer! Why do you write? What drives you to write?

I’ve always been a storyteller, even before I could read or write. I think it stems from seeing Star Wars for the first time when I was four years old. I guess I couldn’t differentiate between reality and fantasy so well at the time, so I’ve spent the rest of my life waiting for an “old wizard” to take me on an amazing adventure. As that hasn’t happened in the intervening forty-odd years, I started making up my own adventures. Lately I’ve taken to writing them down and some of them have actually been published.

What’s the first story you recall telling or writing?

Hmm… I’d probably have to say The Space Crusaders. When I was in second or third grade I came up with these knights who used laser swords and fought in space while riding robotic rocket horses. More drawing than writing, though. If I had to stick with strictly writing, it would probably be the Dungeons & Dragons campaigns I started running when I was nine or ten.

In your opinion, what makes a story a good story?

First, it has to get me (or whoever is reading) to the second page. And then the third, and so on, all the way to the end. And once I get there, I’d better be happy I turned all those pages. I don’t mean it has to have a happy ending, just a SATISFYING one. That means the author needs to show respect for his or her craft, the logical dictates of plot, the importance of structure, the consistency of characters, and maintain a level of verisimilitude throughout. No “I gotcha” or “subversion of expectation” endings.

The Last Star Warden¸ Volume 1 comes out March 1. It’s described as a “space western.” What drew you to writing this kind of story?

I was a teenager when Frank Miller and Alan Moore deconstructed the classic superhero in the 1980s. It was new and edgy then, but thirty-odd years later, after ensuing generations of “creatives” have copied, aped, and mimicked those stories, I’m sick of the trope. I wanted to get back to traditional heroic adventure stories, so I went back to the beginning. My first hero as a kid was The Lone Ranger, so in a lot of ways The Last Star Warden is the Lone Ranger in space.

What’s The Last Star Warden about anyway?

The Last Star Warden is the last of a legendary group of interstellar lawmen who was lost in time for a century. He, along with his alien companion, Quantum, have reemerged into a darker, grittier timeline. Imagine if the 1930s Flash Gordon fell into a black hole and then got spit out into the world of The Expanse. Something along those lines.

If the main characters in The Last Star Warden learned that you wrote their lives, and they met you, what would they say to you?

Quantum’s antennae would twirl and he might say something like, “Interesting.” The Warden would take a while to get his head around it, but then he’d say, “Okay. But could you maybe take it easy on us once in a while?” Of course, I’d smile and shake my head, to which he would quietly reply, “Sam Hill.”

You can only eat at one fast food restaurant for the rest of your life. What is it, and why?

Taco Bell. Granted it would be a vastly shortened life, but Taco Bell is really the only fast food I can stomach, so to speak. I absolutely loathe fast-food burgers.

You do art! How do you decide what to create, and what’s your process for creation?

I actually started drawing as a kid because I couldn’t write yet, so my artistic skills developed as a means of storytelling. This eventually led me to believe I wanted to be a comic-book artist, but by the time I graduated college, the market was shrinking in the wake of the mid-90s speculator boom and newcomers weren’t in high demand. I don’t do nearly as much art now that I write, though I do enjoy illustrating The Last Star Warden stories. As for my process, I generally make a list of images I think would look cool from the stories, then I do pencils on comics board, ink them, scan them in, and clean them up in Paint 3D. It is very old-school and very time consuming, but that’s just how I roll.

Besides being a writer and existing on the internet, what else do you do for fun and profit?

Fun? Profit? What are these strange words of which you speak? Seriously, I was a homebody before we ALL became homebodies last year. I pretty much keep busy with my stories and taking care of my family the best I can. Whenever possible, my wife and I do try to get away to the local Mexican restaurant for the occasional night out.

Thank you, Jason! You can find out more about The Last Star Warden here, you can preorder a digital copy here (the physical copy will be available March 1!), and you can contact Jason here.

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