Author Spotlight: J. Michael White (JESTIN KASE AND THE MASTERS OF DRAGON METAL)
Michael White is an award-winning journalist and author of young adult urban fantasy action-adventure stories. His career as a newspaper reporter gave him deep glimpses into the challenges of the world, from the struggles of foster care to the tragedies of murder and war. His fiction often reflects these experiences. Instead of setting his stories in alternate, dystopian futures, he looks at the dystopia of the world we live in today, through the lens of urban fantasy and adventure, with a little dark humor. Like all responsible adults, he spends his time playing video games, reading books, and watching cartoons.
Welcome to the Hive, Jason. Let’s start with the basics: tell us about Jestin Kase and the Masters of Dragon Metal – why should readers check it out?
It’s like Oliver Twist, but with demons. A mix of Buffy, Supernatural, comic book superheroes and 90’s anime, inspired by the best of pop culture. The book reminds us that the world we live in today is just as bad as a make-believe dystopian future, but gives readers a sense of hope, with some humor, fun and action. Oh, and there’s a cat.
Tell us a little something about your writing process – how did you find the transition from journalism to fiction?
I’ve written fiction stories for my own enjoyment since I was in grade school, so the shift from journalism to fiction was pretty simple. If anything, my newspaper writing skills helped craft my fiction writing style. Also, I’ve seen some crazy things in this real world of ours, and that’s helped me build my fictional characters’ backgrounds.
What inspired your world building? What made you decide to portray a dystopian world?
I wanted to highlight the dystopia of the world we live in today instead of creating a traditional, make-believe dystopian future. Look at the state of things in our world: class warfare, poverty, sickness, corruption, homelessness, division–one could argue we’re already living in a “dystopian future” in the real world of today.
Can you tell us a bit more about your characters? What was behind your decision to make Jestin a foster child?
I wanted a humorous, sarcastic, likeable teenager to balance the bleak background of the story. I also wanted to use Jestin as a vehicle to highlight the problems with the foster care system (my original idea for Jestin was “Oliver Twist but with demons”). Further, as a member of the LGBT community myself, I wanted the same for Jestin, but without making the story about his sexuality, something I don’t see often with LGBT representation.
We see such varying opinions from authors when it comes to the time of editing their books. How have you found the editing process? Enjoyable, stressful or satisfying?
Enjoyable, stressful and satisfying, yes. I keep a running list of things I need to edit or rewrite in terms of the main story and pacing. Sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with an idea for something to tweak and jot it down on my phone. Luckily I have some great editors, and by the end, it is satisfying, just lots of hair pulling to get to that point.
What (or who) are your most significant fantasy/sci-fi influences? Are there any creators whom you dream of working with someday?
Star Wars books got me into reading when I was a kid. Heir to the Empire, the Young Jedi Knights series. From there, I branched out to some of those authors’ original works, and that led me deep into the sci-fi/fantasy wormhole. I love Brandon Sanderson’s stuff, it would be fun to work with him on something.
We always appreciate a beautiful book cover! How involved in the process were you? Was there a particular aesthetic you hoped they’d portray?
I wanted a cover that I would pick up if I was a reader browsing shelves. I gave some general direction, and the designer took it from there. We went back and forth a while to get it just right. I wanted a big symbol of power that took up most of the cover, and beneath it, just the back of a kid who seems like he has the weight of the world on his shoulders, walking into this ominous urban fantasy city.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write. How do you choose to spend the day?
One of our favourite questions here on the Fantasy Hive: which fantastical creature would you ride into battle and why?
Do zords count as creatures? If so, a big dragonzord. If not, a Chinese Dragon.
Tell us about a book you love. Any hidden gems?
The Spook’s Apprentice series is terrific and doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Great characters, great world building, great plot.
Can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress? Have you any upcoming projects which you can share?
I’m currently editing the sequel to Dragon Metal, called “Jestin Kase and the Terrors of Shadow Metal.” Also, I’m working on the first draft of a short story collection that takes place in the Dragon Metal Universe. These stories flesh out some of the side characters.
Are you planning anything fun to celebrate the release of Jestin Kase and the Masters of Dragon Metal? Do you have any upcoming virtual events our readers may be interested in?
I am throwing an official No-Party! Details will start popping up for this non-event in April. People can either follow me on insta at thejmichaelwhite for updates or visit my website, www.dragon-metal.com
Finally, what is the one thing you hope readers take away from your writing?
For this specific book: that if you want to make a difference, if you want to make something out of yourself, you have to work for it.
Thank you so much for joining us today!
Jestin Kase and the Masters of Dragon Metal is out now and available HERE