AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Jason Gurley

Tell us a bit about your story.  What’s it about?

Jerome 3.0 is about a widow who, since the unexpected death of her husband, has been trying to raise enough money to upload his memories into a robot. She doesn’t want much—just to talk to him again, or have him read to her at night. But things keep going sideways. This is the story of her third attempt to bring her husband back.

What was the genesis of the story—what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?

I’m always moved by tragic genre stories as opposed to classic hero tales. I wanted to celebrate this poor woman and her need to… just not be lonely. It’s a quiet story, in some ways. I really love quiet science fiction stories. I thought it might be interesting to try to tell a crowdfunding story that wasn’t bombastic or confident, but perhaps a little desperate, and fundamentally just sad.

Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?

Oh, absolutely. It’s one thing to write a traditional short story and to try to capture a character’s point of view believably. But with stories like this one, so much goes into the construction of the piece. You’ve got to consider every component of the crowdfunding pitch through the eyes of a character who, in my case, is heartbroken, but who also doesn’t have a lot of direct experience with the kind of technology she’s using to drum up funds. You’ve got to convey the emotional throughline of the character through the stock elements of a fundraising site—goals and rewards and all that—and that takes a little bit of a dance.

Most authors say all their stories are personal.  If that’s true for you, in what way was this story personal to you?

I suppose that’s true for me as well, though maybe not always in the ways that a reader might think when they read the story. Jerome 3.0 touches on the universal struggle with letting go of someone who’s already gone. It’s not an easy thing, and sometimes it shouldn’t be. I can relate to that. I know that feeling well.

What kind of research did you have to do for the story?

I had to familiarize myself anew with Kickstarter and its pitch format. I’ve backed one or two before, but I don’t spend a lot of time looking at Kickstarter projects. I think I did, once, but that was years ago. I had some catching up to do.

What are your thoughts about crowdfunding generally? Do you back a lot of Kickstarters, or at least find a lot of interesting projects because of crowdfunding? 

In general I think it’s terrific. I do love seeing people bring their passions to life. But I don’t usually go looking for them. I can’t remember the last one I backed. It’s been a few years.

How do you think Kickstarter and self-publishing platforms (like Amazon’s KDP, etc.) are changing publishing?

They’re turning a light on the dark places, which I really love. When artists like Ryan Andrews can raise money to make their own custom, beautiful books, I think it’s very much a good thing. I’m a self-published author myself, on Amazon and other retail platforms, and it’s an extremely validating experience. I’ve been writing books for about seventeen years, and I’ve flung my fair share of paper airplanes at publishers and agents. Self-publishing has made it possible for me to fling those airplanes directly at readers, which is all I really ever wanted in the first place. So I suppose I’m one of those dark places as well.

BONUS: What are some examples of fiction you like in which the format helped dictate the story? (i.e., like the stories in HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!!, or like a found footage movie, or like Jake Kerr’s “Biographical Fragments of the Life of Julian Prince,” etc.)  

I think one of my favorites—and it might be a stretch, but maybe not by much—is Doug Coupland’s Microserfs, which is part traditional narrative, part binary stream-of-consciousness data dump. Another would be Steve Kluger’s epistolary novel, The Last Days of Summer, which is told through telegrams, transcripts, ticket stubs, gossip columns, news reports, homework assignments—you name it.