Jason Roberts - Western-Themed Gothic Horror
Jason Roberts is a lifetime resident of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest. When not clacking out tales of profound cosmic importance at his kitchen table, he may be found meandering through the mundane oddities of his richly satisfying existence. Such activities might include, but not limited to, testing his guitar against the sonic thresholds for collapsing buildings, teaching proper swear words to his daughter, intrepidly exploring dive bars for lost relics of hidden bourbon, occasionally running for Mayor, or annoying his beloved wife with soapbox soliloquies on long car rides to no place in particular.
You may have seen him across the card table, forcing you all in while holding deuce-seven or displaying a middle digit in your rearview mirror in the appraisal of your driving skills. Perhaps you’ve caught a glimpse of him behind the bar, mournfully muddling the mint and lime of your mojito and not so silently judging as you sip on your utter lack of gumption. Yes, he is an ass. However, he will never shame you for your apostrophe placements or other grammar mistakes. As our Author of the Day, he tells us all about his book, The Yellow Painted Man.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Yellow Painted Man is about.
The basic premise is that gold is a god-like living entity that arrived on earth before life existed. This highly intelligent being is trapped here, its physical body scattered, and embedded in the planet. As humanity evolves, it becomes entangled by the will of this entity, and manipulated into executing its agenda. Gold does this by engendering greed and covetousness in humans, so that they are compelled to extract it, keep it, and consolidate its use as currency. Other, more adept humans are chosen to serve gold directly. Throughout civilization, these secret societies, cults, and cabals have worked behind the scenes to create the political, economic, and cultural infrastructures that ensure gold’s prominence. The Trust is one of these groups, working in the final days of the “great work”.
What inspired you to write a Western-themed cosmic horror trilogy? Was there anything in particular that made you want to tackle this?
I didn’t set out to specifically blend a genre as much as tell a story in that era, but while I was there, I fully embraced the Western elements. I’ve always been fascinated with the Apache Wars and the reconstruction era history, both of which fold well into the narrative.
You wrote the books in a Lovecraftian style. Why did you take this approach?
While I did NOT write this in Lovecraft’s universe or the Cthulu mythos, I do borrow some of my favorite themes from his work. Particularly, the madness that comes when one peaks behind the fragile veil of reality. Also, I wanted to emphasize humanity’s insignificance, not only on a cosmic scale, but even as a species on earth. In the end, the story is not so much good vs evil, as it is that humanity’s entire existence has been a lie and what to do with that knowledge.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I have been known to moonlight as an audio engineer, dimly lit musician on a beer-soaked stage, or even a friendly bartender.
Interesting cover. Please tell us more about the design.
We don’t get many peaks at the Golden Man, though we do know he appears mostly human. One of the main story lines involves gold, who the Apache call the “Yellow Painted Man” trying to manipulate them through their dreams. So, in an abstract way, the cover represents how the Chiricahua see the Golden Man.
Why did you pick 1863 as the backdrop for your story
The catalyst that sets everything off is the murder of the Apache chief Mangas Coloradas, which occurs in 1863. The bulk of the trilogy spans between 1863 and 1917.
Tell us more about Samuel Sheldon. What makes him tick?
When we first meet Sheldon, he is freshly graduated from Yale and the Skull and Bones. He has grown up in the periphery of the Trust’s activities and understands their power, yet not their purpose. This has also made him extremely ambitious and installed in him a flawed belief that through duty and sacrifice he will ascend through the ranks and inherit the secrets of the Trust. As the sacrifices mount and his doubt grows, he finds that the rewards come like carefully scripted carrots, slowly eroding his choices and opportunities to deviate from the path. Throughout his arc, he leans on the fact that he was chosen, believing in a greater purpose, while steadily arriving at a truth he is not prepared to accept.
Greed and ambition are important themes in this story. Why did you find this important to write about?
Greed is the voice of the Golden Man, it’s the necessary engine that keeps the process in motion. On a deeper level, it is entirely artificial, installed in humanity for gold’s purpose. Ambition is the perversion of man’s intrinsic curiosity and quest for knowledge. Using these concepts provides a great canvass to illustrate how delicate and easily corrupted human ethics are.
What was your greatest challenge when writing The Yellow Painted Man?
There were many! Narrowing the scope of something so large was probably the hardest. Keeping so many characters and storylines straight while remaining engaging and relevant was no easy task.
How much research did this book require from you to make the historic details feel realistic? What was the most interesting aspect of this research?
The research was brutal. Having a good editor was definitely helpful to keep me in check. All the dates and historic events are accurate, which meant my story had to weave in seamlessly and realistically. In many ways, the research drove the story, which I think helps keep all the conspiracy elements working.
When starting on a new book, what is the first thing you do?
I like to outline. I’ve been down the rabbit hole on some “pantsy” projects that have just gotten away from me, thus ending up shelved and never completed. A good outline, even if totally burned and rendered irrelevant by shiny new ideas, still lays the ghost of a framework that I find necessary to build on.
Do we have any interesting writing habits, what is an average writing day like for you?
Somehow, I have it in my head that I need to get my work done early in the day. Maybe I feel like the longer a day lasts, the more it gets filled up with stuff, and crowds out what I really want to focus on. By dinner time, I have a whole day in my head and I can’t seem to get it out of there.
What are you working on right now?
Currently, I have an anthology of short stories, “Small Bites” “Horror Americana” sitting on my editor’s desk, which should come out this summer. I am also deep into rewrites of “Violent Gods” book three in the Dead Wind Trilogy that should come out this Winter.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
My website, jasonrobertsonline.com has plenty of unreleased work, blogs, and articles. I have a weekly paranormal blog called “Dark Distractions” that can be found there. It’s also a solid gateway to all my social media.
The first book in a western themed cosmic horror trilogy, well suited for fans of secret societies, conspiracies, the paranormal, and Lovecraftian style horror.