Author Interview: Jason Rolfe

Alex Hargreaves is being haunted by the past. But the ghosts that plague him are born of science, not superstition. As a Security Specialist for the ISA, Alex has a memory implant that allows instantaneous access to memories – both good and bad. He can recall facts and figures with unfailing accuracy, but cannot move past the painful sense of death and abandonment made manifest by the tragic loss of his wife and daughter. Those memories, like all the memories within his mind, remain excruciatingly present.

When communication with an isolated Deep Space Observatory is lost, Alex and his synthetic partner, Persephone, are sent to investigate. The Cochrane is a small observatory tucked within a pocket of relative inactivity. A single data analyst runs it on a six-month rotation. Six months in the emptiness of space can feel like an eternity. Depression is a common problem. Suicide and accidental death are not unheard of at stations like Cochrane. Alex and Persephone are sent to learn which of these fates has found Amanda Hayes.

Purchase Synthetic Saints at Vagabondage Press

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I’ve always wanted to write. I honestly couldn’t say when that realization hit me, but it likely happened soon after learning how to read. I remember writing an awful lot about the books I read, the work of writers like Saberhagen and Gordon R. Dickson, Michael Moorcock and, in particular, Phillip K. Dick. Thankfully I kept these hand-written gems to myself, and all save a scarce few, have been lost.

Why do you write?

I suffer from chronic anxiety and depression – writing helps. I use writing to sort things out in my mind – every-day issues sure, but my personal philosophies as well.

Is being a writer anything like you imagined it would be?

It’s not. Not really. I always pictured living in a bubble, cut off from everyone while I punched out story after story. The truth is that writing is a community affair. My isolationist visions could not be further from the truth. I love it. I love working with editors and publishers, and I’ve met boatloads of writers. Writers, editors, and publishers share a common love of story. Ultimately we’re all working toward the same goal – the proliferation of the imagination – so there is never a lack of encouragement. Even the most dastardly rejection slips are constructive! I expected a lonely existence. I was pleased to be mistaken.

What do you think makes a good story?

At the heart of every good story is something quintessentially human. Love, loss, jealousy, hatred, humour – it’s the humanness of the story that draws me in. Intelligence too. The stories I find compelling are the ones that make me think (or challenge the way I think).

What's your favorite genre to read?

I’m a fan of good writing regardless the genre. Fantasy was probably my first love, followed by Science Fiction and finally horror, but my favorite novels often skirt those boundaries, or exist outside of them altogether – writers like Atwood, Gibson, or Ishiguro and Murakami have written brilliant science fiction, but I wouldn’t call them science fiction writers.

Who is your favorite author or poet?

I have a hard time pinning down any one writer. I love different writers for different reasons. Rhys Hughes is brilliant. His wit and his wordplay are second to none, and his work means something. Neil Stephenson and William Gibson are great while Rushdie and poet David Jones use language so beautifully. I love Mark Valentine for his subtleness, while Reggie Oliver is an incredible storyteller. Overall I would say Rhys Hughes is my favorite writer. I think he is a genius, and I think he deserves much more recognition than he gets. Michael Moorcock, Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, Brendan Connell, Haruki Murakami, Kazuo Ishiguro, Neal Stephenson…seriously, I could go on for a while without running out of options. Reggie Oliver, Quentin S. Crisp, Michael Cisco, Mark Valentine, John Howard…

What books or stories have most influenced you the most as a writer?

Fred Saberhagen’s ‘Berserker Wars’ and Moorcock’s ‘Elric Saga’ strongly influenced not only my reading preference but my writing style when I was younger. As I’ve grown (and hopefully matured) my influences have changed with me. Arthur Clarke, Stanslaw Lem and Phillip K. Dick are strong influences on my science fiction, while writers like Hughes and Connell are (hopefully) influencing my courage and style as a writer moving forward. They are fearless writers. I really envy them.

What books or stories have most influenced you as a person?

Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper is, in my mind, a perfect example of the power and purpose of prose. Widely considered a piece of supernatural fiction it’s actually a powerful story about the role of women in late Victorian society, and the unfortunate view of depression during that same time period. Stories can mean something, and they can make a difference.

Where/how do you find the most inspiration?

I am a book collector. My library is definitely my muse. I’ve found stories in even the most mundane texts. When I’m stumped about something to write about I’ll walk in there, find a book and start reading.

What does your family think of your writing?

They have always been very supportive. My parents and my sisters have always encouraged me, and are happy I’ve finally taken their advice about publication. My wife has been extremely supportive. She always makes sure I have time to write.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

I have a day job that eats up 9+ hours a day. I try spending as much time as possible with my wife and daughter which makes writing difficult to schedule at the best of times. So when opportunities do present themselves I can’t squander them. I write either in the morning, before my wife and daughter wake up, or at night after everyone has gone to bed. When your time is constrained it’s important to write something every day. The worst thing that can happen is loss of momentum. My writing schedule is far less rigid than I’d like it to be, but as I said, I try making the most of the time I do have.

Do you have any writing quirks or rituals?

I’m not sure this qualifies as a quirk, but before I start writing anything else, I write what Allen Ginsburg called an “American Sentence”. It helps clear my head. I have a notebook full of them, mostly about my daughter, my wife, books, writers, that sort of thing.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

For me, focus is the most challenging thing about writing. Because time is such a factor, new story ideas constantly overlap works in progress. If I sat down this year and finished all the stories I’d started, I’d be a much more prolific writer.

What are your current projects?

Well, I’ve recently finished the rough draft of a follow-up to Synthetic Saints. It’s a much longer piece, and was loads of fun to write. I’ve also finished an odd little story I’ve been working on for quite some time. I have numerous short stories I intend to polish and submit in the coming months, clearing my plate for a larger project I have slowly but steadily been piecing together.

What are you planning for future projects?

I have put the framework in place for a novel, really a collection of interrelated stories, about the fine line between love and madness. When I look at my own life, the times I’ve felt the craziest, the most emotionally unstable, involve love in its myriad forms. The heart and the mind don’t always see eye-to-eye. I really want to explore that, and I think this novel will help me do it.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Have fun and persevere.

Where else can we find your work?

I am an associate editor at Horror Bound Magazine, and co-editor of the anthology Fear of the Dark. You can find my book reviews, interviews, and essays at, along with a few short stories. Fear of the Dark contains stories by Paul Kane, Christopher Fowler, Carol Weeks and others and is something I am extremely proud of. I’ve an article on Frederick Rolfe appearing in Issue #19 of Wormwood (published by Tartarus Press) that I am particularly excited about. My blog, Bibliomancy, contains essays, interviews, and book reviews as well.


LM Preston said...

Oh wow! This sounds like a twist in scifi with a splash of horror. Jason I can't wait to read more. I believe when something's no longer fun, you take your toys and go home. Thanks for reminding us that writing should be fun.

Jason E. Rolfe said...

Thanks LM! I definitely enjoyed writing Synthetic Saints. I hope you enjoy it! I'd love to hear what you think - please feel free to leave me a note ( - I'll take good or bad as long as it's constructive ; )