An Interview with JAS T. WARD: The Robin Williams of Authors

Through her work with Nights, Ms. Ward developed characters that were diverse, different and unique. Fans of the group encouraged her to use her literary talents and give her characters life in books, and The Shadow-Keepers Series was born. Ms. Ward quickly became known for writing books filled with action, drama, laughter, darkness and unimaginable plot twists, and her books have won awards from various blogs and other outlets. A bestselling author on both Amazon & ARe Romance, Ms. Ward has been described as the Robin Williams of authors: so damn funny and talented, but with a darkness that calls to you, causing you to want to know more.

Ms. Ward’s books have also been reviewed by Ind’Tale Magazine, and have been nominated for the magazine’s prestigious RONE awards for the last three years, each time a finalist. LUST, Book 2 of The Shadow-Keepers Series, was the recipient of the following awards from Rant & Rave Book Blogs Preditors & Editors Reader Poll: Best Dark Fantasy 2015, Best F/F Romance 2015, & Top 10 Reads of 2015.

 While her fans enjoyed the dark, twisty romance of The Shadow-Keepers Series, they believed in Ms. Ward’s potential to write other genres, and challenged her to write a contemporary, traditional romance. She completely failed, but the result was Love’s Bitter Harvest; and just like that, a style was born – Romance: The Ward Way. True to the style that her fans adore so much, Ms. Ward’s romances are funny, unpredictable works with twisted turns to keep the readers guessing; after all, the path to love isn’t easy.

While her first passion is writing and reading, Ms. Ward also enjoys networking with other authors and helping those who are just starting their careers in the crazy world of indie book publishing. She is an ever-positive presence on social media, offering encouragement and advice to her fellow authors. She is a founding member and administrator of the Girls Gone Writing/GGW Reader Group on Facebook, which has over 4,000 members and is a drama-free place for everyone – readers, authors, bloggers and fans alike – to talk books.

Born and raised in Texas and spending time living in Kentucky, Ms. Ward spends her days and nights writing as therapy to deal with life and all that it brings—from the past and present. And hopefully finds joy, laughter and fun to mix in with the dark. Something her readers have come to love in her works. She is the proud parent of three very independent grown children and grandmother to three delightful grandchildren.

Q: They say that the best writers come from difficult backgrounds, their survival and understanding blending into their work. Having read your bio, do you believe that this is true?
A: I believe that without a doubt in my case. After having a painful childhood and then a trauma filled adulthood, there was one single survival tool constant in my life—writing. I will be honest in saying that whenever I go into writing a project, I forcibly tell myself to include some light in the tale. I remind myself to do all I can to add some humor, some adventure and some fun. No one wants to stay in the dark for too long without a glimpse of hope. Isn’t that what makes the bad a bit easier to take? Knowing it will get better, even if how that will happen doesn’t seem possible.

Q: What does your writing routine look like? Fixed or flexible? Set time and place? Paper and pen or computer?
A: I would LOVE to say it’s fixed, organized and practiced. But I would be lying. I write whenever it hits me and often times when it’s not possible to do. Driving… scene hits my head and it gets put on the phone until I get home. Grocery check-out line? Doesn’t everyone run lines of dialogue out loud, even when surrounded by other people? But I guess that means I’m flexible too. I don’t put any limits on my creativity in hopes that it, in turn, doesn’t place its own.
As far as paper and pen or computer – Computer. I can’t read my own handwriting. And my mind goes way faster than my hand can keep up. I’d be exhausted, not to mention the condition of the poor pen and paper when I was finished.

Q: You describe your books as dark, Gothic romances with a paranormal edge. What made you come to this style – evolution of your work to this point? How different is this style from straight romance, and how do you find the readership differences?
A: When I started writing, it was pure story telling when I thought of a new character or events. The books evolved from that activity as life did the same getting past some personal tragedy. They say to write what you know—well, life is all about the good and bad, so it started weaving its way into my writings.

When I released my first full novel, Madness, my style was a “forced” evolution in a way. I was writing fan-fiction with an Online writing group on Facebook and I thought it was time for a character by the name of Reno Sundown to die and wrote his death.

I had no idea of the reader firestorm that would follow. Readers sent me tons of hate mail via Facebook Messenger, posted protests on my wall and even started a petition to bring him back—which had over 1500 signatures. It was that event that made me realize that readers not only wanted the dark, twisted rides I could provide, but our characters and their stories were real to them and their raw emotions were as well. Readers not only enjoyed my dark, twisted yet fun tales—they demanded them.

Please don’t misunderstand me – the style of dark, gothic romance is still full of heart. The comparison I like to make is when you go see a romance movie, you can sit back and have warm fuzzy emotions which is, at times, needed by the readers. You can see the ways a happily-ever-after can happen and you want to root the couple on.
With my books, and others that lean toward the dark, you’re more of on the edge of your seat, angry and upset, and demanding a happily-ever-after, even if it appears there is no way one could be possible.

Q: What’s your view of print versus digital? Preference and why?  And what about audiobooks?
A: I personally, love print. Something about having the book in your hands and turning the pages, hugging it close during the good scenes and tossing it aside during the bad. I haven’t been able to get into audiobooks. I think part of the problem is I hear and see the characters in my head as I read—I don’t want someone else’s manifestation messing with that. As far as from an author’s stand-point—if a reader is reading or listening, it’s all good.

Q: Do you write through then edit or edit as you go, or both?
A: I have tried both methods, but since I don’t even go in with an outline, it’s pretty much strap in, see where the story takes me. Edit when I type “The End”.

Q: You founded Dark-Hunter Nights which, along with other writers, boasts a large membership. To what extent to you believe this has helped promote your works and attracted new readers?
A: I would have never published a single book without Dark-Hunter Nights. We are a fan-fic group dedicated to bring the works of Sherrilyn Kenyon’s series by the same name to life. I loved those books and found that many others did too. It not only helped me develop writing skills, but is such rich ground to grow my own books from.

Reno Sundown, the character that started it all when I killed him, was created there, and still “lives” there. With the evolution of my Shadow-Keepers series, the group has grown and is now known as the Dark-Hunter Nights & Keepers. People fan-fic write MY books, MY worlds and MY characters—because they have come to want to be in my world of The Grid. That is immensely awe-striking and they do such amazing jobs bringing the characters to life. Heck, Reno gets more requests for autographed books than I do!

Q: Do you make enough sales to sustain yourself strictly though writing? 
A: Alas, I’m not there yet. But I also am the sole paycheck in my household. I told myself when I make enough in book sales to equal my corporate salary by 1.5 times, I would turn in my notice. I’m not there yet, but with each book I get so much closer. It will happen. Of that, I have complete faith.

Q: What advice do you have any advice for writers and those who believe they have a writing voice?
A: Write. Don’t think about it, discuss it, dream it, wish it—just write. Sit down and put one word, then another. Just write. I see so many young writers who focus on the rules and the structure, and “how are you supposed to do this” and other issues related to writing, that they don’t write. The best advice I ever heard from the one and only Stephen King, and I share it with all that come to me for the same—Just write. Make a garbage copy and get it done. From beginning to end. It won’t be pretty and no one will ever see it. But at least you got it done. Then go back and make it amazing. Then worry about the do’s and don’ts. Just get that accomplishment of saying you wrote a book. And write.

Excerpt from Soul Bound: The Warrior
by Jas T. Ward

Five Years Ago

His eyes were cast down and fixated by the dried blood on his hands.
Laura’s blood.
The brightness of the fluid hours ago on his hands was dark now after the crushing passage of time—how much, Jace had no idea. Perceiving its passage proved impossible.
“Mr. Camden? Do you know why you are here?”
He heard the officer speak and Jace fought through the heavy sorrow to look upward to seek out the man.
“Yes. My wife is dead.” His flat voice devoid of emotion. Perhaps when the soul became overwhelmed, it just numbed out to react in order to protect itself. The two detectives looked at each other and stepped away to speak in whispers as Jace’s eyes returned to his hands. The only thing not covered in dark crimson were the silver bracelets of the cuffs encircling his wrists and linked to the table.
Splatters of Laura’s blood were gruesomely dark against the white of his shirt, a rip near the cuff, a grass stain, and dirt from when they tackled him in the yard.
Why had he been in the yard?
The events of the day and night were fuzzy as if his mind was wrapped in flannel, surrounded by wool and refused to expose itself in the coldness of reality.
“Mr. Camden?”
The burly looking detective came in close to brace his arms on the table and met Jace’s eyes when they lifted upwards. The countenance of the detective was cold and calculated—a glare of blue with bright white compared to Jace’s own—which were dazed, bloodshot and exhausted in his mirrored reflection behind the detective.
“I will ask this question very simply. Very slowly so you listen and answer correctly. We clear?”
Jace’s brow furrowed as he nodded and his brain tried to form sparks of understanding but they had gone dark from the horror of all it had been forced to deal with.
The detective stated each word slowly and accented each word as if he thought Jace a child. “Did. You. Kill your wife?”
Kill? They had made vows—to have and to hold. In sickness and in health. Two souls bound together as if one. To love and live with that bond… Not kill. Not end.
He blinked at the officer as he ran his tongue along his busted bloodied lip, his eyes skidded downward to stare at the blood and he croaked hoarsely, “Yes. Because I couldn’t stop it.”
The trial of Jace Camden closed today with a hung jury. Mr. Camden was accused of allegedly murdering his wife rather than the socialite killing herself. This is the second trial in which a jury had not been able to reach a decision and no further actions are going to be pursued by the District Attorney’s office according to statements released earlier today. The family of Mrs. Camden, daughter of prominent investment mogul James Frasier, has released a statement that they will continue to find justice for their daughter by any means possible, convinced Mr. Camden’s hand pulled the trigger…
The same Jace Camden sat in the discharge room of the county jail with his back where the television once again spewed out information without a care to the ears forced to listen to it. As he stared down at his leather-laced loafers, he picked at a stray thread on the cuff of his shirt, inpatient to be set free.
What an ironic thought that Jace could not be free from one night six-months ago when his world tilted on its end and flipped over to one he no longer recognized. A world which remained in its inverted condition right outside the county jail’s doors. Jace wearied with the heavy burden of the challenge to even try to right it. He knew there wasn’t a chance of that—to do so meant one had the mental ability or physical strength to attempt the effort.
Jace had neither.
He was just tired, frustrated, and battered beyond the point of wanting to make anything right. He truly just wanted to disappear and hide. Hide from himself, hide from this fucked up world, but more than anything?
We’re going home baby. Just you and me.
Hide from her.
“Camden. Let’s go.”
Jace lifted his head as he mentally shook off the sensation like ice creeping up his spine at the whisper of her voice in his head. It could be worse. She could have appeared right in front of him to taunt him with a body which no longer existed and only he could see. With kisses sickening him and with touches feeling as if she had frozen him cold from the inside out. Her voice in his head mild in comparison, really, so perhaps he shouldn’t complain. After all, he had been given plenty of time to contemplate, curse and try to rationalize it all—courtesy of the justice system—but emotionally; too scary of a place to venture into. Every time he tried to go back to the night when his whole life imploded into itself, some sort of self-preservation trigger flipped and halted any forward movement. Time, he kept telling himself; he just needed more time to recall it all with clarity. To answer the questions not only others had asked but the ones he needed to desperately know as well. He just couldn’t. Not yet.
And maybe if he could do so, he could mourn. He could feel the guilt. And he could handle the fallout of his life remaining from his actions that day. “Stop it. Not yet,” Jace mumbled to himself and ran shaky fingers through his hair.
He’d seen things his whole life. From a childhood in which his own mother thought her child must be demonic when her small son told of monsters hanging on to strangers in a grocery store. And then the child grew to adulthood after being committed twice by the time he reached eighteen—only to be released when the law could no longer keep him; only to find his mother had given into her own demons and committed suicide a month before. But none of it had conditioned him to deal with what had happened to Laura. What he had allowed to…
Jace glanced once more at the television to divert where his mind headed and saw they had moved to the weather of the sweltering Houston summer as he stood to stretch when his name was called. Good, he thought and once again felt blessed by the media’s habit of keeping a topic hot until another came swiftly along to cool it into oblivion. Sick of hearing about himself; the sooner it sank buried under whatever gossip or local event came along to do so, the better. As he shuffled through the door, the weight of exhaustion nailed down to his soul. Its burden threatened to overtake him as he was handed the bag containing personal belongings taken when arrested feeling light compared to that of his past.
The weight of it Jace would have loved to drop. If Laura’s family would ever allow him to.
Jace was an intelligent man. He knew his hope would be doomed to be choked to death with suffocating doubt proven by reality, over and over again. They’d never let him go. Neither would she. But could he expect anything less? No, because death may be final? But love doesn’t give a shit.

Jas T. Ward’s Social Media Links

Dark-Hunter Nights & Keepers Fan Group:
Girls Gone Writing Reader Group:

[Editor’s note: We’d like to thank Jas T. Ward for taking the time to be interviewed. Like many of the authors we interview, you can see how prolific they are, and how they cultivate a following. Please do use the links to check out Jas’ work.]