Jason Foster is an author, poet, freelance journalist and high school teacher. He holds a Bachelor of Arts (Communications) and Graduate Diploma in Teaching from WSU as well as a Master of Arts (History) from Macquarie University and a Diploma in Spanish from Macquarie University.
Jason is widely travelled having spent time in five continents and over fifty countries. He has taught in Australia, the United Kingdom, Spain and Argentina; experiences that bring a distinct range and unique world view to his writing.
He has published ten books in the true crime and historical narratives genres. He has also been published the world over with his work appearing in a range of mediums from History magazines in the United States to Australian travel magazines to Poetry Anthologies in the United Kingdom.
Who inspired you?
I have been influenced by many people. Beginning with my Year 9 English teacher who entered my writing into a competition which made me believe that I could actually do it. Like most kids, I left it to the last minute and simply completed it because I had to. After that, my parents’ neighbour was a proof reader for some of the big publishing companies and he read my work and gave me advice. Additionally, I had excellent University lecturers that helped me. As for why I write: because I want to make a difference in the world. When I started in journalism this is what I wanted but I did not feel I was making enough of a difference so I became a teacher and an author.
What has been your journey up to this point?
I have been unsettled. I went to England when I was 18 with only $500 – I had to work in menial jobs, such as photocopying for 8 hours a day. I got fired for handing out left over food to homeless people, but then I ended up working for Sky TV and this was what gave me an interest in journalism. Fortunately, I was allowed to work as many hours as I wanted and I saved enough money to do quite a bit of travel around Europe.I developed a love of the Spanish language after visiting Spain.
I came home to study Journalism.
I was at the top of my course and, as such, I was given the opportunity to have an interview with News Ltd.
However, journalism seemed to take a long time to get ahead and I felt like my words were simply reporting the world and then they were the next day’s chip wrappers. Hence, why I wanted to make more of a difference. I had toyed around with a few ideas for books but nothing publishing.
I moved back to England for a few years to teach, doing a lot of travel in that time.
I went to Argentina to teach a polo player and improved my Spanish before going back to England then back here.
I did my Masters degree in History.
My first book, Seven Bones, was published with Detective Peter Seymour and it came about because my second book, Waiting at The Gate with Robyn Caughlan, was the story of my Mum’s best friend. Peter’s daughter was Miss Teen Australia 2007, and Robyn designed the dress she wore.
I did a Diploma in Languages – Spanish while continuing to write.
I have taken some time off my full-time job to do some more travel and to take time to write more novels.
What are you writing now?
I always have several projects going because when I run short of ideas on one I can always move to the next one. At the minute I am working on a World War I Australian novel and a dystopian idea I have been toying around with for a few years. I also have a couple of ideas for more children’s/ young adult novels.
As a child, what was your relationship with books?
I have always liked reading and read a lot. My mother always encouraged me to read the Mr Men books and Australian classics. I used to order books from the school book club, such as The Gumbles. The first novels I really engaged with were the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It took me a few years to read it because I was scared of the red eyes on the horses on the cover. But I have always loved history and the mythology etc part of the trilogy really appealed to me.
My first novels and writing were influenced by Tolkien but it tended to make me try to write masterpieces and to overwrite. It took me a long time to simplify everything.
What is the most important thing about what you do?
Telling stories that make a difference. Children at school always ask me about how much money I make because they think all writers make as much as J.K. Rowling. When I tell them the truth they are shocked. I always quote a line from Schindler’s List ‘he who saves one life, saves the world entire.’ Thomas Kenneally was the keynote speaker at my Masters graduation and this was something he spoke about and it has always stuck with me.
Given most writers do not make a lot of money – this has always been more important to me. If I can change one person’s life through what I write then I consider that to be a success.
As a teacher, the other thing that is very important to me, is to see kids excited about books and to see them wanting to read because it is their teacher who has written a book.
What are the challenges you face in this industry?
I consider myself very lucky to have come to where I have on my writing journey. I think the most difficult thing for me is the self-doubt. Even though I have written ten books I never get past the idea that my work is not quite good enough. It is a scary thing to put your words and stories out to the general public because you want people to get the messages you are trying to put into your stories as well as wanting people to enjoy your work.
I think also people underestimate the isolation and loneliness that comes with being a writer. People think that writing is a romantic profession and, to an extent, it is but they don’t see the hours upon hours of editing etc by yourself.
Lastly, I have had to make a lot of sacrifices to write. I spend all day at school and then I come home and write more. It does not leave a lot of time for everyday normal things when I have deadlines due.
What advice can you offer to aspiring authors?
That is doesn’t matter if you are the best at something, it is more important to have something important to say, something that matters. I was not the best creative writer at school or university but I always believe in the value and importance of the stories I tell and this gives me my drive and determination. If my work changes the life of one person, improves their life for the better, then all the hours of hard work are worthwhile.
So, my piece of advice would be: it is not always the best writers who make it, it is the ones who are prepared to put in the hours and hours of what needs to be done to get to where you need to be.
What is your definition of success?
To be happy with life. Not financially, but to have belief in what you do and to be able to do what you love. To know that I am making a difference to others and to know that, when I am gone, I have changed someone’s life in some way.
What is your ultimate goal?
My ultimate goal would be to write full-time and tour the world talking about my books. I love teaching children so I would like to be able to still do that in some way but I would like to devote more and more time to telling great stories. I would like to see my books made into movies so that the messages in my book can reach a wider audience.
Hadamar: The House of Shudders