First of all, Jay DiNitto, thank you for taking your time to do this interview with me!
Jay DiNitto is the author of Pale Blue Scratch, a wonderful story about a nun and her apprentice, and how they try to make a time-travel machine work.
You can download and read Pale Blue Scracth for free here.
Where do you get your ideas from?
Most of the time, I get ideas from other stories, either from books, movies, or games. I don’t do this in the sense of stealing ideas wholesale, but most story ideas come from exploring how I would write a story or character different after consuming other stories.
Where did you get your idea for Pale Blue Scratch?
I was toying with the premise of an odd couple-type pair of sleuths trying to track down a scientist in trouble, where one of the sleuths really believes the scientist’s work is legitimate but the other sleuth doesn’t. Some of that was inspired by the Sherlock Holmes stories.
I also wanted to incorporate the philosophical idea of our senses being almost-infallible sources of knowledge. What if it clashes with scientific or practical knowledge? How is that reconciled?
I liked the idea of using religious figures as central characters, where they aren’t the scheming Big Bad or the abusive authority figure that fired up the rebellious protagonist. I took cues from what Umberto Eco did in The Name of the Rose, and The Father Dowling Mysteries (yes, I watched those). The “two guys” motif was too close to Holmes, so I changed the sex of one of them. At first it was a monk and a teenage girl, but that pairing was too unrealistic for me, so I switched them to a nun and teenager on his way to manhood. Also, I switched their personalities: the religious/teacher figure is the wild risk-taker while the teenager is the bookish, play-by-the-rules type. Their personalities are unusual but they aren’t out of control; I think too many fiction writers are careless with human behaviour and really go crazy with basically rewriting the human psyche.
I was reading a lot of anarchist writings (and watching Firefly) and came up with the “contractual society” setting. How would it work if there were no nation-state? How would roads, law enforcement, or laws themselves, work? I have interests in alternate history and alternate technology settings, so that played into the plot.
How do you deal with a writer’s block?
I don’t, really. I normally don’t force myself to write; I do it when I’m ready. I work full time and have a wife and kids, so that’s enough of a “block” as it is. One trick I’ve learned, regarding books, is to stop a writing session in the middle of a scene I particularly enjoy, so I have some motivation to return to it soon.
What does your writing process look like?
I’m middle-aged, but a young writer, and I don’t have a professional schedule, but I can describe the process for my new project (we’ll call it Project X).
I played around with premises a lot. Since so much has been addressed before and I want to make sure I’m writing about something that hasn’t been overdone. Once the premise is there, I’ll have some scene ideas, bits of dialogue, or philosophies I want to represent that go along with the premise. I like Elisabeth’s character, so Project X is another book with her in it.
For Project X, I wanted to have a society that mirrored the kind of society the ancient Hebrews lived in, in Old Testament times, so there’s a lot that has to go along with accommodating that plot point. From all those ideas I form a coherent chain of events, which eventually become chapters. From there, I’ll write summaries for each chapter before I start the actual first draft.
The biggest hurdle, especially with Project X, is determining who knows what, and when they know it. There’s lots of secrets and manipulations, so keeping characters in the dark and slowly revealing things to them takes a lot of organising.
How do you select the names for your characters?
Honestly, I don’t spend a huge amount of time on character names or their significance. For Pale Blue Scratch, Elisabeth takes on her religious order’s name, so a great part of her character and profession reflects that. Other than that, I normally don’t attach too much significance to names unless the story demands it.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Not particularly, but in Pale Blue Scratch there are a few references to the game Chrono Trigger, which is also about time travel (though actual time travel isn’t a big part of the book). If you’re familiar with the game you’d be able to spot them.
You can find my review of Pale Blue Scratch HERE!