Monday, April 21, 2014

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Actor and Author Stephen Jared

Stephen Jared, Actor & Author
Actor and author Stephen Jared appreciates movies, books, art, and music from the first half of the 20th century. This love of 20th century culture resulted in his adventure and crime books set in that time period. His latest crime novel, THE BRUTAL ILLUSION, features a young woman in 1936 Hollywood searching to “fulfill her dream,” but finding a mobster. Reviewers recommend it: “highly entertaining, and loaded with mood, history and suspense.”

As an actor, Jared has appeared in feature films such as, He's Just Not That Into You; and in television shows, such as, iCarly, 24, and Touched by an Angel.  As a writer, Jared's adventures and crime novels include TEN-A-WEAK STEALE and THE ELEPHANTS OF SHANGHAI. He is currently working on his next crime story, which is set in 1956 in the California desert near Hollywood.

Don’t miss the excerpt from his newest crime novel, THE BRUTAL ILLUSION, following his interview.

Q: Both you and reviewers describe your most recent novel, THE BRUTAL ILLUSION, as darker than your previous books.  One reviewer said “Great dark Hollywood story” and that it was “Possibly my favorite of his works.” What caused this shift to the “dark” side?

Stephen Jared: I was driving one night and the whole story hit me. My initial reaction was that it was much darker than I was comfortable with, but then I began to wonder if I could pass up such a story. I think stories are elusive. Unlike most things you work at, it’s not about the hours you put into it. On top of that, I had a lot of darker feelings and personal issues I had never dealt with in my writing and I felt this story could provide a vehicle for letting a lot of those feelings out. I’m not in favor of writing books as a therapeutic exercise; I’m just saying that I felt uniquely well suited to pull this story off.

Q: Jared “has remarkable insight in coming up with these plots and ideas, making them real.” How do you “come up with” your ideas? How do you make them “real?”

Stephen Jared: The two main characters in this story are an actor and a writer. I happen to be both. I’ve always been fascinated by the frail fence between fantasy and reality in people’s lives. I’ve explored this in my previous books, but never to the same degree as in THE BRUTAL ILLUSION. We all need to escape reality at times, but at what point does escape become dangerous? If your whole life is pretending to be someone you’re not (and it’s not just actors who do this), or writing about make-believe characters, do you lose some terrific things by being so disengaged with the real world? THE BRUTAL ILLUSION is a melodramatic crime story, but that’s just ornamentation on the tree. Reality is a dangerous place, and there’s a strong temptation to run from it, but running too far can present new dangers.    

Q:  What draws you to set your books in the first half of the 20th century?

Stephen Jared: I love movies, books, music and art from the first half of the 20th century. Those decades will be reflected upon as extraordinary for hundreds of years to come. Much was made to appeal to common people as opposed to an aristocracy, which was a very new thing at the time. Yet, unlike today, the artists competed with tradition. The cinema of the 30s wanted to sell popcorn while competing with the best of Broadway. The modern artists wanted, among other things, to show that more primitive works could compete with the academics. Gershwin wanted his music to appeal to every average Joe while also competing with classical music. 

People with little understanding of art lazily believe the first half of the last century was only about making something new. Most of today’s works are disposable because we’ve moved so far from the classics, and anything that suggests tradition gets dismissed as derivative. So, I’m just far more inspired by those decades and prefer to escape into them when writing. That said, I’d like to write something set in our modern times. I just can’t get a handle on it. I don’t want to write about a guy who texts someone, hoping for a skype chat, and wonders if that might lead to a latte. People live with such high walls around them today, and I just find it uninteresting from a dramatic standpoint, as well as aesthetic. That’s my failing though. It can be done obviously. I just can’t crack it, not yet.

Q: How helpful is the setting of Hollywood to telling your story THE BRUTAL ILLUSION?

Stephen Jared: Hollywood is a place where you can literally walk into a world that is pure fantasy. The city and the movie industry are as important to this story as any other part.

Q: Are your characters based on real people—either historical or alive today? Or are they entirely fictional?

Stephen Jared: They’re a combination of all – historical, fictional, and living today.

Q:  THE BRUTAL ILLUSION is your fourth book. Did you find it easier to write than your first, second, or third? Has writing become easier?

Stephen Jared: Writing has become easier. I’m more confident. I can communicate more clearly, more quickly. But, as I said above, a great story is a difficult thing to catch. You can’t force it. Things seem to fall into place or they don’t. And the story of course is the key. Without that, you’re in big trouble.

Q: As an actor, you obviously read a lot of scripts/screenplays. Have you considered turning any of your books into screenplays? Based on reviews, I think your fans would enjoy seeing them as movies.

Stephen Jared: I certainly wouldn’t be the one to stand in the way of having one of my books made as a film. I used to write screenplays. Jack and the Jungle Lion, which is now included in the sequel novel, The Elephants of Shanghai, was originally a screenplay. It’s a tough trick to pull off. Maybe one day it’ll happen. But I won’t be the one knocking on those doors. My knuckles are too scarred at this point.

Q: Do you outline your stories or do your characters just take you along for the ride?

Stephen Jared: My next one has an extensive outline. THE BRUTAL ILLUSION had nothing. It was all so clear in my head. I didn’t need to write anything down.

Q:  I know you’ve just released your fourth novel, but I’m curious as to what’s next? Will you return to Hollywood for another crime story? Anything new on the acting side of your life?

Stephen Jared: It’s another crime story, set outside Los Angeles in the California desert, 1956. It too is a fairly dark story. As to acting, I just shot a Pepsi commercial in Japan. Was great fun, would love to do more jobs that travel.

Q: In a previous interview, you said when you’re not writing or acting you like to visit art museums and discover artists, especially those in your favorite time period—the first half of the 20th century. Have you discovered any new artists in the past year? Or what else have you been doing besides writing and acting?

Stephen Jared: There’s a contemporary painter who I’ve admired from a distance for a while. He’s in Southern California, and I just think he’s amazing. Anyway, I reached out to him to see if he’d agree to meet, and if I could interview him. He was extremely gracious. His name is Tony Peters, and you can find that interview here:

About Stephen Jared

As an actor Stephen Jared has appeared in feature films, such as He's Just Not That Into You, and on television in popular shows such as iCarly, 24, and Touched by an Angel (plus commercials for both radio and television). His writings have appeared in various publications. In 2010, his first novel, Jack and the Jungle Lion, received much critical praise, including an Honorable Mention in the 2011 Hollywood Book Festival. Solstice Publishing began releasing his work, starting with Ten-A-Week Steal, hailed as a "fantastic work in the tradition of the old pulp/noir masters." The Elephants of Shanghai continued from where Jack and the Jungle Lion left off (the original story is included in the opening pages of the sequel), and went on to take Second Place at the 2013 Hollywood Book Festival. His latest novel, THE BRUTAL ILLUSION, is now available.

1936. Hollywood. A young woman struggles to fulfill a dream. She meets a man with connections, becomes overjoyed, and soon feels indebted when she lands a studio contract. At the studio, a young writer takes a shine to her; however, rumors circulate that the man who got her the contract is a mobster. Unbeknownst even to her, the rumors are true, and her dream soon becomes a nightmare.


Allyson often looked at her reflection in the mirror with pleasure. It wasn’t flattery she craved, nor introspection, but illusion. Alone now, seated, she couldn’t look away. She liked the way her reflection had no inner life, no history. It was like a game, and she’d been playing the game ever since she was a little girl, but never had the game been so compelling, never had her reflection been so convincingly someone new, as when she arrived home from the studio on this late September evening and saw herself as a platinum blonde.
She couldn’t stop staring. It was a shock. It completely transformed her. Her beauty changed from one thing to something else entirely. There seemed to be two of her now. One person on the inside with insecurities, a person who felt herself to be nothing special at all, and then the person on the outside who was daring, glamorous, a provocative bombshell.
Earlier at the studio, she’d never received so much attention as when the stylist finished with her. In the last few minutes of the day, she walked across the lot attracting the type of stares typically reserved for movie stars.
While Mr. Leammle gave his approval, he was too busy to look at results. He sent one of his top producers, Edmund Grainger, who was responsible for pictures like Madame Spy and Affairs of a Gentleman, to get the first eyeful of the new Allyson Rockwell. Mr. Grainger was stunned, and said so. He also made the point—something Allyson had not considered—that platinum blondes never got small parts. They stood out too much, usurped too much attention. Therefore, some risk was involved in the creation of this new Allyson Rockwell. Mooning over her though, Mr. Grainger also proclaimed the risk was well worth it.
Flashbulbs burst like fireworks in Allyson’s imagination. She stepped from shiny cars onto red carpets. Hysteria erupted all around her. Allyson wished she could freeze her disposition and feel this way forever. Crossing the studio, having effectively escaped everything she had ever been before, was an unforgettable sensation. She hoped she would see her famous blond friend in every mirror she passed for the rest of her life.
More of the night slipped away. Where shock moved on confidence began to reside. She kept still, staring at herself, on a bridge of calm between two lives. She looked almost like a dessert, she considered, her hair nearly the color of wedding cake.
Without thinking too much—she told herself not to think too much—she stood. She went to a telephone and dialed for a cab. Again she considered that taking the Cabriolet wouldn’t be prudent. As well, certain anxieties had the potential to cut into her newfound strength. She wanted to take her anxieties and tuck them away, leaving them to collect dust in her old life. Over time, she would move away from ever using the Cabriolet again. Eventually, she would leave the Hancock Park home as well. That time would surely come, but for tonight, she reserved the cab, quickly changed her dress, and dabbed her neck with perfume.

Twitter address…@stephen_jared

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