Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Interview with Jason Boyett

The apocalypse is coming, you guys, and who better to prepare us than Jason Boyett, author of the new book, Pocket Guide to 2012: Your Once-in-a-Lifetime Guide to Not Completely Freaking Out.

I've had the opportunity to get to know Jason a little bit over the past couple of years through the social media. His book O Me of Little Faith was the first book about doubt that I ever read and it gave me hope and assurances that I wasn't the only one who felt this way.

Jason is a fantastic, funny, informative writer. I was very much looking forward to his take on the end times and I was not disappointed. Jason gives tons of information in a way that manages to be both hilarious and still somewhat respectful (which is difficult, given the subject manner). I had the chance to ask Jason a few questions about his new book, moving from traditional publishing to self-publishing, and his own apocalypse prediction.

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Alise Write: So what is it with you and the apocalypse?

Jason Boyett: A better question is: What is it with EVERYONE and the Apocalypse? I'm not alone in my apocalypse fascination, but I guess I'm part of a smaller group that's more interested in debunking apocalyptic nonsense rather than promoting it. If we want to get into the armchair psychologist mode, I guess I can tie it back to my early teenage years. I lived through a very real (to me at least), looming apocalyptic threat in the summer between 8th and 9th grades. That was 1988, when a guy named Edgar Whisenant gained a lot of national media exposure for predicting the Rapture for September 13-15 of that year. He wrote a book called 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988, and sent it to pastors all over the country. One of them was my own childhood pastor, a guy I trusted completely. He preached that he believed the Rapture would occur that September, and I spent that summer before my entry into high school thinking it would be my last. I said goodnight to my parents the evening of September 15 -- the tail end of Whisenant's "Rapture window" -- wondering if I'd never see Mom and Dad again in this life.

I was relieved when I woke up the next morning to a bright, sunny, apocalypse-free world. I figure that's when my interest in unfounded End Times predictions probably began. I lived through a summer of apocalyptic fear. I'm a little bitter about it, and I don't want other kids (or adults) to have to experience the same. But rather than stoning false prophets, Old Testament-style, I find it easier to make fun of them. Anyway, Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse was one of my first books. It came out in 2005. Ever since the 2012 phenomenon started gaining steam, I've wanted to update PGTTA to include it. That didn't work out, so I went the self-published e-book route.

AW: There are an awful lot of end-time prophesies laid out in your book. What was your primary source for research on this topic (come on Wikipedia!)?

JB: Totally Wikipedia! Not exactly... Wikipedia is a wonderful place to start, of course, but any good researcher knows he or she needs to dig a few clicks further. There are a ton of good scholarly books about Apocalyptic fervor, many of which I listed in the bibliography section of Pocket Guide to 2012 (and had already used for my Apocalypse book). Other than those, Google Books and the Amazon "Click to Look Inside!" feature (not to mention Kindle downloads) are glorious inventions for researchers like me who already have a shelf-load of apocalypse books and aren't exactly thirsty for more.

AW: Did you have a favorite story associated with impending doom? (I was partial to the apocalyptic chicken.)

JB: Mary Bateman and her prophesying doom-chicken is a hilarious story, of course. But I'm partial to the crazy saga of William Miller and the Millerites from 1844, for a couple of reasons. The first is because it was such a huge, widespread phenomenon that, when Jesus failed to return as predicted, history actually gave the event a lasting nickname: The Great Disappointment. The second is because we're still seeing the fallout from that frenzy today -- the Seventh-Day Adventist Church is a direct descendent of William Miller's disappointed followers, and they remain pretty fascinated with the End Times.

AW: What date would you like to throw out there as a potential expiration date for the world?

JB: In approximately 7.5 billion years, our sun will follow the typical life cycle of a star and will expand into what's known as a red giant, engulfing Mercury, Venus, and maybe even the Earth in its diameter of fiery gases. Which means life on Earth -- if it still exists by then -- will become extinct. That's as far as I'm willing to reach with any kind of prediction. Also, I suspect it will happen on a Thursday.

AW: This was your first self-published book. What was your favorite part about doing this on your own?

JB: The immediacy of the timeline. When you write and get a book published with a traditional publisher, you end up finishing the manuscript months -- and maybe a year or more -- before it hits bookshelves. So you're doing publicity about content you researched and wrote about last year, and have already forgotten. I always end up needing to brush up on a topic when it comes time to do radio and print interviews about one of my books. But with self-publishing, the whole process takes place in light speed. I started writing this book in September. I finished in December. I had it edited, made some revisions, then formatted it and uploaded it and people were downloading it within two weeks of me having completed the manuscript. I love that.

AW: What was your least favorite part?

JB: E-book formatting. I'm a designer by trade. I love drop caps and elegant typography and well-considered chapter headings and justification and spacing and all the little details of book design. But you have to forget that when you're publishing for different sizes of Kindles, and different platforms and devices. You have to let go of the fancy stuff and allow the user to dictate type size and other formatting elements, which can be maddening for perfectionists like me. You get the best, Jason-approved version of the book by downloading the e-book PDF from my website and reading it on an iPad or computer desktop. The other versions, while way more popular and device-friendly, make me grit my teeth a little.

(Alise here. If you want a more detailed answer for why Jason chose self-publishing this time, check out this blog post he wrote.)

AW: What are your plans for December 21, 2012?

JB: December 21, 2012, is a Friday, which means I'll probably be doing what I do almost every Friday night: eating pizza with my family and my brother's family at my parents' house, which is a weekly Boyett tradition. Then we'll play games together and celebrate the fact that we didn't die in an asteroid-induced inferno, or a series of crust-shaking earthquakes, or alien invasion or whatnot. Which is to say: my plans for that day will be no different than any other Friday in 2012 (though they may include dropping the price of my book at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, because it will be on the cusp of irrelevance).

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Thanks, Jason, for stopping by today and letting us know where to find you for the end of the world!

Be sure to pick up a copy of The Pocket Guide to 2012 at Jason's site, or for your Kindle, or Nook. I'm not saying it will be the end of the world if you don't, but you never know.

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