Jason K. Foster was just a school boy in year 9 who was forced to write a story for an English assignment. Little did he know, that last minute piece of creative writing, would pave the way for his future. Now a secondary school teacher and the author of nine books, Jason’s career has been far from ordinary.
That hastily written story his first taste of being recognised for his writing. The only thing was: he didn’t know it yet.
The story was inspired by Pink Floyd’s hit Learning to Fly. It followed the story of a fourteen-year-old native American boy. “He had to hunt a buffalo on his own in order to be accepted as a man into his tribe. I guess, being that age at the time, I tapped into something that I was feeling too. I think the story becomes a metaphor for me trying to find my own identity,” Jason said.
Jason’s teacher submitted the story into The Sydney Morning Herald Young Writer of the Year competition where it received a highly commended award.
Finding his calling as an author
It would be some years before Jason took up writing in a more serious manner. He dabbled in poetry in his late teens but was more consumed with the idea of travelling the world. “I had a great Ancient History teacher and I remembered all the stories he told us. I knew I wanted to see them all, so I saved my money and left at 19.”
Not sure what he wanted to do, Jason took odd jobs here and there including photocopying all day and working for the local council. But his destiny came calling.
“I was lucky enough to score a job working for Sky TV in their sales section. However, I was exposed to enough of the business too make me realise I was interested in media.”
After travelling through Europe, and upon returning home, Jason studied an Arts/Journalism degree at Western Sydney University, where he rekindled his passion for writing.
Originally working in the news media in Sydney, Jason decided that journalism was not for him. “I wanted to make a positive difference in the world and I wasn’t sure mainstream media was doing that. I felt like my articles were forgotten as soon as they were written. I wanted to write something with more substance, something more enduring.”
It was in 2011 that Jason his debut book written with Peter Seymour. Seven Bones is a true crime novel, telling of the murder committed by Thomas Keir. Keir was sentenced for killing his wife Jean and was also alleged of killing his wife Rosalina. Peter Seymour was the detective on the case. The two men met through Robyn Caughlan, who designed costumes for Peter’s daughter Ashleigh, Miss Teen Australia 2007.
To write the novel, Jason worked with Peter for the recollection of the horrific events retold in the book. “I had to ask Peter about a lot of information to clarify to get things right,” Jason said.
He further adds the difficulties faced when writing a true crime novel. “I had to be sensitive to all parties involved. I was acutely aware that Jean’s mum, Christine, is still alive and other family members. They were the ones I most concerned about with they would receive the book”.
The book was rejected several times. It was only when Big Sky publishing agreed to publish the book that it became a reality.
Jason believes that the partnership with both Peter and Big Sky Publishing was something that was meant to be. “I truly believe that books end up being published by the people they were meant to be published by.”
Other novels published by Jason
Since Seven Bones, Jason has written two other true crime novels The Dark Man and Deadly Paths, also written in collaboration with Peter Seymour. However, true crime is not necessarily a topic that interests him.
“Seven Bones was purely fortunate circumstances as was The Dark Man. The third murder victim in The Dark Man’s body was buried a few feet off a track in The Blue Mountains I had walked down as a kid and never knew.”
in 2012, Jason’s second book Waiting at the Gate was published by Magabela Books, Australia’s leading Indigenous publisher. The story is about Dharrug woman, Robyn Caughlan, a world-renowned Indigenous artist. Robyn also happens to be best friends with Jason’s mum, so it’s only obvious that she chose him to tell her life story.
It came as a challenge though. “In the circumstances of Robyn’s life, there are things that she did not want the public to know. There are also people who have abused her in the past she is still afraid of. Some of the names have been changed.”
Waiting at the Gate shows how anyone can turn their life around an become successful, no matter how abusive their childhood may have been or how difficult it might be to be a teenage mum. Robyn overcame adversity and years of abuse to be the successful artist and fashion designer that she is today.
Jason feels that by Robyn having his trust, he was able to tell her story the way it deserved. Jason also believes that reminding the individual about why their story is so important to others to hear is reassuring for them too. “I think the person you are writing for has to trust you. Whenever I co-author, I have consulted the person every step of the way, sending them chapters etc. to make sure they are happy with what I’m writing.”
Other books Jason has had published are: Fighting Blind, an autobiography co-authored with Shane Horsburgh; Refugees; A Century of ANZACS; Instant Aussie and The Voyages of Captain Cook.
The writing process
Writing non-fiction novels can be extremely difficult and time-consuming. This is because every single minor detail needs to be accurate. “You need to do a hell of a lot of research on the topic. You basically need to be an semi-expert in the topic before you even begin.”
Before he even begins to write, Jason will spend hours researching. Once the research has been done, Jason will try to get the first draft done as quickly as possible so he has some structure to work with. “It also means I rush and my first drafts are never that good. I look back on the first few drafts of Seven Bones and I cringe.”
Once he has a substantive first draft, the drafting comes into play with re-draft after re-draft. “Sometimes you have to be brutal. I have tossed 170+ pages of a book before if it did not fit. Some writers can be very precious with their words but, perhaps because I come from a journalistic background, I am used to deleting and editing.”
Like all writers, Jason suffers from writer’s block but this is something he simply accepts, puts the laptop aside for awhile, and leave it until his inspiration returns. He says that people think that writers or anyone creative can simply turn it on and off like a tap but sometimes life happens and seriously affects his creativity. But Jason finds that the key is getting back into a project you may not have worked on for a little while or start a new one. “Even if it is never destined to see the light of day at least this gets the fingers moving and, hopefully, the brain started again.”
Aside from writing novels, Jason is also a History teacher at Jamison High School in South Penrith. This is a rewarding experience for him. “When you see a student succeed in whatever it is they have chosen to do and if you had some part in that it is amazing. I am always very pleased and proud when students tell me they want to follow a career in writing.”
As rewarding as teaching is, Jason feels it can sometimes be difficult to juggle the two careers and that being a writer means making sacrifices. “Some days/weeks it feels like all I do is teach then write then repeat. But, that is the price you pay. I think plenty of potential authors fall by the wayside because they are not prepared to make sacrifices.”
Somehow in between teaching and writing, Jason has found time to travel the world. Peru and Turkey are two of his favourite places because of their diverse environments, history and lovely people. “Spain is also a particular favourite. I love the culture, laid-back lifestyle and it does help being able to talk to the locals.” With so much travel and educations, it’s no surprise that Jason is multi-lingual.
Despite going around the world several times, one would assume that he would have many travel stories to tell. But, Jason says his travels still have not inspired his writing. It’s something he feels he doesn’t really want to do. “They are for me, parts of my life I want to keep to myself. Perhaps I don’t feel that they are interesting and people would not want to read them.”
Advice for an aspiring author
As an educator as well as a writer, Jason offers sound advice for anyone wishing to get their work published based on experience and knowledge.
“Be prepared to be flexible,” he says. Work with what the editors and publishers want you to do not what you want to do. They are usually telling you to change something with good reason. “This doesn’t mean you surrender all editorial control but I think a lot of writers hold on too tightly and it may prevent them from getting published.”
Jason also advises to try a new angle on a genre. By standing out from the crowd and writing something different, you have a higher chance of being noticed.
The last words of advice that Jason offers is this- write at every moment you possibly can. “The best authors are not the ones who tell you about all the great ideas in their heads. They are the ones who put great ideas onto pages.”
For now, Jason continues to teach and constantly works on new projects. He prepares for a new book release in August. He has several books on the go, fine-tuning them to be ready for publication. It seems, he’s always writing which is not a bad way to live.
You can purchase Jason’s books at: https://www.bookdepository.com/author/Jason-K-Foster
Copyright: Creative Collections 2018