Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Marcus Domask (left) and Lance Jones (right) during a Purdue-Illinois game Jan. 5, 2024 at
Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Indiana. Photo credit to Illinois Athletics.
Three Former Salukis set to play in NBA Summer League 
By Ryan Grieser, Sports Reporter • July 13, 2024

As the NBA 2K25 Summer League kicked off on July 12, three former Salukis began their professional basketball careers.  Though none of them...

SIU chancellor, Austin Lane, poses for a portrait in his office on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020 in Anthony Hall at SIU.
SIU leadership gets bonuses, salary increases from Board of Trustees
By Carly Gist, News Editor • July 11, 2024

Three proposals received approval by the SIU Board of Trustees regarding salary increases for university officials at the July 11th meeting. The...

SIU Carbondale School of Aviation senior Maya Marenda, left, and certified flight instructor Graci McDaniel finished second in the collegiate division of the 47th Air Race Classic.
SIU Aviation’s Saluki Aces place second among Air Race Classic college teams
By Pete Rosenbery, SIU Communications • July 8, 2024

For Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Maya Marenda and Graci McDaniel, patience was a virtue in last month’s Air Race Classic. Faced...

From sci-fi to horror, SIU staff member makes his mark on the literary world

Jason+Nugent+sits+with+some+of+the+books+hes+published.
John Boucher
Jason Nugent sits with some of the books he’s published.

Jason Nugent has been many things–a writer, a teacher, a history buff, a sales manager, a father and a husband. The one thing he claims he hasn’t been, however, is a murderer. 

“I don’t kill people, let’s start with that,” he said with a laugh. “But [you write about] the things that you’re familiar with.” 

Nugent is a multi-genre, self-published author native to southern Illinois. Between two pen names, he has written more than twenty books in fantasy, sci-fi and horror. 

Advertisement

“In a lot of my books, they’re set in cities I know,” he said. “A lot of them are set in southern Illinois, actually. I know southern Illinois, you know? I live here, I know these towns, and so that is something that I do bring to it.”

He said relationships and people he meets throughout his life also “will often come through as aspects of characters.” 

“A character may not be entirely a person you know but it might be part of that person,” he said. “Let’s say you’re writing a high fantasy. You don’t know any orcs or elves, right? But some of the personalities of people you know can kind of filter their way into some of your characters or some situations.” 

One of the first books Nugent wrote is titled “The Selection. The first of his “The Forgotten Chronicles” trilogy, he describes the book as “The Hunger Games,” but in space. He wrote the book with solely his son in mind. 

“He used to read a lot until he discovered video games, and then he didn’t really read much and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to write next. I was like, ‘You know what, I’m gonna write a book for my son that I think he’s gonna like,’ and so I kind of created this concept.”

He shocked his son with a proof copy of the book and a dedication.

“He was really surprised by all of that, because I didn’t really tell him I was doing that,” he said. “And so he didn’t play video games for two nights; he read the book. And he got to the end and was like, ‘What is this? I want to know more.’ So I actually made it into a three-book series.” 

Advertisement*

Nugent’s passion for writing began his freshman year at Southern Illinois University. 

“I was in English class and we had to do…some essay about what we did over the summer, and I wrote it [from] the perspective of my best friend whose girlfriend had broken up with him just after we graduated high school,” he said. “They’d been together for a couple of years, so I wrote it from his perspective about how my summer was, so [it] was a very different take on it, and it was just a lot of fun and very creative. And that’s kind of what got me started.” 

But Nugent failed that class. He didn’t turn in most of his work, and he went on to focus on a history degree instead of creative writing. 

“I just never put any effort into trying to write, and then eventually a friend of mine at a previous job convinced me, ‘Hey, you liked this, do it. Just try it.’ And so I did, and here I am,” he said.  

Nugent kick-started his career as an author writing fantasy and science-fiction. The books were published under Jason J. Nugent. When he transitioned over to the horror genre, he began writing under a pen name, which he prefers not to share. 

“So I started releasing books under my name, but I’ve always, always, always loved horror, like the first stuff I read was a Stephen King book,” he said. “I watched a ton of horror movies like that’s what I was always into. But when I decided I wanted to really write that now, that’s what I wanted to focus on, I split the names.” 

He said he did so for two reasons. 

“The first one is the marketing side of it,” he said. “It’s with Amazon. If you look up someone’s book, on the bottom underneath that it’ll have ‘you might like these books.’ You want those to be the same genre…You don’t want to confuse the system…So [from] a marketing perspective, if you just change a name, it treats it as something completely different, so there’s no crossover. Horror will just be shown to other horror and the fantasy and sci-fi will only be showing fantasy and sci-fi, so it splits that way.” 

The other reason was to protect his family’s reputation. 

“My wife does play the piano at our church. You know, they might not take too kindly to a horror author, and really more than just that on my family side,” he said. “When I first started writing [horror], my son was still, he might have been in junior high. I didn’t want him or my wife to catch any kind of flak from those that have a bias against horror…By changing the name, that kept them out of that connection, that public eye if you will, so that way you kind of protect them a little bit.” 

He said he believes horror and “steamy romance” authors often have to use pseudonyms to avoid the negative connotations associated with their work. 

“A lot of times [people] may be friendly to you face-to-face, but then the moment they find out you write horror, and they find out it’s like really bloody, gory stuff, they’re like ‘you must be an evil person,’” he said. “I’m just a guy. There’s nothing different about me.” 

Nugent’s statement is reflected in his persona. He was the one to kick our discussion off, asking me about school and my hometown and my future goals as we took the elevator to the third floor of Morris Library.

From the outside, the SIU Press Office is a large closed-space behind a circulation desk and cardboard cutouts of Delyte Morris. From the inside, it’s an open-space filled with bookshelves of what Nugent recalled was everything the SIU Press ever printed. A giant conference table consumes the middle of the room, and small office spaces are divided by shelves and desks. 

Nugent’s office is tiny but well-kept. He has books neatly laid down on the end of his desk, horror Funko Pops atop of his cabinets and laminated photos of his book covers plastered to the wall above. 

After a brief tour, he assured me the floor was a collaborative space rather than a quiet zone, and we began our conversation at a table outside of the office. He spoke about his role as the marketing and sales manager, and said the job has been very beneficial to him as an independent author. 

“I got into the marketing side of things because I published my own fiction,” he said. “I’ve been doing that for six to eight years, something like that, and so I’ve been learning on the go for myself on how to market and publish books, and so that helped me to transition over to this position where I’m working with a traditional publisher to help market and sell their books.” 

He also taught himself to use the program InDesign. 

“That’s what I use to create marketing flyers and other marketing materials and things like that,” he said. “I’ve been able to use that for my personal things like…at SalukiCon, I had those sheets at the table that had all the book covers on it. I did all of that with InDesign.” 

While many authors begin their creative process with a specific routine, Nugent takes a unique approach to his craft. 

“Each book has been very different,” he said. “I’ve done like a full outline before, I’ve done no outline, I’ve done somewhere in the middle. It’s usually somewhere in the middle that I find I’ll have an idea…so I kind of know the basic plot point, and then I kind of start filling it in and decide like kind of the start and the end, and then I kind of write everything else. I don’t really do much of an outline. If I do any kind of outline it’s usually like a sentence maybe…just some guidelines to give me an idea on where I want to go from point A to point B. It never follows that path, but that at least gives me some direction when I get started.” 

Throughout his career, Nugent has had the opportunity to work with authors from all over the country, such as David Viergutz, a horror author from Texas. 

The two met online. Inspired by YouTuber and author Brandon Sanderson, Viergutz made a writers group, and Nugent applied for it. 

“One of the tenants that we had was that you were not to be subjective,” Viergutz said. “You were to be objective. And that was so important for us that we said, we want to help each other write the best story that this story can be, we don’t want them to write the story that we want to read. And so Jason believed in those tenants.” 

Viergutz said his first impression of Nugent was that he was “honest” and “genuine.” 

“The ambition that I have [for writing], it makes me very direct,” Viergutz said. “Jason is a little more relaxed about things, and so that felt genuine from him. It didn’t feel like some persona he was keeping, and so that’s one thing I just noticed about him…he feels real.” 

He added that Nugent was “highly inspirational” to him. 

“I can trust him knowing that if he’s going to give me an opinion, number one, he’s going to keep in mind what my goals are, but also, he’s gonna give me an outside perspective,” he said. “And it’s not going to be with the intent to turn me into him, but it’s going to be with the intent to help me along the way, whatever that means.” 

Nugent is currently working with Rhode Island-based author John Lynch, who said he believes Nugent’s “storytelling voice” has contributed to his success. 

“He’s got a very unique [voice] and he seems to be able to write whatever he wants. No two things are really the same with him,” he said. “A lot of authors can be like a one trick pony, it’s almost like you’re writing the same book over again, but [Nugent’s] books are not the same thing over and over again. It’s always a different story and he’s very good with his characters.” 

Nugent said the most important thing he’s learned throughout his journey as an author is to be open to criticism. 

“There [were] a couple of instances early on that almost made me stop and I was like, I’m not doing this anymore I don’t wanna deal with this…but a lot of times criticism, well-meaning criticism, can really help.” 

There have always been and always will be trolls, but Nugent doesn’t let it bother him anymore. What helped, he said, was “paying attention to what’s working and what’s not.” 

“I’m always trying to improve,” he said. “I’m always trying to do better. Every book, every story I write, I always want it to be better than the last one. So I’ll take some of the things I’ve heard…[and] I try to build on that.” 

Nugent hopes his stories teach readers two things: one, don’t summon a demon, and two people are stronger together. 

“A lot of the time in horror, there’s a lot of isolation, right? You’re separated from society, you’re separated from whatever, and by ourselves…things tend to go bad, because we’re just not strong enough,” he said. “You know, there’s so many different things and we’re not really built to be by ourselves like that. And so a lot of my stories do have things about relationships…and people struggling to try to preserve those relationships, and it often goes bad in horror, but that’s the thing. Being together, you’re so much stronger, no matter what the situation is.” 

He wants to leave aspiring authors with one piece of advice: just write. 

“So many people I’ve talked to, they say ‘I’ve started but I can’t finish or I don’t know where to take it, I don’t know what to do’…Well, just write through it…No one needs to read that. It can be total trash, right? And that’s fine. But you can’t fix what you haven’t written. So if it’s not down, you can’t make it better.” 

 

Advertisement

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Daily Egyptian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *