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Thriller author Jay Lang keeps readers in suspense

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Jay Lang — Photo courtesy of the author
Jay Lang — Photo courtesy of the author

In just a few short years, Jay Lang went from being a university student to a published author, with nearly a dozen books on the market.

Despite pumping out novel after novel, Lang initially did not see herself becoming an author. She returned to university later in life and took creative writing classes to fulfill the required credits.

"I was taking a summer credits course... in children's lit. I had to write these silly stories, so I did, and the professor was like, 'Oh my goodness, you've got quite a knack for this,'" Lang recalled. "She said, 'You should look into writing,' and I thought, 'I do not want to be a writer. There is nothing in me that wants to sit and write.' And then the next professor — the same thing. It just went on from there."

Image courtesy of BWL Publishing  

Honest portrayal of Queer identities
Inspired by the encouragement of her professors, Lang decided to give writing a shot. In 2020 she published her first novel, Hush, a psychological thriller with a Queer female lead. Lang was encouraged to include LGBTQ+ characters in her stories by a grant from the Canadian government, which provides funding to publishing houses that release diverse stories.

"I am Bisexual, and I have a lot of friends and family who are Queer, so it was easy [to write about]," Lang said. She felt that Canadian fiction needed more LGBTQ+ representation, and that her identity and connections to the community put her in a position to provide it.

After sending out her first book, Lang immediately received praise for her Lesbian protagonist. Her story editor wrote back to her after reading her draft to share how important seeing Queer identities was. "She said, 'I just wanted to thank you for writing something that portrayed Lesbians in a very realistic and respectable way.' I felt like maybe I'm doing something honest and good. It gave me more energy," Lang recalled.

Since 2020, Lang has published ten full-length novels and has two more on the way. To keep up with the demand, she sticks to a rigorous writing schedule, which she jokes has left her with no social life.

"I do two weeks of outline and research for every book. I'd say it takes me about six weeks. I have a word quota I do every day, about 2,000-3,000 a day. That's my process," she explained.

While she spends most of her time writing, Lang genuinely enjoys her work. "It sounds clichéd, and they say books are a great escape, but honestly, if I'm having stress or normal life stuff, it's a great therapy for me. It's the best therapy I've ever had. It helps me disengage from the rhetoric that's on us every day," she said.

Writing may be an escape for Lang, but when she gets into the headspace to create a new novel, she enters a world far from fantasy. "I must have this thing in the back of my head that's kind of [messed up]," she said with a laugh. "I don't watch scary stories. I'm scared of everything, but there's all this [dark] stuff in my head. It's like these intricate, strange, weird dark stories that I have in there."

Her characters, settings, and backstories usually come from everyday things Lang encounters,, but the dark twists and turns all arise deep within the confines of her imagination.

"As disturbing as this is going to sound, this crap is in my head. I'll start writing and go, 'Ahh, this stuff is in my head!?' Oh my god. It's based on my fears or my nightmares or things that would scare me."

Real-life reflections
Like any great writer, Lang also likes to reflect on real-life issues in her work.

"In every one of my books, I try to have a theme of something going on in society, maybe an adverse thing, like drugs, alcohol, abuse, mental illness," she explained. "[My latest book] encompasses many of those things in one story, so it's a challenge, but it's my favorite book so far, because it had so many puzzle pieces."

Image courtesy of BWL Publishing  

This story, Snake Oil, came to Lang one afternoon when she drove past a homeless encampment on the side of the road. "They have tent cities and all the homeless, young people that have drug issues. It's clear they have mental illnesses, and it's really sad," she said. She spent a lot of time thinking about the young people living in the tent cities and started to draw comparisons between them and the kids she attends university with.

Because all her books draw on real-life issues, Lang spends quite a bit of time researching before writing. Through her research, she learned about forensics, police departments, and human psychology. Some of what she found has truly shocked her.

"It's morbid, but I didn't realize how volatile we are as human beings, and how many ways there are to kill people. It's opened up my spectrum. You can see how these people are doing it, and that's been interesting," she said.

Hope and empathy
Lang wants readers to take away a sense of hope from her books, despite how dark they may be. By telling stories about LGBTQ+ people who get wrapped up in crazy encounters, she hopes her fans can strengthen their ability for empathy.

"I hope, after reading one of my books, people have a broader interpretation of another perspective instead of seeing things in black and white. We all have a purpose, and we all matter. I hope that they see someone going through one of these adversities [and understand] they're just like us," she said.

Lang doesn't plan on slowing down anytime soon. She hopes to evoke Stephen King vibes with her latest novel, a historical fiction/suspense-thriller set in British Columbia. While readers wait for that book to hit shelves, they'll still have plenty of shocking and twisted stories by Lang to read, all of which are available to purchase online.