What have you accomplished by twenty-five years old? If you are Paul Tassi, Editor-in-Chief for Unreality Magazine, you have a wildly successful blog under your belt, you write for Forbes, and you just self-published your first book in a trilogy, The Last Exodus. Let me put that is simpler terms, this guy has accomplished more before THIRTY than most of us would dare dream. And though he is humble about it, he is my boss and mentor, so I tied him up in a chair in my basement and made him talk about his amazing new book, The Last Exodus, and some of his other accomplishments. Not so much an interview as an organic exchange between friends, here it is, sloppily transcribed for your reading pleasure.

First off, for this to all resonate, I need you guys to go buy his book. The price is unbeatable (we are ALL telling him to charge more, but the price tag stands as a testimony to just  how genuine of a person he is). He doesn’t intend to get rich (yet) but finds great pleasure in knowing people are just reading it. Sorry for the plugging and promotion, but it is a stellar read, even for non-science-fiction fans. There are themes present in this story that supersede any one genre and you owe it to yourself to pick it up. Good luck putting it down.

This is the look Paul gives right before he summons on of his elementals to attack on his behalf.

Remy: Alright Paul, you have like seventy jobs, how the Hell did you find the time to write a book?

Paul: I can fashion my hours the way I want to, and have been able to carve out time to work on it. This isn’t the case with all jobs, so I suppose I’m in a unique position that way. But you have to just make it a priority. I have to get X amount of posts out every day. Like, I have to, no way around it. I put writing my book in that category as well so I’d say I have to write 1,000 words today, no matter what. Usually, more often than not, that would work. Instead of watching a TV show or dicking around on the internet, you write. And if you like your book, it will be fun.

Remy: So it really is just a matter of work ethic? And passion, I suppose. Did the scope of it all ever scare you? In other words, how lofty was it to think of The Last Exodus in scope of a trilogy? Did you have that in mind from the get go, or did the characters sort of evolve and story find legs the more you wrote it? Was this a story that you had in your mind for a long time? In other words, do you have short story versions of it written out somewhere, or did it just sort of grow organically?

Paul: The initial idea was just a guy who finds a spaceship after the earth is destroyed and uses it to fly away somehow. The rest fell around that. When I really started writing, I realized that I couldn’t fit everything into one book. I formed a loose plan for books 2 and 3, and crafted the first story to fit into that.  I had about 15,000 words of the story written for a long time, along with pieces of a few other stories and screenplays I’ve worked on. But last Christmas when my cousin announced he had finished a 400 page book and put it on amazon, that was motivation to really start writing. I wanted it online by this Christmas, and I did it!

Remy: Well done, sir. I was wondering, certain scenes read like full-on Hollywood action scenes. Was there one section or scene in The Last Exodus that was particularly fun to write? And on the other extreme, were there any aspects of the book you found tougher to put together?

Paul: I love the battle at Kvaløya. That was probably my favorite action scene, and it was originally going to be way more subdued then it ended up being after I totally reworked it. Sometimes it was tough trying to come up with interesting content for the quieter moments. I tried to use them to flesh out the characters more, but it was difficult sometimes.
Remy:  It may be a silly question, but picking the name Lucas, was that a nod to George, or was there other reasoning behind it?

Paul:I have many sci-fi nods in the story, (Editor’s note: Easter Egg Hunt!) but that isn’t one of them actually. I just think the name Lucas is pretty badass. More interesting might be Asha, as when I was looking for female names, I came across it, and saw it meant “hope” in Sanskrit. That seemed appropriate for the last woman on Earth, and I really like that name and how it fits with her character and backstory.

Remy: That, alone, made it worth asking this question, I would have never known that. Okay, playtime for a second. Let’s pretend you were given the opportunity to make The Last Exodus into a game. What developer would you choose, and what type of game would it be? Have you imagined this potentially getting that big in your head?
My Lucas was not quite this dashing, but I can see it.
Paul: Haha, ohhh man, good question. I guess it would be pretty close to Mass Effect, albeit with less exploration and less crew members. But very story driven. You could control any of the three main characters in combat. I’d probably have to throw a few more action scenes in there for it to be a good game, hah. Some aspects of the book were written with a sort of “video game philosophy” in mind. I like “final boss” type characters like the cannibal chief or Omicron. (Editor’s note: Paul just got 500,000 points for an Omicron reference.) I always imagined it potentially being adapted into a movie someday as a pipe dream. I’d picture what the trailer would look like in my head. I write from a more cinematic than literary perspective I think. But yeah, that’s wishing upon a star for sure.
Remy: You say that is wishing upon a star, yet, you probably thought that about actually finishing the book, and here we are. Truth is, you never know and I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened one dayAlso, how does it feel being in the first generation of the neo-journalist movement? The first decade we officially went from print to digital? Did you have any idea Unreality would become as big as it has, or did this thing just blow up and you just buckled in and went for the ride?
Paul: It’s weird. Sometimes you feel behind when you don’t have formal journalist training. I’m still learning things about interviews, sourcing and all that stuff, and have screwed up many times. That said, I’m probably ahead of some of the older guys in terms of knowing web trends and how to get traffic and all that.
Unreality benefited from the social media boom of Digg, but fortunately even after that faded, we had some loyal readers stick around. Unreality isn’t a mammoth site by any means, but I’m happy with our content, our readers and our numbers. It’s a good gig.

When your books are this good, they defy the laws of physics.

Remy: Well first and foremost, congratulations on how far you have come. And I can second that, working for Unreality is about as close to a dream gig as I could ever imagine. How did it feel to hold your book in your hand the first time? Also, how did you get such a great cover? Did you seek out an artist with a concept, or did someone come to you? Must have been surreal first time you saw the finished copy. Also, what lead you to writing? Was it something you always knew you wanted to do, and how did you get your first break? I ask because you gave me mine, and I know how many doors that opened for me (changed my life, through and through), so who gave you your first big break? And what is the next big goal for Paul Tassi? You write for Forbes, you have an incredibly popular website, and now you have a book under your belt. I heard you mention something about screenplays on occasion, is that the next medium you intend to conquer?

Wow, that was seventy questions. Sorry about that.

Paul: No worries, Rem, I am used to your ADHD-fueled insanity at this point. I will do my best to answer them all. Yeah, when I first downloaded The Last Exodus to the Kindle, that was pretty surreal. No matter how many copies I sold after that, at least I’d gotten it online.Regarding the cover, I actually designed the cover myself in Photoshop. I had a concept in mind and just ran with it. I learned I needed to make the central text a lot bigger and more noticeable when I started looking at other popular covers, but I think it turned out well in the end.

The user-submitted banners have been pretty remarkable.

As far as writing, no. I used to be good at math and wanted to be an engineer (insert genuine Remy shocked face here). Then in college, I stopped being good at math, and started writing for the school paper. I did movie reviews, which led me a to blogging job, which led me to Nat (Nattyb), which led me to everything I do now. But I would say Nat, above all else, is the one who has helped me get where I am either directly or indirectly.
The next goal? Good question. Now I want to get this second book finished now that at least a few people are looking forward to it. I also want to go to Comic-Con. Perhaps not the loftiest goal, but I’ve been meaning to do it for years.
In terms of the screenplay thing, I did have one I was working on for a while, but I may just convert it into a book, as now I know that’s a format I can actually publish. It’s a lot crazier to try to get a movie made based on a movie you wrote, particularly when you live a million miles away from Hollywood. I do like writing dialogue however, which is what drew me to screenplays in the first place.
The ultimate goal is just to keep surviving doing what I’m doing. Not easy when you’re in the writing game, so any day I make money is a good one. There, did I get them all?
Pac-Man comes up when you Google image Paul’s name. That is an awesome association, and I am slightly jealous.
Remy: Wow, I think you actually did. Well done, man.
Wait, You designed the cover, too?!!! How many people know that? Jesus, you are like some robot who has been programmed to do multiple things WELL. That is the key, you do them well. The math thing is actually surprising to me. For how far you have come for a guy still in his twenties, I just assumed you had always been doing this.
Huge shoutout to Nattyb on this end, too. For those who don’t know, Nat is a contributor, as well as the “Oz” behind the curtain at Unreality,and a good deal of other sites, too. And the guy is a Godsend. He really is. He pulls us from the dark when we are unknown and gives us a forum, and for that reason, he changes lives, no doubt.
So was the screenplay you wrote science fiction, or are you keeping that hush for a while until you can convert it to book form?
I think the most amazing thing here is that science fiction is not easy to do, and the story you tell here is incredibly gripping. The reviews on Amazon have been amazing, too, which must be incredibly validating for you, I imagine.
Alright, one final question, I ask you advice like sixty times a week, so I know your answer to this, but for my three readers, what would be the best advice you could give writers who are looking to break into the game?
Also, what was your favorite monster from Cabin in the Woods. I know it is unrelated, but it tends to say so much about someone.
Pretty easy money betting on the Unicorn, if you ask me.
Paul: Screenplay is actually a heist film/story. More to come on that down the road. As far as advice for writers: Just keep writing. Have a portfolio of work you’re proud of online to show anyone you need to at a moment’s notice, even if no one has read it previously. Write the editors of your favorite sites. You’ll hear nothing back most of the time, but you never know who’s hiring. Include a link to aforementioned portfolio. And Remy, I was waiting for that one “weird” question, so I think I got off easy if that is it. My favorite Cabin in the Woods monster? Merman from a hilarity perspective. Dollfaces from a creepy perspective.
Remy: Heist films are the best, so I hope I get a chance to see it or read it at some point, as I am sure we all would. And great call about writing. If you read any good writer’s books “on writing”(Bradbury, King), the one steady piece of advice you always see is a writer writes, even when no one is reading, and I cannot agree with you more. Shit, I was lucky you took the time to read my stuff, I am still in shock and it’s almost been a year that I’ve been working with you. Thanks again for that, by the way.

You know, regarding Cabin in the Woods, I was hoping you would say Merman. The coolest right-brained people I know always say Merman. The left-brainers say Werewolf, because it is the first one they remember.
Unicorn was pretty badass, too.
Well Paul, I appreciate you taking the time to answer all my silly, fanboy questions, and I can’t recommend the book enough. Just a moment of complete honesty for a second. When your friends, family, mentors write a book and you sit down to read it, it is such a tough moment, because you know even if it sucks you would not have the heart to tell them. So as I sat there reading, utterly engrossed, even by the core concept,(expect some Lucas fan art soon), it was such a relief to me that is was amazing, but none of us expected any less. And this book only further reiterated what I already knew, You are one of the hardest working people in this business right now, and all the success that is coming to you is well deserved.
Kudos, sir.
Paul: Hey, thanks Remy. But can you untie me and let me go now?
Remy: I will only release you once more of my readers have purchased your book. So click here, buy his book, and help fund the “release Paul Tassi from Remy’s basement” fund.