90 Minutes to Live is an anthology dedicated to Rocky Wood. Rocky, the current president of the HWA, was diagnosed with ALS and the proceeds from this book will be donated to help him purchase much needed medical equipment. If you are interested in purchasing the book please follow this link to Amazon and know you will be supporting a great cause.
Jeffrey Wilson, “The Writer”, is one of the short stories included in 90 Minutes to Live and Brett J. Talley, author of That Which Should Not Be was kind enough to conduct the interview.
So sit back, relax and get to know what makes Jeffrey Wilson tick and how he came about writing horror.
Brett: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What do you do for a living when you aren’t writing?
Jeff: Hey, Brett. I’m a Virginia boy, mostly, though I moved around a lot and spent much of my childhood in Berlin, back when the wall was still up. I live in Tampa now with my family. When not writing I still work with the Navy and also work as a Vascular and Trauma surgeon. Of all the things I do, writing is by far my favorite.
Brett: What made you decide to submit your story, “The Writer,” to the 90 Minutes to Live Anthology?
Jeff: Well, like you and JG Faherty, I have a great relationship with the publisher and was very excited to be a part of a project to raise money for Rocky Wood, the HWA president and a terrific writer, to help him with his fight against ALS. I liked last year’s anthology and was pleased to be in this one, especially for such a great cause.
Brett: I found “The Writer” to be an excellent story, maybe because it preys upon that secret fear that all writers have-what if somehow, some way, the things I wrote actually came to pass? Do you ever have that fear?
Jeff: I guess that as a fear, it might be somewhat unique to writers of our genre, right? I mean, most people would be okay if their story about the cure for cancer bringing about world peace came to pass, but horror – no real upside there. I’m not sure I have the fear of my writing coming to pass. Maybe it’s more the other way around. Maybe I have some fears already and let them come to life in my writing. This story was just kind of a fun muse, I think, but once I started writing, it kind of took on a life of its own.
Brett: What scares you?
Jeff: That shouldn’t be a hard question, but it is… I’m scared of situations where you have no control over the outcome. Not like will you get a raise or win the lottery, but situations where the outcome could be deadly but you don’t have control. That’s horror to me, and really most horror stories can be boiled down in some way to that loss of control. I used to be a pilot and I hate not being in the pilot’s seat. However it turns out, I would rather be in control of my destiny.
Oh, and clowns. God, I’m terrified of clowns.
Brett: You spent time in the military (special forces, if I remember correctly). How does that experience affect your writing, particularly your novel, Traiteur’s Ring?
Jeff: The Traiteur’s Ring, more than my other works, was inspired by my experiences working with the Navy SEALs overseas. It was the greatest honor of my life to serve beside these men and those experiences affected a lot of aspects of that book. My deployments showed me a lot about evil, the real life evil that exists in the world. In my books, that evil is usually an outside force, wreaking havoc and begging to be defeated. In war you see a more terrifying evil, a real evil that can exist inside man. I think you can write more comfortably about fictitious evil when you have experienced the consequences of real evil first hand. Another way my experience took on life in my book was in the characters of The Traiteur’s Ring. The book is about a small team of Navy SEALs, especially the team’s sniper and medic, who discover both an evil force while on deployment in Africa and also amazing powers that the main character inherits from a primitive village elder. I tried to write those characters, not as the super hero, larger than life characters we frequently see SEALs depicted as in film and books, but as the real people I know from that fraternity. They are fathers, husbands, friends, and sons–everyday guys doing extraordinary things. They have incredible skills and courage, but at their core they’re Shakespeare’s everyman, but with an impossible job that they do, with little fanfare, and then come home to their families. That is the men I know and the characters I tried to create for The Traiteur’s Ring.
Brett: How is writing a short story different than writing a novel?
Jeff: In a lot of ways, for me at least, it’s a lot harder. When you have a 100,000 words or so in which to tell your tale, you can kind of relax and let the plot develop and unfold comfortably (I have been accused by some of taking a bit too much advantage of that). In a short story, you have to be concise, tell the story with a lot more economy, but somehow still develop your plot and characters in a way that brings them to life. I find it a lot more challenging, to be honest, and have a world of respect for folks that do it consistently well.
Brett: Who is your favorite author? Favorite book?
Jeff: I grew up loving King, Koontz, Straub – the greats of our genre, but also loved the thriller writers like the old Ludlum books and John Le Carre. I still love King and actually find his later works even better than his older stuff. I’ve become a fan of Joe Hill and particularly liked Horns. My favorite fiction book so far is King’s bag of bones and my first pick non-fiction was Marc Luttrell’s Lone Survivor.
Sorry, you just wanted one of each, didn’t you?
Brett: What’s the most disappointing book you have ever read?
Jeff: Truthfully, I never read a disappointing book far enough to really be disappointed. If I don’t care about what’s happening pretty early on I tend to put it down and move on.
Brett: What influences you the most when picking something to read? Cost? Word of mouth? Cover art?
Jeff: That’s tough. A lot of books I pick because I know I like the author or have heard from friends that a book really rocked. If it’s an author I don’t know, cover art is important – it gets you to pick the damn thing up, but then the summary has to grab me.
Brett: What is it about horror that attracts you? Why not write books about ponies?
Jeff: Ponies? Really? You know I think you tend to write what you love to read. I’ve always had pretty eclectic reading taste, but my favorite has always been horror or thrillers with at least a supernatural twist. I’m not really a gore fest kind of guy, but I love an exciting, character driven story where the writer makes me feel like I know his characters well enough to really care what happens to them when he or she places them in some terrifying situation. You get to ride along through such an incredible range of emotions when you read a well written book like that. Also, like most everyone who reads the genre, I LIKE that heart pounding exhilaration of being scared out of my wits. When you write horror you remove a lot of boundaries for how you develop your characters and what sides of them you can really show.
Brett: Obviously the electronic book is on the rise. What do you think about that? Greatest thing ever? Or creeping Communist subversion?
Jeff: Wow, you live in a black and white world of real absolutes, don’t you Brett? I think the rise of eBooks is a great thing. It gives readers greater, easier access to books at a lower cost. It gives writers and publishers easy access to potential readers. Now having said that, I’m still one of those love-to-hold-a book-in-my-hands kind of guys. I’ve read a ton of eBooks on my device, but when a book is released that I’m really excited about, I am definitely more likely to buy it in print. One things for sure, though – like it or hate it the eBook market is sure to stay and likely to continue to grow. No way around it, and no real downside to that fact from a writer’s point of view.
Brett: What are your opinions on self-publishing vs. the more traditional publishing route?
Jeff: I remember when self publishing was completely taboo, but a lot has changed over the last few years. I still feel that a new author will have a great deal of difficulty finding true success by starting off in that realm. My writing and editing skills have improved dramatically as a result of working with professional publishers and editors in the traditional publishing world, though I know there are some notable exceptions to this. I think that self publishing is fast becoming an attractive alternative for established authors, who bring with them a good sized fan base. There are a lot of big name authors enjoying better creative control and financial independence by going to self publishing back list and even new titles. For a new author, though, I still don’t think it represents a real route to success, at least not yet.
Brett: What book is next on your list to read?
Jeff: I am about 50 pages into Richard Godwin’s first novel Apostle Rising and I really am captivated by both the story and the writing. I already highly recommend it. I just finished King’s newest book 11/22/63 and I loved it.
Brett: If you could give one piece of advice to new writers, what would it be?
Jeff: Write ’cause you love it and stick with it. If you don’t love the process it will really be tough to make it, because the road to publication is long and full of painful rejection, often by people who never read your stuff. If you love the writing process itself, you can keep going because the writing becomes its own reward. I was at a lunch where Tom Clancey told the group that he hated every minute of writing and that if he could find another way to make the same living he would do it in a second. I remember at the time thinking that had to be bullshit, because how could you possibly write any length story if you didn’t enjoy the writing? Maybe it’s true for him, and if so he is way more disciplined and committed than I am. I love to create a story and if I didn’t I could never do this.
Brett: What is your next big project?
Jeff: Well, like I’ve said in other interviews I’m weird about talking about unfinished work. The book I’m finishing up now involves a little boy with a supernatural gift that terrifies him, a Dad with a secret past, the ghost of a murdered little girl, a collection of long dead pirates with evil intent, a sailboat, and the family sailing vacation from hell. There is also a mallet, but I’ve already said too much.
I am also waist deep in edits (my least favorite part of writing) for my novel The Donors, which will be released this summer by JournalStone Publishing. It’s sort of a horror meets medical thriller book:
A powerful and evil force is at work in the Hospital where little Nathan is recovering from injuries at the hands of his Mom’s abusive ex-boyfriend. Demonic looking men with pale faces and glowing eyes lurk in the shadows and, worse, it appears that someone is harvesting skin and organs from living – and awake – donors against their will. In his dreams, little Nathan can see these demons in their true form – evil creatures who feed on the fear and hatred they help create in their victims. Nathan’s only ally is the young Doctor who cares for him. Bound together by their shared legacy of abuse, they also seem to share the ability to see the creatures for what they are. Together they must find a way to destroy the demons before their own loved ones become the next victims and the evil creatures grow too powerful to stop.
Brett: Where can we follow you and your career on the web?
Jeff: My website is updated frequently with information about current and upcoming works and also has a link to send in comments and questions. Find me at Jeffrey Wilson Fiction. You can also find stuff about all the JournalStone authors and books at JournalStone
This interview was conducted by Brett J. Talley, author of That Which Should Not Be.