An Interview with Jackson Creed

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I was fortunate enough to get an interview with Jackson Creed, author of “Breath” the hottest new dark fiction writer around, and here a few excerpts from it.  The complete interview will be published later this spring.

First things first—tell us what about your life experience compelled you to write.

Ultimately, it’s the result of being a voracious reader growing up, the flashlight under the bedcover, that sort of thing. I was never comfortable without something to read. The ability to transport a reader to those other worlds was something that I admired. I though maybe that was something I could do. I wrote stories in school and beyond, but it wasn’t really until later that I began to see it as a viable option. When that transition happened, it became a vocation. Now it is more about the fact that I can’t not write. It is a compulsion. I’m not quite sure that I’ve sat down to analyse what makes that so.

Nothing reveals more about an author than what their top favorite books are, so what are yours Mr. Creed?

Hum, that’s quite a complex question. I think that your reading patterns evolve as you move through life. I finished The Lord of the Rings in a three day weekend when I was young. I devoured the Mary Renault stuff. I read all of Poe, Blackwood, others. These days I have another perspective on what makes a great and important book and they are legion. I guess there are three that I would single out for the things that I love in storytelling. James Lee Burke’s Joli Blon’s Bounce has one of the most palpable portrayals of evil that I have ever come across. Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn is, to my mind, almost the perfect novel. From the first couple of pages, you get caught up in the protagonist’s thought patterns, riffing on the same things that his Asperger’s drives. Then, and always, there is Gene Wolfe’s Shadow of the Torturer. Wolfe has such a facility for language and character portrayal. Immensely dark, but lyrical. Great books that series.

Breath is a complete reimagining of the traditional vampire tale and just begs for a sequel. Have you begun working on one? If not why? You are planning to do a sequel, aren’t you?

Certainly, I can see Lilith re-emerging. Her hunger is endless. I think Avram, however, has his closure. In the end though, the story is about Lilith, about that original set of myths, so that works. I am not quite ready to build a world around her yet, but I believe it will probably happen soon.

As something of an international man of mystery yourself and world traveler, do you find that your introduction to so many cultures has enabled you to broaden your scope beyond that of those writers who only research differing locales on line and thus miss the direction experience? Certainly your novel “Breath” portrays so many of its locations so well that it seems like the reader is joining in with your main character Avram’s struggle.

I grew up in several different countries and I’ve traveled quite a bit. You can do things virtually, but nothing beats smelling the chemistry in the room, or the city or the country. There are nuances that you can only pick up yourself. All literature is about holding a mirror up to ourselves, whether it comes in the guise of an evil monster or the guy next door. Unless you can gather those pieces of human interaction into your armory, then you are missing something. A writer has to be two things–a reader and an observer. Observation happens on the ground.

• “Breath” delivers a riveting plot woven through with compelling characters. Because you’ve done so well with this novel, will you be staying with the horror genre or are you open to writing in different genres?

I am a bit leery of assigning genres to work. That’s ultimately a marketing device. Yes, the fiction I write is dark, unashamedly so, and horror probably fits Breath, though quiet horror. I write what I write. I don’t consciously restrict myself to a predefined set of genre boundaries. I could see maybe a crime novel, or perhaps a mixing of genres, but I know from experience that the work will take me where it wants to. I do know, however, that all of that work carries shadows within its heart.

Theresa Stephens and The Ghost Box

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We’re happy to say that The Ghost Box is now an audiobook available at Audible.  Very exciting stuff.  Theresa Stephens did a great wonderful job of recording it!  Her voice and presentation were perfect for the story.  Theresa also recorded The Terrarium Dragons for us.  It takes a real pro to be able to do both horror and children’s science fiction and to sound perfectly natural doing either one, but Theresa pulls it off in style.

Her bio reads:  “Theresa Stephens has been using her voice to make a living for most of her life.  Originally from Louisville, KY, she started in radio as part of the morning show on a local oldies station.  From there, she moved to Los Angeles where she tried her hardest to make the traffic reports sound as exciting as possible, along with memorable extra roles in film and television like “secretary” and “girl with banana.”  Moving back to her hometown of Louisville in her 30s, Theresa found her dream job – narrating audiobooks.  She’s worked for the American Printing House for the Blind and in her own home studio for almost 7 years, narrating well over 400 books.   She lives happily with her husband, Scott, and her 10-year-old son, Jack.  And Tucker the Dog.  And Mick the Rabbit.  It’s crowded.”

We asked her 7 questions about her career, and here’s how she answered:

1 – I’ve been in radio since college (a very long time!), and so I’ve been doing voice work all my life. My dream job was always to narrate audio books – this was way back before they became popular for sighted people. I first started when I volunteered in the ‘90s for a company which produced audio magazines for UK sports – which was difficult, being a U of L fan!

2 – Yes, I’ve worked at the American Printing House for the Blind since 2010. All the books I do there are for the Library of Congress. These book are available for free, but only for those legally blind. Recording for those who can’t see or for those who listen for pleasure are usually the same – the biggest challenge is describing photos or charts/maps. Very hard to put into words sometimes!

3 – I came with a radio background – which can sometimes be a negative. A lot of people in radio have a real “announcer” sound, which doesn’t work well with books. But I also have a background in acting and that definitely helps! It’s a one-woman play most days!

4 – If there are a lot of voices in a book, I usually write them down. I wish I was more creative, but I usually call them “tough guy” or “snarky girl” or “sweet mom!” As bad as it may sound, I am kind of stereotypical with my voices. When you read a story where the character is described as a big beefy guy, do you think of someone with a high voice? Nope! So when I see that, I automatically give him a deep voice, sometimes kind of, how do I put it? Not so smart?? haha The nice girl who is the best friend? High, sweet voice. The snarky sister? Totally 90s Valley Girl voice.

5 – For my work with ACX and other contract audiobooks, I record by chapter. For the printing house, we work in 2-hour increments, and we just record as much in that two-hour slot as possible!

6 – Honestly, I like it all. I’ve been a huge reader all my life, and I love variety. I read A LOT of romance, but I still enjoy it. I have a tendency to do a lot of Young Adult because my voice fits well with that genre, but there are a lot of good authors out there. My favorite author of all time is Stephen King, so I love me some horror, too!

7 – All I really want to do is continue what I’m doing. It took a lot of wrong turns to get me where I am today, and I just want to stay in this very happy place!

 

Lon Prater Live!

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Interview by Jaime A. Geraldi

WhiteCat:  Your extensive list of writing talent includes poetry, non-fiction, short stories and full-length novels. Obviously your drive is tremendous. What fuels your fire in order to spawn such a plethora of a collection of work this diverse?    

LP: I have always loved writing and fiction in particular. I have tried many different formats and fields over the years and learned something from each. New challenges are what keep me interested.  

WhiteCat: Your latest novel ALAMO RISING which you have co-authored with Josh Rountree has recently been dubbed as a Steampunk Zombie Western. Fans of the hit TV show, “The Walking Dead” and the infamous movie star John Wayne have been dreaming of a mash-up exactly like this for quite some time. What and/or how did you gentlemen even come up with such a unique storyline?    

LP: It began as a short story opening that Josh passed to me. We handed it back and forth just having fun with it. Around 20,000 words, we kind of sat up straight and realized there was something bigger happening. We decided it was time to commit or quit, and the rest is history.

WhiteCat: Besides your hobbies of reading and writing, you have also confessed to be a gamer. What makes “gaming” different than writing especially if you must use your hand/eye coordination along with the fierce power in your mind? Or, is it similar?

LP: A lot of the games I prefer (Pandemic, Last Night On Earth, for example) have a strong story concept behind them. Gaming is different from fiction in the ways it does so, but in the end when either is successful, it is because it lets the person interacting with it be a part of an interesting journey toward a goal.  

WhiteCat:  Science Fiction and Fantasy and a few unworldly beasts appear to be a heavy influence in a lot of your writing. If the study of Cryptozoology happens to casually become a topic of conversation, is there any creature or myth that you don’t believe in which you would confess?    

LP: I think modern Cryptid myths are just the continuation of a long line of stories hardwired into the human experience. There may well be some bugaboos out there which have not yet met the spotlight of science of documentation, but I doubt they are very much like the ones we have formed them to be with our stories.

WhiteCat: Some authors have indicated when they dream at night during a deep slumber, they happen to discover revelations for their books which breaks their natural train of thought. Have you personally had any comparable incidents which we may have seen in your past works?     

LP: I don’t think dreaming is a big part of my process. Unless you count daydreaming.   

WhiteCat: If, and maybe when (!), a zombie apocalypse shall forge itself upon this earth, how do you plan to exist? And, have you begun a survival kit containing weapons, food, etc.?    

LP: I’ll just have to make do with my hurricane kit till I join the swarm. 

WhiteCat: There are many people out there who are itching to know what else you have up your sleeve (including myself). What’s next??    

LP: I’m working on a weird crime novel and in the middle of a dayjob transition. All that, plus and working on a game-related passion project means publication of new stuff is going to be slow this year, apart from the possibility of something already being marketed finding a home.

 

The Real Jay Caselberg

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  by Jaime A. Geraldi Your writing has been embraced by book lovers of all genres across the globe. When an idea for a story is born, do you think of the fans and construct the tale aimed specifically towards their interests? Or do you let the characters do the talking for you and hope for the best? JC: As every writer should, I write from what happens in the recesses of my head rather than tailoring it to a particular audience. I write what I write, and if people enjoy or relate to it, then that’s all to the good. From time to time, there might be an anthology call and I will write to a theme accordingly, but that’s around the only stricture. I think that’s why you see my work ranging across a number of genres and even mainstream, or mixes of one or two of them. Most of my stuff is pretty dark, but that’s just the way I think. It’s not in your face dark, but more subtle and the implications might creep up on you. It appears that you had quite a vast interest in academics varying from biochemistry to psychology. Did any of your studies play a major role in any of your short stories or novels? JC: So, way back when, I had illusions of going into medicine. Partly family pressure, partly other things, but circumstance conspired to make that not an option, and thank goodness; I would make a terrible doctor. Then for a while there was acting, but writing was always there in the background. Biochem was not for me and then parapsychology was really interesting, though a very hard road. I sort of meandered through my academic career until I stumbled upon what would become my major line of research and study, the History and Philosophy of Science. Concentrating on the way truth is constructed and the influence of its context and belief systems was fascinating to me. Ultimately, though, it was all practice for putting together a large number of words in a structured and properly researched way. I will do quite a bit of research up front for a book or a story. As a serious world renowned traveler, is it easy to find a way to keep your mind open accepting the diverse cultures and languages while you’re trying to keep your senses sharp to absorb the new and amazing surroundings as well?  JC: Hmm, an interesting question. Yes, I travel a lot for day job things. It’s funny, but it gets to a point where everything is different so everything is the same. Yes, there are cultural differences, there are variations in setting, but you can draw parallels from one place to another. If you are in these places for work, then it’s pretty much airport, office, hotel and that’s about it. There are some opportunities for sightseeing, but most of it is pretty whirlwind. Of course, I also believe that there’s an osmotic process that works when you are embedded into these environments and they all become part of what you are and so, as a result, end up somehow on the page when you sit down to write. Is there one city or country that you haven’t been to that may be on your bucket list or near future? JC: Guatemala, but not right at the moment. Deeply interested in the Mayan ruins in the region. I started writing a Mayan mythos YA fantasy, but have not yet found the impetus to take it forward. I did a lot of research for that, but maybe I have to see the things to kick me into action on that one. Many budding writers always seem to admit that they have trouble finding the time to silence the voices in their head and actually get their chaotic thoughts on paper. What words of wisdom can you offer, and as such a busy man yourself, how do you seem to push aside your hectic schedule to actually write these award-winning tales? JC: Every writer works in a different way. I for example start with a concept, or a phrase, and then it may be days, weeks or months before I sit down to put pen to paper. And yes, it quite often starts with pen and paper. By the time my…I don’t know what you’d call it…subconscious…I refer to it as the lizard brain, has processed everything in background and I’m ready…I can’t explain it, somehow, I just know it’s time, and I sit down and write, and then it comes out in a flood. Others tend to be meticulous plotters. I can’t do that. I like the words to surprise me. Best advice though is sit down and write. Doesn’t matter about the voices or where you are or when you are, just sit down and write. When I’m truly on a run, I tend to get up really early around 5:00 and work for a couple of hours every day. It’s  amazing how much you can produce on that schedule. Do you read as much as you write? If so, do you prefer old-fashioned paperbacks or hardcovers, or have you been swept away by the e-reader nation also? JC: I read voraciously and across multiple genres. My Kindle saved my life. It’s perfect for travel. I usually have three or four books on the go at any one time. The psychological horror, EMPTIES is your latest novel. The thrilling plot left me on the very edge of my seat! As you’re writing riveting and mysterious books such as this, do you plan on picking readers’ brains and leaving their mouths agape? Or, is this just a gift that comes naturally to you?  JC: Heh. This is always the way I would like to leave readers. I like to screw with their thought processes, perhaps challenge their preconceptions and their own versions of their own realities. If something you read doesn’t challenge you in some way, then I’m not sure it’s done its job, unless you are looking at pure escapism, but then that’s a challenge to normality as well.  You have confessed that La Jeune Martyre by Paul Delaroche is your favorite painting which not only currently is displayed in the Louvre Museum in Paris, but also in your home as well above your workspace. There is no question that it is an exquisite piece. Does this work of art withhold any sentimental value to you, and has it been an inspiration for your determination to write?

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JC: I just like the mix of beauty and darkness. The shadowy figure in the background, the tragedy, the beauty of the sacrifice, it’s all there. I have sat in front of this piece in the Louvre (it’s quite large) and simply marveled. Do you currently have any works in progress that you can share with us? JC: I am currently in the final stages of a new novel called The Memory Box where I spend time exploring the way we modify our own memories of the way things happened and distort them to fit our own perceptions of ourselves. It also plays with the idea that a town or a city may have its own collective consciousness or set of memories and that they help to shape our actions as well. I’m also playing with a couple of other concepts and I expect those to turn into some pen on paper really very soon. Of course, another short story is always likely to pop out at any time, so keep watching.