Monday, September 12, 2016

Interview With Author Jeff Deck

Hey, campers, today's treat is a new author, Jeff Deck one of the gang in the New England Horror Writers.

His supernatural thriller book: The Psuedo-Chronicles of Mark Huntley, just came out in paperback (and is also available as an ebook).

Here's from the description. Gotta say, that's a definite grabber, certainly makes you want to read it:

My name is Mark Huntley. All I really wanted to do was drink cheap beer and blog about my dead-end life. Then I stumbled across a secret war between two sinister alien forces. If I try to stop the war, I may get my friends and loved ones killed. If I don't try, the human race is toast. Oh yeah, and a demonic weapon inside me is probably driving me insane.
If I'm already dead when you find this, you need to carry on the fight. 

So here is more about Jeff, as he answers some questions on his work and life.

Q. So how did this novel come to be? Was it envisioned from the start as a bigger canvas, or did it expand organically out of an idea? Please tell us a bit about the origin.

A. I was feeling bruised in the late summer of 2004. Earlier that year, I'd poured a lot of energy into supporting the progressive presidential candidacy of Howard Dean, only to see it evaporate seemingly overnight for the stupidest reason (the candidate making a weird sound into a microphone). Then I fell in love, or at least lust, with a woman who was married -- newly married, practically. We crossed boundaries we shouldn't have. Then, after helping to wreck her marriage, I broke things off with her because, oh, you know, the relationship just felt wrong.

In short, I was 24 and didn't know what the fuck I was doing. But I sure had a lot of Feelings that needed to come out. As fall approached, I wanted to channel those feelings into a writing project. Blogs were still a fairly novel concept at that point, so I decided to use a blog to tell a story -- a raw, first-person story, one that started out as barely fictionalized. The main character, Mark Huntley, had a low-level job like me. He'd had a relationship with a married woman, like I did. His eyes were giving him persistent trouble, too, just like mine were at the time (I had a real fear that mine were deteriorating rapidly, for some reason). Only as the story went on did I slowly introduce a supernatural element, as the blog diverged further into dramatic fiction.

I kept the blog going for about three months, with only a few friends following it. Then I put the story aside, and didn't revisit it for ten years.

Q. Did you start with the germ of an idea and start writing to see where it went, or did you map a good deal out in your head (or even outline) before crafting?

A. As I recall, I had little idea where the story was ultimately going -- just that it would end up having a strong supernatural/horror element to the plot. (Much like many of my favorite books did; I think this might have been right after I first read House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, in fact.) I started by building a tense, somewhat paranoid atmosphere through Mark's narration and then followed the most likely story that seemed to be unfurling.

Q. What do you feel is the main theme(s)?

A. I didn't have a theme in mind when I was first writing it. I'll probably leave it to the English teachers to decide what the theme of Mark Huntley is "supposed" to be. But looking back, the story focuses a lot on the effort to reclaim even a little bit of agency in the face of overwhelmingly powerful forces. That's a theme that should still be relevant this election year, as it was in 2004.

Q. Why do you feel this is important, and what would you want a reader to take away from reading this book?

A. There's dignity in trying to do the right thing. Even if the odds are that you 1) won't make a damn difference and/or 2) will meet a bloody, savage end with your body subsequently stuffed into a Dumpster.

Q. What makes a good book or engaging story?

A. Memorable characters, a compelling storytelling style, fast and rising action -- as long as you can hit two out of the three, you should be good.

Q. Are there writers with similar themes to yours? Who are your influences (can be writers, or even artists, musicians, or others) and what is it about their work that attracts you?

A. Stephen King looms the largest over this story. Though now that I think about it, House of Leaves was probably a big influence as well, in terms of having a kind of meta-textual approach to the story. I've felt the pull of horror for a long time now; I was reading books like It in junior high.

I think for me, supernatural and horror stories offer the greatest dramatic potential. Despite all the gradations that may be introduced along the way, the genre comes down to a story of light vs darkness. The light is a tiny, wavering candle -- and the darkness is vast and frightening.

Q. Is storytelling mostly entertainment, or does it serve other functions? Do you have particular goals other than telling a good story?

A. For me, at least, entertainment is the main goal of storytelling. I've tried writing "message" stories in the past, and it just didn't work. Nobody likes a preachy main character. The protagonist in my other novel, Player Choice, skates a lot closer to that line, and I think as a result he is less likable.

Q. Any other goals you've set for yourself, professionally or personally?

A. My immediate goal is to help The Pseudo-Chronicles of Mark Huntley kick ass and gain a lot of new readers. After all I've put into it, I'd like to see the book succeed in a big way. The next goal is to get a supernatural mystery novel series off the ground, that will be called The Shadow Over Portsmouth (more on that below).

Q. Some writers write fast and claim not to rewrite much. Do you do this, or painstakingly revise? When you send the book off to the publisher, are you happy with it, or just tired of it?

A. The publisher is me. And I only give the story a rubber stamp after I've edited it to my satisfaction -- usually this takes a while. I fantasize about becoming a truly prolific writer -- releasing a (smaller) novel every few months -- but I'm not sure I can let go enough for that to happen. I'm not sure I could let the stories get out the door without a thorough edit, and that takes . . . a while.

Q. Do you have good editors, and if so, how do they help you? Do they look for particular things? Do you have different people for different editing levels?

A. I got burned by an editor for Player Choice -- a lot of money for little return -- so after that, I opted to rely on trusted beta readers for feedback for Mark Huntley. I might give a professional editor another shot with the Shadow Over Portsmouth series. Then again, I've been an editor myself in several different jobs, so I might just hire myself again and call it satisfactory (a fool for my client). I certainly don't give myself an easy time.

Q. If a writer came to you for advice, how would you help?

A. Usually when this happens, I try to identify what the writer's goal is: improving their craft? Landing a big-name publisher? Getting their work out there, period? Often a beginning writer needs to reflect a little on what they actually want. If it's exposure, plain and simple, then get your writing out there on whatever platform you can find -- it's never too early to start building an audience. If it's landing a Big Five publisher, then that's a different mountain to climb (one whose peak you might never reach). But it does share the theme of audience-building.

Sometimes we as writers neglect to give as much thought to our actual path to success as we do our fictional worlds. Which is fine if you're happy with obscurity . . . but if you're burning to have a bunch of people read your work, as most of us are, then you need to start achieving small platform-building goals now that will snowball into a genuine audience later on.

Q. Stories can be told by using a different medium. Can you see your book as a film, audio, etc.? How would that alter the telling?

A. I would love to get an audiobook version of The Pseudo-Chronicles of Mark Huntley made -- and will probably do so through ACX once I have some more time. Since the book is composed of first-person blog entries, it would be the perfect fit for an audiobook narrator. (Though it may not end up conforming to the voice for Mark that I hear in my head.) One thing I love about being an indie author is that if I decide I need an audiobook version, I can just go ahead and do that -- I don't need Random House's approval or anyone else's.

Q. What have you learned on your writing journey so far?

A. Every journey begins with a single step?

Q. What's the next step in your writing world?

A. My next book will be the first in a supernatural mystery series that I'm calling (for now) The Shadow Over Portsmouth. Starring a gay Indian-American ex-cop trying to figure out who killed her girlfriend. Like Mark Huntley, the story will be grounded in a real place. In this case, Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Where a number of doors to other worlds and dimensions seem to be opening, with mostly terrifying results . . .

Q. Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

A. Keith Olbermann defamed me on live television.

Q. Any other information you'd like to impart?

A. Drop me a line at if you'd like to discuss supernatural thrillers, horror, 2004 politics, and/or where these topics intersect.


Web page:

Where to buy on Amazon

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