This week I have the awesomely talented, Jeff Chapman making his debut as one of my Speculative Fiction Writer guests. Please give him a big wave hello.
Over to you, Jeff:
Q: If you had to describe yourself using a punctuation mark, which would you be?
Question mark. I’m rather shy and quiet in a crowd, so if they notice me, people probably wonder what I’m thinking. Fact is, I’m listening, asking myself questions about all the people I’m listening to.
Q: What three words would you use to describe your writing?
Cautionary: My characters make decisions that get themselves into trouble. Sometimes they work their way out of it. Sometimes they don’t. I’m a fan of tragedies in which one’s dogged pursuit of a goal ultimately undermines it. For instance, consider the king who gains the crown but loses the kingdom in the process.
Alliterative: I love the slippery, sibilant, sound of alliteration, and not just with the letter s. I aim for lyrical prose and if I can slip in a few beats of alliteration on occasion, I go for it.
Supernatural: Most of my fiction includes some element of the supernatural, usually ghosts.
Q: Are you a plotter, pantser, or something in-between?
Something in-between. I’m too anxious to start writing to create a detailed plot outline, but I need the discipline of some idea of where I’m ultimately going. Without something of a roadmap, I’m likely to wander off the trail. While writing, I keep a vague idea of where the story will end in my head. The original idea often changes. As I work toward longer pieces, I fear I will have to move more toward the plotter in order to keep all the parts of the story organized.
Q: You started out much like myself, writing short stories. How difficult have you found the transition to writing longer pieces of fiction?
I like writing longer pieces. My stories have a way of expanding without regard for word count limits. I tried to write a couple flash stories last year. One swelled to over four thousand words. The other expanded to over three thousand. When I finished, I realized they are both the opening chapters of novels or at least novellas.
Q: The cover of your novelette, Highway 24, is stunning. Who created it, and how much of an input did you have?
Charlotte Volnek, one of the cover artists for MuseItUp Publishing did the cover. I provided her with a story summary and some ideas on the landscape and significant items. Some pivotal scenes take place on a lonely highway and a woman’s shoe plays an important role in the narrative. I think she did a great job of capturing the story’s mood.
Q: Would you like to share an extract with us?
Here’s an extract from Last Request: A Victorian Gothic. Anna’s recently deceased uncle is extremely claustrophobic. He requests in his will that one of his relatives cut off his head so there will be no danger of a premature burial. The “story” referenced below is an incident from Uncle Silas’s childhood that led to his claustrophobia.
Anna sighed, closed her eyes. She recalled her last visit with Uncle Silas. She intended to keep it, to impress every detail firmly in her memory: walking through the empty doorway, sitting on the edge of his bed, on the variegated quilt, holding his bony hand rippled with veins and dappled with liver spots.
“Do you remember the story,” he had asked. His voice screeched like a rusty hinge. Speaking must pain him, she thought.
“Of course I do. How could I forget?”
“I don’t have the wind to tell you again.”
“Don’t talk, Uncle Silas. Don’t strain yourself.”
“Talk is all I have left.”
“I’ll tell you the story. How is that? And you can just listen.”
“Would you dear? That would be so nice.” He squeezed her hand. The sudden strength of his grip startled her. Raising his head from the pillow, he fixed her with an earnest stare. “Don’t forget it. Don’t ever forget the story.”
His grip slackened as his head fell back on the pillow with a groaning sigh. For a moment, she feared he had expired, but his eyes twitched and his eyebrows raised, expectant. Anna told the story, playing both parts now for her uncle’s entertainment. He slipped into slumber as she spoke but she finished the story anyway. After kissing his forehead, she left him and passed into the hall.
When she reached for the banister to descend the stairs, a shriek arrested her.
“Help! Help me!” The scratchy cries of an old man came from Silas’s room. Anna lifted her skirts and rushed back down the hall. A door barred her entrance. “Help me! Oh, Anna, help me!”
“I’m coming, uncle.” Anna jiggled the handle. The door popped open. The quilt covered the entire bed from footboard to headboard, and Uncle Silas’s arms and legs struggled beneath it. Anna ran to the head of the bed. Grasping the edge of the quilt, she flung it aside.
A bloodless stump of a neck indented the pillow.
Q: What are you working on now?
I’m trying to finish a novella tentatively titled “The Masque”--based on “The Fall of the House of Usher”--about a mask-maker summoned by his college friend to create a mask for the friend’s sister, who has been horribly disfigured by a disease.
I’m also working on a frontier adventure involving a Daniel Boone-type character and zombies during the American Revolution.
Lyn Perry and I are working on a werewolf novel set among the Pilgrims.
I have several other projects in various states. I need to finish something.
Q: Do you have a favourite writing quote and, if so, what is it?
C. S. Lewis has a number of quotable remarks about “children’s stories.”
“No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally--and often far more--worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.”—C. S. Lewis
I don’t write many stories that would be classed as children’s tales but I do like to read and write fairy tales, which are often maligned as mere children’s stories.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
Yes, I’m running a Rafflecopter giveaway through May for a paperback or eBook copy of King David and the Spiders from Mars. The anthology contains my story “Good King David,” a fantasy tale combining elements of Hamlet with the Absalom story from the Old Testament. The David character insists that the story is really about him. There are only a few days left in the giveaway. Here’s the link to enter:a Rafflecopter giveaway
Thanks for featuring me on your blog, Ellie.
Thank you, Jeff. It was great getting to know more about you and your writing process. I loved the extract. The ending left me gasping for more.
That's it for this week and May. Unfortunately, my Where I Write author had to drop out due to unforeseen circumstances. I'll hopefully have an author scheduled for the last Friday in June. Happy reading and writing, my friends.