Thursday, April 14, 2016

Interview with Jesse Teller, author of Liefdom - Please support his KindleScout Campaign

Inside the Book:

A fiery fairy battles for purpose.
Liefdom is the story of Gentry Mandrake. Born with natural weapons in a race known for pacifism, he is cast out and hated for his differences. He hunts for a place among his people, while fighting to defend the human child bound to him. His violent nature makes him wonder at the purity of his soul, while the dark creatures he must face seem too great to defeat. Can he overcome such terrible foes to defend those he loves?

What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?
I had a pretty rough childhood. When I was about 24, I went to therapy and worked out my issues. Took about fifteen years all told. It was the hardest, most soul-crushing thing I ever did, but it made me who I am now. Most people can’t do that. Most people can’t look at themselves, see a flaw, and know it is up to them to fix it.
How has your upbringing influenced your writing?
I can say a lot of bad things about the people that raised me, but my mom was fascinated by my creativity. I was her favorite party game. She would get a piece of paper and send it around the room. Everyone would write down the weirdest thing they could think of. Then she would hand the paper to me. I had about two minutes to start telling my story. It had to have every one of those elements in it. Sometimes that meant five things, sometimes ten, anything from a car battery to mutated, skinless rabbits. In that way, she helped me hone my mind for creating stories.
When and why did you begin writing?
Writing started for me when I was in fifth grade. Mr. Olsen gave me the assignment at 20th street school. He blew my mind by telling me I could write a story. For reasons I still don’t understand, I thought you had to have permission to write a story. Mine was about a boy whose parents get a divorce and his dad goes on safari. For his birthday, the boy gets a crate in the mail from his dad, and it’s a purple hippopotamus. The boy rode it to school.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
My interest in writing started in fifth grade, but before that, I was obsessed with stories. My family told amazing stories. Everyone in my extended family told wonderful, colorful, inappropriate stories. As a kid, I just sat and listened to them in a kind of awed stupor. I remember they would play poker and drink at my grandparents’ house and the kids would play. I would stand right next to my grandfather and listen to them tell stories. Through the fog of the cigarette smoke, the characters they created were larger than life. I studied the craft as a kid, was obsessed with it. My grandfather would go to the bathroom and I would be chased away to play with the kids. I always came back, though. He would put his arm around me as he played his cards, and he would snap at anyone that tried to make me leave.
When did you first know you could be a writer? 
My freshman English teacher, Mrs. Hegg, presented the idea to me. I wrote a story about a pumpkin that witnessed a murder for a Halloween assignment she gave. I read it to the class and she freaked out. She gave me a standing ovation. She took the story from me and read it out loud again. After class, I tried to run away, but she caught me and brought me back to her desk. She looked at me with light in her eyes and said, “How long have you been writing?” I told her then that I would burn the story after I had read it three times. She freaked out, almost screamed in horror actually. She begged me to never do that again. “Bring them to me,” she said. She wouldn’t even read them if I didn’t want her to. She just wanted to protect them. She is in my writers group to this day. She is a brilliant poet. I love that woman with all my heart.
What inspires you to write and why?
My characters inspire me to write, actually. They live fascinating lives. They love and hate and fight and struggle, and it is inspiring. There is a theory in writing that if you create a good enough character, you can just sit back and let them act. They will get into adventures. You just need to write it down. That’s how it is with me.
What genre are you most comfortable writing?
I’m exclusive. I’m only a fantasy writer. I have one good trick in me. I can create fantasy at a whim. Otherwise, writing baffles me. People who write screenplays amaze me. I’m a novelist. If I a poet can say it in ten words, it will take me three pages to get the point across. Poets are wizards. If different forms of writing like this blow my mind, different genres do as well. I don’t know how romance writers do it. All that love, all that passion, packed into three hundred pages. The good ones can affect a love life for years to come. I would like to write a western some day. It would have to have wizards. I would start working on it now, but Stephen King already wrote that series and it was magnificent. Why tread on that ground? I’ll stick to fantasy. If I’m writing it, and it doesn’t have a sword and a spell in it somewhere, then something is wrong.
What inspired you to write your first book?
It was Halloween again. Wow, I just put that together. It was coming up on Halloween and I wanted to publish a short story. I decided I would write my first serious fantasy piece. Back then I was dabbling in a lot of troubled waters and I wanted to just stick to what I loved. I got started writing a short, maybe twenty-page, story about a murderer and five strangers in a tiny little quarry village. When I got to page 36 and I was just getting my feet set, I realized I was writing a book. Terrified me. I was scared to my core. No way I could pull off a whole book! But I have a great woman in my life and she told me I could. She believed until I did.
Who or what influenced your writing once you began?
Stephen King is a god. There are a lot of names I’m supposed to say first, so here goes. Robert E. Howard was big for me. H.P. Lovecraft, another juggernaut of my early years. Kipling was huge for me when I read The Jungle Books. Blew my mind. But Stephen King was the one. What he is doing is amazing, the sheer volume of work coming out of him year after year. The work ethic it takes to pump out one great book after the next, man, he taught me how to do it. I read On Writing, when I got started. It was bought for me by a guy who mattered. His name was Adam, but he is not around anymore. Man, that book showed me how to do it.
What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?
The only challenging thing to writing a book is sitting down to write. Stephen Pressfield wrote a brilliant book. It is one-part instructional manual, two-parts a kick to the butt. The book is called The War of Art. Man, that book is amazing. Bought me for by a great writer, friend of mine named Siobhan. The book talks about many things all writers need to hear, but the one thing that stood out to me is this. He says, “The writer knows what the wanna be doesn’t. Sitting down to write is harder than writing.” Once you have hammered out the time, once you have sat down to do the work, once you have shut down all the demons telling you that you are wasting your time, once you have walked away from every distraction, the work just flows.
Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it?
Writing Liefdom taught me my purpose. It gave me my thesis statement all my work is about. At its core, Liefdom is a study on protecting innocence. It’s about a fairy who does anything necessary to save the life of a boy. When I was finished, I knew what I wanted my work to be about. There is no higher calling than protecting the innocent. A child is always worth fighting for. In some way, every book I have written has been about that idea.
Do you intend to make writing a career?
Writing is all I’m really good at. Now, my saint of a wife will tell you something else. She and I have had this argument many times, but the truth of the thing is this: I have one marketable skill, one thing I can do that few others can. Writing is all I have, and I have made my life about it. I work all the time. I have written 16 novels, all rough drafts, all unpublished, all telling the story of one continent in a unique world. Every one of them is connected. There are five series in all. Each series stands alone, but together, they tell one crazy tale that weaves around itself again and again. This is my life. This is all I’ve got.
Have you developed a specific writing style?
I like multiple point of view characters in a book. Now, that is not popular. Every one I have talked to wants to know whose story it really is. My work will almost always have many stories being told at the same time. I like past tense. I like third person. I like my fantasy to be huge and unstoppable. In the bible, Samson kills thousands of men with the jawbone of an ass. When I heard that the first time in church, I almost cried. It was a magnificent story. One man, possessed by the power of his god, killing thousands of men at a time. How does that happen? How mighty of a god do you have to be? Well, if you believe the story, that is great. If you don’t, then it is just a story. But that is the kind of fantasy I want to read, that I what I want to see, that is what I write.
What is your greatest strength as a writer?
My greatest strength as a writer is that it never stops coming. When I was a kid, I played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons. I was that kid. I wanted to play all the time. I was the guy that came up with the story. If I wanted to play, I had to keep telling stories. I had to create on the fly. I had to keep telling stories that my friends wanted to be a part of. I would play for hours on end. One game, we played for 27 hours. For 27 hours, I had to come up with characters and settings. I had to come up with plots for six guys and keep it interesting for 27 hours. I did that for decades. For decades, I would start a story and keep it going for hours. I learned to just create on a whim. The ideas never stop with me. I have nine more books to write before my epoch is finished. When it is done, I have an idea that will propel me through another 24 books. It won’t stop coming.  
What is your favorite quality about yourself?
I’m loyal. To a fault. When you’re my friend, that is it. I’ll tell you a story, ’cause you haven’t told me to shut up yet. My best friend Chris is a brilliant artist and I love him dearly. His wife came over the other day and she was talking to mine while I was sitting there, listening and butting in every now and then. She started saying that Chris was driving her crazy because he would bring out stuff from everywhere and just leave it out. She would have to put it back where it belonged. I jumped on this right away. I said, “As you should. If he goes to the trouble of bringing it all out, the least you can do is put it back.” My other friend is having a baby. They told us all, but not the names they were thinking of until they had one nailed down. I was talking to his wife and I said, “You should go with the name Matt wants. It’s perfect!” She looked at me like I was crazy. She said, “What did you say?” She was starting to get mad at him ’cause he was not supposed to tell anyone his names. I said, “Yeah, he hasn’t told me what it is yet, but he is my boy. He is right. It’s perfect. Go with that.”
What is your least favorite quality about yourself?
I have a lot of crippling self-doubt that I have to work though. When I look at myself, sometimes I can’t see my worth. I can’t see why I have wonderful people in my life and a fantastic wife by my side at all times. I can’t see what they see. I just have to have faith it is there.
What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why?

“Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid,” by Basil King. This came to me when I started writing. Actually, a few months after I had started writing my first novel, about the time in a novel when the newness has worn off and you’re starting to hear self-doubt and you’re getting scared. Writing a book is scary stuff. You put your emotions, hot and cold, down on the page. You are writing things people are going to feel strongly about. People are going to make assumptions about their lives based on the characters in your book. When I read Sturm Brightblade, as a kid in high school, he affected my personality. He helped shape the man I became. When you realize you have that kind of power, you are a monster if you’re not a little terrified. Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman would have had trouble writing Sturm, had they known the effect he would have on me. In the face of the fear of writing, and all that comes with it, you have to be bold.

For more about Liefdom, and Jesse Teller, visit his KindleScout campaign page:

Meet the Author:

Jesse Teller
Jesse Teller lives in Missouri. He hasn’t always, but like storytelling, it snuck into his bones. He lives with his wonderful, supportive wife and two inspiring kids. When he is not pounding too hard on his poor keyboard, you can find him bumping into walls and mumbling to himself.

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1 comment:

  1. LIEFDOM is now available on Amazon!