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the Dreams of the Damned

I write dark fiction and I'm something of a dreamer

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Crossing Mother's Grave: Jake Elliot interview

crossingmothersgrave_200x300_dpi72Jake Elliot is the US author of fantasy novels The Wrong Way Down, and its sequel, Crossing Mother's Grave. Both are available from Damnation Books. He is also a co-contributor to the anthology of the monstrous, Fading Light. I recently nominated him as an author to look out for as part of the Next Big Thing and you can read his link here.

So, on to the interview!

LM: Hi Jake, welcome to my blog.

We'll start with Fading Light and your excellent contribution, Rurik's Frozen Bones. The story features Vikings and a nasty surprise at sea. Tell us about the story I think the anthology neatly divides into two camps, apocalypse tale and monster tale. What inspired you to go for the latter?

JE: Thanks Lee for having me here.

When I had read the prompt, the first line was “The era of man is at an end” and I’d thought of the line as being speculative and not literal. It never dawned on me that the prompt implied writing a story of the end of everything. I was very hung up on the word “Monstrous” and since I write fantasy with an enjoyable dose of darkness, I figured a story of “the end” for five men via mythological monster would be enjoyable for people to read.

LM: Your first novel was the Wrong Way Down. Tell us about it.

JE: The Wrong Way Down is a fantasy fiction roller-coaster. The story is on par with many fantasy stories but moves a lot faster. It begins with two thieves breaking into a remote monastery to steal a priceless treasure. One thief murders a priest and the other thief is caught.

The treasure is a sacred sceptre of renowned holy power. Desiring to reclaim the sceptre while the trail is still warm, the elder priest sends a strong-willed yet impetuous young healer to escort the captured thief to the nearest military garrison. The thief escapes along the way. Healer Popalia and her elven guide stand at a fateful crossroad––either accept their failure, or take pursuit while they still can.

Time to tighten your lap-strap––it begins to roll faster from this point.

LM: What can we expect from the sequel, Crossing Mother's Grave?

JE: By the end of The Wrong Way Down, a gang of thieves sabotage Popalia’s group so that they are now fugitives. While in the big city, Popalia bolstered her group’s strength by hiring two capable mercenaries. Now their heads are on the chopping block too.

In Crossing Mother’s Grave, as they are closing in on the thief, several angry soldiers have taken pursuit. Ahead of them, the thief is hiding in a merchant’s caravan traveling a dangerous road between two cities. Popalia desperately tries to convince her group that by re-capturing the burglar, they could bargain an exchange for their lives.

Soon, they come upon the merchant’s caravan––abandoned, stripped and bloodied in the middle of the road. Crossing Mother’s Grave is about a rescue mission that goes horribly awry.

LM: Did your approach change from one book to the next?

JE: Not really. Crossing Mother’s Grave is a true continuation of The Wrong Way Down. However, the second book shows great improvements in my writing style. Readers have been very kind to The Wrong Way Down, all the feedback I’ve received from professionals and fans has helped me hone my skills a fair bit tighter in Mother’s Grave. My approach is relatively close to what The Wrong Way Down began.

The third book is halfway drafted and hopefully number three will be recognizably different in its approach. It has been giving me one hell of a fight, but I am excited to see it finished. I’m hopeful it’ll be ready for a publisher’s review by late March, 2013.

LM: Why did you choose to write a series rather than a standalone novel?

JE: I wish I’d done a standalone first. Say the word ‘series’ and most agents and publishers will avoid you like an Ebola outbreak. I got lucky when Damnation Books gave me a chance. Slowly––and oh-so-horribly slowly––this series is catching on.

A few weeks ago I started writing a fantasy fiction adventure based on the game Skyrim. It is an opportunity to see my fiction without needing to buy any. It can be found at skyrimprodigy@wordpress.com . I must remind you though, this is the raw stuff––my books are edited by professionals. Still, it isn’t bad for the high price of free.

Most people I’ve convinced to read The Wrong Way Down were eager to read Mother’s Grave. Getting people to read the first one is the hardest thing, after that they are hooked like a junkie on heroin. This was the biggest reason I chose series instead of a single story.

I do feel a bit dirty, like I’ve become a drug-dealer.

LM: Why fantasy? What attracts you to the genre?

JE: Monsters, magic and heroics, but mostly because I didn’t like how my contemporaries were doing it. It isn’t that I think other fantasy writers aren’t good, it is that some of them sell a generous share of ‘campy.’ There is some great fantasy writing in the world, Robert E. Howard and J.R.R. Tolkien being the most common names. I wanted to see how mine would compare.

Conan is my favourite literary hero, and another favourite from the opposite spectrum of the fantasy realm is Gandalf. It seemed natural to write in the genre of fantasy. Popalia is an outstanding character and she has an honest chance to stand beside these two heroes. I’m betting my future on it.

Other reasons that I would include are my own under sights.  I’m not techy enough to write sci-fi. Romance and military Bromances weren’t going to satisfy my hungry imagination. (For the record, I’m 25-books into Don Pendleton’s awesome Executioner series. It is the military Bromance books that inspired the Punisher comic-book hero. Both are like an American version of Judge Dread.) I do appreciate reading some horror, and there are clear elements of it in my stories.

LM: What is the best piece of advice you could give another writer?

JE: DON’T DO IT!! Put the keyboard away and buy a guitar. Women dig musicians––even when they suck at playing. You can grow your hair long and use the F-word all day long without being judged as crass. Plus, if you do get talented playing your guitar, it is possible to actually make money.

Write for fun, write because you love it. I’ve concluded that I hate the ‘business’ of writing. Perhaps I just hate working my ass off and still being poor. Of course, I’d feel a lot different if I were JK Rowling.

LM: In general, as a reader what do you think good writing is?

JE: What a difficult question to answer. Let’s use an example we should all familiar with––take Wrath by Lee Mather. The tale was intended to generate spooky sensations in the reader, and upon finishing that story, I felt amply disturbed on deep levels. Mission accomplished––that story defines gook writing.

I don’t read self-published books because in general the writing is sloppy. Even if it is potentially good writing, most self-published authors don’t pay for editing. An editor might not have the same talent as a creative writer, but they sure make the story better. As good a story as Mother’s Grave is, it would have looked like smeared crap on paper without the help of my editor.

If I had an editor look over my answers to your questions, I’d look golden.

LM: Your Kindle (or generic non-branded e-reader) is broken and you can only have one book (not your own!) on there. What would it be and why?

JE: This is another tough question, but in the end it would be The Complete Chronicles of Conan by Robert E. Howard. It is almost as big as the bible, but far more inspiring. (I’m kidding, Conan isn’t really that big.)

Thanks, Jake!

The writing of Jake Elliot can be found at http://jakeelliotfiction.com/.

You can follow Jake on Twitter, here.