Hello my dear ones! This is the first article of the new section , "Interview Time!", of my website.
In this article I asked my good friend, Jeff Deischer, who is a New Pulp Author, to be part of this very first interview. I am so glad he could accept and take time to answer my questions! Jeff is a published author, has many books and short stories under his belt, recently awarded, and is one of my mentors. In this interview we will discuss about his life as a writer, his work, how is it like to be a writer in the online age, what tips he has for new writers, how he constructs his stories and many more. It was an amazing interview and hope you will enjoy it too as it has lots of good info for writers out there!
Now, let's start the interview!😊👇
Hi my dear friend, Jeff! How are you?
All things considered, I guess I’m okay. I’m one of those who hate winter and family holidays.
Tell me a few things about yourself and the genres you write in.
I’m in my mid-fifties, and I’ve been a reader since I was about ten. I recall reading Doc Savage, Marvel Comics, the Three Investigators series, mythology (primarily Norse), and a few solo books that I got from the school reading program. A representative came to the school once a month, and you could order books. The next time he came, he had your books.
Broadly, I write action adventure fiction, and non-fiction about action adventure fiction. I’ve written in about every genre – science fiction, superheroes, historical, space opera, golden age pulp, sword & sorcery. I haven’t written novels in all of these, but at least some short stories. Before I die, I’d like to write a sword & sorcery novel, and one actual detective story. I have one in mind set in Shanghai in the Twenties, featuring a crime solving couple. I also haven’t written horror, but adventure with horror overtones.
What did you want to be as an adult when you were a child?
I didn’t have many ideas until I was about 11 or 12, and then I knew I wanted to tell stories. But I thought I was going to be an artist until I was about 19, then I realized I was going to be a writer. When I was in the sixth grade, I had a red three-ring binder. I’d written the word “FIGHTS” in big capital letters with a black marker, and in it I drew fights between my favorite Marvel superheroes and supervillains – and sometimes between superheroes and superheroes. I wrote mostly superheroes over the next decade, but I did write down a lot of ideas for Doc Savage and the Destroyer, two series I was reading in my teens; a few short stories for creative writing classes.
When was the first time you thought of becoming a writer and why?
It was because I loved comic books. I wanted to write and draw comic books. That’s how it started. Pretty early – I was probably 12 or 13 – I wrote a very short story about three gangs of bank robbers robbing a bank at the same time, unbeknownst to each other. That was the first prose story I wrote.
Did something inspire you or it just came to you that you have to write a story and things went from then on?
I think it was a natural progression: I loved reading comic books, and so I wanted to write and draw them. I’ve heard a lot of comic book writers or artists start this way.
Do you have any mentors? If yes, what made you look up to them? What one thing made an impact on your writing?
I have a few idols, as opposed to mentors: Lester Dent, who wrote most of the Doc Savage stories; Dashiell Hammett, best known for writing The Maltese Falcon; and Ian Fleming, writer of the James Bond series. I love Dent’s narrative style, although as a teenager, I wasn’t really aware of it – I was enjoying the stories. I read so much of his work that it’s seeped into my writing pores, and even when I’m not trying to write like him, I do to some extent. He’s great at character names and plot twists. Hammett’s prose is inspirational. I could never write like him, but reading his prose inspires me to write. Of course, he has great characters and complex plots, too. Fleming’s main appeal for me is also his prose. He is able to paint a setting like few authors. I’ve had one sort-of mentor, Will Murray, who has written both the Doc Savage series and the Destroyer series. He gave some very good advice when I really started applying myself as a writer in 1998 (when I got a computer), which over the years turned me into a good writer. Occasionally, I’ll still hit him up for advice if I get stuck on a plot point. I’d also call him an idol; his King Kong vs Tarzan was really inspiring to me. He did a great job with characterization.
How do you come up with your characters’ names, titles, setting of your stories? Is it a hard task for you?
Almost never hard. I make lists of character names as I think of them. Titles aren’t too hard, either, although I will occasionally start a book without having the permanent title in mind. I’ve written most of some books without knowing all the chapter titles. Settings usually evolve out of the storyline. Or I know a fact about a place, and work up a story around that fact.
Among your written books, which three are your most treasured possessions and why?
Three …The Adventures of the Man of Bronze: a Definitive Chronology; The Marvel Timeline Project, Part 1; Millennium Bug. The first is my chronology of the Doc Savage series, the second a chronology of the first four years of the Marvel Universe. Millennium Bug is my Doc Savage pastiche novel. If I can pick three fiction, and three non-fiction, they’d probably be Argent, Skull & Bones, and Millennium Bug. Argent is the first book in a series of my own superheroes, set mostly in the Sixties. Skull & Bones is the first in a secret agent series set in the Fifties. I wrote it as a James Bond novel when I had writer’s block, and it cured it. A couple of Bond fans who read it told me I should change the names and get it published, so I did. For non-fiction, the two above and The Way They Were, a collection of essays about famous novels and stories of the past 200 years.
What’s the hardest thing you have experienced in your writing career? Can you give more details about it? And maybe, what did you do to overcome it?
Without a doubt, the hardest and most frustrating thing is marketing and sales. I’ve only had two 3-star reviews on Amazon in all of my books; the rest are 4- and 5-stars. But sales don’t reflect this. There are so many books out there now, it’s hard to get noticed. People don’t browse bookstores anymore, and if you type in, for example, “superheroes”, on Amazon, you get over 60,000 results! To make this even more difficult, neither I nor the publisher are really social media savvy.
Did you experience writer’s block? How did it manifest for you? What did you apply in order to overcome it?
I never had writer’s block until 2012. Mine manifests itself as lack of motivation. I look at the blank screen and nothing comes out, not even when I try to write. A lot of the time, I can be wishy-washy about wanting to write, and I can do it if I force myself. But occasionally, for months-long stretches, I get writer’s block. Thankfully, I’m still creative during these times, and developing new ideas. I just can’t write prose. Sometimes I can't limp along by writing longhand, sometimes not. Trying to write something completely different from my usual stuff has helped in the past: I got three books out of trying to imitate Ian Fleming.
What’s your opinion on traditional publishing vs self-publishing? What experience do you have with them? Advantages, disadvantages, bad experiences etc.
I haven’t had much experience with traditional publishing, to a large degree because everything moves so slowly. I’ve had bad luck with indy publishers, until my friend Sam Pepper formed Westerntainment to publish two books I wrote that he thought deserved to be published, The Marvel Timeline Project and Over the Rainbow. Those experiences worked out so well, we did more books. I’d done a book or two on my own before that and didn’t like it. I’m a writer, not a businessman, not a salesman. So I’m happy to let Sam handle those aspects of producing my books.
I know that, in the majority of times, you make your own covers. Can you give some tips for other writers on it? Or, do you think writers should develop such skills, too? What’s your take upon this matter?
Most writers don’t have the art background I do, so creating covers may not be easy for them. They may have no interest in making their own covers. If they have no interest in art, they’re not going to learn much trying to do their own covers. I do it because I enjoy it. One problem I see over and over and over these days: generic covers and generic titles. I try to do covers that catch the eye; reveal something but not too much about the story; make the readers want to read the story.
Which story/book that you wrote consider it your masterpiece? Can you give a short history about it and why you consider it your masterpiece?
The consensus is that Millennium Bug is my best novel. I agree. I think my prose is always better when I am trying to write like Lester Dent (which I only do for golden age pulp novels). As a writer, I was proud of two things that maybe readers don’t notice: The word count is perfectly balanced throughout the book. Usually, in books of this type, the back half is slightly shorter than the first half. The other thing is, I was very happy that I was able to make a pure pulp novel work in the present. I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to, because so much of pulp-style writing relies on Thirties-style writing. They don’t have to be the same. I was able to keep the story pulp while utilizing modern technology, which in my opinion, destroys a lot of potential for suspense, because of the immediacy of airplane flight and global communications, to name two. Millennium Bug has seven reviews on Amazon – all 5-star.
What’s your main source of inspiration for your stories?
I wouldn’t say I have a “main source”. I get inspiration from daily life, odd facts I learn, films or TV that I watch, or books I read. Sometimes, a story idea starts with “what if they told that story differently?” I’ll think of a different direction that could have been done for a film, and work up a story around that. Usually, stories are built from an idea that just pops into my head. Then the story is constructed. I figure out a plot, and what kind of characters would work in it, or sometimes the other way around. There’s no standard process.
How do you feel social media platforms helped you in your writing career?
Not much, possibly because I don’t have much of a presence other than Facebook.
Have you ever written a story with the thought of turning it in a TV series? Which one? Give some details about it.
I occasionally have an idea for a TV show. The only one I’ve turned into novels – actually short story collections – is The Four … Four on the Run, Four in the Way. This series is about four convicts a thousand years in the future on the run from authorities. They find themselves in a lawless region of space, and try to make a living without drawing attention to themselves. Naturally, in each story they run into trouble of some kind. Each story is a one-hour episode of a SF TV show in my head. I have a five-year story arc in mind, but at three stories a book, that’s forty books to tell the entire story.
What’s your latest work in progress book? Can you give our readers some details about it?
I’m two-thirds of the way through New World Order, about superheroes who work for the United Nations in 2017. Wealthy businessmen from around the world are disappearing, and the agents are called in to find out what’s going on. This leads them to criminals and into foreign nations. Readers are either going to love or hate the ending, I think.
Which story gave you a hard time writing it and why?
I couldn’t say. Different stories have different problems. Sometimes the plot is difficult. New World Order has a main plot, a big subplot, and three branches of the main plot, all of which have to be woven together. Getting my plots right is usually my biggest problem. My plots may not be particularly complex, but they almost never have big holes in them, either.
How can personal life affect a writer’s career and work?
Depends on the writer. Years ago, nothing could stop me from writing. But the past few years, personal problems really eat at my motivation. Possibly this is because I write so much these days. In the past two and a half years, I’ve written sixteen books – and I’ll finish New World Order this month.
Do you have any rituals when writing?
What’s your pattern of writing? Like, do you work on an outline, or you work on the flow?
Always outline. If you don’t, you miss opportunities for suspense and foreshadowing, and the like. I get that pantsers like spontaneity, but pros learn to pull words from themselves even when they’re not inspired. Which is not always the same thing, but it can be.
Some writers say that they are struck with story ideas even in their sleep. How is it for you?
I’ve had a few dreams that would make good stories, but not many. I find that when I’m drifting off to sleep I often get ideas, or names pop into my head. I always keep pen and paper nearby. You never know when inspiration is going to strike.
Do you do your research before starting your stories or pure imagination? Or a mix of both?
It depends on the story. Those that come from a fact I know, I research. Other stories, I research when I get to that point in the story. This is usually some minor information for background that’s not in the outline.
When you don’t write, what other hobbies do you have?
I watch a lot of TV and read.
Do you have pets? What’s your relationship with them? Do they inspire you in a way or another?
I sort of have a cat. We’re still in our settling in phase. He’s an outdoor cat that I feed, and he’s getting used to spending time indoors. At one point, I had four cats, and they had distinct personalities. That led me to create a cat-man race with my four cats being the lead characters.
I want to speak a little about depression. Many writers on groups and social media discuss about having it. Do you think writing helps overcoming it? What’s your take on this subject?
Writing may be therapeutic for some writers. It’s not for me. Deep depression keeps me from writing, because it destroys discipline. Which often makes me more depressed.
I heard you received an award recently. Congrats! Tell me about it! How did it start and how you felt when you heard you are the winner? What’s the award you received?
It was the 2018 Pulp Den award for Best New Pulp Novel for Millennium Bug. It came as complete surprise. Pulp legend Tom Johnson posted on Facebook a couple of weeks ago that I’d won it. I was flabbergasted. It was a surprise and an honor. Tom is well known in the pulp community as an author, publisher, and reviewer. He knows his pulp, and for him to give me such an award just blew me away. I’ve been snubbed by a few people in New Pulp for personal reasons, so it was really nice to be recognized for my work.
How’s the experience of having friendships with other writers?
I don’t have any intimate friends who are writers, just friends or acquaintances. It’s nice to talk about something I love with people who understand what I’m talking about. The people closest to me have no interest or understanding of writing, so it’s hard to talk to them about it.
How do you find beta readers and how is your experience with it?
My beta readers are fans who contacted me, and wrote something that made me think they’d give me constructive feedback. My main beta reader right now is David Webb, but I usually get some feedback from Daniel Dickholtz and Ric Croxton. David and Daniel’s feedback is very detailed, while Ric’s is very encouraging, which I need sometimes to stay on track.
Let’s speak a little about promotion of an author’s book. What’s the best paid and free promotion you experienced and which ones are not so good?
I’ve never found good paid promotion, but neither I nor Westerntainment have put much money into it. Same with free promotion. I think the best results I’ve had is posting on Facebook in groups that buy my type of book, whatever it is at the moment.
Have you ever experienced bad reviews? If yes, which one affected you the most and what kind of impact it had on your writing? What piece of advice would you give to other writers on this aspect?
I’ve only had one hateful review, and it was by someone who had a personal beef with me. Had nothing to do with the book. I notified Amazon and they removed it. Didn’t affect me at all. More common are reviews that don’t get the book, don’t understand its point. One complained that one quarter of one of my books consisted of character index and timeline – as if I had X number of pages and I “wasted” one quarter of them on peripheral material. I told him the story was as long I as thought it should be, and the bonus material was just that – a bonus that most readers who commented on it liked.
You have a blog. What do you post there?
I’m not a blogger so my website is simple: I describe each book of mine that’s been published, and post the first chapter of each first book in a series.
How many books you have written so far? Can you give me a number?
I’ve written 28 novels (23 published); 12 short story collections (9 published); 7 non-fiction (7 published).
What makes you keep writing?
I’m driven to.
What advice would you give to starting writers?
Find someone who will give you honest feedback and write as often as you can. Start there. Even if your reader doesn’t know anything about writing, they will probably tell you what doesn’t feel right or work for them. They may not be able to tell you how to fix it, but they can tell you what’s wrong. Then think about the individual elements of writing: narrative, conflict, characterization, dialogue, etc. And outline. There are authors who can write well without them. Not so many beginners.
Which books do you like reading? Do they have an impact on your writing? How?
I have a fairly wide range of books that I read, but usually action adventure. Or science or history, though, with the internet, I do most of my research there. Sure, books inspire me. This goes back to my “what-if?” inspiration.
What’s the most positive fan review that really gave you satisfaction? Give some details about it.
It would have to be Barry Reese’s review of Millennium Bug. He wrote that my Doc Brazen was his favorite Doc Savage pastiche, and after the mixed bag of stories that set Doc in the present, Millennium Bug proved it could be done. That’s high praise from a fellow pulp author.
What’s the best tip you have ever received for your writing career?
You learn more from re-writing than writing – Will Murray.
Now, we are approaching the end of the interview. Sad moment, as I always love to talk with you my dear friend. Any final words that you would like to say? Maybe to your fans, this interview readers, anything?
Check out my website. There’s plenty of material there for you to read before you spend money buying one of my books. Also, if you buy the print version of one of my books, you get the Kindle edition for free. How can you beat that?
Last question. How was this interview? 😊
Great. Very thorough! Thanks for the opportunity to talk about my work!
Thank you Jeff for participating in this interview! It was fun and insightful! 💖😊❤👌
Well, this was the interview my dear ones! I hope you liked it and found it helpful! Leave a comment with your opinion about the interview, or if you have questions for Jeff! Any comment is more than welcomed! Thank you! ❤😊 Press the LIKE button in form of heart at the end of this article, if you liked the interview! I will appreciate it so much! 🙂 ❤
If you want to connect with Jeff Deischer on other social media you can do so on Tumblr and Instagram. However, a fast response will come from his Facebook Page as he is there most of the time from all social media socializing. Click 👉here for Tumblr 👈 and 👉here for Instagram 👈 links.
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Your true friend always,