It’s a December Author Spotlight Flood! Clearing out my backlog and getting these authors into the spotlight.
- a book-reader, nature-lover, cat-herder, dark-chocoholic, and writer
Readers, thanks for checking out another Author Spotlight Interview. Let’s give a good, hearty welcome to this week’s guest!
Jeff Chapman has been a reader all of his life—well, as soon as he learned how. A favorite summer haunt during his school years was the public library, so it’s not surprising he turned to writing as a hobby and later a passion. Jeff is also a student of history with a bachelor’s and masters in the field. He’s a sucker for historical documentaries and costume dramas.
By day, Jeff codes software. When he should be sleeping, he explores fantasy worlds through fiction and is the author of The Merliss Tales fantasy series, The Huckster Tales weird western series, and The Comic Cat Tales series. His fiction ranges from fairy tales to fantasy to ghost stories. He’s not ashamed to say he’s addicted to dark hot chocolate, and he loves cats. Jeff lives with his wife, children, and cats in a house with more books than bookshelf space.
Jeff, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most author spotlight interviews start with boring stuff, but I know what readers REALLY want to know.
If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?
As a cat person and someone who considers the Pleistocene a very cool prehistoric era, I would love to share my home with a Smilodon (aka saber-toothed cat). I’m certain behind those teeth hides a warm, cuddly kitty desperate for a back-scratching.
I’m surprised more writers don’t want Smilodons! Your reasoning sounds perfectly valid to me.
What do you write? And how did you get started?
Most of my writing falls somewhere in the fantasy genre, although I do branch out into the historical or weird when a good story idea comes to mind. In my fantasy writing, I focus on characters who are not at the top of the social order. In my Merliss Tales series, for instance, the protagonist is a lowly cat, albeit one with powerful friends and some magical abilities.
During my teenage years, I started writing Edgar Allan Poe-inspired stories of the weird and macabre. Fortunately, none of those early attempts have survived, but my initial interest in the macabre lingers in the darker elements of my fantasy tales.
I love books that focus on who one might expect to be a sidekick. And who doesn’t love a touch of the macabre… I really need to get better at writing it.
What do you like to read?
I’m a voracious reader (and listener to audiobooks) and I’m not that picky. I love stories with great character development and fascinating settings. I read fantasy, thrillers, mysteries, ghost stories, literature, etc. Some of my favorite writers include Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Neil Gaiman, Brandon Sanderson, Robert E. Howard, Charles Todd, Ann Cleeves, and Michael Connelly. I could list many more. They all bring their unique talents to the table. They all have something to teach other writers.
I like to think most writers get into writing because they love to read. What a great array of authors.
Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you
I’ve tried creating plot outlines, but they don’t work for me. My best ideas come to me while I’m writing, not when I’m thinking about what I’m going to write. Even when I did create outlines, I had to throw them out because I developed better ideas during the writing.
While I do love a good outline, I’ve learned following one too closely can lead to a story that is stilted in its scene transitions.
Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice they can pry out of your cold, dead hands
Do not over revise.
This is something beginning writers do. I was guilty of it and nothing good came of it other than a killing degree of frustration. I decided that if I just worked on a story super hard and worked on every sentence, I could create a fabulous story.
The story sounded worse the more I worked on it. At some point I started moving commas around, thinking shifting the pauses would turn lead into gold. I had killed the story long before. Endless revising will suck the life out of a story.
Now I write one draft, doing a little revising on what I wrote the previous day. When I’m done, I reread the whole story once to fix inconsistencies and remove or replace dull prose. I send the revised draft to an editor, fix whatever the editor finds, and then publish.
I’m feeling a little called out here! While I don’t think I over revised before sending my story out into the world, I got into the habit of revising every 5-10 rejections, and that was probably the wrong call. I’ve heard it said that once you’re changing less than a fifth of the story each time, you’re basically rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Put down the pen and send it off!
Shameless Self-Promotion time!
The Merliss Tales (2 books)
The Great Contagion (Book 1)
Plagues kill but Merliss has far more to fear than a disease.
Merliss is no ordinary cat. She’s a young girl’s spirit trapped in a cat’s body. While the magic that banished her has snatched away her ability to speak to humans, it has given her a life spanning millennia. For centuries she has lived with the cunning folk, assisting their efforts to heal the sick and ward off malevolent creatures. Now a bleeding sickness has thrown the medieval community into chaos.
The cunning man Hailaird and his apprentice Fendrel are in danger from the disease. The life Merliss has worked so long to build is in jeopardy. Before she entered the cat, she had trained to be a shaman. Do her centuries of experience hold a secret to a cure? But disease isn’t her only nemesis.
A pair of malevolent creatures have crossed the moor into the forest, threatening more havoc. With disease and monsters ravaging the land, Merliss is hard-pressed to survive. It couldn’t be worse, until a mob looking for a scapegoat turns its wrath on Merliss. Tooth and claw and magic may not be enough.
A Huckster Novel
An enchanted blade. An evil old man. An ancient spirit.
The Weird West just gets weirder.
Hucksters Orville and Jimmy struggle to buy a decent meal.
When an old man asks for help with a supernatural pest, Orville smells opportunity. Jimmy smells
And danger is what they find. Jimmy must retrieve an enchanted knife, while fighting a huge coyote, a shapeshifting opossum, and an ancient spirit determined to keep the blade where it is, all to save Orville from the old man’s clutches.
Taking from a Barrow? Not a good idea.
Ethan’s family has fallen from owning a manor to scraping by on a small farm. As he approaches manhood, his prospects don’t look very promising. And Arabella, the girl he’s set his sights on, is the daughter of the Squire. Goaded by his younger brother, Ethan enters the Barrow, fights for his life with the tomb guardian, and escapes with a silver gorget.
Ethan hatches a plan to impress Arabella with the gorget. At the same time, the Sniggard, who guards the Barrow, makes plans to retrieve the stolen item. Ethan’s plans go horribly awry. The Squire stands in his way. The Sniggard kidnaps Arabella. And Ethan stumbles into Faerie.
It’s up to Ethan to fix the mess he’s created and rescue Arabella from a life of captivity with the Sniggard. But how’s a farm boy supposed to accomplish any of those monumental tasks?
The Cat Lady is Always Right (a short story)
What would you do to save your landlady’s cat?
Aaron Sanderson overslept through his bar exam. Now, he’s working the dead end of a grocery store checkout lane, waiting for his next shot at the bar. His boss is a jerk and the summer heat is stifling in the old building.
Aaron thinks he’s hit rock bottom, until his elderly landlady enters the store with her cat.