The Deep End interview with Dave Jeffery

  Crystal Lake Publishing   Mar 02, 2017   Blog   0 Comment
Joe: Tell us a bit (or a lot) more about your childhood. Primary school, high school, etc. How do you think your experiences benefited or influenced your career?

Dave Jeffery: I grew up in an area known as ‘The Black Country’. It was at one point the industrial heartland of the UK. Growing up there had its challenges but everyone seemed to get through days with a blunt sense of humour. I moved around a lot when I was very young. My parents split when I was eight and I was raised by grandparents and my dad. During this time, I used to love losing myself in adventure mystery books such as the Secret Seven, Famous Five, Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. From there I found myself seeking out harder-edged mysteries such as Ellery Queen Whodunit and Alfred Hitchcock’s The Three Investigators.

The council estate where I lived for most of my teenage years was rough, a landscape based on economic struggle, but the people around me, family, friends, always had a sense of pride. I can never say that I didn’t get lucky; we were a close-knit family and emotionally I wanted for nothing. I went to the local comprehensive school and at that point wanted to write and draw comic books. I was okay at art, but in reality just not good enough. I had a mate who was pretty damn good and we produced comic strips based on Planet of the Apes and Star Trek. We sold these for a few pennies each in the playground. Kept us in regular snacks for about half of a school year. I was 10 when I first read James Herbert’s The Rats, and found an instant connection with the gritty style of writing and graphic descriptions. This was followed by Guy N. Smith’s Night of the Crabs, and Herbert’s follow-up The Fog (which is one of my all-time favourite genre books), and from that point on I was hooked.

Looking back, I think it was inevitable that I would eventually gravitate to the idea of fusing the adventure mystery and horror elements that are fundamental to Cryptic Crypt.  The process of writing it certainly felt natural and unforced. Sometimes stories work out that way. It was pretty much the same with the Necropolis Rising series.

Joe: Can you recall a moment where you had to choose between being an author/artist and another career? A decisive moment where you decided to go all out?

DJ: Initially it was a simple exercise in economics that had me moving towards a career in mental health nursing, I wasn’t going to be able to make a living just by writing. In my 32 years in the profession, I have come across a significant amount of creatives who, for one reason or another, have put these fundamental aspects of their personality aside in order to help others.  This job has been an incredible experience and a privilege. You see people at their most vulnerable, witness the extremes in terms of violence and aggression, the desperation of depression and the tragedies that mental illness imposes on the person and their families. But you also see the triumphs, and it is in those moments you realise what it is that kept you doing what it is you do. 

Joe: How did you respond to your very first success as an author? Was it just rewarding, or did it motivate you even more? Or, did it perhaps feel underwhelmed, which motivated you to even greater heights? 

DJ: My first success was when the Necropolis Rising novel hit #1 on the Amazon UK charts in 2010. I was pretty amazed if I’m honest. I was also surprised by the responses from other people. This ranged from those undermining the achievement because it wasn’t released through one of the ‘big four’ publishers, to those who heralded the success as an example of what could be achieved in the current independent publishing sector. It did motivate me to write, but offers that came in were for short stories and I went with those for a while. It always amazes me when editors get in touch and invite me to contribute to anthologies. I guess it’s an acknowledgement that people like what I do and feel it will add to whatever publication they are putting together.

Joe: How has your career as an author affected relationships with friends and family? 

DJ: My career, such as it is at this juncture, is underpinned by my family. Justine, my wife, is totally supportive and is just as excited as seeing Beatrice Beecham out with Crystal Lake Publishing. Over the past twelve years Justine has put up with late nights and conversations halted in mid flow because I’m writing something on a Blackberry or iPhone. This is as much her achievement as mine.

I don’t often tell people I write. It seems with the advent of online publishing everyone does it so I don’t see it as that big a deal. I always respect the views of those who have invested time and money in my work.

Joe: Which author most influenced your early career? And who still does?

DJ: That’s an easy one: John Steinbeck. In my view, no one writes such sparse prose that can deliver such a profound impact. He inspires me even today. Cannery Row is my all-time favourite novel. I wish I had an eighth of the ability he had. If people want to pin me down to a horror influence then it would be James Herbert and Guy N. Smith based on my earlier comments. I was fortunate to meet Guy and he was highly supportive of my writing.  A true gentleman.

Joe: Instead of just focussing on your most successful work, which story are you the proudest of, a story that managed to capture a piece of who you are?

DJ: Finding Jericho, a contemporary novel based on a teenager coping with his uncle’s mental illness, says more about me than anything else I have written. It encapsulates my experiences of working in mental health, and tries to tell the stories of those I have met, and raise awareness of the stigma associated with having a mental illness.

Joe: How do you feel when you don’t make your target words for the day? 

DJ: I’m pleased to say that I never let a daily word count dictate the terms. That privilege is reserved for the story and the characters in them. Sometimes they have a lot to say; other times they are silent. I never force myself to write. I usually have several pieces of work on the go at any one time. I have found this a good way to avoid the infamous ‘writer’s block’. If one story doesn’t feel the need to step forward, another will. If they are all reluctant, then I go and watch a movie or read. They soon get bored and start making noises!

Joe: What’s the most difficult topic for you to write?

DJ: Anything which involves the death of or cruelty towards a child. Being a parent contributes to that, I guess. I have written about such things, but I automatically adopt a sensitive writing voice. I am conscious of it and I’m not sure I would want to change how I do this kind of thing. I’m not one for cheap shocks using taboo subject matter. I have done it for commissioned pieces, but it is not something I would choose for my own projects.

Joe: What do you do to distract you enough to actually relax a bit? Or do you always think about writing?

DJ: I love to read (the obvious one) and watch movies. I also write scripts and film under the umbrella of VLM Productions. Writing pretty much dominates my spare time these days. I spend most of the remaining time with my family. Or catching Pokémon! 

Joe: Tell us a bit about the people you met while researching a book. Are you still friends with some of them?

DJ: Only people I don’t like make it into my books, just so I can kill them off. Only kidding!  There are some people I’ve met whose personality traits have been blended into some of the characters; especially in the Beatrice Beecham books. People are always coming up with great names that I tend to give to the townsfolk of Dorsal Finn.

Joe: Outside of the actual craft, what is the most useful skill you learnt from being an author? 

DJ: Write what you want to read. It’s a cliché but it’s true. If you write for yourself then, more often than not, you give your worst critic access to the quality control button. Also, write what you know, purely because it will feel more authentic. And you don’t have to do so much research!


Joe: How did being author change you as a person?

DJ: I don’t think it has. Personally, I think it’s the person who creates the writer, their experiences and their worldview. I have always been creative and, to be fair, introverted. I’m good at speaking in public, but it is not a natural thing and in preference I’d rather not. However, this quickly becomes an issue if you’re asked to do a reading! 

Joe: Which response/comment from a reader has touched you the most throughout your career?

DJ: One reader told me that reading Finding Jericho had changed their life. As a writer, how the hell do you top something like that?

Joe: What is your life-long goal as an author?

DJ: I would like to write full time. I can retire in a few years and still have to do two days a week. The rest of the time will be dedicated to writing. I’m hoping that over the next few years I can shave those last few days down and write full time. That would be my kind of heaven.

Joe: What legacy do you want to leave behind?

DJ: Every once in a while for people to think, ‘Dave Jeffery? He’s the oddball who wrote those Beatrice Beecham books, right?’

 

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