The Deep End interview with Gene O’Neill
Joe Mynhardt: Before we dive into your backstory, tell us a bit about your upcoming release?
Gene O’Neill: Frozen Shadows is a collection as close to real horror as I can write. Actually, most of the stories are O’Neill mixed genre… All published in pro markets and I think are pretty good.
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?
Gene: I was raised by my grandparents, emigrants with 2nd and 3rd grade educations, in Federal Housing, working-class background. Sports, Marines, College, jobs including finally vice president of a small insulation manufacturing company.
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?
Gene: My daughter graduated from PA school, my wife retired early from teaching, and I began writing full time at that moment.
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?
Gene: I started writing in my late thirties, with a wide variety of life experiences, so I knew I had something to say. I’ve always been excited with each and every sale.
Joe: How has your career as an author affected relationships with friends and family?
Gene: Well, I quit that vice president position, earning the equivalent of about 100k back then. They all thought I was crazy. Looking at my taxes this year and income from writing, they were probably right. But I wouldn’t trade my writing years for any amount of money. My immediate family, wife two kids, two grand-kids, support me 100%.
Joe: Which author most influenced your early career? And who still does?
Gene: Ted Klein as a writer and editor. He was my first major sale when he was editing The Twilight Zone. I like his quiet dark fiction.
Joe: Instead of just focusing on your most successful work, which story are you the proudest of, a story that managed to capture a piece of who you are?
Gene: I was an adaptive P.E. teacher for years, and enjoyed the students/adults I worked with. I’ve written a number of stories about them. For example, here in FS, “The Algernon Effect.”
Joe: How do you feel when you don’t make your target words for the day?
Gene: I write every morning six days a week, with no particular target of words. Sometimes it’s a lot sometimes it’s not. But being disciplined and working steady it all adds up.
Joe: What’s the most difficult topic for you to write?
Gene: I guess like many male writers it’s writing a good sex scene. But Damon Knight said that to be a good writer you have to pirouette naked in front of your readers. I took that to heart, and I think I write a sensitive, realistic love scene now…and am comfortable doing it.
Joe: What do you do to distract you enough to actually relax a bit? Or do you always think about writing?
Gene: I was a jock, like to watch sports. Like a good movie. But like most writer, I think, I can only partially distract myself. I find myself writing in my head/thinking about a scene right in the middle of basketball or Three Billboards.
Joe: Tell us a bit about the people you met while researching a book. Are you still friends with some of them?
Gene: It’s so easy to do research now, I haven’t bugged the research librarian at my local library for years. With my wide working experience co-workers/friends had been good resources. And of course I check in with writer friends who may have some expertise in areas I need help with.
Joe: Outside of the actual craft, what is the most useful skill you learnt from being an author?
Gene: Discipline. I think that what I developed in the Marines was fine-tuned by writing every day.
Joe: How did being author change you as a person?
Gene: All the step programs recommend keeping a journal or a diary. So, writing for years, I think, has mellowed me into being a better person. I may have been a little rough and impulsive as a young man.
Joe: Which response / comment from a reader has touched you the most throughout your career?
Gene: Well you like to hear: Your book X was a good read. But I think the most gratifying thing anyone has said is that more than just a good read, book X was a great experience, I felt it all, I was there.
Joe: What is your life-long goal as an author?
Gene: I’d love to see one of my series played out on TV or the movies.
Joe: What legacy do you want to leave behind?
Gene: I won’t be leaving my grandkids a large financial legacy, but I will be leaving them a lot of fine books. If they actually read them all, they will know my life story—it is all there.