Capitalizing on momentum , I decided to reach out to a Nine Day Wonder alumnis, Ed Kurtz, from Abattoir Press and its successful imprint Redrum Horror, to see if he had any authors of his own he’d like to see in the spotlight. He sent Eric Jackson my way.
One of the kicks I get out of these interviews is that, no matter how often I send out these questions, I never, ever know what answers I’m going to get back.
PF: It takes a lot to get my attention, and you managed to do it in two sentences: “Jebediah Crane receives a note ordering him to kill his own father within twenty-four hours or be killed himself. The problem is, his father has been dead for over a decade.” How long has this story been bubbling in your head, and what was the final catalyst to bring it to life?
EJ: I am very pleased these lines caught your attention—not only because they were designed to do just that—but because these lines are exactly how the story first came to me. It was about a month and a half before the World Horror Convention in Austin, Texas—2011—and I was trying to decide if I wanted to pitch one of my novels at the event. I had never pitched a work of fiction in person, so I decided to research the topic and see if I could teach myself how to do so properly. Somehow, in the midst of about twelve-thousand Google searches, I stumbled across a discussion board involving how to write book cover blurbs. Naturally, my mind wandered into that territory and I started thinking about what makes good cover material. Those lines came to me right then. This story literally came to me in the form of a book cover synopsis, so I suppose I HAD to write the story so the binding wouldn’t be filled with empty pages.
PF: On your blog, you have a picture of hold the advance reading copy of A Blind Eye to the Rear View in your hand for the first time. Tell me about that day. Did you ever put the book down?
EJ: I didn’t completely lose my mind and staple the book to my forehead, but I was VERY excited. It isn’t my first published work, but it is my first book-length work of fiction. And stylistically, it’s my favorite to date. Most of all, though, it was nice to see that particular book in existence because it’s the only story idea I’ve ever had that came to me in the form of a literal book.
PF: On your website, you say that you’re a freelance author, editor and photographer, and that you’ve been working most often as a weather forecaster for the USAF. What kind of daily life experience gets incorporated into your stories? Or is it all just raw imagination?
EJ: I actually gave up weather forecasting in 2007 in favor of sanity. I never incorporated anything specific—at least I haven’t yet—from that lifestyle, but I suppose from an abstract point of view there is very little difference between forecasting the weather and writing fiction. It’s all about making things up. In all seriousness, I cannot help being somehow influenced by my surroundings—none of us can—but I have never consciously included events from my daily life in my writing. Perhaps some of my landscape and architecture photographs have found their way into my stories, but it’s pretty much all about raw imagination and giving my mind the opportunity to misbehave.
PF: Your novella is still an infant on the market. What’s been your action plan to garner more attention?
EJ: Interviews are great for that. Thank you! A Blind Eye To The Rearview is a very short read written by an author few readers are familiar with, so it’s not the type of product the corporate world will back with million dollar advertising campaigns, billboards, and American Express commercials. I, and authors like me, rely heavily on word of mouth and the good will of our readers and fellow writers. For me, it’s about having a social media presence and attending as many events as possible; soliciting reviews when possible. I hope to develop friendly relationships—sometimes in the three-dimensional world, often online—and just get to know potential readers. Perhaps I’m dreaming, but I hope when people get to know me a little they will find me to be just polarizing enough—either positively or negatively—that they’re genuinely interested in reading what I have written.
PF: Has there ever been a moment (or two, or many) when you were convinced it wasn’t going to happen, that you’d never see your name headlining on a larger body of work? If so, what (or who) helped you to pull through?
EJ: I am a little spoiled moving into the fiction world because I got the chance to see my name on some textbooks during my weather forecasting days. On top of that, I’ve written short stories, web content, and articles for years, so I may have taken for granted the idea that this book would make its way into publication someday. That’s probably not the best attitude for a young author, but I’m glad I had it; it really took the edge of the waiting process. That said, Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi from Chizine Publications saw an earlier draft of Blind Eye and offered some very positive encouragement. I am not typically someone who requires positive reinforcement, but this story is so off-the-wall I probably would not have shopped it around if the first few readers gave it a strong thumbs down.
PF: Judging by your book blurb, I get a sense that there’s a strong element of mystery in your otherwise horror novel. What genre(s) do you typically read? And what’s the one book that you’ve finished reading but never put down?
EJ: I am always reading something, often two or three books in tandem, and the genres vary quite a bit. It would be easier to say that I don’t typically read romances or vampire stories, but there are certainly exceptions to those rules. Michael Rowe’s recent Enter, Night falls into the latter category. Tom Piccirilli, Peter Straub, Sarah Langan, and James Lee Burke top the list of contemporary authors I always read simply because I love the way they sling words together.
The one book I’ve read that I never put down is The Hour Before Dark by Douglas Clegg, partially because of the setting in which I first read it, but mostly because I thought it was just that damned good. I exchanged an email or two with him after it was published and said just that. Ten years and three or four hundred books later and I feel the same way.
PF: Which has had the biggest influence on your writing: other horror stories, movies, comic books, the news…?
EJ: A little of everything, but mostly other stories. I grew up reading pulp horror, crime, and noir paperbacks and then went on to study English literature at the graduate level where I got deeply involved with Gothic literature and Romanticism. Whether it seems so or not, my work—as I’m writing it, anyway—feels like a mash-up of those things.
PF: All new writers are bound to be compared to someone else. Two part question for you: a) who have you been compared to so far, and b) who do you wish you could measure up to?
EJ: In one blurb, A Blind Eye To The Rearview was compared to the works of Jim Thompson and Kurt Vonnegut. I don’t know how accurate that is, but it is wonderful to be mentioned in that kind of company. That pretty much goes for the second part of your question as well. It is an honor to be mentioned in the same company as your heroes, but I am not interested in measuring up to anyone. I plan to work my ass off, continue improving, and coming as close to my own potential as possible. But if I try to live up to someone else’s style or success I’ll probably just start unconsciously rewriting their tales and reliving their biographies. I don’t want to go down that road.
PF: I’m stuck in an airport with a six hour flight delay. I’ve just finished reading your book (hypothetically speaking) and I need something else to read now. You’ve got me in a mood for something creepy. What do you recommend?
EJ: The list of possibilities is a million miles long, but if you only have six hours and you want creepy, you should pick up Castles by Benjamin X. Wretlind.
PF: What’s next for you? More novellas, bigger works?
EJ: I have a few novels sitting around that I actually wrote before A Blind Eye To The Rearview. I was just so excited about Blind Eye I decided to push it a bit harder. I’ll get those out there down the road. But in the meantime, I’m writing another novella I can only describe as being “related” to A Blind Eye To The Rearview. It’s not a sequel or prequel, but it does fall within the same mythos. At the same time, I am working on a VERY long novel written from the point of a very disturbed young lady. I should say no more about that project for now.
Eric A. Jackson s a freelance author, editor, and photographer who spent a good portion of his adult life forecasting weather for the United States Air Force. His short fiction has appeared in The Horror Express, Quietus, 31 Eyes, and several other publications. He lives in Indiana with his loving wife, children, and a murderous feline. Find Eric online at www.ericallenjackson.com.
You can like his fan page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/misterericjackson – a page that’s still under construction but is coming along nicely.
He’s also on Twitter (I know, ’cause I just spent 10 minutes weeding through a gazillion really bad Twitter profiles to find him): @eric_a_jackson .