Games, Brrraaains & A Head-Banging Life are very proud to being you an interview with best selling author, Dave Jeffery. Dave is the author of many books including the Young Adult, Beatrice Beecham series, Finding Jericho, Frostbite and the Necropolis Rising series.
GBHBL are big fans of the Necropolis Rising books and have reviewed all three that are out (so far). You can read those reviews by clicking on the following links – Necropolis Rising, Necropolis Rising 2 – Necromancer or Necropolis Rising 3 – Dead Empire.
We plan to get on to his other work as soon as we can too. Dave Jeffery has a gift for character creation and development, managing to make you care deeply about their plight. You live and breath each trial and tribulation alongside them, suffering their failures and celebrating their successes. It makes for an emotional whirlwind of a read and a literary experience that must not be missed.
Read on to learn more about Dave Jeffery. A great author, horror fan, metal head and, more importantly a genuinely nice bloke.
Tell us a little about yourself – where are you from, where did you grow up, where did you go to school?
Well, I was born in West Bromwich in the West Midlands, and raised in Whiteheath, a borough of Dudley. The housing estate where I spent most of my childhood was called Lion Farm, and I lived in several high rise blocks. The Growling, one of my short stories was based on one of the blocks where I lived, no shape shifter in real life, but the stench of urine in the elevators as described in the story was real though.
I went to St Michael’s Church of England Comprehensive School. It doesn’t exist anymore; it was demolished to make way for another housing estate a few years back. I recall someone trying to blow it up by filling the science block with gas from the Bunsen taps, and pushing a match through the window. Guess he only had to wait thirty years and developers did the job for him. Some people have no patience!
Did you always aspire to be an author or did you start with different ambitions?
I have always written stories. It is just part of who I am. My first novels were two science fiction/post-apocalyptic novels Badlands, Strontium Summer and a pulp fiction horror story called The Box. These were written between the ages of 10-15. They were all bloody awful. I still have them somewhere in my loft. Only one of them (Badlands) was typed up (on an old Carona typewriter). The others are handwritten in exercise books I nicked from school – (sorry Mr Ashton!). I got my first rejection letter from Gollancz Science Fiction when I submitted Badlands. When I re-read it some years later, I could see why they didn’t take it.
What other authors, of the past or modern day, do you look to for inspiration?
I’m a huge fan of Steinbeck, he has an ability to give the reader a sense of a character in such a minimalistic way, yet the depth of those characters is simply breath-taking. In contemporary fiction I love Iain Banks. Walking on Glass in a beautiful, yet deeply disturbing read. I try to read outside of the genre as much as I can. I find broadening my literary worldview has strengthened my writing, both in structure and content.
If you have one, what is your favourite all time book and, if different, what is your favourite horror specific book?
My favourite all time book is Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. I read it when I was in college and loved it for all of the reasons I mentioned earlier. In the horror genre, I would have to go with something from James Herbert – possibly The Fog – as some of the images in that book have stayed with me. I read it back in 1975. I guess that gives an idea of how influential it has been. I still hold a candle to the master of 70s pulp, Guy N Smith. Thirst is a great, great book. But Herbert created a genre so I have it give him the edge.
Regarding the series, Necropolis Rising, where did you get the inspiration for it?
I hope it comes across in the stories how much of a zombie fan I truly am. I grew up on the usual fare: mainly Romero and Lucio Fulci. I’d always felt the need to write a story set in the genre but had never found a decent hook. I knew I wanted the zombies to be incidental to the story, rather than at the forefront. When I came up with the idea of a crime caper with zombies as the major hurdle, I knew I had something a little different, so I went with it.
Were there any concerns about adding to the apocalypse/zombie category knowing how heavily saturated it can be?
The flood of zombie books in the marketplace was a major concern. And that was back in 2009 when I was writing the story. Today it is incredible how the appetite for zombie fiction remains insatiable, yet I do feel that the die-hard zombie fan know what they like and sometimes struggle with alternative approaches to the genre. I can understand this perspective yet, as a writer, I feel if I’m not able to say something new, then the genre loses some of its shine for me.
Books like Tony Burgess’s Pontypool Changes Everything and shows like Les Revenants keep it fresh. Just like these approaches, my take on the genre will not appeal to everyone. That’s what makes it exciting for me as a writer when someone gets in touch and says they enjoyed what I do. For the first two books I steered clear of the concept of an apocalypse. This made it interesting to write as it seemed every other zombie book was about the end of the world. Another thing I tried to do is keep the books character driven. Yes there is action, and gore but it has far greater impact if you care who is being placed in danger.
How do you write these stories? Do you start knowing exactly how the plot will run or it is more free flowing than that?
The first two books were very controlled in terms of narrative and plot line. I knew exactly where I wanted to go with both of them. With Dead Empire I thought it was all going to plan until about halfway through, when I realised there was more story to tell, especially around the metamorphosis of Freeman and his journey out into Thom Everett’s unhinged new world.
You seem quite happy to remove a character from the storyline when the time is right, is that something you plan from the beginning or do they just reach a point where you feel they are done?
I get a lot of flak from readers when I dispatch one of their favourite characters. This tells me I am doing a few things right. Firstly, it means people care about them, and secondly it reinforces that the death of a character has to have some meaning that goes deeper than a mere plot device. I have killed two characters that at the time of writing I seriously hated myself for doing it. This was a pretty powerful feeling and I knew if this was how it got me, then for readers it would be pretty devastating. I want a reader to be as much on edge as the characters roaming through the landscapes on the page.
Did you have a favourite character? Who did you enjoy developing most?
I really love Gaz, he’s matured over time but remains fundamentally hapless when it comes to his emotions. I also think Harry is a cool, grounded guy. He’s the opposite to Gaz in so many ways. Bella is also becoming a fast favourite, she has an untapped sensitivity to her that I want to develop in the next book. I have plans for a Bella and Preston spin off, which explores some of their adventures prior to meeting up with the main cast.
It feels like there is more life in the series – the ending certainly left the door open. Are there any plans to return to it in the future?
There is definitely another book. Its title is The Nephilim, and will continue where we left everyone at the end of Dead Empire. As noted, there will be a Bella and Preston spin-off book or two. So the series still has a way to go.
Out of everything you have written, what book are you most proud of?
I think that would be Finding Jericho. It is a contemporary novel about a teenager who has to look after his uncle, a sufferer of bi-polar affective disorder. It is an expose on how society has treated, and continues to treat, those with mental illness, yet it is told with humour and pathos. The positive response to it from readers has been pretty amazing. So yes, if any, I’m proud of that book.
Electronic books have had a huge impact on your craft, in the same way as streaming and YouTube has on music. Do you feel that the ability for absolutely anyone to publish a story freely has helped or hindered you as an author?
This is a very good question, and I have to answer with caution because I do not want to come across as conceited. Like most platforms, the Internet has given opportunities to everyone, including me. When I first started out, I received rejection after rejection from traditional publishing houses. Yet I was able to broaden the reach when publishing platforms became freely available. This is no doubt true for many other writers.
Now at this point I have to ask the question: what if there had been no access to the Internet? Would I have eventually got something published with a traditional publishing house? Coupled with that is the question: were the stream of rejections telling me something, like I really didn’t have what it takes to be a writer? Given where I am today I have to say – and here is the conceited part – I probably would have been published, eventually. Yet those rejection letters did something positive, they forced me to improve my writing.
With the Internet being so ‘here and now’ some writers are putting out books and are trying to bypass the learning process. And it shows in what they deliver. No proofreading, no editing, poor grammar. It puts readers off trying out new writers for fear of investing in a lemon. If I have a piece of advice for anyone thinking about self-publishing it would be, if you think it’s great, it probably isn’t. It’s only great when a professional editor says it is. There are no cutting corners in his game. Those who try will see their book sitting on Amazon selling zero units until SkyNet becomes sentient.
‘Sad but true’ as James Hetfield once screamed.
With the above in mind, are you a physical book or eBook/Kindle user?
I read both. I’m not interested too much in format, it’s the story I’m after. The days of a book being defined by a hard copy are done. I appreciate some have a problem coming to this conclusion but my view is this is a hankering to the past, and fuelled by some of the issues I mentioned about the quality of some self-published eBooks. I do understand the concern surrounding this, of course.
Away from writing, do you have any hobbies? How do you “switch off”?
Nothing earth-shattering. I read, spend time with my family. I was bought an Xbox One for Father’s Day so I’m catching up on all the games I didn’t play because I was too busy completing degrees and writing books!
I also write book reviews for the British Fantasy Society, and actively participate in the Horror Writers Association.
Are you a fan of music? What band’s do you like?
I’m a metal head at heart. I grew up with Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Scorpions and Saxon pretty much on repeat. I love Linkin Park (controversial, I know) Metallica and Diamond Head (I went for a drink once with Brian Tatler), and the energy of Rammestein. Anything guitar based really.
Do you watch much horror? Do you have a favourite horror movie or villain?
I’m a big fan of John Carpenter’s early work, so Michael Myers is the obvious choice of villain for me. I tend to have multiple favourites based on genre. For the zombie genre it would be between Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, Fulci’s The Beyond or Burgess’s Pontypool. For the slasher-genre then Carpenter’s original Halloween ranks very highly in my list. The Thing and Alien have to feature, too. The most profoundly disturbing, philosophical horror movie I have ever seen is Martyrs. That film had significant cerebral impact. Loved it.
What can we expect next from you? Are you working on anything right now?
I’m lucky enough to be very busy at the moment. I’m writing two books at the moment, Ship of Shadows for Crystal Lake Publishing, and The Phase War for Severed Press. Next year I have been commissioned to work with three other publishers, but I can’t say too much about that at this point because I’d be in the do-do. I have a writing schedule that currently sees me through a good three years. A second Frostbite book and the fourth Necropolis Rising book will also feature within that.
What can sites like us, and readers, do to support authors and keep new material coming aside form just buying the books and reading them?
You guys have been amazingly supportive. Writers like me, who publish with smaller, genre presses, need exposure and it is this kind of thing that you guys do so well. And I thank you deeply for it. For readers, if you like what I do then a simple two line review on Amazon works wonders, telling other people is also a great way of spreading the word. And follow me on Twitter and Facebook. You can be assured, I’m always incredibly grateful, and will happily have discussions about any of my books if you get in touch.
Thanks very much for taking the time to answer these. I look forward to reading much more from you in the future.
Thank YOU for asking me to do the interview! You guys rock.
You can and should pick up books by Dave Jeffery from the links below. Find out more about Dave and his writings by checking out his website. You can also like and follow him on Facebook and Twitter too.