Good morning! Jake Elliot is over here today, talking about his dark fantasy novel The Wrong Way Down. Welcome, Jake!
1. Tell us about yourself, and what drew you to writing.
“Tell us about yourself” has got to be the hardest question in the world to answer. “Quantify yourself.” If I try to sound too deep, I look like a fool, if I try to show my tough-guy side, people generally don’t like me and call me names. Everything is so speculative. But, here are the basics —
I am married and my wife is a social scientist. (Anthropologist — so, yeah, it’s not hard to figure who the smart one in our relationship is.) We live in Las Vegas but neither of us really fit here. Las Vegas is a very unique city to live in because no one really fits here, but everyone seems to be trying. My wife and I stopped trying years ago, and that is why we don’t fit.
Much to the disappointment of our families, we have avoided having kids. It isn’t too late, but we both agree that traveling light has opened many opportunities that couldn’t have happened if there was a little-one cruising around under our wings. Being a full time writer is one of those things. As you may know, 95% of us don’t write for money, we write because we can’t stop.
We do have a cat. His name is Samson. He isn’t a very nice cat and I am usually bleeding from random claw strikes that I didn’t deserve.
As for what drew me to writing–I’d have to say reading drew me to writing. I’ve always liked books, and I’ve always been a strong reader. I wrote a bit in high school, but in college one of my instructors believed I had talent and encouraged me to try and sell some short stories. It wasn’t until I was in my late 20’s that I started truly honing my skills with the art. Sometime in my late 30’s I got published, but there is nothing I’d put my name on until just last year.
2. Tell us about your latest book, The Wrong Way Down.
Well, I’m glad you asked. It is the beginning of one hell of a roller-coaster ride. The Wrong Way Down is the Samson Cat of fantasy fiction. There are a fair number of sneak attacks that I’m not going to disclose, but…
The story begins with two thieves breaking into a remote monastery to steal a golden scepter. One thief kills a priest and runs away with the treasure as the other thief is caught. Unknown to the thieves is they have stolen a healing scepter of great power. It would be like stealing the Holy Grail. As a result of their crime, the lives of the thieves have become cursed and forfeit.
Popalia is a young faith healer who is charged with the task of escorting the captured thief through the wilderness to the nearest military garrison, but the thief escapes. Unwilling to go back and accept her failure, she and the wilderness guide assigned to assist her agree to pursue the thieves, and exact justice. It doesn’t happen quite as planned. Hence the name, The Wrong Way Down.
This first chapter in the series isn’t too dark, but as the series progresses, I hope to add decent portions of horror to the equation. I prefer to write about situational fear more than the boogie-man kind of horror. My wife said the first book is PG-13, but book two gets a full R-rating. Book Two: Crossing Mother’s Grave is quite frightening–I’ll only edit when the sun is up.
I have high hopes that Crossing Mother’s Grave will be released on September 1st, but it could be as late as December if the numbers don’t fall just right.
3. Who would be the perfect reader of The Wrong Way Down?
Adults who read Harry Potter but now want something a little rougher. Anyone who loved The Talisman from Stephen King. Readers who liked the Lord of the Rings movies, but found the novels to be confusing. Any of these readers would be perfectly happy with my books.
Who is NOT my perfect reader are children under the age of fourteen. In fact, if you are terrified you child might read about boobies, don’t give them my books because there will be boobies. Oh, yes! Not now, but they are coming in Three-Dee–like a pop-up book. After all that being said, book one is PG-13.
4. In general, as a reader, what do you think good writing is?
That is a great question. Again, it is so speculative. A thousand authors could answer that question and never give the same answer.
Blanket definition — good writing conveys the intended idea of the writer to the reader.
Among my personal favorites are solid characters like in Orson Scott Card’s Speaker for the Dead, or Robert E Howard’s Conan; two books of many favorites. But that isn’t always true, I loved Palahniuk’s story Survivor, and that has got to be the most pathetic protagonist I’ve ever read. It worked well for that book. Good writing isn’t manufactured, it is alive.
5. You’ve stated in other interviews that you like to travel, and you relocate frequently. How has this helped your writing, and is there any place you haven’t yet been to that you’re determined to see before you die?
I was born is Sothern California, in an agricultural city that became swallowed by L.A. as it grew. I’d moved to Oklahoma thanks to the USAF, and I escaped as soon as I could and moved to Phoenix, that was unpleasantly hot. Then to Dallas, stayed there for many years, now I’m in Las Vegas. In each place I saw very different ideas about how their cities could, and in contrast, do operate. In Dallas, when it snows, pissed-off people are on TV, asking what the Mayor plans to do about it. In Las Vegas, snow means riot police and total anarchy. Yeah, it all affects my world building.
Book three, which I’m working on now, is heavily influenced by the architecture of Amsterdam. Book two was heavily influenced by Carlsbad Caverns and Lehman Caves at Wheeler Peak National Park.
I would love to live in Central America, or South America for at least one year. I haven’t figured out how to do it yet, but because of my wife’s career, it could happen. Hell, if the miracle every writer wants does happen and my series takes flight, I could afford to do it. One can achieve anything with enough money, that’s why only a few people have all of it.
6. If you were able to take a one-way ride, staying on Earth but going anywhere in time (taking along whomever you wished), would you, and if so, where would you go and what would you do when you got there?
Just like Bill and Ted, eh?
Man, I am a deviant at heart. Everything I think about is immoral, if not illegal.
In all truth, I wouldn’t go back too far. Maybe I’d go back as far as the beginning of the hippy movement, but since I’m married I couldn’t get any ‘free love.’ I’d go so I could follow the Grateful Dead, and see Led Zeppelin, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix — all the great rock bands that aren’t so vibrant now. I love old rock, I could go to the Whiskey-a-Go-Go in L.A. and watch Eddie Van Halen perform before he had a contract, back when he was young and passionate about his music.
I’d put all my money into Warner Brothers and Apple so that when I got back here in the world of today, I’d be mega-rich and I’d just do whatever I wanted. My skanky daughters could have their own T.V. show, “Keeping up with the Elliots,” it would be super-cool.
7. What’s next for you, if you can share it?
I’ve got two new releases expected in the next eight months–hopefully both will be out within the next five months. Crossing Mother’s Grave is planned to be available on September 1st, and also expected on the same day is the anthology Fading Light, an Anthology of the Monstrous. My inclusion is about Vikings and a pesky little sea monster. That one will be being released through Angelic Knight Press. It will be a fun compilation, I’m sure.
If you need more info, here is my link, http://jakeelliotfiction.com/. Thanks Gary, for the great questions and the chance to share my kooky ideas with your readers.
Sometimes the right way turns out all wrong.
I saw his body lying there. My teacher, my mentor, my friend – face down in a pool of his own blood. His white robes were starched brown with dried blood, his throat cut open by the thieves who’d stolen the spiritual artifact we’d been entrusted to protect.
The Blessed Mystery smiles, we caught one of the two thieves, and it is my duty to escort this foul woman to the garrison for interrogation. God, how I thirst for revenge! I cannot afford the luxury of anger, for it is my duty and responsibility to love. I am a priestess on the side of light. However, this hate, it is so heavy…it is too heavy.
Jake Elliot learned how to write the hard way; trial and error, and then more by error than trial. Life experience warranted the biggest contribution to his art; being a vagabond at heart, he is always re-planting himself every five years in a new location to see a different side of life. He and his wife, who is also an explorer and a traveller, curiously wonder where the future will land them next.
“No, we didn’t break in to steal trinkets,” Thorgen answers, nodding toward the altar. “That is the prize, there. Are you ready to do your part?”
Atop the marble surface, two silver prongs have been crafted into feminine hands. Resting between the thumbs of silver lay a black-handled scepter. The shaft of the rod appears reflective like obsidian. The treasure is crowned with four golden prongs, each ribbed with platinum. In the very center and planted within the golden head, a diamond the size of a walnut twinkles in the candlelight.
Katia reaches into a dark-stained pouch tied at her belt, withdrawing a small looking-glass and three small iron rods. These were the most important tools of her trade. If their prize was protected by traps, she would find and remove each of them. Gingerly, she walks into the room, mindful of where she places her feet. In her line of work, assumptions often ended poorly, if not fatally.
She holds the looking glass behind each tile before stepping to the next one. With relative quickness, she moves closer to the altar, one tile at a time. Two long paces from the altar, she sensed a change and a deep fear tickles her spine.
There’s no natural air movement in the room. Upon entering the room, she’d seen the holes in the ceiling set to release smoke and heat from the room, but they were too small to change the air flow. The candles’ flames did not waver, yet the smoke from the incense began lashing aggressively above the black and gold rod.
She stands up as soft wisps of sweet smoke draw together, appearing firm and solid. The smoke forms into a sharp face, wisps curling where cheekbones end. Materializing above the altar, a smoking chin and cruel lips hover in the air. Hollow holes instead of eyes fix upon her.
Stopping cold, she stares at the magical warding before shooting a desperate look to her partner. Knowing nothing about magic traps, her eyes express how this is beyond her ability.
“Just grab it and let’s go!” Thorgen ordered.
To return empty-handed would mean no protection from their employer. Her partner killed the monk, affording her no choice but moving forward with the heist. With retreat no longer an option, she damns caution and takes two steps closer.
Her partner signals to snatch and run. The smoke hardens solid as granite. Rows of predatory teeth linger behind sneering lips. Evil teeth grin– daring her to try. Hoping to snatch the scepter from between silver hands before losing her own arms up to the elbows, she swipes her prize like a snake would strike, lifting the rod from off its holder.
Gary W. Olson is the author of the dark fantasy novel Brutal Light and several previously published and forthcoming short stories. He can be found via his website, his blog A Taste of Strange, as @gwox on Twitter, and in many other far-flung places on the Internet.