How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. The first story I remember writing was when I was five years old. It was a horror story that included basically every monster ever included in a popular movie or book. There were werewolves rising out of the mud and vampires running from the forest… all for no discernible reason.
Your dark fantasy novella “Beyond the Tempest Gate” was released in 2013 by Vabella Publishing. Can you tell us a little about this book?
With “Beyond the Tempest Gate,” I wanted to take a standard fantasy trope and turn it on its head. Specifically, I wanted to address the standard “knight going out to slay the dragon” storyline, and I wanted to go deeper with the idea and the characters, and ask a simple question. What if the knight’s not supposed to slay the monster? What then? From that simple idea, a character emerged that really fascinated me and I felt compelled to follow and record his journey all the way to the end.
Have you always been a fan of the fantasy genre?
Yes. I actually stopped reading fantasy for a few years for some reason. I read exclusively mainstream literature, mostly classics, for years. It wasn’t a conscious choice. It just sort of happened. And in the same natural way of things, I eventually picked up fantasy again and started reading with gusto.
If you could invite any five authors from any time period to dinner, who would they be?
Ooh, good question. Well, there’d be Kurt Vonnegut for laughs. I’d love to meet a young Walt Whitman for his exuberance. Jack London would be there to tell his adventure stories. Jack Kerouac would be there, and lastly, Herman Melville. I’d like to talk all about the multiple layers of meaning in Moby Dick with Melville.
It’s funny, as I answer this question, my absolute favorite authors don’t come to mind. I like all those authors I mentioned, but my greatest literary heroes are Cormac McCarthy, Clive Barker, Richard Price… yet, for as much as I love their writing, they’re not people I have any driving desire to converse with. That’s odd. I’ve never realized that about myself before.
Looking at your bio, it’s obvious you have a healthy interest in the outdoors. Does this side of your life influence your work / affect the things you choose to write about?
Probably. I love the outdoors and when I write about the outdoors I think I tend to be more descriptive than when I write about cities and whatnot. But, there are few things in this life that I love more than sitting in the sunshine beside a river or stream with a book and a notebook, reading, thinking, and writing amidst the sounds of nature.
We’re coming to the end of another gray, wet Pacific Northwest winter, and talking about sitting out in the woods in the sunshine is making my soul yearn. Oh, I can’t wait for spring…
In addition to your novella, you’ve written quite a few short stories. Has there been any story that was particularly challenging to write? If so, how did you get through it?
There are some that have been in drafts for years and I just can’t pin them down and finish them. They’re elusive.
Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
Hopefully I will be sitting at the riverside somewhere beautiful and sunny, contemplating the mysteries of life and feeling that I’ve spent the last ten years creatively, passionately, and in a way that has made people other than myself a bit happier or better off.
Do events from your past play a role in your fiction?
Do you try to put messages and morals into your fiction, or do you write simply to entertain the reader?
I don’t try, but it seems to happen pretty often. I’ve actually forced myself to write stories without deeper meaning. It doesn’t come natural to me. The deeper meaning isn’t always necessarily a moral or ethical one, but there has to be some kind of philosophical subtext for something to interest me.
What are you working on at the moment?
Tons of short stories that I’m sending out, but mostly trying to buckle down as I work on my epic fantasy series. It’s going to be a full trilogy, rather than a stand-alone book as “Beyond the Tempest Gate” is.
Where can we find you on the web?
I have a website at www.jeffsuwak.com