Please Welcome Horror Writer Jeff Jacobson to The Clog Blog. Let’s get to know Jeff a bit better. So, Jeff Where are you from?
I grew up in rural Northern California and moved to Chicago in ’91 to go to school, and apart from spending a while teaching English in Taiwan, I’ve been in Chicago ever since.
Q: When and why did you begin writing?The when is easy- I began getting stories on paper pretty much as soon as I learned how to write. I was a big fan of creating fully illustrated epics that generally involved giant monsters stomping their way through cities.
As for the why… well, that one is a little tougher. It was a drive, almost as if I didn’t have a choice. I just never stopped.
Q: Where do you get the ideas for your books?
All over. I remember reading about trichinosis, and that led to WORMFOOD. FOODCHAIN grew out of my hatred of dogfighting. Bed bugs make my skin crawl, and I knew I wasn’t the only one, and so SLEEP TIGHT evolved out of that feeling. A lot of times, it’s not just one thing, but rather a combination of ideas that coalesce into a possible book or short story.
Q: Are your characters based on people you know, or completely fiction?
Oh, they’re all very much fiction. That said, even though I’m writing these goofy stories about people fighting monsters and trying to kill each other, stuff that only happens once in a while in my own life, it’s important to me that these characters at least feel somewhat real. Granted, the characters in WORMFOOD are pretty cartoonish, but that was what I was aiming for; I wanted a larger-than-life effect. They were more archetypes that you might find in a bad monster movie. Most of the time, though, I’m striving for characters that aren’t just cardboard cutouts, they’re complicated folks who struggle with the same stuff we all do. Well, most of the time. The bad guy in SLEEP TIGHT probably isn’t exactly a well-rounded individual. At best, you could say he’s misguided, but really, he’s just an evil bastard.
Q: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Hell, I wish. I’d love to travel. My wife keeps telling me that my next book should be set in either London or New Orleans, just so we can go visit. The truth is that I have to feel that I really know a place before I can write about it. There’s a ghostly doomed love story set in Taiwan kicking around in my head. My first two novels were set in Northern California, where I grew up. The latest, SLEEP TIGHT, is set here in Chicago. I spent some time wandering around downtown, checking out a few intersections where major action scenes occur, but to be honest, I spent a lot of time on Google Earth, looking down at the streets, just so I could be accurate. A few of my short stories are set here, but I’m not sure why it took my twenty years to finally write about the city. Maybe I needed a good excuse.
Q: To date which of your books was the hardest to write and why?
Ah, that’s a tough one. They’ve all been hard, in their own way. WORMFOOD was tough because it was my first novel, and I had a hell of a time plausibly cramming all the action into three days. FOODCHAIN was tough because of the subject matter. It forced me into some very dark places. SLEEP TIGHT was difficult because of the scope and the number of characters; I’d never attempted anything on that scale. I’m hoping the next one will be easier (and faster!). Fingers are crossed.
Q: What book (s) are you reading now? Who are some of your favorite authors?
Right now I’m reading Jonathan Maberry’s Patient Zero. It’s a fun, fast read. I try to mix things up a bit, alternating between some of the more “escapist/light” stuff and heavier, classic fare. I teach Fiction Writing at Columbia College Chicago, and it’s a good idea to stretch your horizons a bit. I haven’t read enough Faulkner, so I’ll probably try one of his next. It’s important to read deeply in your genre, absolutely, but it’s also vital to read as much as possible of everything else if you want to be a strong writer. You can’t be a good writer without being a good reader, it’s as simple as that.
As far as my favorite authors, hell, I could go on and on. I’m squinting at the closest bookshelf, and there are authors who keep popping up, folks like Joe R. Lansdale, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, Andrew Vachhs, Donald Westlake (especially when he was writing as Richard Stark), Gillian Flynn, Mort Castle (I like his novels just fine, but he has written some of the most heartbreakingly effective short stories I’ve ever encountered), Chester Himes, Elmore Leonard. Like I said, I could go on and on.
Q: What is coming up in the next year as far as projects and public appearances?
At the moment, I’m up to my eyeballs in the next novel; so much so that I sometimes forget I’ve got a novel coming out in August. The next immediate reading will be at the July Gumbo Fiction Salon, upstairs at the Galway Arms, near Fullerton and Clark in Chicago. The reading starts around 7:00. There are other readings and signings coming up, but I don’t know the details just yet.
Q: Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?
I’ve got a website: jeff-jacobson.com, but I’ve been terrible at updating the site. I tend to get too caught up in working on the books that I neglect my social media. I’m trying to hammer out some new blogs, but for now, the best place to catch up with me is through Facebook. Don’t be shy, send me a friend request or whatever the hell they call it.
You can find Jeff on FB at:
Join me on Saturday when we read an excerpt from Jeff’s novel SLEEP TIGHT.