Author Spotlight – Jeffrey Hall
Joining us for today’s Author Spotlight is Jeffrey Hall!
Jeffrey Hall is the creator of jungle-themed dark fantasy world Chilongua, and author of The Welkin Duology and The Jungle Diver Duology, both series that take place in Chilongua. He currently lives in a suburb of Massachusetts with his wife and two young sons. He has been writing fiction since 3rd grade and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. When Jeff isn’t exploring different worlds through the written word, doodling, or spending time with his family, you can find him playing basketball, reading, trying new restaurants, and thumbing away at a videogame or two.
Find out what’s happening down the hallway on his website www.hallwaytoelsewhere.com
Welcome to the Hive, Jeffrey! Let’s start small: tell us about a great book you’ve read recently!
First of all, thanks for having me! It’s an honor to take up some page-space next to reviews and interviews of such amazing authors.
A great book, eh? I’ve admittedly been on a bit of a non-fiction kick of late. I just finished up a book called Deep Work by Cal Newport. It was a fascinating look at how tattered our concentration is these days with the pervasion of the internet and all of its associated apps. It revealed some staggering numbers on how this state of constant interruption effects productivity. But it also (thankfully) suggested some strategies on coping with this problem, some of which I am actively trying to incorporate into my own life to spend more time putting down words and less time watching movie trailers.
As far as fiction goes, the one that most recently comes to mind is Alec Hutson’s The Silver Sorceress. The way he is able to weave amazing world building with fascinating characters all while keeping beautiful form is true art. I was a big fan of The Crimson Queen when I first read it, and think Sorceress keeps the series going with absolute joy. A definite must read for fantasy fans.
Okay, time to escalate things: reality warps and you suddenly find yourself leading a D&D-style party through a monster-infested dungeon. What character class are you, and what’s your weapon of choice?
Ack! That did escalate rather quickly…
A barbarian berserker with a cursed bastard sword that literally curses every time it is swung. Imagine the look of horror on the face of an army of goblins as they were felled with a blade dropping f bombs and using terse words to describe their mothers. Likewise, I imagine there would be a similar look of horror on the clerics and paladins in the party as such words penetrated their virgin ears.
It would be all around bloody, bleepin’ fun.
When you’re not cursing your way through dungeons, how do you like to work?(In silence, with music, or serenaded by the damned souls of a thousand dead shrimps? Do you prefer to type or to hand-write?Are you an architect or a gardener? A plotter or a pantser? D’you write in your underwear, or in a deep-sea diver’s suit?) Tell us a little bit about your writing method!
This assumes that there are times when I’m not trawling through dungeons…
But in all seriousness, I find the majority of my writing time on the commuter train into Boston to work my 9-5 job. It’s a rough commute (taking approximately 90 minutes each way), but I don’t mind it because it provides a great opportunity to write without distraction. There is no internet on the train (well, there is, but it’s about as slow as a slug). I have about 3 hours worth of dark ambient music downloaded onto my laptop. I get to put on my headphones and slip into another world for a while. I am somewhere in between a plotter and a pantser, and usually pursue my books with a rough outline leaving plenty of room for spontaneous discovery.
When I’m not commuting into work, I usually try to get up at 5am before my wife and kids are awake to get some words in before chaos is unleashed inside the house and diapers need to be changed and mouths need to be fed. Usually I have no lights on except for the glow of my laptop.
I find it meditative in a way and find I am less grumpy when I have gotten some writing in before the day starts.
What (or who) are your most significant fantasy influences? Are there any creators whom you dream of working with someday?
China Mieville. When I first read Perdido Street Station I was in awe of the bizarre world he had created. At last, I had found something other than the traditional medieval fantasy world. The characters, the races, the set up of the city… it blew me away, and really influenced the type of fantasy stories I wanted to tell.
Second, Cormac McCarthy. While I know many of his works are not considered fantasy other than The Road, I argue that his prose, the way he describes certain scenes, the depth and mystery hidden in many of his stories, often feels like he is taking the reader to another horrific world. The first time I picked up the Blood Meridian I was amazed by his ability to turn the common place into the arcane while still keeping it grounded in a familiar world. Once again, it showed me a version of fantasy besides what I had grown up reading, and for that I will forever be thankful.
As far as creators I would be over the moon to work with some day, number one on the list is Guillermo Del Toro. I feel like he and I share a similar passion for monsters, and being able to sit in a room with him for a while and seeing what type of insanity we could conjure up together would be an absolute blast. I feel like I could learn so much from him about storytelling and about how to give real life to characters and creatures that are supposed to be mindless, bloodthirsty beasts.
What was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it? Alternatively, what games have you enjoyed recently?
Game of Thrones. And yes, I was disappointed with the final season, same as everyone else. Another four episodes with less fire and blood, and more scheming and character exploration and they would have stuck the landing. But alas, there were other priorities at hand.
When I have the time to play games, it’s been Red Dead Redemption 2. It’s such an achievement in design and open world gaming. The breadth of options and what you can do in it is staggering, and the care that Rockstar Games put into the details really shines. I usually sit down to play for a half an hour before bed when I can, but always stay for a few hours more and regret it mightily the next morning. To me, the inability to put a game down because it’s always enticing you with what’s right around the corner, is the sign of something special.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write. How do you choose to spend the day?
I would still wake up at 5am, but this time I would do so to play video games for 2 hours prior to my kids waking up. After that, my wife and I would take them to a park, or maybe the aquarium, or maybe to a nearby coastal town to gorge on some morning ice cream while we watched the waves roll in. We would probably spend the rest of the day playing outside (assuming the weather is nice. It’s my extra day and I’ll have it partly cloudy in the high 60’s, thank you very much.) I would try to fit in an hour basketball at some point to break a sweat and earn that morning ice cream. Then later, after the boys were in bed, probably pop a bottle of champagne to celebrate another day and watch a movie or show with my wife.
I might also try to get a game of poker in with some friends, but that depends on if I feel like losing money or not that day. Love the game, just usually hate the outcome.
Can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress?
I would love to!
I just released a collection of my novellas and short stories called Dragons of Elsewhere, which contains 16 stories set across a myriad of strange worlds.
After that, I am working on a trilogy aimed at a younger audience called One-Eyed Eben and the Planet Jumping Giant From Outer Space, which is a set of books about a boy who lost his eye to falling meteor, his dog, and his worst enemy all ending up on the foot of a giant so big that it literally hops across planets in order to traverse space. It’s a fun little detour from the normally dark stories I write. I am hoping to release all three books in trilogy by the end of this year.
What’s the most (and/or least) helpful piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
Just write. As clichéd as it is to say, it is by far the most useful advice I have ever heard. The more often we can write, the more often we can complete projects, the more we can learn and iterate on the process, the better we’ll eventually be.
So come to the computer or pen everyday and put down words. Even if what you write is a pile of flies’ food, it’s still helping build a mountain of experience that you can use to climb to reach better work.
In the immortal words of a famous little shoes brand, Just Do it!
Every writer encounters stumbling blocks, be it a difficult chapter, challenging subject matter or just starting a new project. How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
I hunt down what excites me and write that. Usually I find when I am feeling inner turmoil about writing something it’s because the scene or story does nothing for me. So I’ll look down the road at the story and think about what’s next in the plot that I am excited about and jump to that. I would say 9 times out of 10 that will shake me loose of the funk or give me a new idea of how to get me jazzed about the section I was avoiding. For the other 1/10th, a long walk with some ambient music will steamroll any writer’s block and allow me to attack the page afterwards.
If you could visit any country at any point in history, where/when would you go, and why?
I would say the United States a few million years ago. Because, dinosaurs.
The o.g. Jurassic Park had a big impact on me as a kid, and I think that dream of seeing a real life dinosaur standing before me has never died and I’d love to experience it (just so long as I am in some type of protective bubble. I want to see dinosaurs, but I also want to stay whole and uneaten.)
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
Suttree by Cormac McCarthy. Other books of his like No Country for Old Men, The Road, and The Blood Meridian receive most praise, but his semi-autobiographical novel is a fascinating, funny, and beautiful look at southern life. McCarthy captures so many ridiculous moments with such amazing prose that I caught myself stopping to reread paragraphs just to enjoy their construction. The man has a unique style that’s not for everyone, but damn he can write, and Suttree, in my opinion, is some of his finest work.
Finally, would you be so kind as to dazzle us with an elevator pitch? Why should readers check out your work?
If you like your fantasy to be a little off and weird then you’ll probably like my work. I try to create different, unusual fantasy worlds full of strange creatures and flawed people attempting to conquer their problems in the face of such strangeness.
So to sum it up, more Mieville, less Tolkien.
Brilliant! Thanks again for joining us, Jeff, and good luck with One-Eyed Eben!
Jeffrey Hall is the author of the WELKIN duology and the JUNGLE-DIVER duology. His latest release, a collection of short stories titled DRAGONS OF ELSEWHERE, is available now.