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'Some guys play golf and drink beer, I write fiction and drink too much coffee.'

Interview: Jeff Gunhus, Author of ‘Night Terror’ and the ‘Templar Chronicles’ Series

Jeff Gunhuswww.JeffGunhus.comJeff Gunhus, author of Night Terror, is the author of bestselling thrillers and horror novels for adults and of the middle grade fantasy series, Jack Templar Monster Hunter. He’s active in literacy issues for kids, specializing in ways for parents to reach reluctant readers. His last novel, Killer Within, was recently purchased by publisher Thomas & Mercer. He’s the father of five and lives in Maryland where he and his wife spend most of their time chasing their kids.

Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Night Terror. When did you start writing and what got you into horror?

Thank you. I grew up overseas in Greece, Cyprus and Saudi Arabia with very limited access to TV or movies so books were a big source of entertainment for me. I enjoy all genres (probably why I write in several genres as well) but Pet Sematary by Stephen King really stuck in my head. It was the first time I literally had to crawl under my covers from being too scared to continue reading. The idea that a book could pack that much of a punch stayed with me.

Did you have a mentor who encouraged you?

I grew up in British schools with a lot of focus on vocabulary and writing. Mrs. Harvey stands out almost as a caricature from my childhood, a strict disciplinarian with a hawkish nose and a brutal red pen that destroyed every piece of writing I placed on her desk. But her toughness and stern nature made every compliment seem like I’d won a major award. She dispensed just enough compliments to make me want to write and few enough that I’m still trying to please her.

Did you have any struggles or difficulties when you started writing?

Nah, it’s been a cakewalk. (Insert maniacal laugh here.) Writing is hard stuff and, unfortunately, it stays hard even after you’ve achieved some success. In fact, it might become a little harder after success because that nagging devil of self-doubt is joined by the specter that the next book will not live up to expectations. All you can do is do the work. Backside in chair and write. Every. Day. Period. The struggle doesn’t go away, but at least the pages get done that way.

Night Terror 2
What do you do when your muse refuses to collaborate?

As a father of five, I don’t have time to negotiate with my muse. When it’s time to work, we get down to it. If it’s just not happening, I’ll switch to a different project for a day or two to clear my head and lighten my grip on the story a little. If the story doesn’t call me back, then it was probably not worth doing so I’ll dump it. Sometimes it’s gone forever. Sometimes it’ll come back from the dead a decade later. You just never know.

How do you celebrate the completion of a book?

The whole family goes out to a nice dinner followed by way too much ice cream.

What do you love most about the writer’s life?

For me, writing is just an extension of reading, only I get to determine what happens in the story. I heard RR Martin describe authors as either architects or gardeners. Architects plan everything before they start, how many rooms, the size of the windows, etc. Gardeners plant seeds then water their garden and care for it, waiting to see what grows. I’m in between these two extremes. I do plan things in an outline but that outline will have a section that says, “Kyle loses everything and finds himself in an impossible position that he can not escape.” So, I’ll write my hero into that spot and then sit back and wonder how the heck he’s going to get out of the situation he’s in. At that point, I get to have the same experience as the reader which I think is fun.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?

Buy a time machine, go back and marry someone else. Kidding. Spousal support is essential but be real about what you’re asking. Do you want that spouse to work the 9-5 job and support the family so that you can frolic in the wildflowers waiting for your muse to arrive? If so, you’re out to lunch. Stephen King taught high school English and worked for years at nights and on weekends before he got his break with Carrie. Get a job to pay the bills and carve out two hours a day to write instead of watch TV. Do it when your spouse sleeps. If you don’t love it enough to do it that way, then you don’t deserve to have them support you while you work. Once you make some money at it, then it’s just like having any job.

What is your advice for aspiring authors?

Read Stephen King’s book On Writing. All the advice I give writers pretty much comes from that book. The greatest hits are to write every day and to read a lot. If you say you don’t have time to read, you’re really saying you aren’t serious about being a writer.

George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Comments?

I actually really enjoy writing. It’s the way I relax. Some guys play golf and drink beer, I write fiction and drink too much coffee. It’s a struggle and it’s hard, but that puzzle-solving piece is what I enjoy about it. Then again, Orwell was a better writer than I am, so maybe I’m just doing it wrong.

Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

If you want to help an author, write a review. Even a short one. Nothing helps more with discoverability in today’s market. Thanks!

Read more about Jeff Gunhus at his website.

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About Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. Represented by Serendipity Literary.

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