Author Interview: Jeff Deischer

What are your ambitions for your writing career?
TO MAKE A LIVING AT IT! I’d also like to have more discipline. I have so many ideas that I can never write them all. I have maybe a dozen series that I’d like to continue but I can’t do them all.
Which writers inspire you?
Stan Lee, Steve Englehart, Dashiell Hammett, Richard Brautigan, James Hogan, Michael Moorcock, Thomas Harris, Ian Fleming, Lester Dent – who should probably be at the head of this list. I read so much of his work early in life that my own style is very similar to his, even when I don’t try to mimic him.
What are you working on at the moment?
Ah … I’m juggling several projects, trying to decide which to write. This week, I’m working ion a post-apocalyptic quest novel that’s going to have a sword & sorcery feel to it, called The Seven Keys. The Keys are seven devices that when used properly will help restore civilization to humanity, which has fallen into a dark age following a meteor strike. This isn’t hard SF, but action-adventure.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
There are five: Leng, an aged Chinese man who possesses superhuman mental powers, and leader of the group; Four Feathers, a native Indian and his young ward Tomas, who have a secret; Pistols, a bounty killer who’s hired by Leng; Venetia Fortunato, a female mercenary who has her own secret.
What’s it about?
The prophecy states: Five to find six; four to find one; one to wield seven; justice is done. The group not only needs to find the Seven Keys, but keep them out of the hands of Mordiben Dragor, the local warlord, who is rumored to be an abhuman like Leng. Leng, Mordiben, Venetia, Four Feathers and Tomas all have secrets, some of which are overlapping.
What sub-genre are your stories/novels?
This one is post-apocalyptic. I love this subgenre but have never written it. I’ve written space opera (The Brotherhood of Sabours series), superheroes (Overworld series, Argent series, The Golden Age series), golden age pulp (Adventurers, Inc. series, Nemesis Company series, Challenger series), spy thriller (Agent Keats series).
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
Just watched Ash vs Evil Dead and Bruce Campbell would make a swell Pistols. James Hong as Leng. Not sure about the others. I don’t generally “cast” roles when writing, and don’t have a clear picture what anyone looks like, just general descriptions.
How much research do you do?
LOTS. Both The Golden Age series and the Agent Keats series require a LOT of research, meticulous stuff. I was able to use my experiences in China for the second Keats novel, Chinese Puzzle.
Have you written any other novels in collaboration with other writers?
This is my first! Actually, a friend gave me characters and plot points for this story in college, and I never liked it as sword & sorcery. I think it works much better in a different milieu. Post apocalyptic excites me. This is not going to be a typical PA novel.
When did you decide to become a writer?
When I was about 10. I started drawing my own stories (starting with superhero fights) but by the time I went to college, I realized I didn’t want to be just an artist. By the time I left college, I’d given up being an artist and focused on writing.
Why did you do decide to collaborate?
While I was doing background for another story, this one popped into my head, along with the new milieu, and I decided to spend some time on it to see if it was something I’d want to write.
Why do you write?
Must write. Any writer who doesn’t write because he’s driven is a hack, no matter the quality of the writing. I can’t write something I’m not passionate about, or don’t believe in.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?

ANYthing? Too far back to recall what got me started. I was inspired by Marvel Comics in the very early ‘70s. Now, I just get thrilled about a particular idea, work on it and if I think I can write a novel, I do so. The fun for me is the creation, not the writing. That’s the big commitment.

Do you write full-time or part-time?
“Full time”, but most of this is not done at the computer, writing. Background and characters and research take up as much time probably. Maybe not.
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
I do actual writing mid morning until mid afternoon, and the creative work of backgrounds and characters later in the evening. This is my ideal schedule but I don’t do it every day.
Do you write every day, 5 days a week, or as and when?
I write 7 days a week, but not every day at the computer, and not every day writing prose. A lot of non-writing work goes into a novel, for me.
Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?
2000-3000. I hit 8000, once, but I’m simply not capable of 5000 or more a day.
Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate, or longhand?
Computer or longhand. I like the editing capability of a computer (and the legibility) but when I write longhand, my prose undergoes an extra editing step that I think is helpful. I don’t write as well longhand as I used to, dividing my brain between writing and TV.
Where do the your ideas come from?
Oh, every place. Inspiration comes from everywhere. A lot of my ideas are “what if?”, where another writer did something differently than I would have, so I go back and see where my line of thought would have taken the story. No writer ever ran out of ideas. Probably every real writer has more ideas than he can write.
Do you work to an outline or plot, or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
Outline every time! I wrote myself into a corner a couple of times, when I was just starting out. Never again!
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
Better plotting, better characterization, better prose. Practice really does make a writer better, along with good feedback.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
For me, it’s the actual writing. I can spend hours creating ideas, characters, etc., but sitting at the computer and writing prose can be difficult. That is, when I’m not feeling it. There are days when I’m motivated and days when I can’t write. On days when I can write but don’t feel like it, I push myself to write, even if it’s only a little bit. Sometimes this gets the motor running, sometime not.
What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?
The writing.
What is the easiest thing about writing?
Ideas. Often, I get a piece of an idea from seeing or reading something, and I have to make it grow until it can stand on its own.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Most of my novels are short, 40,000-50,000 words. That’s a month’s work.
Do you ever get writer’s Block?
Infrequently. I had a long about in 2013 and am in one now. This is why I’m juggling projects, working on several until one really grabs me. I’d guess The Seven Keys will probably be my next book, but I’m not 100% sure.
Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
A lot of the time, I don’t think there’s much help. I keep busy working background material. I’ve outlined 3 novels in the past three months and background on another three to keep busy creatively. But one thing I did last time I had this problem was write something completely different than anything I’d ever written, Agent Keats. I wrote Skull & Bones, the first in the series, in the style of Ian Fleming, the creator of the James Bond series. A couple of people who were fans of the Bond novels told me that I’d done such a good job that I decided to try to get it published. So I recommend trying this, although I don’t know if it would work for everyone, or even me, all of the time.
If this book is part of a series, tell us a little about it.
The Seven Keys isn’t planned as a series, but there’s an out for a sequel.
What are your thoughts on writing a book series?
I tend to think in series form, having grown up reading series. I over plan, planning many books in a series while writing the first one.
Do you read much, and if so who are your favourite authors.
I don’t read as much as I used to, now that I’m writing so much. I probably average slightly more than a book a month. I’ve read of what my favorite authors have put out and most of my reading is done for research these days.
For your own reading, do you prefer eBooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
Paperback. I lament the disappearance of the mass market paperback. I don’t even want to publish as ebooks but my publisher sort of insists. One problem I have is that some of my books – non-fiction particularly – have formatting that can’t be done right in Kindle.
What book(s) are you reading at present?
I’m about to start re-reading Michael Moorcock’s Elric series, both for pleasure and for tips on colorful prose.
Do you proofread/edit all your own books or do you get someone to do that for you?
Both. Feedback can be invaluable. It’s amazing how many times I can proof one of my books and still miss typos. But getting a reader’s perspective on a story helps a lot, because even if you’re right and they’re wrong about an unclear passage (for example), they didn’t understand it. That’s the litmus test. Readers, upon completing a book, shouldn’t have too many questions.
Do you let the book stew – leave it for a month and then come back to it to edit?
I shoot for a week.
Who edited your book and how did you select him/her?
David Webb wrote me about one of my books, and I sent him an unpublished novel I knew he’d be interested in. His feedback was so good, I send him every manuscript before the publisher gets it. I don’t know many people who will devote the time to giving detailed feedback about manuscript that I trust. My publisher does his own proofreading after that.
Tell us about the coveer(s) and how it/they came about.
I usually do my own covers. Since I’m a novice artist, I use public domain art and/or artistic elements, which I’ve been told I have a good eye for. The original “series” title for The Seven Keys was wasteland, so I wanted a “wasteland” photo, and I chanced across a photo of a weird-looking sky, which I thought suggested a post apocalyptic world. I combined these and threw in the silhouette of a vaguely western-looking man, which represents Pistols.
Who designed your book cover(s)?
Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
Not as much as they used to. I remember browsing for books in a bookstore for most of my life. Covers were important then. Now, shopping through Amazon, by the time a person sees a cover, they’re already interested in your book, or they’d likely never have seen it.
Any amusing story about marketing books that happened to you?
Nope. It’s all been hard.
What are your views on social media for marketing?
Apparently, some people do it well. I’m not much into social media, using only Facebook and Linked In. I have a page, in addition to my own personal one, Jeff Deischer the Writer.
Which social network worked best for you?
No comment.
Any tips on what to do and what not to do?
For marketing? None, I regret to say.
What do you think of “trailers” for books?
Never seen one.
Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book(s)?
Do you think that giving books away free works and why?
Generally, no, but under special circumstances, maybe. Westerntainment, my publisher, is giving away a PDF to the first volume in my Brotherhood of Sabours trilogy, for free when you email them at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and just ask for it. This is space opera in the tradition of Lensmen and Star Wars, and written in authentic pulp style.
Did you format your own book?
Most of it. Westerntainment does the page numbering, indicia, etc.
In what formats is your book available?
Westerntainment publishes ebooks on Kindle a year after the paperback edition comes out, sort of like the hard cover/soft cover major publishers do.
If formatted by someone else, how did you select them and what was your experience?
The publisher does his own formatting on ebooks. It’s a shoestring operation. On some books, it’s fine and on others, I don’t care for it, and readers seem to agree with me. But it’s just not in his budget to hire a professional and I accept that because he’s been good to me in so many other ways. My feeling is, unless you can’t afford a paper back edition, buy the paperback edition. Oh, and if you buy the paper back edition, you get the Kindle edition for free. That was our compromise on ebooks.
How do you relax?
Play video games or sleep.
What is your favourite motivational phrase?
I don’t have one.
What is your favourite positive saying?
I don’t have one. Maybe “I can only do what I can do”.
What is your favourite book and why?
I couldn’t pick just one. But The Maltese Falcon is up there. Superlative prose and such great characterization. I was also really impressed with Silence of the Lambs, which I read before the movie was made.
What is your favourite quote?
Not sure I have one.
What is your favourite film and why?
Maybe “High Plains Drifter”. It shows what human nature really looks like, and justice being done.
Where can you see yourself in 5 years time?
I hope it’s either more financially successful or dead.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Persistence becomes stupidity. Never put more into something than you’re going to get out. When something doesn’t work out, don’t mope over it – move on and learn from your mistakes. Beating yourself up helps no one, least of all you.
Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
Living? Probably Steve Englehart. He’s my ideal comic book writer. Dead? So many to choose from. I think Lincoln would be fascinating, but probably Lester Dent, the co-creator of Doc Savage.
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
That thought’s never occurred to me. I can only do what I can do.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Write as much as possible and find someone to give you honest feedback. Try to understand why you like books that you like.
Where do you see publishing going in the future?
I hear paperbacks are making a comeback and Amazon is buying bookstores! Who’d a thunk?
Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included?
This was pretty thorough! 
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
I have a website, where I post the first chapter of the first book in a series, so readers can take a free look at my style before investing $15-20 in a paperback novel. All of my print work can be found on Amazon, and a lot of it on Kindle.

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