Good morning everyone! Each month I will post a two part feature. The first part will be an interview with the month’s author and include a short bio. The second part of the feature is a sample of the writer’s work. Sounds fun right?
Everyone give a big welcome to July’s writer. *claps*
Meet Jeff Young.
Jeff Young is a bookseller first and a writer second – although he wouldn’t mind a reversal of fortune.
He received a Writers of the Future award for “Written in Light and is the author of the forthcoming collections Kassandra Leyden Adventures and Diversiforms. He also has contributed to the anthologies: Writers of the Future v.26, By Any Means, Best Laid Plans, Dogs of War, In an Iron Cage, Fantastic Futures 13, Clockwork Chaos, TV Gods, The Society for the Preservation of C.J. Henderson and the forthcoming Gaslight and Grimm launching at Balticon 50 Memorial Day Weekend. Jeff was published in the magazines eSteampunk, Realms, Cemetery Moon, Trail of Indiscretion, Realms Beyond, Carbon14 and Neuronet. He is an editor with Fortress Publishing for their Drunken Comic Book Monkey line as well as the anthology TV Gods.
Jeff has helped run the Watch the Skies SF&F Reading Group of Harrisburg and Camp Hill for more than fifteen years. He also is an instructor for the Step Back in Time class, which prepares children to enjoy all aspects of Renaissance Faires by learning about dress, language, culture, history and more. Finally, Jeff is also the proprietor of the online eBay and Etsy shops- Helm Haven Renaissance Wear, which feature Renaissance and Steampunk costume pieces.
Now onto the interview…
Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?
“In third grade I had a librarian recommend reading something a little different, Alexander Keys Sprockets a Little Robot. Now most people don’t recognize that particular but they might recognize Keys’ other work Escape From Witch Mountain (despite the movie with The Rock). Anyway, that was the gateway book to all of the science fiction and fantasy that I could get my hands on. Over time I began collecting a library of books that certainly hasn’t gotten any smaller since I’ve started working at the bookstore.
I’m not really sure when exactly that I started telling the stories instead of reading them, but I certainly can point to a homework assignment in eighth grade where we were given the task of writing a horror story in time for Halloween. Let’s just say that it was probably the first complete story I wrote and it got me some attention from teachers who encouraged me to keep writing. I started out on my parent’s ancient antique typewriter that was so heavy it would have made a good boat anchor and have been going ever since.”
What do you think most characterizes your writing?
“Quirky. I like to look at things differently. For instance, I’ve written a few stories from alien viewpoints. I like a challenge like that. After all if you are doing something from an alien viewpoint it can’t be truly alien because your human audience needs something to latch on to, so you find similarities and work with them. But for the story that I’ve written for the anthology Beyond the Cradle, the way that the aliens solve an issue of sharing a world is so outside of the realm of human consideration it becomes a mystery for the human main character to resolve.”
How did you come up with the titles for your stories?
“I usually stick something evocative of the general idea on the first draft and then gradually work my way around to coming up with something I like. Case in point, the story I’m working on right now is listed as “The Higgs Weapon” if you go to the website for it’s anthology. The other day though, I really wanted to change that to “Mother of Twists”. Very rarely am I married to an idea and am willing to change things as necessary. When I wrote a story for the anthology Dogs of War, my main character was able to use a cyber-enhanced hawk to scout out enemy territory. I started off calling the story “Some Thing to Watch Over Me” as a ‘clever’ take off on the old song title “Someone to Watch Over Me”. I got a note from the editor asking if I was willing to change the title to something else, so I offered, “Raptor’s Choice” because the hawk actually does have a great deal to do with how the story ends. Finally, the editor suggested “Covert Strike”, which has the advantage of being accurate since the mission was covert and the hawk’s name is ‘Strike’. All of which goes to show, you should really be willing to work with your editor. While I think the title can be just as important as say, the cover art and you can literally misjudge a work by either – to me, you better have one amazing first sentence to really set the hook on your reader.”
Is there a message in any of your stories that you want readers to grasp?
“Not necessarily. I think some of my stories have messages, like the Diversiform stories which are set in a universe where humanity is doing pretty well. After awhile I get tired of reading dystopias, stories where humanity is on the brink of extinction or stories where we’re annihilating everyone else. I think it’s entirely possible to write a story set in a universe where humanity has a positive future awaiting them. Having said that, we’re human enough to screw things up, not face up to our fears or just flat out not tell the truth and that’s plenty of ground for creating interesting struggles. If there’s any consistent message, it’s a hopeful one that we can not only survive but prosper even in a universe that’s stranger than we can imagine.”
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk? Do you have one?
“I think one of the things that I do that might be a little different than others is that I believe that I can’t write a really good story with just one idea. I was on a panel a couple of years ago and we were talking about creativity and I made the comment that I think good ideas travel in packs. I usually get one idea that could start things for a story and then I wait until I see a few more that go along with it. This will get me the level of complexity and well roundedness that I’m looking for. I’d written a story that was a modernized version of a fairy tale and I wasn’t happy with the way it felt. I realized I’d missed out on the fact that I could also include the person telling the fairy tale as a framework and that changed the story so it felt complete.”
What are you currently working on?
“Right now I am helping to promote Gaslight and Grimm which is an anthology of steampunk fairytales and contains my story “The Walking House” about the Russian folklore character Baba Yaga. The anthology will be available Memorial Day Weekend and will be celebrated at the launch party at Balticon 50 on Sunday night, 5-29-16. I have a couple of assignments for the near future: a rewrite of a story for an anthology called Beyond the Cradle about mankind exploring the universe and a military science fiction story for an anthology titled Man and Machine. There are more Kassandra Leyden stories and a novel, which need writing, as well as an outline for stories that go a long with my “Finder” story from The Society for the Preservation of C.J. Henderson anthology. Also I’m the managing editor for TV Gods: Summer Programming, which is the second anthology in the series and in the process for a release May 2017. So lots of stuff to do, never enough time.”
Where to find Jeff:
Website – http://www.jy.watchtheskies.org/
Facebook – www.facebook.com/jywriterguy/
Twitter – @jywriterguy
Instagram – ironmind42
Also you can find Watch the Skies SF&F Reading Group at:
Website – www.watchtheskies.org
Facebook – www.facebook.com/watchtheskies/
And Helm Haven Renaissance Wear at both Ebay and Etsy as well:
Facebook – www.facebook.com/helmhaven/
What do you primarily write?
“Let’s call it speculative fiction, because that’s a nice broad umbrella that covers Science Fiction and Fantasy and all their little subgenres like steampunk, alternate history and military science fiction.”
Where have you published?
“With Fortress Publishing, eSpec Publishing, Padwolf Publishing, Galaxy Press, Dark Quest Publishing, Black Matrix Press and others. Titles are listed in the biography information above.”
Stop back tomorrow to see Jeff’s story “The Walking House” that will be featured in the upcoming Gaslight and Grimm anthology.