Welcome to Part Two of Confessions of a Reviewers’ interview with Jeffery X Martin, otherwise known as X. If you want to know why this is then you obviously haven’t read Part One yet and need to fix that!
In tonight’s section X kicks things off by talking about his latest book, Hunting Witches, then give you a bit more info about himself and finally takes on The Ten Confessions.
As with last nights, this one is funny, emotional does contain some swear words!
It’s the middle of the week so go grab some pizza, a beer, sit back, and mostly……enjoy!
CoaR - Let's talk about Hunting Witches. Without giving anything away, what was this about from your perspective? What were you trying to get out of this one?
X - I just wanted to tell a good story that could take place in the town I had created, Elders Keep. I knew I wanted it to have a cliff-hanger ending, so I would have a built-in audience for the sequel. That felt Dickensian to me, and I liked it. I also wanted to expand on characters I had already written about, and it seemed the best way to do that was to bring in new people. But really, I wanted to write a good scary book, my first novel, and have it be something fun for the readers.
CoaR - It has a very old feeling to it as in taken from ancient times with a modern twist. Was this intentional or just the way it flowed?
X - We never get away from our past. We’re always dealing with the Old Ways in some form or another every day. That might be an outdated mode of thinking, it could be old architecture that just happens to be sitting where someone wants to build condos. We constantly fight against or for the way things used to be all the time.
In Hunting Witches, you have that battle all over the place. Old Christian belief systems, old Paganry, and an ancient power out in the woods, older than God or the Devil, that seems to be egging things on. The language is there. The rituals are there. It’s all a reflection of the allure of the Old Ways and what we do with them now.
CoaR - Racism is one of the driving themes in Hunting Witches. Why is that? Were you not a bit scared to tackle this?
X - I live in the South, where some people still refer to the Civil War as “The War of Northern Aggression.” I don’t have a choice but to address it. I don’t have the answers, outside of some kind of child-like Utopian society, where everyone gets along and we all ride ponies and nobody ever farts. Racism, especially when fuelled by religion, makes a tremendous horror story, because it is a horrific thing. Besides, horror is tailor-made to discuss big issues. We take the thing we fear, we confront it, and sometimes, the good guys win.
Sometimes, they don’t. Maybe that’s scarier than anything else.
CoaR - Your characters in this are fantastic. How long does it take you to develop them or do you just do this as you write the story?
X - Thank you for saying that. The characters start off as basic archetypes. The strong but silent sheriff. His bumbling deputy. The sheriff’s feisty, independent girlfriend. Blah, blah, blah. It’s Gunsmoke. But they have their own little quirks, colloquialisms and character tics, that make them seem human. Those develop by themselves, for the most part. I’ll be writing a scene and think, “That character would never say that.” Then I rewrite it, until I can hear that character’s voice in my head, saying that line without sounding like a bad actor.
CoaR - Was there a specific reason for writing the story where you recall the same scene from different people's point of view?
X - Life is happening while other things are going on. That’s why everyone remembers where they were when they heard about the Challenger explosion or Kurt Cobain’s suicide. This awful thing was going down while you were on a date or driving to the grocery or taking a shit. That fascinates me, and I wanted to incorporate that into the book. There are many sides to every story, and it was worth it to go back and tell not just what was happening, but who it was happening to and who was doing it. I’d love to tell you it was because I’ve seen “Rashomon” a hundred times, and I’m paying homage to the great Kurosawa, but that would be a lie.
CoaR - Can you tell us if any of the characters in your books are based on people you have come across in your life or maybe even yourself?
X - The characters are a pastiche of people I know or have known. Again, I would love to tell you that I’m a great hero and I based the sheriff character on myself. Nah. There are bits and bobs of a lot of people floating around this book, and that sounds utterly disgusting.
CoaR - Put these in order of which gives you the most buzz:
Your new book coming out.
Hearing a woman on the other side of the world bought an anthology purely because you were in it.
Winning the Confessions writing competition.
X - My new book coming out, because it’s like finally giving birth to my word baby. Look at all the pages. It has its father’s margins.
Having someone buy a book just because I had a story in it is pretty cool. There’s a trust between a writer and the reader. “Hey, this dude has a story in here, and I like his other stuff, so this probably won’t suck.” It’s like a handshake. Or a hand job. Behind the stadium. For concert tickets. Probably Duran Duran.
Winning the Confessions writing competition because not only did I get an awesome audio version of my short story, but because flash fiction is now my bitch. Suck it, flash fiction.
CoaR - What’s coming in the future from Jeffery X Martin?
X - Next on the list is a novella called Parham’s Field, which is a standalone Elders Keep story. Then, early next year, you’ll get the sequel to Hunting Witches, which is called, cleverly enough, Witches Hunting.
THE TEN CONFESSIONS
1 Who would you view as your main competitor in the writing world?
Paul, the Apostle. He wrote a chunk of the Christian Bible, which is about Jesus, right? I mean, the Bible is basically three parts. Jesus is coming, Jesus is here, Jesus will be back soon. But Paul has the nerve to write about Jesus and, in some cases, even speak for him, even though he never met the guy! What kind of bullshit is that? Paul’s work is essentially, “Jesus left me a note on the refrigerator. Christ was here, gone to get beer.” Man, if somebody wrote an entire section about me in a book and the writer’s only verification was, “No, it’s cool, I had a vision of X and he said I had power of attorney,” I’d be pissed. Do you know how many Bibles have been sold? More than a few, I’ll tell you that, and mostly because of the stuff Paul wrote. That scab! So, yeah. I’m gunning for that Paul guy. He’s got the numbers and totally doesn’t deserve them.
2 What book or author have you read that you think should never have been published?
I don’t believe in censorship. I think everyone has the right to be heard, and that art transcends things like provinciality and fear. Now that I’ve made that gigantic statement, I will say there was one book, and only one, that I intentionally threw away. Not because it was badly written; quite the opposite, in fact. But once I had finished Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door, I got rid of it. Tossed it in the bin. Wanted to burn it. Wanted to burn my own skin off, because that sweet purging fire would be the only way I would ever be clean again. That book is brutal and morally ambiguous. I didn’t know how to process it.
Rationally, I understand that it’s a fantastic book, and it does what it’s supposed to do, which is frighten, shock, and appal. Well done, Jack Ketchum. Mission accomplished. Haven’t read it again, didn’t see the movie adaptation. Done with it.
3 Are any of the things your characters have experienced in your books been based on something that has actually happened to you? What was it?
Gods, no. I would already be dead.
4 Have you ever blatantly stolen an idea or scene and adapted it for one of your own books? If so, care to share?
Not consciously, no. Now, I do make a lot of pop culture references. You’ll find an homage here and there. And you have to take into account the Universal Hive mind, which often comes up with an idea, and it’s a race against the continuum to see who can get it out there first. You see that in Hollywood a lot. “White House Down” and “Olympus Has Fallen” within months of each other, both with the same plot and similar beats! How does this happen? Hive mind. If I’ve ever stolen someone’s ideas, I’m horrifically sorry. I didn’t mean to. And if anyone has ever stolen one of my ideas, my piranha-like legal team will eat your lunch and shit it back onto your supper. Capiche?
5 Have you ever anonymously left a bad review for someone else’s book? If so, care to share?
I can honestly say that I have never done that. That’s cowardly. You leave a bad review, you own it.
6 What’s the one thing you are least proud of doing in your life and why?
I gotta pick one? I’ve done multiple terrible things in my life and have a trail of regret three states wide. If I dwelt on that stuff all the time, I would do nothing but lie under my bed in the foetal position, trembling and pissing myself.
I lived through two failed marriages, during which many crimes of the heart were committed. If I had known better, I would have done better. But I didn’t, and I fucked a lot of lives up, and there it is.
7 What’s the one thing you are MOST proud of doing in your life and why?
My son, who is almost nineteen years old, was an intentional home birth. I delivered him in the back bedroom of the duplex we were living in at the time. That was pretty amazing; talk about being scared to do something and doing it anyway. There’s a lot of piss and shit involved with the Miracle of Birth, but it’s still the most beautiful and intense thing I’ve ever been involved with.
8 What’s your biggest fault?
Excess. Not knowing when to stop.
9 What is your biggest fear?
Dying before all the stories in my head get out.
10 If you had to go to confession now, what would be the one thing you would need to get off your chest?
If Heaven is going to be full of the people I see on Earth who call themselves “Christians,” then you can stuff it. I do not want to spend eternity with those smug assholes.
I’ll be at the bar.
Well, unfortunately that’s it for the interview. I’m sure you will agree that this one has been a journey of information and humour. You will need a lot of bleach to erase some of it from your memory and for that……we aren’t really sorry. It is what it is and that’s why we love authors so much. This one was an absolute pleasure to read as it was an absolute pleasure for me to do.
I would like to personally thank X for his time and help in putting this together and also thank him for the wonderful entry into the Confessions writing competition in the first place.
Please remember to come back tomorrow night where I will have the Confessions review of X’s new book, Hunting Witches and will include all the links you need to pick it up.
Thanks again for visiting Confessions of a Reviewer!
Please call me X. Everyone does.
When I was a kid, fourth grade, to be exact, I wrote a horror story for a class assignment. It was so good, they called my mother in to the office for a conference on a day when school was closed for students. The fourth grade teachers and the school principal wanted to have me evaluated by a psychologist. The school staff couldn't figure out why I would want to write a story that was violent or had frightening images. Why wasn't it football, puppies and rainbows?
I wasn't that kind of kid. My mother knew that. And she promptly told those teachers, the principal (and that horrible school secretary, the one who looked like a Raggedy Ann doll, possessed by Pazuzu) and anyone else within earshot to go f**k themselves.
I still write scary stories. It's my job. It's what I do. It's what I've always done.