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  • Writer's pictureG R Matthews

10 Quick Questions with Jesse Teller

Jesse got in touch via the website and I'm glad he did. A man after my own heart, he researched and learned how to write to ensure he crafted the book he wanted to. Have a read!

GMA: Tell us about your book.

Jesse: Chaste is about a woman’s journey back to herself. She lost track of who she was after her parents’ violent death. Her loss and her grief pulled her away from her god and her community. Within that community, an evil rose. Chaste is about picking yourself up. It’s about fighting your way back from darkness. It’s dark and unflinching. It takes you to places that you may be uncomfortable travelling to. But in the end, Chaste is about hope.

GMA: Where did your inspiration come from?

Jesse: My inspiration for Chaste came from my own life, a dark childhood, crippling abuse. I lost track of who I was in my young adult life, and had to reinvent myself, look hard at myself and decide what I wanted to be and what I wanted to allow in my life. Darkness arose in my own life and I had to stand against it. This book was me making sense of that struggle. It was me making peace with my life, my past, and myself.

GMA: Why did you choose to go Self-Published?

Jesse: I self-published after years of fighting to get traditionally published. After twelve years of work, with practice and research, courses on writing, and professional help, I had crafted the best book I was capable of writing. When I realized I had made for myself a book that still could not gain the attention of traditional publishing, I self-published. I don't know how long I'll be an indie writer. One day, a publishing house will come to me, put a horse head in my bed, and make me an offer I can't refuse. Until then, I'm an indie author.

GMA: What was the hardest part about taking this route?

Jesse: The hardest, and most liberating, aspect of self-publishing, I think if you ask anybody, is going to be utter control, in every way, of the final product. With traditional publishing, they will want to edit my books, make changes to my books, and shape the course of my career. I’ll have to sell them on my story, pitch my work, convince them that the story is worth writing. I don’t have to do that now, which is very liberating. But at the same time, I have no one to blame for the failure of my work, if it fails. I can’t point at anyone else and say, “If they had done their job better, my book would be a success.” The hardest part of indie publishing is taking responsibility for the final product.

GMA: Morning, afternoon or evening writer?

Jesse: Is it OK if I say all three? Through most of the book, I write in the afternoon. Sometime around when my kids get home from school, maybe a little after, maybe a little before, I create 3000 words. That’s fine, until the book takes over, and the book’s like, “OK, everything is put on hold now except for me. Your life is about me now.” My wife is very supportive, and when it gets to that point in the book, she sees the look in my eye, the shake in my hands, the preoccupation in my conversation, and she sets me free. That’s when I start writing all night, and deep into the morning. I write when everyone’s asleep, sometimes until everyone wakes up, sometimes beyond even that.

GMA: Architect or Gardener? Planner or Pantser?

Jesse: Pantser. Gustav Flaubert said, “Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work.” This sums up my philosophy on writing. I write 3000 words a day. I write five days a week. I write my books in a specific order, in a specific place, at a specific time. In that way, my life is ordered and strict. But the actual work is a storm. I open myself up to it, accept it for what it is as it comes, and I try to survive it. I tie myself to a tree during the hurricane, and withstand the storm of ideas and inspiration. Just like a storm, there’s no telling how severe it will be. There’s no telling what direction it’ll go. There’s no telling how much damage will be done. And I don’t try to control it. To try to control a storm is to invite madness.

GMA: Silence, music or what when writing?

Jesse: Music before, music after, silence during. The music before is the cultivating of an emotion. With a vague idea of what emotions might be tapped into during the work, I listen to music that inspires that emotion. A love scene might call on Bob Dylan. A fight scene, Five Finger Death Punch. So I listen to music before, to inspire whatever emotion I might need. Music after is a return to sanity. A lot of my work is really dark, and after writing something horrible, I have to listen to something bright and cheery to pull myself back from it. I need something to divert the waters, something to save me from the edge. The music that does that is usually something in the bubble-gum pop section. I’ll write a particularly nasty and troubling scene, and afterward spend the next half hour listening to Taylor Swift.

GMA: What’s the weirdest fact or piece of information you had to research in order to write the book?

Jesse: I had to look up information on the four humors, had to do research into leeches and bloodletting. Found out some pretty creepy stuff. They actually made decorative boxes to carry your leeches in. Most of them were silver; some were gilded. But you’d keep your leeches in this box, on your vanity, and take them out when they were required. There’s some pretty sick leech stuff going on in Chaste. That was really fun to look into.

GMA: To steal (paraphrase) from Rod Stewart, what do you wish that you know now, you knew when you started the journey to a finished and published book?

Jesse: I wish that I knew back then that the book sucked. In 2004, when I first wrote the first draft of this, my first book, I thought it was genius. I thought it was going to change the face of fantasy. And in that stage, in that form, it was terrible. I wish I had known that, could have been told that, in a way that I could have accepted. Because it’s very liberating when you find out that your book is crap. You get all of the trappings of pride stripped away, and you get to look at your work with a discerning eye. When I did figure it out, in 2010, I truly dedicated myself to learning how to do the job of writing. I worked on my craft for years, writing every day, one book after the next, until I had it figured out. Then I came back and worked on this book again. The rewrite was light years better than the first draft because I had done the work of making myself a good writer. But for a long time, I thought that everything I touched was gold. It wasn’t until I found out otherwise that I could improve.

GMA: You’re on a deserted island with enough food and water to survive. There are no building materials around so you must wait for rescue. What three books would you have with you, to help you pass the time?

Jesse: Pillars of Salt by Cotton Mather. I’ve always been curious about this writer. If given that much time to work and study on a book, I think it would have to be Pillars of Salt.

Night Shift by Stephen King. It’s a genius collection of short stories. If you haven’t read it, run, don't walk.

And probably a thesaurus, because when I am rescued, I’m going to have a lot to say, and I’m going to need to know how to say it.

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