When I do an Email interview like this I usually just post it as is. But, Jesse has really given some in-depth responses on some of the questions so I will respond (in brackets like this)
- If you could do it all over again, would you change anything in your FIRST book?
I did do it all over again, six times. There were seven drafts of that book. Mostly honing wordplay and some surgery of characters and plot points. There was a really cool idea where this half-demon cuts open this wizard that serves him, and he takes out his heart and replaces it with a crystal, and then closes his chest up again. The crystal performs all the tasks the heart would, but the crystal never needs rest, so the body never needs rest. This wizard was unable to sleep and he worked round the clock for the demon. In that draft, I got to explore the mercy of sleep, because sleep is a mercy. It provides an end and a beginning. Sleep is the most selfish thing we do for ourselves. Sleep gives us time to regroup before we face the troubles of the next day. All of those things were taken away from this wizard. He worked for the half-demon nonstop. His day never ended, and there was an immense amount of cruelty in that. If I could rewrite that book, I think I would put that back in.
(I suffer from Narcolepsy, so to me sleep is the bane of my existence. So I wouldn’t mind being that wizard, as long as he gets coffee breaks.)
- Have you ever judged a book by its cover?
It’s hard not to. It’s really hard not to. Let’s just talk about books because there’s the thing where you can say, “I met that guy and never really gave him a chance. I judged the book by its cover.” Let’s just set that aside and talk about actual books and actual covers. Have you seen the original cover for Stephen King’s book Wasteland? It’s all oranges and blacks and it’s got that scary train on it. It’s absolutely terrifying. When I first saw that book, I bought it immediately. Man, I wanted to read that book. That’s when I found out it was the third book of a series. So, I had to buy the other two. But man, when I opened that book, I was so excited. I got that feeling you get, when you’re watching a horror movie and you realize that it’s building and it’s coming for you, and you know, any minute, it’s going to break like a wave and the really, truly horrible part’s gonna come out. You keep waiting for that, and the tension keeps building and keeps building and keeps building and keeps building until, it happens. Well, I finished Drawing of the Three, which is the book before it, the night before. I woke up to go to school that day. On my way out the door, I grabbed Wasteland and stuffed it in my backpack. It sat there all throughout the bus ride, all throughout first hour and second hour and third hour and fourth hour, just building and building like a horror movie. I knew it was in that bag. At lunch, I skipped lunch, and I went out by the baseball field and sat on the bleachers. It was a cold day. I pulled the book out and held it between my hands. It took bravery to turn the cover. That was one of the times I judged a book by its cover, and I was not disappointed.
3. Who designed your cover/covers? Where you able to work with the artist or is it all the publisher/artist/God/ Kid with the crayons?
I got to work with mine. She’s cute and sexy and she married me years back. She’s a great artist. She’s a graphic designer in profession. She listens to what I have to say about the covers, which I know is not what you get with traditional publishing. I had final approval rights on all of my covers. We chose a theme, and that theme was shadows. So, you’ve got the shadows of characters on three of them and the shadows of the skyline on the fourth. For my book that comes out in October, we hired a gifted cover designer from Seedlings Design Studio and I’m really excited about what she came up with.
- Have you ever had a side character Try to steal the show? Would you like to go back and make a spin off series or something for them? Or is there a theme or idea you’d love to be able to explore in more depth?
Oh man, her name is Helena Flurryfist. And I am obsessed with this woman. She’s got a bit part in a 7-book series I wrote, and, OK, the thing is this. I’m a fantasy writer. I write fantasy books. Action, magic, harrowing battle, love stories, and fire. I like fire. I do not write romance novels. Now I need your help, because you have to help me tell my beta reader and my wife that I do not write romance novels, and I cannot write Helena Flurryfist as a romance heroine, even though that is what they are telling me to do. I keep telling them, I don’t write romance. My wife keeps giving me that look, and that wife eyebrow she’s got, and she gives me that little smile that says, “I know you’re eventually going to do this anyway.” And I keep thinking about Helena. You’ve gotta help me, hobgoblin.
(She sounds hot, I bet she looks just like this)
- If you could read any book again for the first-time What book would it be?
The book is called Conan the Usurper. I’ve got a thing for Conan. Not the Arnold Conan. I need my Conan pure, like a good brandy, it needs to be aged. It has to have been written by Robert E. Howard in the 20s when he first created the character. Nobody writes Conan like Howard. We’ve seen a lot of people try. There have been some good Conan stories told, but nothing like Howard. So I’m reading this story, and it takes place way out in the jungle in nowhere. It’s a Robert E. Howard jungle, so it’s dark and old and musty and wet and muddy and gritty. And there are these drums off in the distance, and every now and then you hear a scream out there. And you’re a hero that’s headed for those drums, and you can feel it right here, right in your chest. You can feel that bass rattle in your ribs, and the closer you get, the more details you get. That’s the horror of it. The closer you get, the more you can hear that there’s rattles, you can hear that there’s screaming, you can hear begging, you can hear mumbles and chants. And you’re just pushing through the thick, waxy leaves, squelching in the mud, wishing you didn’t have to take the next step to get closer. Man, only Robert E. Howard can put you there. There was something savage about that night. I was in a little one-room apartment. It was my apartment, so it was dirty. It was an old building, and you could hear it tick around you. It wasn’t far away from a highway, but it was far enough that the only thing you could hear were the semis screaming by. The book was an old nickel paperback. When you turned the pages, you could feel they were gritty, like those old paperbacks get. The book was battered and bruised. There were pages, a big chunk of pages, missing out of the back. And I knew that when I got to those pages, I wouldn’t be able to finish the story. But I had started it, and I was in the jungle, and I’m moving forward through the leaves and I can hear the drums. I can hear the screaming. I can hear the rattle. I can hear the chanting, and I’m not even kidding, hobgoblin, I ran out of pages. I set the book down in the middle of the floor, and I stood up and I stared at it. I knew that even if I had a brand new copy, and the pages I was missing were in there, I was never going to have that experience again. So years later, when I found the book at a used bookstore, I walked right past it. To this day, I’ve never finished that book. And I wish more than anything, that I could go back to that night and read that story again, and again run out of pages.
- When trying to figure out what a character should look like, do you Think of Celebrities, or just start looking at everyone you pass as if your looking through a mug shot book?
It’s really neither one of those. A character literally just walks in my office. Sometimes I see them and I know what they should look like, but they don’t look that way, so I describe them how they should look. Allow me to give you an example. I’ve written a book called Forsaken. Now this book’s not coming out for a very long time, but it has a character named Earl Flurryfist. Earl is a member of the Flurryfist clan. His people, dating all the way back to the progenitor of the clan, had thick blonde hair. Earl showed up in my office that day with short cropped black hair. So I wrote him with thick blonde hair. And now, every time I see him in the book, he’s got black hair, and every time I see him in the book, I describe him as a blonde. There’s other things, too. Sometimes, scars will be there and I don’t know how the scar was created, so I don’t describe the scar. I’ve got one character in one of my books—now goblin, I only write fantasy books set in the fantasy time period. One of my characters showed up in my office one day wearing an object I can never describe in any of my books. He was wearing a Rolex watch. Had a sword, and a dagger, and a gold Rolex. When I wrote that character, of course, I didn’t describe the Rolex. That didn’t stop him from checking the time. I just didn’t describe it.
( I am not surprised, even goblins know that it is all about the bling.)
- How many books have you written, how many have you tried to publish, and how many are in print?
Monday night I finished my 25th book. I’m a no-child-left-behind kind of writer. I don’t write a book and decide I’m never gonna publish it. I’ve decided on a publishing rate of two books a year for normal size books, and for my epic books (anything 700-pages or longer), one a year. At that rate, the book I finished Monday will be published in 2033. I’ve only printed four so far. But I don’t have time to slow down. I’ve got a lot more planned past these 25, and I’ve got a lot of work to do. My all-time hero is Louis L’Amour, and I hope one day to be the Louis L’Amour of fantasy.
- Are there any occupational hazards to being a novelist?
OK, so I type with three fingers on my left hand and four fingers on my right. I didn’t learn to type properly. So, my pinky finger on my left hand is always flexed and out of the way. That is fine for a normal workday. But toward the end of a book, I go into what we call end-of-book mode. And my wife allows me to obsess about the book, and I start putting in real numbers. When that happens, my pinky finger starts to cramp, and it feels like it’s on fire. But I can’t stop typing. That’s not an option. And I don’t use voice software. So what I do is I take medical tape and I tape my finger straight. It’s not very comfortable. It causes me to cuss a lot, and it slows me down a little bit, but at least I can still type. But every now and then, I look at that finger and the quote from the Bible, “If thy right eye offends thee” will come to mind, and I’ll think to myself, “Could I still get by if I only had 9 fingers?”
(I know this is a really bad graphic but Sorry not sorry)
- If you had 1 million pennies what else would you have?
A big jean pocket. No, if I had that many pennies, like I wouldn’t need all that, so I’d take about 5 pounds of pennies and I’d melt it down. My wife thinks blacksmiths are sexy, so I’d set myself up with a forge. I’d smelt the copper and pour it and make a copper sword. While the metal was still cooling, I would sink pennies in it to form the skin of the sword so you could still see Lincoln’s face. And I would call it The Emancipator.
(now that is a great answer)
- How many people have you killed over the course of your career? Real people first, then fictional.
Real people? I can’t really get into that. Not so much because it would incriminate me, but a lot of really good friends put their lives on the line to help me dispose of bodies. But let’s talk about killing characters in books. I can’t even begin to tell you how many characters I’ve killed. Pitch battles where tens of thousands of people died, down to the little deaths where somebody just curled up in an alleyway and gave up the ghost. I can tell you about the ones that hurt me. The way I deal with it is I don’t blame myself. A lot of times when I’m writing, it doesn’t feel like the story’s coming from me. It feels like I’m witnessing it and writing it down. So when I witness the death of one of my favorite characters, I don’t take the blame for that. All I can do is try to represent that death in the best way possible. They’re gonna die, they’re gonna die horribly or die well, and the way I see it is, I owe it to them to make that death as representative of how it actually happened as I possibly can. In the end, I’m not a god in this world that I work with. People have said that I am. An editor I respect looked at me once, when I told her something wouldn’t work, she looked at me and said, “You are the god in this world. You can make it work.” That’s not bad advice. But I don’t think in my particular case it’s very accurate. I’m not a god in this world, I’m a reporter. I’m just trying to bring the news of what has happened in Perilisc to the people who want to read about it.
(Why won’t anyone answer the first part of this question? But I do Recognize your loyalty and must applaud you for it.)
- What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? Did it end up helping? Or did we just count that person in question 10?
The toughest criticism I ever got… Well, there’s the little deaths you suffer when you’re a writer. You talk to somebody and they tell you how interested they are in your work, and you give them the book, print it off and hand it to them, and they say, “Yeah, I got through the first chapter and then I ran out of time.” And what they’re really saying is, “I read the first chapter and I didn’t feel the need to read anymore.” I was told once by my stepfather, when I was in high school, I had just written a story, and I was told by him, “I’ll read it when it gets published.” But that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re not talking about the little deaths. My editor for Liefdom came back with pages of comments, with suggested rewrites. This was in 2010. I read it, and there’s the knee-jerk reaction of “She doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” or “She just doesn’t get it,” or this one’s my favorite, “She’s just jealous.” And what I had to understand was that I just wasn’t a good writer. So, I was at a crossroads. There’s the turn to the west that says now we work, now we work at being better. We write one book after the next after the next after the next, until we get good at this. Or you turn to the east, and you’re like, we’re not good at this, I give up. At this point, either one of those is a viable path. We choose to give up on things we’re not good at all the time, that doesn’t make us bad people, or weak. She gave me those pages and I had looked to the west and looked to the east, and I went west. Ask me on another day, and maybe east. I eat a bad breakfast and have indigestion, maybe east. But I went west, and I worked for six years, writing every day, until I was good enough to publish.
- What has been the best compliment?
That one is super easy. I’ve heard this a couple of times and I think every writer would agree with this. “I just couldn’t put it down.” For two women I know, the day they started Liefdom was the day they finished it. One of them made a day of it, got up, started reading, read all day, went to bed. But one of them was a single mother of two lively daughters. She put her daughters to bed after working a full day, and picked up my book to unwind before she went to bed, and when she was done with that book, she took a shower, she woke her daughters up, sent them to school, and she went to work. How can that not be the greatest compliment I’ve ever gotten?
- Do you have any advice to give aspiring writers?
This one is really easy. Write all the time. When you’re done writing, either eat or sleep and get back to writing. The more I wrote, the more I trained my brain to write. So, at first, I needed an idea of what I was going to write that day in order to do the job. Flash forward 300,000 words, and now I don’t even need to think about it. The day’s words just come to me. Flash forward 3 million words, where I am right now, and I don’t really need a game plan for the book at all. The more you train yourself to write, the less you need to plan, the less you worry about doing it. I have a friend I’m mentoring and he’s like, “I just didn’t have anything to write today.” My advice to him is always the same. Write anyway. Work inspires more work. Very rarely have I ever come across an artist in any field who made a piece of work and was done. Usually, during the course of making a piece of art, they become inspired for their next piece. Work inspires work.
- What will be your Final words?
When I die, the final words I say will be, “I love you so much. You were such a good wife. and I’m so proud of you.” When I write, my final words will be one of two things, “And he looked across the smoking ruin of the world, and laughed.” or “He looked across the smoking ruin of the world, and decided he could help.” It all depends on who wins.
- What one question do you think I should have asked you, but didn’t?
I was talking to my father-in-law one day. He was driving me to pick up my kids at martial arts, and I had just completed an interview. He’d never read any of my interviews. I said, “I took an interview today.” He said, “OK.” I said, “They’re all starting to sound the same.” He said, “Oh,” and then he listed off four questions. The man has never read an interview for a writer, and he knew the four questions I had to answer the most. When you’re doing this, you answer a lot of the same questions, and I haven’t had to do that with your interview. This is one of the best interviews I’ve ever had. And I always wonder, why didn’t they ask about this, or why didn’t they as about that? I’d say you cut pretty deep into the meat of what I am doing. But the question I’ve never been asked is, who is your audience? In our mind, as writers, we picture the people we’re talking to. Usually it looks something like Comic Con, where you’re sitting on a stage and you’re talking to a crowd of people that are all dressed up like the characters you’ve written, and those people are going crazy for you. That’ll get you through one or two books, but you’ve gotta dig deeper when you’ve been writing for six years and two people have read your work. When you’ve been doing it that long, you need to have a more defined audience. So what I do is, I pretend that I’m dying, that my kids are too young to understand, and I’m not going to be able to teach them and raise them in all the things I want them to know. So all I have is the book I’m writing, and in that book, I have to teach them something about the world, that they’re too young to know now. All of my books are love letters to my children. One day, when they’re much older, and before they go to college, I’ll give them a copy of all my books that I’ve published to that point. When they read that, they’ll truly know their father.
(As a father myself that really hits home. I will read the rest of your books with a different eye)
- Do you have any questions for me?
I could ask how you came up with these questions. I could ask where you got the name the Hobgoblin. I could ask why you spend your time interviewing writers. I could ask what you thought the first time you read my book. But I’m not going to ask any of those questions. I think I’d like to know what age you were when you decided you wanted to spend the bulk of your time in other worlds, and what was the book that did it? What was the book that made you say, “I want to spend my free time doing this.”?
“That is kind of an easy one. I have Dyslexia and when I was young I hated to read. It was really frustrating for me. But I am nothing if not a stubborn little goblin, so I made myself sit and just do it, and I soon started to beat my frustration down.. I started with the Dragonlance books when I was 9 or 10. Then soon moved on to Greek Mythology and Conan. But when I was 11 I had my first major surgery to remove tumors from my sinuses and when I was recovering my Uncle gave me Lord Foul’s Bane the first book of the The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson It was good but I read the whole trilogy in 4 days. I needed something nice and thick to sink my teeth into.
I was still really weak. I was not supposed to even get out of bed for another 2 weeks, because, I had after all, just had 8 1/2 pounds of tumors taken out of my head but I needed something to read. So I bribed my brother to take me to the grocery store. I got on my brothers handlebars and he pedaled me the 2 blocks. I was lucky enough that they usually had a good selection of books.(For a Grocery store at any rate) On that day I picked up The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan. It was on a cardboard New Release display, Having read some of Jordan’s Conan books, I was sure I would like it so I picked it up and bought it Without even opening it. In the 27 years since then I have read that book, and the rest of the series as well around 35 times and listened to the audio 15 or 20 times.It consists of 10,173 pages, 4,410,036 words, and the playtime of the Audiobooks totals out at 19 days 5 hours and 25 min.
Here is that book. I was never lucky enough to meet Mr. Jordan and have him sign my old battered book But Brandon Sanderson did.
You know how I asked about if you could go back and read it again for the first time? I was actually able to kind of do that when my son started the series. Our discussions long into the night are some of the best memories I have.”
Well that is all for the questions. I really want to thank Jesse and his wife, Rebekah for taking the time getting these questions done. I hope you guys had as much fun as I did.
As for you my fearsome Goblin readers you should take a minute and head over to Jesse’s blog and follow him to be entered to win 5 FREE books! Also don’t forget to take a look at the Excerpt of Jesse’s new book I just posted HERE
Mestlven: A Tale from Perilisc
Revenge, Insanity, and the Bloody Diamonds
Meredith Mestlven was abused and betrayed by her nobleman husband. After a desperate fit of retaliation, she fled for her life and lost her sanity. Now nearly 20 years later, she returns to her home at Sorrow Watch to destroy her enemies and reclaim her jewels. How far will she go to satisfy her revenge? Dark, cunning and beautiful, Mestlven will win your heart or devour your mind.
Jesse Teller fell in love with fantasy when he was five years old and played his first game of Dungeons & Dragons. The game gave him the ability to create stories and characters from a young age. He started consuming fantasy in every form and, by nine, was obsessed with the genre. As a young adult, he knew he wanted to make his life about fantasy. From exploring the relationship between man and woman, to studying the qualities of a leader or a tyrant, Jesse Teller uses his stories and settings to study real-world themes and issues.
He lives with his supportive wife, Rebekah, and his two inspiring children, Rayph and Tobin.
4 thoughts on “Author Interview with Jesse Teller”
Superb Hobmage you have paid to the maestros. Great interview.
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Another amazing interview, brother. Loved it.
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Stunning interview from The Goblin and answers from Jesse.One of his books is in my SPFBO 30 and I have enjoyed what I have read so far.
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