Jack Wallen is what happens when a Gen Xer mind-melds with present day snark. Jack is a seeker of truth and a writer of words with a quantum mechanical pencil and a disjointed beat of sound and soul. Although he resides in the unlikely city of Louisville, Kentucky, Jack likes to think of himself more as an interplanetary traveler, on the lookout for the Satellite of Love and a perpetual movie sign...or so he tells the reflection in the mirror (some times in 3rd person). Jack is the author of numerous tales of dark, twisty fiction including the I Zombie series, the Klockwerk Movement, the Fringe Killer series, Shero, The Nameless Saga, and much more.
SS: First of all, thanks so much for sharing For Whom the Reap Tolls with us. Could you tell us a little about the inspiration behind your Reapers series?
JW: Most of the books I write tend to come from me asking questions of myself. I tend to dig pretty deep into the wells of curiosity, so no question is out of, well, question. When I found out Devil Dog Press wanted me to submit a new series for consideration, I knew something special was in order. After asking myself question after question, I finally hit on something that had potential. Said question was “What would happen if the Grim Reaper quit?” The idea of a reaper of souls giving up his own particular ghost was incredibly intriguing … but had already been done in the film, “Death Takes A Holiday”. Naturally, I didn’t want to step on the toes of Maxwell Anderson and Gladys Lehman, so I took that idea back to the drawing board and reformed the question into, “What would happen if the Grim Reaper fell in love?” That question is what gave birth to the Reapers series.
SS: You are known for writing a blend of the fantastical with the macabre. What makes you gravitate towards these genres?
JW: I was weened on the works of Clive Barker. I’ve always considered him my muse and idol. Barker manages to write the macabre with such elegance and grace, the reader simply cannot look away from the carnage draped in beautiful prose. I firmly believe it was reading Barker’s book “Imajica” that convinced me I not only wanted to be a writer, but had to be a writer. I’ve always been fascinated by many things and feel the world becomes so much more interesting when it’s a melange of ideas, genres, and themes. Human beings are not one dimensional. We are comprised of the personal, professional, political, pious, pragmatic, passionate; to assume readers want their literature to be one dimensional is (I believe) a mistake. To that end, I do my best to layer genre on top of genre, hoping to create something altogether new.
SS: As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?’
JW: If not Clive Barker himself, it would be my cat, Bigen. He is, all at once, mysterious and obvious; playful and serious; curious and uninterested; loving and aloof. In other words, Bigen is his own chiasma—a parallel inverse of himself.
SS: On your website, you mention how you got your start in acting. Do you feel your acting background has helped your writing?
JW: Without a doubt. During my training, one of the single most important elements was instinct. I spent three years of my life at Purdue University, focusing on that very thing. As an actor, instinct was my guide. When approaching a new role, I allowed that instinct to take over and enjoyed the ride. As a writer, the same thing holds true. I write in a very organic fashion—allowing the characters to dictate the story. I feel this makes for a much more natural progression of plot, as well as deeper and more dimensional characters. My work with improv has also been crucial to my craft as an author. When any new writer comes to me for advice, one of the first things I tell them is to find an improv task and sign up immediately. Understanding and working with improv will not only help improve dialog, it gives the artist a better insight into how people relate and how stories are told.
SS: For Whom the Reap Tolls is the third installment in your series. Did you know from the beginning this would be a series or did it the story grow organically?
JW: Originally it was going to be three books. I had NO idea where or how the story was going to unfold, I just started writing and let the characters take me on a ride. During the writing of “For Whom The Reap Tolls”, I realized I had so much more story to tell, so I approached Devil Dog Press about it becoming an open-ended series. While that question was out in the infinite void, something wonderful happened during the telling of the story and I knew, if Devil Dog Press, wanted to keep it at three books, I had my ending. When they agreed to allow it to continue on, I decided to use what I had as an ending for book three and open the book four story with it. I cannot wait for that portion of the universe to unfold.
SS: What did you edit out of this book?
JW: Because of the way I write, very little gets edited out. I don’t have those stories of “I cut an entire character or chapter out of my WIP!” I’ve been writing for over twenty years now and have managed to develop a very efficient method, so next to nothing gets cut.
SS: Are your characters based on people you know, or do they live solely in your imagination?
JW: Actually, Grim is the one character I’ve written that is closest to me. I’ve put so much of myself in that character, readers probably know me better than they realize. This might be why the series is so easy for me to write.
SS: What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
JW: I’m friends with a lot of authors. I consider Jaime Johnesee my “sister from another”. She always has a positive outlook on life, even when things aren’t always going well. I find, being an artist, that is so very necessary. Jay Wilburn also embodies a very similar outlook. Brent Abell is another good friend of mine. He and I have spent hours talking shop and our other, geekier, leanings. Armand Rosamilia helped me quite a bit in the early days...showing everyone that it’s not about the individual, but the community as a whole. There are so many writers out their, worthy of respect, love, and friendship.
SS: Besides your Reaper series, are there any upcoming projects on your radar you'd like to share with us today?
JW: I am currently in the editing process with my book “Dead Twin Sister” (the sequel to “The Dark Seduction”, that stars real-life rock band, Die So Fluid), as well as about to finish up the first draft of “Suicide Machine” (The sequel to “Suicide Station”). I will then be embarking on co-authoring a new series, for Devil Dog Press, with Jaime Johneseeand Christine Sutton, called “Hell, Inc.”
SS: Could you offer your fans a little teaser for what Grim and company might face in the next installment?
JW: Without giving too much away, if you’ve read the third book, you know what’s in store for the immediate future. But that happily ever after will not happen without a few bumps and bruises along the way.
SS: Thank you so much for sharing with us a little about your books and writing process, Jack. Best of luck with your new release! If you enjoyed today's feature, please check out Jack Wallen's Reaper Series.