Interview with Author Jeff Parsons

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

One day, in Toastmasters, we were dared to follow our dreams. I’d always wanted to become a writer. So… I gave it a try. It was difficult, but I wrote up a story and submitted it to an online horror magazine. My story didn’t get accepted, but the editor provided me with some very direct and useful feedback. Encouraged, I kept working on my writing skills. After about a half-dozen story attempts and submittals, I was finally rewarded with an acceptance letter. I did it. I was an author! It took a while for this accomplishment to sink in, but when it did, I realized I could do this. I could keep this going. Ever since then, I’ve been trying new methods to improve my wordsmithing. Sometimes it works, sometimes not, but the overall trend has been onward and upward, which makes me deliriously happy.

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2) What inspired you to write your book?

I like a challenge! That’s why I took a liking to fiction writing. My book, The Captivating Flames of Madness, is a collection of short horror stories set in the past, present, and future. Some of the stories also qualify as alt-history or sci-fi. 

The inspiration for my stories? I write about the things that interest me. Staying interested is important in life, but also critical for writing. When I follow my interests, the words flow easily. And it’s fun. Essentially, I’m inspired to write about things that interest me. 

I’m lucky, I don’t have a problem finding ideas anymore. [Disclaimer: not all my ideas are good ideas.] I observe what’s going on around me and then think about what would happen if something changed. The ‘what if’ factor has been a game changer for me ever since the beginning. The challenge now is to find credible plots for my ideas.  😊 

3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

From my book jacket: “we’re all just one event, mishap, or decision away from things that could change our lives forever.” The big takeaway: don’t take life for granted. Anything can and will happen as my stories show. Regardless of what happens, don’t let yourself be afraid. Follow your dreams. Dare to win.

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

As a young child, I didn’t like feeling afraid, so I decided to do something about it. Face my fears. I’m certainly not fearless right now, but my fears don’t control me like they used to. Horror is the perfect venue for experiencing your fears and living through it, overcoming them while becoming braver in the process. 

I started out reading horror comics. I loved the stories and artwork. They showed me the mystery of the vast unknown world out there. It was eye opening. They also showed me how to interact with the world (at least when it got scary). That doesn’t mean I personally gravitate towards a horrific lifestyle. On the contrary, I’m a fairly cheerful and optimistic spiritual person, but I do love a good scary story. 

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5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?

My WWII short story Lost Souls involves the fate of a German submarine sailor named Hans. At the story’s end, he’s killed by ghosts seeking vengeance. I’d like to talk to him about what happens after death. I’d ask him, from a spiritual perspective, if we’re forgiven for protecting those we love, our neighbors, our country. At what cost is that acceptable? And under what circumstances? 

Why would I ask? As an engineer, I’ve done my part to protect my country; so, I wonder…

6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

Facebook has been there for me since the beginning of my writing adventure. I created an author’s webpage where I post my new story achievements as well as writer’s tips and humor. This webpage also acts as a go-to site when editors ask if I have a social presence for my work. Also, interacting with other Facebook people provides opportunities, useful networking for wordsmithing, ideas, and marketing.   

Also useful is reaching out to independent writer’s blogs, such as this most excellent blog. 

In the end, I hope we can help each other, become better people as a result, and learn something more about writing.

7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

Do yourself a favor… don’t believe you’re not succeeding if you’re not chugging out reams of perfect prose every day! Research, brainstorming, thinking deeply about ideas, crafting a plot, wordsmithing the prose, and editing editing editing… all of this contributes to writing. Just work at it. That’s how you can become a better writer, day by day. Have fun! 

Don’t give up. One of my stories was rejected 11 times. And in one response, with extreme rudeness. When it finally got accepted at professional rates, I realized that the story was actually quite good, and that there was probably something else going on: the editor may not have been infatuated with the story the way I was, it’s similar to other stories they already had, or it’s a wrong fit for the theme they’re looking for. Really, in the absence of feedback, who knows? Or, to be brutally honest with myself (ouch), other reasons might be I didn’t do the bang-up job I thought I had on the story or I didn’t read the submittal specs close enough. My point, be persistent.   

8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

I’ll continue writing short stories for small press magazines. My pattern so far has been to collect these stories into books. 

I’m working on getting my first novel published. The story is about mankind’s first contact with aliens. I think that topic is fascinating; as always, write where the passion takes you. 😊

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About the Author

I have over thirty years of scientific, technical, and fictional writing experience. In addition to my two short story books, The Captivating Flames of Madness and Algorithm of Nightmares, I’m published in The Horror Zine, The Horror Zine’s Book of Ghost Stories, The Horror Zine’s Book of Werewolf Stories, Aphelion Webzine, Year’s Best Hardcore Horror Volume 4, Dark Gothic Resurrected Magazine, Chilling Ghost Short Stories, Dystopia Utopia Short Stories, Wax & Wane: A Coven of Witch Tales, Thinking Through Our Fingers, The Moving Finger Writes, Golden Prose & Poetry, Our Dance With Words, The Voices Within, Fireburst: The Inner Circle Writers’ Group, Second Flash Fiction Anthology 2018, SNM Horror Magazine, and Bonded by Blood IV/ V.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OfficialJeffParsons/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Jeff-Parsons/e/B00FIOQCY6%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/list/6860100.Jeff_Parsons

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