Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors..
Recently, we interviewed Lloyd Jeffries about his writing and recently released novel, A Portion of Malice (Ages of Malice, #1) , the page-turning first installment in the Ages of Malice series about a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who gets caught in a whirlwind of darkness, deceit, and ancient secrets. (Read the review here.)
Lloyd Jeffries enjoys dark comedies, philosophy, clever turns of phrase, religious studies and thought experiments involving the esoteric and legendary. A decorated veteran of numerous conflicts, he served in the U.S. military and has practiced Emergency, Trauma and Wilderness medicine for more than twenty years. He hides out in Florida with his family and Buck the Wonder Dog.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
A MEASURE OF RHYME is completed and the second book in the AGES OF MALICE series. It will be released in spring of 2023, followed by EMBERS OF SHADOW, book III, which is also completed. The fourth book, THE TEMPESTS OF TIME is halfway along. I expect to pen the Rhyme Carter series after AGES OF MALICE is finished and already have a few chapters written. Additionally, I have a half-written fantasy book (Working title: Xulios) that I may return. My website, LLoydjeffries.com, also features some of my free short stories in a variety of genres. Two of my favorites are: OUTPOST MATILDA and BURIED IN THE STARS.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I research extensively before starting. I like to base my fiction on factual events, relics, people, etc, then turn it all on its ear. It’s vital that every rabbit hole is explored thoroughly. I buy books on topics, comb the internet, read expert commentary, people’s opinions on a subject. It’s vital to cram as much in my head as possible because that’s what causes two seemingly unrelated topics to suddenly come together as a fresh idea. I typically spend a few weeks of daily research before starting to write.
What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Not taking the time to learn the craft. I’ve read so many books by new authors that could be vastly improved by learning the craft. Learn how to edit, develop characters, research, plan, plot, build tension, weave a tapestry. None of that happens overnight, and a writer that doesn’t know the craft is like a carpenter that doesn’t know how to use a saw.
Self-validate. Like much of life, EVERYONE will tell you all the reasons it CAN’T be done, then they’ll tear your work apart leaving you with only a single question: press on or quit? Believe in yourself, find your voice, write something that blows your own mind, then present it fiercely and be unapologetic.
Self-Soothe. When you get a review that doesn’t thrill you, it’s vital to self-soothe. Soul-searching never hurts but don’t let someone else’s opinion of your work bring you down.
Believe in yourself. Visualize success. EXPECT SUCCESS!
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
My purchase of Stephen King’s ON WRITING: A MEMOIR OF THE CRAFT. This book changed my perspective about writing and made me a professional author long before I ever sold a book. I credit this work for teaching me to take storytelling seriously. It’s a must read and I return to it frequently.
Do you read your book reviews? Do they please you or annoy you? Do you think you can learn a lot from reading criticism about your work?
I try to read every review and am almost always pleased with them. I think it’s obtuse and closed minded not to listen and internalize what a reader is telling you. Remember the old adage: when a reader tells you something’s wrong with your book, they’re almost always right. When they tell you how to fix it, they’re almost always wrong. Certainly, no author is going to please everyone and if you try it’s disaster for your prose and voice. Reviews give you a chance to see different aspects readers are taking from your work. It’s up to you to decide if those points are valid and if you want to change scenes, characters, etc. Between editorial reviews and reader reviews, I prefer reader reviews. Professional reviewers start with the expectation of finding flaws in your book. Thus, they will endlessly search for something, no matter how good your book is. Readers, however, are looking for a good story. Give them one and you’ll have them forever.
Is writer’s block real?
Not for me. When confronted with a difficult choice or lack of a concept, I remind myself I have truly infinite options. I pick an option that’s close to where I think I want to go, no matter how ridiculous, then I start to plot and massage. Before I know it, the story has worked itself out and I’m on my way.
After the writing’s finished, how do you judge the quality of your work?
After many drafts, edits, format changes, scene tweaks, you’ll know your work pretty well, but it won’t be fresh to you. When I finish a manuscript, I put it away for at least a month (the longer the better), then return to it for a new read. I’m looking for the new reader experience, a casual read that titillates without being bogged or clunky. If I myself intrigued, thrilled, blown away by the work, I know it’s ready.
What’s more important: characters or plot?
Both. Plot are the events in a story. Character is what drives the story. You can have one without the other, but the work won’t be as good as it should be. Who wants to read a thriller where characters aren’t developed, flawed, challenged, etc? Who wants to read a thriller where the characters are challenged but the plot is flat? If you have a great cast, then concentrate on the plot. It’s something I call adding “pepper to the pot”. A storyteller should always strive to add as much pepper as they can.
Which scene, character or plotline changed the most from first draft to published book?
My main character in A PORTION OF MALICE, Emery Merrick. When I first completed the novel, it failed to thrill me. Certainly, it was “good enough”, but I hate “good enough”. I wanted the best story I could produce. Initially, Emery wasn’t even in the story and while I was stewing over how to brighten the tale, I tried a couple of chapters from this new character’s perspective. The change was instantaneous, the work overpowering, soul-searching, emotionally intriguing. My reviews back that up: Devastating, audacious, masterful. It was a great lesson to learn: trust my own judgment and if I feel something isn’t right, then it isn’t.
What do you hope readers will take away from this story?
I wrote A PORTION OF MALICE to confront and provoke. My hope is that readers will find themselves questioning their own paradigms and gain a different perspective of the world around us. I hope it causes souls to be searched and thoughts to be provoked. By fusing religion, spirituality, folklore, myth, legend, and history, I hope to give my readers a different perspective on stories they thought they
knew and to align history and religion in a way that answers questions about how we got here and why today’s world is so flawed.
What makes this book important right now?
Today’s world is rough, desperate, impatient, angry and violent. It seems humanity’s forgotten the basic truths of courtesy and kindness. Forgotten how we’re all here together. It’s as if we’ve sacrificed all decency for avarice, for self. What makes A PORTION OF MALICE important now is that it shows how the past (whether biblical or religious) informs the future. It shows the path Humanity has chosen—and where it ends. It’s a great story with lots of twists and surprises but also makes one think about their own small role on this planet and in this universe.
What’s next for you?
A MEASURE OF RHYME, book II in the AGES OF MALICE series, available spring 2023.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer?
My biggest challenge was learning to write for me alone. When one starts out, there are innumerable articles about how to write, what to write, genre rules, agents, rules, query letters, etc, etc. Don’t believe the hype! Don’t write for agents or publishers or movie deals, your writing will fall flat and bore everyone. Write for YOU! Use your own unique voice. Be controversial. Be real. But, above all, be true to the story you create and the truth of every character. Tell me an interesting story, give me flawed, opinionated characters, give them impossible goals, throw obstacles in the way, surprise me with your writing, your editing, your plot. MAKE ME TRUST that I’m in the hands of a master storyteller and that my trust isn’t misplaced. The truest bond for a writer is the trust of a reader. All too often I see writers gain success then switch their focus from reader to rewards. Money is tangible and finite, but a reader’s trust is a sacred covenant and a precious gift. They’re saying “I’ll continue to come back. You continue to give me a great story.” In the end, it’s not about genre or niche. It’s not about money or reviews. It’s about the covenant between reader and storyteller. Be a storyteller first, a writer second.
Categories: BookView Review Interview