I’d like to introduce you to Jack Rollins, author of some very good books, check them out, you will not be disappointed.
Many thanks, Jack, for a great interview!
Let’s start with getting the formalities out of the way-
Tell me a little about yourself, age, location, family, etc.
I’m 35 years old, I live in Alnwick, in the North East of England. I live with my partner and our two sons (a 2 year old and a 6 month old) and nearby is my 14 year old daughter, who lives with her mum.
By day I support adults working towards qualifications in Health and Social Care, as well as English and Maths.
What is something you’d like to share that most people don’t know about you?
I almost joined the British Army, and I know lots of my friends, if they get to read this, are going to think I made that up, but it’s true!
What books have you published and/or had your works featured in?
With Dark Chapter Press, I published The Séance: A Gothic Tale of Horror and Misfortune, The Cabinet of Dr Blessing and my story Home, Sweet Home features in Kill For A Copy.
I worked with a great group of authors on an anthology called Carnage: Extreme Horror, which was masterminded by (who I refer to as the hardest working man in horror) Stuart Keane. My story Anti-Terror appears in there.
I’ve only written one zombie story, mainly because I wasn’t sure what I could bring to that sub-genre. When I did fathom out a way to write a zombie story my way, Dead Shore was born. That story is featured in Undead Legacy, by JEA.
There’s much more on the way, but I’m not sure what I’m allowed to say…
What has been your favorite story or novel to write and what inspired you to write it?
In a way, my most recently published story Home, Sweet Home (Kill For A Copy), is my current favorite. That’s mainly because I had a lot of fun with it. When one of my brothers read it, he said that some of the dialogue, the bickering and banter between the two main characters, reminded him of my partner and I when we poke fun at each other.
What inspired that story was our move to a new house on this little cul-de-sac in Alnwick at the start of the year. I was sorting out the garage… although you’d think I never had, as it is now. I found all these weird bits and pieces, old lamps and curtains and really old fixtures and fittings in these boxes in the garage rafters, and I got to thinking what if I found something in there that I shouldn’t…
The story was my return to the fictional town of Tilwick, which was a place I came up with over ten years ago, on a long-abandoned, multi-book project that for years I’ve referred to as The Unwriteable… but I’ve thought of a way to do it now, so if people enjoy this little trip to Tilwick, who knows, we may all go back there together for a much longer stay.
I believe I have read all of your books so far, I love the Dr. Blessing series. Do you plan on continuing that story? What inspired you to write this series?
Dr. Blessing is definitely coming back and all I can say on that front is, before we go forward, we have to go back.
I have a love of Victoriana, and I was reading The Victorian House by Judith Flanders, learning about the life of a middle-class Victorian through the structure of a terraced house. I’d had some bad news that prevented my partner and I from going travelling and so medical worry was there in the back of my mind, I think. Somewhere in the pea-soup fog of my mind at the time, what I was reading collided with what I was worried about, and a Victorian doctor stepped out of the shadows. And I wasn’t sure whether he was a friend, or a foe.
I also enjoyed reading The Seance and am so honored to have a signed copy, which I won in a promotional event on Facebook. Those events are a lot of fun. Do you plan on doing more in the future?
Absolutely. They’re quite exhausting to run, actually, those online book launches. The first one I did was for The Séance last Hallowe’en. I had it set for 2 hours, and it ended up being something closer to 5. It was such fun, and I’d planned so much stuff, so many giveaways and competitions, I found it took all night to get through it all!
But yes, I think I’ll be sat behind the monitor on some of the Dark Chapter Press book launches, so definitely keep an eye on the Dark Chapter Press page and site for updates. There are lots of books gearing up in the background in that particular dungeon…
What has been your greatest accomplishment to date?
That’s a really tough question. I’ve been pleased with individual releases and little victories along the way. I suppose my ongoing commitment to writing, whilst working full time, my commitments with Dark Chapter Press and of course a young family build into this huge wall that I have to scale on a daily basis. That’s such a fucking dramatic thing to say. But the truth of it is, just like anyone else, I’m being pulled in several directions at once. I am by no means in a routine. Life throws all sorts up and so I can’t commit to X words per day, or I’ll be at my PC after 8pm every single night or anything resembling that. Life, for me at least, doesn’t work that way. I have to carve out that time, minute by minute and hope that in the end, I’ve used that time to create something memorable for my readers. Right now, producing any work at all feels like a great accomplishment.
Have you had any disappointments that just really got to you? If so, would you care to share what it was and why?
In writing terms, no I haven’t. I’ve had all the rejection letters that any other writer has received, but I always knew that being a writer involved that and so I’ve never been particularly crushed, when I think about it.
I’ve written before about anxiety and depression, and shared very personal experiences. Writing has been my creative, productive outlet – a positive thing to cling to when I feel myself starting to slide. If I let writing and writing-related activities get me down, that would be, for me, like cutting a huge hole in the safety net beneath the tightrope.
Who does the covers for your books and do you help in designing them?
My very talented youngest brother Christopher McEwan BSc (no less) produced the cover for The Séance. That demon’s face is actually his face but very distorted. A bunch of people told me they thought it was me. Yeah. They think I look like a demon. Thanks for that, folks. He listened to my thoughts on it and he made it more demonic, did some cool smoke effects and the finished product was something we were both really happy with.
The Cabinet of Dr Blessing’s cover was created by Mark Kelly, of Grim Ventures. The man’s brilliant. That gothic, chilling cover was all him. The same man produced the cover for Carnage: Extreme Horror and for Undead Legacy. He’s also produced a fantastic cover for another anthology I’m involved in, but at this stage, I’m not allowed to really say anything about it.
What author(s) inspired you the most to become a writer and at what age? What was it about them that inspired you? What would be your favorite book(s) by that author?
I loved to draw little comic books for my brother, so I was heavily influenced by late 80s, early 90s Batman and Superman. I learned how heroes can be driven to the extreme and collapse through storylines such as the Death of Superman, and Knightfall. There was something about those stories, the sense of doom, the fatalism of it all, where these heroes just kept on going, right until they lost, that had an impact on me.
Going back a little further, I know that a lasting impression was made on me by Roald Dahl through books such as The Twits, The BFG and The Witches. These stories had elements of horror running through them – I mean, those giants are eating the kids!
I was introduced to James Herbert. I read Haunted first and the book totally blew me away. A simple ghost story with a couple of twists and as a newbie to horror fiction, I was hooked. I read loads of Herbert’s stuff, but there was something about Creed that finally gave me a sense of direction. I could see that what I really wanted to write was horror. I think the book really helped me to redefine what horror is for me, in my mind, and how it doesn’t always have to be a ghost or a slasher, you can take the genre for a bit of a walk and as long as you keep it creepy, you won’t go far wrong.
Are there any new authors that have become favorites of yours?
Some folks have picked up on the connection between Dr. Blessing and the De Omori stories written by David Basnett. Now David and I have been friends for about 15 years and his writing has always inspired me, right from the first time we exchanged some files by email and chatted about writing on our lunch breaks (we used to work together). I’m thrilled to see him producing more work and even more pleased that we actually shared a book cover, with both of us in Kill For A Copy.
Kyle M. Scott was a revelation to me. We’ve become friends over the last 18 months and featured together in Carnage: Extreme Horror. I knew going into Consumed Vol. 1, that I was going to read something much gorier than I would usually go for. And yeah, it’s true, Kyle sheds a lot of red stuff in his books, but the relationships he writes about are absolutely authentic, just pitch-perfect. He can then tell you just about anything, and you’ll believe him. My favorite of his books so far is Devil’s Day. Unmissable.
Stuart Keane is another chap I’ve become friends with over the last 18 months. He really helped immerse me in the online writing community. I think he even introduced us, Lisa. He masterminded Carnage: Extreme Horror, but the first thing I read by him was The Customer Is Always… Now, that’s a novella begging to be made into a short movie. I loved that story, but he aced it with Charlotte. Just a fantastic, really haunting tale. I’m pleased to have appeared with Stuart in three publications with certainly a fourth due for release soon.
I don’t know if I dare go on – I’m going to, because there are just so many great new writers going around at the moment. Two writers who appeared in Kill For A Copy, Steve Jenner and Robert J. Stava have really impressed me. Out of all the great stories in that book, those two writers came up with ideas that are, for me, enthralling. At the moment, the stories they placed in that anthology are the only work I’ve read by them so far, but I know for a fine fact it isn’t the last I’ll read by them, and if you haven’t heard of them, look them up.
You write mostly horror/thriller books. What characteristic of that genre do you feel is most important when writing? Or the most fun for you to write?
I like to evoke an emotional response, wherever possible. I can gross you out, too, but I find that it works better if you give a shit about the person the gross or harsh stuff is happening to.
I recently wrote a piece on my blog about our empathy with other people and how with some sick people, we want to look after them, but we can think if this happens to me, just shoot me! I’m going through a phase of playing with the notions of what you could live through and still want to live? What could you lose and still find life worth living?
Would you ever consider writing in a different genre? If so, what would it be and why?
I think that I have at least 3 Westerns in me. Some of those could be considered more Weird West though, which is a bit of a cheat really, as they’d kind of just be horror stories. But definitely, I have a straight-out Western that I started a while ago, and really would love the time to go back to and finish.
The Wild West thing only caught me in my late teens. As a child, it never bothered me. I didn’t want to be a cowboy. I suppose it’s just an extension of my Victorian fascination, really, but with a continental shift. Plus, those duster coats are cool and everyone knows it.
When writing, how much research goes into your work? What has been the most interesting thing you have had to research? What has been the most fun thing in your research?
I have to do a lot of research for my period pieces. I had to learn a lot about Victorian medicine for the Dr. Blessing stories, a lot about Spiritualism and quackery for The Séance and for something else I’m writing at the moment, I’m becoming an expert on sea-faring vessels of the late 19th century.
I found the inner workings of Victorian pharmacy to be of great interest as I worked out A Christmas Blessing. Do you know that they postponed the development of Aspirin so that they could focus on this new wonder-drug called Heroin?
Last year I had to get my Mathematical brain working in high gear, to learn the probabilities of outcomes in a game called Hazard, the father of the crap game, basically. I didn’t have anyone to play it against, but my oldest son, who was just about to turn 2 at the time, he likes throwing dice and learning numbers… He’s pretty good at cards now too, but don’t tell his mother.
How do you come up with or what inspires you to come up with the ideas for your novels, novellas and short stories?
For a long time I’ve just written whatever seemed interesting to me at the time. Sometimes I’ll read something from history and think it’s cool and that if I knew more about it, I could work a good story around it. Sometimes that doesn’t pan out, sometimes it works out great.
Recently, I’ve written some pieces ‘to order’, on a set theme. An example being Dead Shore for the undead anthology. But again, I could think I’m onto a winning idea for this theme, and then it just evaporates. It’s gone. I can’t make anything out of it, or I have nothing new to add to that theme, or I can’t see a way to merge my style with that overarching premise.
You like to write in the Victorian age. What fascinates you about that era?
I love the clothes. I love the thinking – the world on the brink of modernity, scientific fact colliding with long-held religious beliefs, the technology, the engineering, the power of steam and coal. And of course, if you’re very lucky, the glimpse of an attractive lady’s ankle.
What are you currently working on and what else do you have planned for 2015?
I like to bring surprises to the table when I can. But yeah, I’ve got more Dr. Blessing up my sleeve, but it is taking longer to develop than I’d hoped because I want to be sure and do it totally right.
There is an anthology I am about to appear in that has quite an unusual, but very cool theme, and I have slipped in a story which fans of my Victorian-era pieces are, I’m certain, going to love.
There are two horror presses I really want to work with. One of them has opened a submission call (hence the sea-faring remark earlier), and the other is about to open their call. I’m going to take a shot at both.
For more clues about what I’m up to, I have a pin-board on Pinterest called Crystal Ball. I’ll include the link to my Pinterest account at the end.
On a more personal note –
What are some of your likes and dislikes in movies, books, food, drinks, activities, music, etc, or anything else you would like to let us know about you?
I love comic-book hero movies. Batman is my all-time favorite comic-book character. I love Japanese horror movies and French cinema is making an impact on me.
Ray Donovan has me hooked at the moment, as does Penny Dreadful. I loved Breaking Bad and the first season of True Detective. I saw Lost through to the very end… I have no fucking idea why I did that.
Although most times these days, I am subjected to the songs from the movie Frozen, I love The Deftones, The Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam (yeah I cling to the 90s, so what?), The Misfits, Mark Lanegan, Queens of The Stone Age.
I’m really getting into Craft Beers and Real Ales. This must be a sign of my slide into middle-age, I guess. But it’s great to drink beer with an actual flavor!
I love chocolate. I love cake. I love tea. I hate coffee.
I like body-boarding when the sea is not being a cruel mistress.
Name a favorite and least favorite memory from your childhood and from your adult life.
My least favorite childhood memory was, I think, coming home from school and finding my dad crying because he didn’t want to tell my brother and I our grandmother had died. You see, he’s one of very few men (and I count myself among those few) who really loved his mother-in-law, they got on so well, they were pals as well as family.
I had such a great childhood, it’s hard to pick a favorite moment. I grew up in a place where all the families knew each other and so you could play away from your front door and go exploring and always feel safe. It isn’t really like that in my old neighborhood anymore. I just have lots of great memories of tree climbing and bike rides, time with my grandparents. Too many nice times to pick a favorite.
The least favorite memory in my adult life is easy to remember. Earlier this year, my youngest son Oscar spent a week in hospital. Fucking awful.
My favorite adult memory that springs to mind has to be that time my friend and I got into some trouble while body-boarding and for a while, I remember thinking this is it, you’ve seen your daughter for the last time… you’re not going to meet your son… you’re fucked. Anyway, obviously that isn’t how it worked out and that moment when my friend and I climbed up onto the death-trap rocks we had been only too pleased to be hurtled into (because for a while we weren’t heading towards the shore despite our best efforts), when I pointed into the sea and yelled, “Not today, Poseidon! Not today!” was, I think, my greatest memory of recent years and certainly one of the greatest lines I’ve ever come up with. And the beer we had after it was fucking sublime.
You didn’t think I was gonna say the birth of my kids, did you?
If you could change anything about your life, past or present, or both, what would it be, if anything?
In the past, I wish I’d taken it easier on my mother when I was a teenager. I tested that woman something chronic. And right now, and forever more… I’d be a full-time writer, of course!
What is the best thing a fan has said to you? The most funny thing? The worst thing?
Someone who read The Cabinet of Dr Blessing told me that the final scenes of A Christmas Blessing (the closing part of the book) made him cry. When I came to understand a little about his family, and realized that we both have daughters who don’t live with us, it became apparent that there’s a vein of real sadness that runs through the pages. I hadn’t detected it as I wrote, but he got it and it tapped into something within him. I don’t think I could expect anything better than that from my work.
Where can fans find and contact you on the web? Blogs, websites, etc.
You can find me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/doctorblessing
My blog: JackRollinsHorror.wordpress.com
My publisher’s site: www.darkchapterpress.com
My Pinterest boards: https://uk.pinterest.com/jackrollins7587/