Interview with James Jeffra

What is your writing process?
I begin with a high-level outline, capturing all of the "scenes" I'd like to place my characters in. Once the outline is complete, I'll go back and fill in more detail. I continue doing this until I have a reasonable framework to start writing.
I actually use the outline document as my draft document. This enables me to quickly go back and reference the outline I constructed to ensure I'm including those moments or segments I initially wanted to capture. Of course, the writing process is extremely fluid, so what sounded good during the outlining phase, may not actually end up in the final version.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Not sure I remember the first story I read. It was likely some book I read in the first grade. For some reason "Pug" seems to stand out. However, I do remember a book I read over and over called, "The Chocolate Touch." It's about a boy who only eats candy, specifically chocolate. One day he stumbles upon a candy store he'd never seen before and procures a special box of chocolate. That night, he opens the box to find a single wrapped piece of chocolate. After consuming that single piece of chocolate, the boy learns that everything he eats or drinks immediately turns to chocolate.
For me, there was something disturbing about this book. The idea that a young boy's obsession would eventually turn into his nightmare was quite intriguing. Plus, I've never been a big fan of chocolate, so I recall being somewhat disgusted when reading how the flavor of chocolate was associated with everything the boy put into his mouth.
How do you approach cover design?
Book covers are almost cinematic. I'm a film junkie and love looking at the movie posters in theaters. Good or bad, a movie poster has the opportunity to persuade or dissuade a possible moviegoer.
I think book cover design is the same. I'm no artist, which is why I asked designers from a wonderful design firm to take a crack at designing my book cover. I had an idea of what I wanted, but I think they were able to create a cover that readers may find intriguing, encouraging them to look inside.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Choosing only five favorites books is a daunting task, but I'll give it my best shot:
In no order of preference:
1) The Shining - I've never read a more wonderfully terrifying book. I made the mistake of reading it while traveling for work. Staying in a hotel and reading The Shining is not a very bright idea.

2) The Terror - I had never read a Dan Simmons book before reading The Terror. The blend of adventure, horror and science fiction was wrapped so beautifully, one can only aspire to write as effectively as Simmons. For me, The Terror is a big book; not just in length, but in scale, and there are many moments that will stick with me for a long time. Also, while reading it, I was thinking this could be an awesome mini-series. Somebody should jump on that, if they haven't already.

3) Anything from Edgar Allen Poe - Even as a kid, I was a huge fan of Poe. I'm not exactly sure what it was that drew me in; perhaps it's how many of his characters are responsible for the manifestation of their personal demons, the world within their own heads haunted by the ghosts they've created.

4) American Psycho - While The Shining is the scariest book I've ever read, American Psycho is the most disturbing book I've ever read. Once again, I was traveling for work when I read this book. I recall being on an airplane when I read a passage that made me shriek out loud. The person sitting next to me shot me a look, concerned I might throw up in his lap. For me, the combination of wit, gore, satire, and comedy is a one of a kind combination that I believe has yet to be replicated. Oh, and personally, the book should never have been made into a movie.

5) Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer - When reading non-fiction, I tend to stick with books about diseases. For some odd reason, I'm fascinated by the devastating impact small microbes can unleash on us human beings. However, Manhunt is an exciting tale of non-fiction that must be appreciated. James L. Swanson's retelling of the hunt for John Wilkes Booth is as sweeping and epic as a fictional action adventure novel. The way Swanson juxtaposes the thrilling chase of Booth with the slow, gradual death of Lincoln is storytelling at its finest.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I currently read e-books via the Kindle app on a Nexus 7.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Unfortunately, I haven't explored very many marketing techniques. I'm not very good a self-promoting, so I've really only use the conventional tactic of notifying friends and family that I have self-published a book. I have also posted a comment on my LinkedIn page, hoping that word of mouth would catch on and spark some interest.
Describe your desk
The "Desk" where I write is pretty much anywhere I can take my laptop and get an Internet connection. I've written at the local library, at Starbucks or Peet's Coffee. I written in my front yard or in my bedroom. As long as it's fairly quiet and I'm able to focus, I can pretty much write anywhere. This certainly doesn't mean that what I'm writing is quality; but sometimes writing just for the sake of writing is well worthwhile.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Lancaster California, a desert community about 70 miles north-east of Los Angeles. I did use the desert as the backdrop for my book, The Black Doll, but I'm not sure if this is because it had influence or if it's what I know.
I would say it was more of the people I knew growing up than the location that inspired my book. Family and friends, and the people I've met along the way, have helped me shape the characters I write about. There's even a little bit of myself in one of the characters in The Black Doll.
Published 2014-09-19.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.