Interview with Jesse Teller

Published 2016-05-25.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Milwaukee, WI, in a very poor neighborhood. We had a neighborhood gang and rival gangs in the area. I learned very quickly that there were things you did and wore, and things you didn't. I still remember the first time I learned a gang sign and how it made me feel. I felt as though I was a part of something. It made me feel safe, made me feel powerful. That mentality and culture influenced the work I do today. There are shades of violence in everything I write, a mythology to the places and people who live there that is very reminiscent of gang reputations and rumor. Back then, we knew all the members and heard the things they had done. We were proud of the gang that protected us. I look back on that now and see how terrible it was. Violence is not a thing to look up to, or in some cases worship, but the idea of a dark hero keeping the weak safe never left me.
When did you first start writing?
I started writing when I was in fifth grade, not sure of the age. I would do the math, but I'm no good at that. Writing was an idea I had never had before Mr. Olsen gave me my first assignment. Thought you needed permission to write a story before that—never imagined it was a thing I could just do. See, from the age of three, I was obsessed with stories. I used to pretend my stories were dreams so I had an excuse to tell them. I would say, "I had a dream last night. Wanna hear it?" then go on and on with a rolling story for half an hour. I think they knew dreams don't work like that, but they never said anything. Writing became a viable way of telling those stories.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
To this, I would have to say exploration and discovery. When I write, I don't do any planning beforehand. I sit down with a vague idea of what I'm doing and I start writing, just start typing. I find a kernel of an idea and develop as I go. Wanna hear a story? I'm guessing you do. I sat down to write one day. I had a 3,000 word quota to fill but I had no clue what was going to happen. A character named Kell the Wanderer had to break into a prison and rescue a few allies. He was standing in the shadows outside the prison when I left him the day before and that is where I found him. I sat down and decided I would have to develop a little and write it the next day. Instead, I just started typing. The keys formed words I had no control of. I read the screen to see what he was doing and was amazed by his resourcefulness. I don't know how that works, but it does. With no plan, I barge in and find out what is there.
What do your fans mean to you?
I woke up yesterday and walked into my living room. My wife was on her computer, working. She gave me a woman's name and asked me if I knew who it was. I had never heard the name before in my life. I asked her why, and she said this lady had left a review on my book online. She read it to me and it was glowing, to say the least. I sat down, shocked, and tried to imagine why a reader would go out of her way like that. I tried to think of what had inspired this outpouring of respect, and I realized she had just really loved my book. It took me by surprise. I have been trying to get this book good enough to publish for a while now. I guess I wrote the first draft of it in 2006. I have spent money on editors and rewritten it quite a few times. A few friends and family have read it. But they love me, and I could not imagine they were being too hard on me. The idea that a complete stranger loves Mandrake is huge to me. My fans validate the life I always wanted for myself. They tell me I have not been wasting my time all these years. They give me hope and they give me inspiration. This woman, whoever she is, is a fan. She is the one I am writing for.
What are you working on next?
Right now, I am working on a book called Lair. It is the first book in a new trilogy. My work is all tied together. I have a large world and I am slowly making my way around it, telling of the deeds and feats that go on there. I have five series in play right now. The new one follows Peter Redfist as he tries to make his way back to his homeland. My work is done in series. I have a few trilogies running, a five-book series I just finished in rough draft, and a seven in the works as well. They can all be read on their own. But if you pull them apart and shuffle them back together in chronological order, they tell one long tale about this boy, Peter. When I am finished with this tale, the total books will number 25. After that, the next act in my world will be about 24 books long. I have no trouble getting ideas for books. They just keep coming.
What do you read for pleasure?
Actually, right now I'm into the classics. Maybe that is not the way to go, but I can't help myself. I did Wuthering Heights not too long ago. I read a lot of HP Lovecraft these days. I'm going to take a bite out of the Jungle Books this summer, and Robert E Howard is a constant. He taught me so much about how to do fantasy when I was getting my start. His work on Conan is breathtaking. I recently bought a tome of Tarzan that is as thick as my wrist. I am looking forward to getting into that soon. When I was in college, I studied classic literature, found out how to look at a book and see what the writer was trying to say behind the words. I try to fit that into my work. Symbols and allegory are powerful pieces on the board. Things like this intrigue me and I fight to use them whenever I can.
Describe your desk
My desk is an old one. It is a steel Army desk I found tucked away in a used furniture store about 11 years ago. It is ugly and gray. The salesman said he had been trying to sell it for 19 years. It was not even on the sales room floor when I found it. I asked him if he would believe I had been to every used furniture store in town looking for this desk. He said, "No. No one wants this desk." He gave it to me for free. I had to pay for the glass top he had tried to church it up with, but that shattered years ago. No, this old thing is a relic from a bygone age. I love it. I can kick it and it makes a really loud banging sound. Don't judge me; I get frustrated. I have quite a few drawers which are missing in today's desks and I have two pull-out trays to write on. Together, this desk and I have written 18 books, and we are working on number 19. I can't imagine doing it without this old veteran on my side. I tell my wife that when I die, this is my headstone.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I am bipolar. Getting out of bed every day is a chore. I need to find motivation to do anything but lay there and hide from the world. My wife is a jewel. Waking up to her face every day makes it easier. The boys are amazing and I tell myself they need me to be reliable and ready for the next day. The work, the work helps. The characters bring me down here to my office in the basement every day. This may sound weird, or maybe even cliche, but I really feel inspired by them. The things my characters are facing are insurmountable. Their lives are so tender, so hard. I think about Aaron the Marked, and I think, if he can do it, so can I. If he has the power to put one foot in front of the other, then I can do the same. So many times, I find myself in darkness. But I am never alone. They are always with me.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
When I'm not writing, time gets away from me. I wake up, and it's lunch time already. I go to the bathroom, and it's time to pick the kids up from school. As soon as we get home, it is time to make dinner, and two blinks later, I'm in bed. Time flips past at a pretty good clip when I am not writing. Things kinda get lost. They are blurry and confusing. Only when I am working on a book do things come into focus. I always seem to have time to get the work in, and that makes time for everything else. I can't explain it. Well, maybe I can. Maybe I can say that when I'm not working, I'm just kinda waiting to start going again. Sitting in a room, watching for my chance to write, and it all just slips away.
What's the story behind your latest book?
The novel Liefdom is about Gentry Mandrake. He is a fairy and, very shortly after he gets into his town, he finds out he is outcast as a monster because he is a warrior. He struggles to find a place in a society that values peace. He fights to make sense of his lot and his personality. He falls in love with a woman he can't possess. He is hated and despised by a city that he loves. When he finds out a child is in danger, he breaks laws and traditions to go help. He is the best of me. I put a lot of myself into this book. It helped me make peace with the family I had just married into and my place in that family.
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Books by This Author

The Goats of Breastion
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 11,890. Language: English. Published: April 14, 2019 . Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Short stories, Poetry » Epic
Breastion Flurryfist loved goats. As chief of his mighty tribe, he decreed no one harm a single hair on these precious creatures. When he died, his wife slaughtered and fed his goats to the tribe at his funeral feast. The men began a song that lives in infamy on the mountains of Neather. So grab a mug and toast to the fallen Flurryfist chief, with the ballad of the Goats of Breastion!