It has been my pleasure to get better acquainted with Jack Rollins. He is very smart and driven. Great a multitasking and has some of the cutest kids. I am always happy to hear that he has a new book coming out and if you have not read anything by him what the heck are you waiting for? Go get one immediately! It is my honor to introduce you to Jack….
1. How old were you when you first wrote your first story?
I’m sure I would have written something at school, earlier than this, but I started to write my own comics when I was about 7. I built up this huge file of them and used to read them with one of my little brothers.
2. How many books have you written?
I feel like I’ve written lots, but I’ve written a novella, a novel and released a standalone short story. Other than that I’m in several anthologies, with more coming throughout this year.
3. Anything you won’t write about?
Much as with my publishing at Dark Chapter Press, I wouldn’t say anything is taboo, it’s just that it has to be contextually right. I think that can be difficult in the horror genre – it can be hard to justify the use of certain subjects – and here I’m talking about things like sexual abuse and rape, when the aim is to write an entertaining piece that shocks and horrifies for the thrill of it. Yes, I write about murder and real people have been murdered, or had loved ones murdered, but we are, as humans, interested in death. There’s something in us all that contemplates that final mystery – what does it feel like? How much pain would one suffer in dying that way? How long would the pain last? Would I even have time to register it before lights-out? We’re fascinated, but we’re afraid to really know the answer, because the only way to truly know, to truly experience it… well, we won’t be coming back to share the experience with anyone, will we?
So going back a little way, there are truly horrific things that you do live through, disgusting crimes that happen every day, and I don’t think that I should write about them, unless I have something insightful to say about it. I have a project long in gestation, where one of the characters was abused as a child, but we meet her later in her life, with the everyday issue of coping with that in her history. What I don’t do is describe the crimes ‘live’ – these things aren’t happening on the screen of the page, they’re referred to. I believe I can write about a character who is strong and who has coped and continues to cope with historic sexual abuse, but that’s it.
I remember there was a rape scene in The Stake, by Richard Laymon, that was incredibly effective. You feel disgusted when reading it, but you’re meant to. He makes you feel like you just witnessed something there, and while it’s effective, I’m not all that sure it was worth having in a book about a vampire.
Since opening Dark Chapter Press, we’ve had all sorts of submissions, and I have to exercise judgment as a story might be great, but are people really going to be entertained by a story about a high-school shooting incident? No, of course not, because it happens too bloody frequently in real life, and the fact I’m sat comfortably in the UK doesn’t mean I’m blasé about it. I have friends in the US, for all I know, who might have lost a relative in a similar shooting, and there’s me touting this book that is such an entertaining read, while it shadows Sandy Hook or Columbine. It doesn’t fit. That sort of thing, for me, has to have a very clear message and a reason for being there.
I can see a lot of people asking me if I would write about war – it’s a sensitive topic, where people have lost relatives. The thing is, war has been depicted in all mediums for a long time, so we’ve become okay having really gritty movies about war, and books set in wars, while also having some really funny or entertaining exploitation flicks, or comic books about war, too.
Hollywood tend not to make so many comedies where the main character is a child terrified to go home each night because their Dad is at them as soon as Mum’s drunk herself to sleep.
4. Tell me about you. Age (if you don’t mind answering), married, kids, do you have another job etc…
I’m 36 years old, unmarried – divorced in fact. I have three kids… well I have two little boys of 3 and 1, and a daughter who would kill me for referring to her as a kid, because she’s 15. Other than writing, as I said before, I set up a small press called Dark Chapter Press, which takes up a lot of time especially now that we’re getting noticed much more.
What really pays the bills though, is that I am the director of a training company. I specialize in educating professional Care staff, as my working background is largely within the health and social care industry.
5. What’s your favorite book you have written?
The Cabinet of Dr Blessing is still my favourite. I suppose that’s cheating a little because technically it’s a collection on three stories, but cover to cover it’s my favorite.
6. Who or what inspired you to write?
I don’t think anything or anyone suddenly inspired me, I just seemed to gradually write more and more as time went on. Something in my late teens made me really want to develop my writing, but it wasn’t until my early thirties that I really started to see the possibilities.
7. What do you like to do for fun?
I enjoy reading although I’m painfully slow at it. I enjoy having some time to play with my kids. Very occasionally I get to play a computer game or have a go on my playstation. I love films, so I like to get to the cinema, or to watch films at home. As I slide into middle age and have moved into the suburbs, I have begun to take an interest in the garden, I want somewhere nice for the kids to play, for us all to have barbecues (on the three days of the year that are warm enough to do that in the UK), and relax. I want it to look colourful and smell good. I want to work on it to improve my fitness as I’ve kind of let myself go over the years. It does my mental health good to be outdoors and take some physical exercise… it’s just a shame I haven’t a bloody clue what I’m doing while I’m out there…
8. And traditions you do when you finish a book?
I don’t tend to celebrate, to be honest. Maybe I should, but I just end up starting in on the next piece. You’ve got me thinking now, I really should mark the occasion more. Perhaps your readers have some suggestions for how I might celebrate?
9. Where do you write? Quite or music?
I write in what I like to call my study, and what my partner Naomi likes to refer to as the play room. So this is a would-be dining room or lounge in which my bookshelves and large corner desk setup reside… right alongside a play kitchen, a wall stacked with Ikea storage for the kids’ toys, some of which are the ultra-distracting Fisher-Price Imaginext superhero playsets. Ultra-distracting because I love superheroes, and the older of my two sons knows I love superheroes, and this means we have THE BEST games of Batman or Superman or Justice League. My youngest son, he likes to try and get involved too. We have a great time, and because I want my sons to grow up knowing I love them, instead of remembering what the back of my head looked like while I was working too hard to give them the time of day, I find it a welcome break away from the screen to be honest. Sure, it can be distracting at times, but this is our home, not just mine. And besides, what could be more inspirational than those creative little brains making up stories and exploring?
But then, when they’re at playgroups or nursery or in bed, that room is all mine. For some tasks, such as writing a blog article or something, I tend to work in peace, with no music on. For my creative writing, I tend to like music on. I work in a sort of cinematic way, imagining a movie or TV show of the story I’m telling, and so it always helps to have a soundtrack.
10. Anything you would change about your writing?
I would do more, for starters, and I’m trying to be more productive. In fact, changes to the structure of Dark Chapter Press in the next couple of months should help me to find the balance I need.
11. What is your dream? Famous writer?
Yeah, I suppose so. I think I’d like to know that my stories are welcomed by a great many readers, and ultimately I’d like to leverage that greater recognition into exposure for Dark Chapter Press and shine the light onto the great writers who are taking centre stage there. If I can get to the point where writing, publishing and related activities could pay the bills and get my family and I on holiday, I’d be a very happy man.
12. Where do you live?
I live in a medieval market town in North East England, a place called Alnwick. The town is about half an hour from the border with Scotland and is a place steeped in history, with forts and battlefield sites punctuating the landscape. It is a wonderful, inspiring place to live and a great place for my kids to grow up.
14. What’s your favorite thing about writing?
I don’t think I have a particularly favourite aspect of writing. It’s great to start something. It’s great to be on a roll. It’s great to finish a story and release it. I love having this creative outlet, and in particular one where I can go to some dark places and different times. I get to research and increase my knowledge and try to think of interesting things to slip into the books, so that if someone checked and put elements of the books to the test they’d see a kernel of truth in amongst all that chaos. I love the community that writing dark fiction has drawn me into – I love it most of the time, anyway. I’m serious about my writing, but I find it enjoyable. I’m serious about supporting other writers who deserve to go far and be widely read, but I enjoy communicating with them. There is always this overly-dramatic, far too fucking serious contingent who seem intent on sucking the fun out of the social media aspects of the horror community, but I’m lucky, I’ve by and large side-stepped most of it and manage not to get drawn in. There’s plenty of room for horror writers, but they won’t be remembered for bitching and arguing on Facebook – or at least if they are, their priorities must have been wrong; it’s just the writers who put the work in who will go on to be successful and be remembered for the stories they shared. I hope I’ll be one of the latter.
I’d like to invite your readers to extend this Q and A via my Goodreads page, where there is an Ask the Author function. Ask me anything! I’ll do my best to answer truthfully.
Jack thank you so much for spending some time with us and letting us get to know you better! I wish you nothing but extreme success!!