A few weeks ago, I wrote a review post for the new book The Shadows by E. V. Jacob. It’s a book that’s one of my favorite books that I’ve read in 2017, as well as one that I definitely think you should pick up. If you haven’t read the review, I would encourage you to do so.
I was fortunate enough to have a chance to chat with E. V. Jacob a bit about her new book, her experience as a new author, as well as about some other authors that she sees inspiration in. The transcript of our chat is below. Responses have been edited solely for the purposes of fixing typos. For ease of reading, my questions are in bold, with the responses unbolded below each question.
Tim (T): I’m going to start off with what might be the most obvious question — how does it feel to be a published author?
E. V. Jacob (E): It’s twofold: On the one hand, it feels like everything you want it to and more—I’m proud, excited, grateful, happy, and having a blast. But on the other hand…you’re still you at the end of the day, you know? Nothing about you, or who you are, has ultimately changed. Because the road to publishing, as any published author knows, is so long, that the changes happen over time. There’s no sudden shift; there’s long-term growth. And that’s honestly a great thing, it’s just not as immediate as I think most people would assume. At the same time, it still all feels like a whirlwind and I can’t believe that it’s already done. This simultaneously took forever and happened in the blink of an eye. It’s weird.
T: As a newly published author, what was the your favorite part of the writing/publishing process? What was the most intimidating part of the process?
E: I love it all. I do these wild plotting sessions with outlines and timelines and character profiles. I pin up notecards and scatter papers all over the floor, and do that murder wall thing you see in investigations. Then I hand-write the first draft. After it’s done (and boy is it a hot mess when it’s done), I type it up and get to editing. Each and every stage is incredibly fun but also incredibly daunting in its own way. I get stuck, I get frustrated, but the whole time you love what you’re doing, and that keeps me going. But really, I think the best part—and this could just be the novelty of it—was finally getting it out there into the world, and being able to say “I am 100% done writing that book. Time for something new”.
T: From the outside looking in, you seem to be a very motivated, very driven writer. What keeps you motivated during your creative slumps?
E: I appreciate that, because I don’t usually feel like a motivated or driven writer. But what keeps me going is just how badly I want to tell these stories. I have over 70 books planned, and that can sometimes seem like an impossible task, so I am just trying to tell as many of these stories as I can in the time I have. Writing is also a great refuge, and cathartic, so often it’s as therapeutic as it is productive (and other times it’s a damn chore, but I get my friends to yell at me and demand the next chapters, and that helps me churn out words on the bad days).
T: Who are some of the author — or even some of the works — that inspired you? Do you think any of those inspirations show through in The Shadows?
E: My first love, at the ripe old age of six, was the Animorphs series by K.A. Applegate. I still have every single book and read them from time to time. They definitely influenced me. As I grew older, I read anything I could get my hands on, so figuring out exactly has been the biggest influence can be tricky. I’d be lying if I left off obvious contenders, like J.K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman, and Rick Riordan, but I think every single book I’ve ever read has motivated me to write and tell my own stories. Even books I didn’t like, because I’d think, “If this can get published and have fans then my book should definitely be out there.” One I always think of is Douglas Adams—he’s so funny and absurd and I so admire the odd, casual manner in which he is completely ridiculous.
T: Let’s take some time to talk about your book now. If someone walked up to you on the street and asked you about your book, how would you explain The Shadows to them?
E: I’ve just been describing it as a young adult paranormal sci-fi as of late, but if someone wanted a more in-depth description, I’d tell them it’s about tragedy, and loss. It’s about mental health struggles, and figuring out who you are, apart from what you’ve been raised to be. It’s also about ghosts and some other entities that I don’t want to spoil, but…yeah, things get weird. That’s a phrase I use a lot when describing it, too: “Things get weird.” Which is hilarious to me, since this is arguably the tamest of all my books.
T: The Shadows is your debut piece, however it’s evident that it’s intended to be part of a longer series. Has this always been a series in your mind or did it start out as a book and become something more?
E: This is kind of tricky. See, years and years ago, there was a stand-alone novel that I discussed with my mother about a teen girl named Roz, her eccentric artist neighbor, and some dark secrets. I fiddled with this a bit, but it never fully evolved into anything. And there was another stand-along novel about Derek and Emily—two characters in this book—that was mostly an exploration of Derek’s personal struggles.
Fast-forward to about five years ago, and I’m again kicking things around with my mother, and a new idea blossoms: A series, with a more supernatural feel, taking Roz from her book, and Derek and Emily from their book, adding some other characters, throwing in some mysteries and mystical entities, and creating a series that could unfold over several books. So it almost started as two separate stand-alone books that have been combined into one longer series.
Fun fact: Both Roz and Derek’s original stories will be told over the course of this series, so very little was lost; just assimilated and reworked. I’m excited to still get to share those concepts in this bigger framework, because I loved them both, but they needed the rest of the story to shine.
T: Are there any characters in The Shadows that you like or feel more attached to than others? Any reason why?
E: I mentioned Derek having come from a previous story, and he is actually the character I’ve had the longest out of all others in this series, so he’s rather dear to me. His role in book one is smaller, but that’s mostly due to his reserved nature. He’ll feature more in coming books, and I hope others will come to care about him like I do. Ford is also special, mostly because he’s so easy to write it’s almost like he’s writing himself. I never have to sit there and think about what he’s going to say or do, he just does it. It’s great fun, and he brings out sides of the other characters I like. Roz, I relate to in more ways than I realized I would, and in fact I didn’t see it until the book was almost published.
T: Going into the book as a reader, I knew there was going to be a good bit of paranormal and supernatural content in the book. That said, the detail you went into with the ghost hunting and the paranormal shows was more than I expected. Was there a lot of research that you put into this book — be it in the paranormal realm or otherwise? If so, what was the strangest thing you found yourself researching as you were writing this book?
E: So much research. I mentioned my mother helping out before, and I should say: She loves to research, so I’d recruit her help and she’d find some amazing stuff. Also, I have an affinity for physics and scientific study, so I always liked the idea of explaining the paranormal in logical terms. A lot of research went into “ghosts from a scientific standpoint” (which I’m sure isn’t surprising to anyone who’s read the book), and I built from there. I need to know how things work in order to write them, even if it never makes it into the book, so when I wrote my first ever ghost story—a short story requested by a friend back in 2012—I found myself puzzling over the physics of ghosts. I spent way too much time thinking about how it all worked. So it’s been building for quite some time now, and I’m likely going to continue adding to my eclectic knowledge.
T: Being from Southern Nevada, how much research did you have to do into the setting for the story and how much came from memory?
E: I was born and raised in Las Vegas, so almost all of it was from memory, though I did use the book as an excuse to “research” locations a few times. I’ve been going to Red Rock Canyon all my life, and I actually lived up on Mount Charleston (just outside of Echo, the area mentioned in the book) when I was a teenager. Most of the restaurants and other locations I mentioned are real, or are based on real spots around town that I like to visit. I actually went up to the mountains and hiked around, deciding exactly where I wanted the final scenes of the book to take place. It was a lot of fun, getting to use my hometown as a backdrop to a story, especially when so many of my other projects take place in different countries, time periods, or even on different planets.
T: You’re working on the second book in the Dark Sentinels series now. There’s a nice, albeit short, excerpt that appears at the end of The Shadows as to what’s going to happen in the second book. Anything else you can share about the next book in the series?
E: Some questions will be answered, more questions will be posed, and Rosalind (and her friends!) are going to find themselves dragged even deeper into this mess. Relationships will be strained, and Roz will have to work very hard to keep up with her new abilities. I’m trying not to give anything major away, but things get a lot more intense as the series progresses, and it happens pretty rapidly. Book one, as you know, was a lot of set-up; books two and beyond won’t be slowed down by setting the stage—full speed ahead into the weird.
T: What new, upcoming, or little-known authors would you recommend to others to read?
E: One person who’s writing I love and was fortunate enough to get to read before it was published is Ryan Dalton. He’s the author of the Time Shift Trilogy, which anyone who loves sci-fi and time travel should absolutely check out. Another, with a completely different style, is Abigail Johnson. She writes these complex, deep real-world stories about people taking the raw hand they were dealt and turning that into something magnificent. And she, as a person, is hugely inspiring. I also know that there’s a book coming out Fall 2018 by Candice Montgomery, Home & Away, which I think a lot of people are going to love. And me, of course. I have a lot of projects in the works—some solo, some collaborative, all awesome.