Thanks so much, everyone, for your patience. The last couple of months, I had a number of family events and professional to-do items that made it difficult to man my forum post, but I’m excited to be back and to introduce the author of Occupation, one of the most brutal and enthralling vampire novels that I have read in a long while. Let’s get started J
Tim Greaton: It’s great having you here in the forum, Jeff. You and I could talk for hours about various aspects of crafting stories, but in the interest of everyone else, I probably should take some time to concentrate on your personal history. I especially love how writers can come up from the most unlikely circumstances. I understand your first career didn’t involve a lot of typing. Could you tell us about that?
Jeff Dawson: When I was sixteen, I took a job flipping burgers for $2.15 an hour. Wow! After six months I realized I was doing the same thing every day and only had a measly little paycheck to show for the endless hours of smelling like a Wendy’s burger. Even Lava soap couldn't cut through that wonderful aroma. Did I have a girlfriend back then? Doubtful. So I decided to do something where my toils were rewarded: road construction. Great money, great hours and great fun. Two out of three ain't bad. For the next twenty-five years I was one of those guys on the side of road with a smoke dangling out his mouth barking orders and baking under the fine Texas and Oklahoma summer suns. Yeah, I was the typical road hand. Hot (not in looks), sweaty, hard drinking and woman chasing. Again, four out of five ain't bad.
Tim Greaton: Going back even further, I heard you were injured while making a different kind of art? I assume you remember what I’m talking about.
Jeff Dawson: Yeah, I sure do. Back in junior high and high school, some of my friends and I were making war films. While filming one of those fine masterpieces, I was shot as I attempted to flee over a wooden fence. For realism, we thought it'd be a good idea if I just fell off the fence. How did that work out? Let me think, twenty-five years of pouring concrete. Brain damage could have been a real possibility.
Tim Greaton: In a little bit, we’re going to talk about your fiercely imaginative WWII novel Occupation, which is going to be a lot of fun, but in the meantime I was hoping you could tell us a little bit about a related hobby that you and your sons share.
Jeff Dawson: When I have the space, I have miles of HO (model railroading equipment) boxed up just waiting to be unleashed in the correct environment. To go along with that, my boys and I really enjoy building models from WWII. One son builds the Russian and American vehicles, while my oldest and I work on the German ones. The boys decided early in the game that maybe Dad shouldn’t paint the men. They accused me of giving the soldiers doll eyes. "Fine, you do it then." Our arrangement has worked out pretty well. I take care of the heavy lifting, the big stuff, while my boys handle all of the intricate details.
Tim Greaton: What kinds of books do you read? Are they in the same genres in which you write?
Jeff Dawson: My bookcase is filled with WWII books, mostly non-fiction. Do I have any books on the current genre I'm pursuing? Not a one. If someone would have told me ten years ago I would write a WWII/Vampire thriller, I probably would have shot them. Figuratively speaking.
Tim Greaton: There was a place from your past that you’ll always remember. How do the memories of it influence your life/writing?
Jeff Dawson: In my second book, Love's True Second Chance, I wrote about many wonderful memories and events from high school ‘til July of 2009. I remember hundreds of great places from back then, but if I had to pick the most special place and time it would be in February of 2009. McAlester, Oklahoma was receiving a ton snow one morning, so I woke Debbie up and asked her if she would like to go for a walk. I can still envision us walking in the snow, she in her read peacock coat, me in my OSU jacket. I can still see the love in her eyes. That is a site I will never forget.
Tim Greaton: As a writer who also tends to cross genres probably a little too often, I understand how odd it is to receive different types of feedback on different types of books. What various kinds of reader comments would we find in your email box?
Jeff Dawson: This is where we have to keep clean, right? With the autobiographies, many of the readers thank me for sharing the story of Debbie and me. Most of them have also suffered a tragic loss in their life and others have thanked me for reminding them that love is worth a second chance. Occupation tends to get a completely different response. Most readers thank me for not letting my vampires sparkle in the twilight. The characters in Occupation are blood sucking, emotionless creatures who are stalking an enemy even more vile than themselves.
Do you have a closet or drawer full of old projects? If so, will any of them see the light of day?
Jeff Dawson: Nothing hiding in the closets or drawers that I know of. However, do not despair, it appears a sequel to Occupation is in the works along with a sci/fi novel, a book of poetry/short stories and eulogies and I have one book that is percolating: it revolves around the largest tank battle in the 20th century. Wait a minute, let me open this door. Hm, nothing. I think that's about it.
Tim Greaton: Because we writers tend to start out telling real life stories, I bet you have at least one story you often retell at parties. Would you share one with us?
Jeff Dawson: As a matter of fact, when I was 19 or 20 my father informed me we were going to re-roof the ridge line of the house. Correction, I was going to do the re-roofing, in July, in Oklahoma. Like I wasn’t already getting enough of the cool sun. Nevertheless, I accepted the task and went to work and finished the first two lines in a couple of hours. Climbing off the roof, I popped a top and examined my handy work as did our neighbor. When I asked him what he thought, he took a long drink from his cold Budweiser, smacked his lips and said, "Well dumkopf, I guess if you like snakes for a straight line, looks pretty good. Think I'll go get your dad." Sure enough, it looked like a snake died on the ridge. The rest of the house went much smoother, but every time I saw Mr. Bill he would remind me of my fine craftsmanship. At least the beer was cold.
Tim Greaton: Who was the strangest or most memorable character you ever met in real life?
(Jeff gives me one of those grins. I know something is coming.) Jeff Dawson: Other than myself, no one jumps out.
Tim Greaton: So that’s the way it’s going to be, huh? Let’s try this one: so were there any books or stories—NOT YOURS—that truly impacted your life in a huge way?
(The grin is still there). Jeff Dawson: None that come to mind.
(After threatening to withhold any further caffeine from my smirking guest, I return to our questions.) Tim Greaton: What is your writing “system” like, and how has it evolved over the course of your career?
Jeff Dawson: System? I wake-up. That is number one. Number two, pour a cup-of-coffee. Number three, turn on the computer. Number four? Seriously, I don't have a system. Each day is different. Some days I might crank out 6,000 words while others I blankly stare at the screen and play solitaire. For me, there is no set formula. I have found that whichever genre I'm toying with often dictates how much work I get done in a day.
Tim Greaton: I hear you have a fabulous group of beta readers. Is that true?
Jeff Dawson: You better believe it, and that is especially important since my mind types faster than my fingers. I have about four friends who gladly accept the manuscripts and provide critiques. They don't sugar coat or rave about what a great read it is. They point out the flaws and inconsistencies. However, even they don't catch everything. If I trusted my own instincts, I'd still be learning how to spell "I." Did I get it right?
Tim Greaton: Which author do you model your work after, or do you not see any parallels with past works you’ve read?
Jeff Dawson: It would have to be Bram Stoker. I love the way he transitions his scenes while mixing in the dialogue. He was a true master.
Tim Greaton: Do you think of yourself as a particular type of writer?
Jeff Dawson: You mean other than one who can't spell very well. Seriously, I would classify myself as a WWII novelist. I love the history of WWII. I believe that is why I enjoyed writing the vampire work. I was able to mix in my knowledge of that era in history along with something a little different; evil versus evil.
Tim Greaton: It looks like we’ve managed to circle back to Occupation, a novel which I read and enjoyed. I especially appreciated the obvious author knowledge behind the fiction. You managed to truly make me feel as though I was there in that stark and terrible place. Could you tell us more about the story?
Jeff Dawson: Occupation is about Germany’s invasion of Poland and of Hitler’s attempt to ship off the population to cleanse the lands for German settlers. What the German soldiers don't know is they are stealing the food supply of two warring vampire clans that detest one another. Yet as the Germans keep thinning out the population the clans are forced to make a decision. They can continue to fight amongst each other for the meager souls still inhabiting the land, or they can combine their forces and take on an enemy more vile than themselves. I believe readers will root for the vampires to forge an alliance and rid the country of the current menace. I know I did when I wrote it.
Tim Greaton: What led you to tell this particular story?
Jeff Dawson: Believe it or not, the idea came from two women. The one who took care of my mom suggested I write a love story about WWII. Not happening. I read "Ratenkrieg and then went to see the movie, "Enemy at the Gates," and was very disappointed. Seriously? A love story in Stalingrad. Ah, no. I called Debbie's oldest daughter and asked her if vampires were still big. That was a big thumbs-up. She also agreed to help write. I spent the next weeks trying to figure out if could actually work: Vampires/WWII. I wrote a preface and let it simmer for a few weeks. Once I figured out how to start chapter 1, the book wrote itself.
Tim Greaton: Which character most resonated with you?
Lord, you want me to relate to one these characters. It would have to be Kirilli Boirarsky. He is the most likeable character I developed. He is the patriarch of the Boirarskys and usually keeps a clear head and open mind as plans are drawn-up and implemented against the SS. Granted he has a lot of flaws (then again, he is a vampire) but is the only one still possessing a human characteristic or two.
Tim Greaton: You mentioned a possible sequel earlier. How is that progressing?
Jeff Dawson: What was the line in the 80's movie with Patrick Swayze: REFUND!? REFUND!? . Sequel!? Sequel!? I know sequels are a big thing today thanks to Twilight, Hunger Games, Fifty Shades of Grey and so on. Yes, there will be a sequel to Occupation. Why? I left a lot of unanswered issues in the first one. Some were intentional, other were not. In fact, I found out not long ago that there was someone that I—no, excuse me—that the clans never killed. I was shocked. Why is he still alive? I have no idea, but I like the path his character could possibly take. "Very interesting." Thank you Artie Johnson.
Tim Greaton: Do you plan on exploring other realms or even more genres anytime soon?
Jeff Dawson: Other genres and realms? Anything is possible. Film at eleven.
Tim Greaton: Which part of Occupation was the most difficult to write? Why?
Jeff Dawson: That's easy. The chapter entitled "Melding" was the most difficult by far. Why? You try and have two vampires mate while everyone has to watch and not kill each other and yet still make it sensual. I had one reader asked me to demonstrate how Dmitri and Nicole performed one of their acts. I declined, because even as a young man, I couldn't have performed that gymnastic feat.
Tim Greaton: Now that Occupation is complete, do you wish you could have changed something?
Jeff Dawson: Other than letting a German live who should have died, nothing. There is one chapter (I forget which one) where the characters weren't behaving at all. They were all, and I mean all of them, arguing with each other. Veins were popping, fangs were showing, claws were growing and the whole time I kept telling them to shut-up. They refused to listen. I was not happy to say the least. I fought with both clans for two days until I woke up one morning, woke them up from gigabyte world and told them in no uncertain terms, "I'm in charge and it's time for this foolishness to stop!" It was the first time in a long time Nikoli and Svetlana Romanov backed down. I thought about changing some of that chapter but decided against it. We've all been in fruitless arguments, just waiting for them to end so we could take a break and get a drink. I know I was ready.
Tim Greaton: If you were to be stuck at the top of Mount Everest, which character from Occupation would you want to have with you? Why?
Jeff Dawson: Are you kidding me? My characters would suck me dry and hide the body in Noah's Ark. No thank you. I'll stay at the base camp and let the snow cover me up. But if you want to join them be my guest. I'm sure they would love a little extra rations when the reach the summit. Before you go, leave that bottle of Crown, you won't be needing it.
Tim Greaton: It would be great if you could share your website/blogsite and links to where our audience could directly communicate with you and purchase your stories.
Jeff Dawson: The website/blog can be found at www.lddjenterprises.com
Facebook: Love's True Second Chance, Occupation, Why did Everything Happen.
Jeff Dawson: I want to thank you, Tim, and all who took the time out of their busy schedules to stop by and say hi or just stop by to take a look. This has been a lot of fun and hope to see you all on the boards, emails or blogs.