Author Spotlight Jeff Chapman
Tell our readers briefly about yourself.
Hello. My name is Jeff Chapman. I spend a lot of time exploring the fantasy worlds in my imagination through fiction, especially when I should be sleeping. My stories range from fairy tales to fantasy to ghost stories and many have a touch of comedy. My formal training is in history and computer science. Here are some random facts about me: I’m addicted to dark hot chocolate; I love cats; and I live in a house with more books than bookshelf space.
What books do you have available?
The Merliss Tales is a dark fantasy series. The protagonist is a young woman’s spirit trapped in the body of a cat. The magic that created this pairing has given Merliss a very long life, thousands of years. So far, there are two novels: The Great Contagion and Cat Sidhe. I’m working two more novels in the series: The Breath of the Sea (about Merliss and a mermaid) and City of Cats (a sequel to Cat Sidhe).
If you want to try out The Merliss Tales for free, the short story “The Water Wight” is available on StoryOrigin at https://storyoriginapp.com/giveaways/3cddcb88-c607-11ea-8a9a-878925005b51.
The Huckster Tales is a weird western series about a pair of hucksters who frequently find themselves over their heads in supernatural trouble. So far, I have one novel The Black Blade and a couple short stories in this series.
The Comic Cat Tales are humorous contemporary stories in which a cat plays a prominent role. I have a short story “The Cat Lady Is Always Right” and a novella A Cat Called Blackjack in the series.
I’ve collected most of my short stories in Strange Paths to Wonder: Fantasy Stories and Blood and Beauty and Other Weird Tales. Among my standalone novellas are Last Request: A Victorian Gothic (a darkly comic historical) and Krampus Comes to Town (a dark fantasy/horror Christmas story).
Can you tell us about your most recent release?
The Sniggard’s Revenge is a YA fantasy adventure about a teenager named Ethan who takes a piece of jewelry from a barrow and tries to give it to a girl as a gift to woo her. Nothing goes according to plan. Before long Ethan’s father is in jail, the girl’s governess is dead, the girl is kidnapped by the barrow’s guardian, and Ethan is stuck in Faerie. Ethan spends the rest of the story cleaning up the mess.
Do you stay in one genre when you write or do you find yourself veering toward others?
I veer wherever a story idea takes me. I’m not tied to any one genre.
Are you a panster, planner, or someone in between?
Definitely a pantser. I start with a situation and a vague idea of who the protagonists are and where the story is going. I find my best ideas come to me during the creative process of crafting the story. Outlining does not work for me because I come up with better ideas while I’m writing.
What is your writing routine like?
Each day when I write, I review what I’ve written the previous day. Some writers take things out when they revise. I tend to add, usually more physical details and improved dialogue.
Tell me about your favorite character that you’ve created?
That’s a difficult question. Whatever character I’m writing about at the time becomes my favorite because I have to get into their head and see the world as they see it. Merliss is my most interesting character. Her spirit is human, but her body and perspective are those of a cat. This unique set of circumstances gives her an extraordinary point of view.
Where do you get your ideas for world building?
Mostly from history. I enjoy books and documentaries about daily life and past events as well as lectures on historical topics that I find online. The past can be a great spark for the imagination.
Do you add romance to your writing?
In a small way to round out characters’ relations with others. I don’t think I’ll ever write a book in which the principal plot is a romance.
What was your favorite scene to create?
There were a couple scenes from The Great Contagion in which Merliss interacts with Wog, the old god of the forest, who appears in the form of an upside-down tree. These were times to let my imagination and lyricism run loose. Merliss also experienced a dream in which Kood appeared. The old god of war, Kood takes the form of a blind rat.
Where do you get character inspiration?
Most of the time I don’t know. Characters develop and deepen the more I write about them in the same way plots develop.
Merliss is a different case. She was inspired by a cat that my family adopted off the street. Smokey arrived at our house one day begging for food. She appeared to be sick and starving. After a trip to the vet, we had a new cat. Smokey possessed several old battle scars. One of her ears was notched and two of her four canines were missing. This gave me the idea for a character based on an old soul in a cat’s body. Merliss was born.
What genre do you prefer to read?
I read widely. Whatever I’m in the mood for. My tastes range across fantasy, mystery, thrillers, historical, history, horror, literary. I’m not a big fan of romance, but I do enjoy Jane Austen and Ann Radcliffe.
Do you have any specific authors you follow and try to craft your work after?
Stephen King is a master at creating characters. Dean Koontz writes the most amazing prose and exciting stories. I read whatever these two publish. Thankfully there’s a lot of their work to study. As for creating an enduring series character, Robert E. Howard is the master. His Conan stories are endlessly enjoyable.
Do you have any recurring themes in your book?
Many fantasy stories focus on people at the top of the social order. I strive to tell stories about characters lower in the social hierarchy.
What does your editing process look like?
When I’m done with the first draft, I do a read-through to fix inconsistencies and weak sentences. I then send it to beta-readers or an editor. I avoid multiple rounds of revision. It doesn’t take long to revise a story to death.
Do you have a preferred drink or snack that you eat/drink while writing?
Hot chocolate (the real stuff made with milk), usually Ghiradelli’s mocha flavor.
When is your favorite time of day to write and why?
I tend to do first draft writing, when I want to be deep in creative mode, in the late evening. The trials of the day are done, and I can focus on writing. It’s also the time of day when everyone leaves me alone.
What is your favorite vacation spot?
Marvel or DC? Do you have a favorite character?
I don’t like superheroes. I never liked comic books. For some reason they never appealed to me.
What hobbies do you have?
Gardening (vegetables). Reading. Writing.
What defines success for you as an author?
Finding an audience that is excited about my stories. Making enough money to quit my day job would be nice too.
What is your work space like?
I do my first draft writing on a tablet, so my workspace is any place where I can comfortably use a tablet. When I’m going over edits or prepping manuscripts, I sit at a desk to work on my laptop. My desk is rather cluttered with mail I need to attend to and notepads with to-do lists.
Do you have a selfcare routine that you follow?
Chocolate. Healthy food. Exercise. Invigorate the imagination through books and writing. Spend time with cats.
What advice would you share with new or aspiring authors?
Don’t get discouraged, don't give up, and read more books. The only failed writer is one who stops writing.
Where can our readers find you?
All my books are available through Amazon. Some are available through other stores as well. The novels come in ebook, paperback, and audio formats.