Dan Jolley has been in the storytelling business for quite some time, and has had a hand in everything from video games to comics (which you can find out more about by clicking the image above), but now, he has a cool new novel series The Gray Widow Trilogy, the second book of which, Gray Widow’s Web, just dropped today! So, in honor of this brand new release, I’m sharing an excerpt of my interview with Dan, originally posted on my website about a year ago. Get to know the author below, and then stick around for the book trailer made by yours truly!
1. Welcome Dan! For starters, can you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?
I’m a freelance writer from northwest Georgia. I started out writing comic books, way back when dinosaurs walked the earth, and slowly branched out into licensed-property novels (Star Trek, Angel), original Young Adult Novels (Alex Unlimited), children’s books (Twisted Journeys, Graphic Myths & Legends), and video games (Transformers: War for Cybertron, Fall of Cybertron, Dying Light, Chronos). These days I’m making a valiant attempt to get into film and TV, with a tiny bit of success. I’ll give you more details on that when things firm up. (IF they firm, I should say. My relationship with Hollywood in the past has been like getting winked at by a pretty girl across the room at a party, but then by the time I work my way over to her, she’s left with someone else.)
2. You write a plethora of things, from novels to video games to comics. Which is your favorite medium to write in?
That would definitely be novels. Don’t get me wrong, I love comics and games, they’re how I make my living, but there’s really nothing like digging into a novel. It’s incredibly liberating — the whole process just being between you and the page (and eventually you and the editor). I learned to write comics first, which taught me to think in a certain way, operating within strict parameters; that kind of mental discipline translated very well to games and screenplays. But it’s not so necessary when you’re writing a book. You just jump into the story with all four feet, as my Dad would say, and see where it takes you.
3. I’m a Science Fiction girl at heart. Which genre is your favorite?
Probably Science Fiction. (I swear I’m not trying to suck up!) It’s neck-and-neck with Fantasy for me, with Horror coming in a close third, no doubt thanks to the reading I did in my formative years. Larry Niven played a huge role in my childhood, with books such as Ringworld, Footfall, and my favorite of his, The Long ARM of Gil Hamilton (which I would SO LOVE to adapt to a TV series). Right after Niven came Piers Anthony and everyone’s favorite, H.P. Lovecraft, and they all led into my love of the works of Dean Koontz from the mid-eighties to the early nineties. Watchers and Strangers and Lightning were massively influential on my voice as a writer, as was the comic book series The Crow by James O’Barr. I actually dressed as Eric from The Crow for Halloween a couple of years before the movie was even announced. (I was a lot thinner then, and had long hair.)
4. Haha that’s awesome! So while doing research (AKA stalking you) I noticed that you’ve lived in a whole bunch of places (one of them being New Mexico which is where I grew up!) – Of all the places you’ve lived, which is your favorite and why?
Yeah, I took off to New Mexico back around 1998, and stayed in Albuquerque for about eighteen months. It was great, and I’d love to visit, though I don’t think I’d live there again. And in 2014 I ended up basically relocating to Wroclaw, Poland while I worked on the video game Dying Light. But I think, just as far as infrastructure and convenience, I most enjoyed my two and a half years in Cary, North Carolina.
5. Music is the fuel that ignites my stories. What impact, if any, does music have on your work? And what are your go-to artists/bands?
Music has a pretty big impact on my whole creative process. When I need to come up with ideas, either brand new ones or to work out kinks in an existing story, I jump in the car and drive around aimlessly while listening to fast, loud, aggressive music. It does something good for my brainwaves. Several songs by Linkin Park fit the bill — I can’t get enough of “Wretches & Kings” — and Disturbed is probably my current favorite band. Thanks to Stephen Zimmer, I’ve also become a fan of Fear Factory. I’m very much a child of the eighties, and when I think of “metal,” I think of Metallica and Dokken and Queensryche. I’m not sure how or why “metal” turned into all this growling, and ordinarily I’d much rather listen to someone like Todd LaTorre actually singing than a bunch of unintelligible, guttural grunts. But Fear Factory is juuuust melodic enough so that I can appreciate the anger and aggression and still enjoy the songs.
6. Besides writing, what do you do in your free time? Any hobbies or hidden talents?
Not really. I’ve been lucky enough to turn my hobby into my profession, and I’ve diversified enough that if I get tired of writing one kind of story, I can just switch over and work on another kind. (I write in bursts. I can light in and hammer out a good solid ten pages in a couple of hours, but if I go too long I hit a wall and my brain sort of overheats. At that point, I’ve learned to just stop and go do something else for a while, so my brain can cool down; if I try to push past the point of overheating, everything I write is crap.) Years back, I decided I wanted to learn to write better fight scenes, so I started taking martial arts classes. At one time or another, I’ve studied aikido, kung fu, tae kwon do, kumdo, and hapkido, and I did pick up enough information to make my fight scenes a good bit better. But make no mistake — I SUCKED at martial arts. This is not me being modest. I’m no more a fighter than I am a nuclear physicist.
I’ve also been trying to learn a couple of different languages, but that’s been pretty slow going. I started picking up a little bit of Polish while I was in Wroclaw, just out of necessity, but that got derailed when it looked like I was going to get a job in France. So I started learning French. But the France job fell through, so I switched to Spanish, which I studied way back in high school, and thought I could pick up again more easily than I could Polish (Polish is REALLY TOUGH), only to discover that what little ability I ever had to roll my R’s has completely vanished. Now I’m back to studying French, but I’m nowhere close to being able to carry on a conversation in it. Maybe by this time next year.
Other than that, if I’m not hanging out with my wife, Tracy, or playing a video game (research!), I’m probably writing.
(On The Gray Widow Trilogy)
The story revolves around Janey Sinclair, a young woman in Atlanta who can teleport from one patch of darkness to another. Janey’s life has been shadowed by tragedy, and rather than deal with her grief in a healthy way, she steals a suit of military prototype body armor and starts taking out her unhappiness on the city’s criminal element. But she soon discovers there are other people somewhat similar to her, and that the reason she and the rest of them have been granted these abilities might actually be extraterrestrial in origin. So the book has allowed me to incorporate some of my comics sensibilities, but it also has a pretty substantial horror element, in the form of the principal antagonist, Simon Grove. Simon is a young runaway with a shapeshifting power that’s gone horribly wrong, and I’m really pleased with how chilling his parts of the story have turned out.
Sounds awesome, right? If you haven’t started The Gray Widow Trilogy yet but want to, click on the image above to get the first book on Amazon. I leave you with the trailer for the SECOND book (which you can now get on Amazon too, right HERE), made by yours truly through my production company Frozen Creek Studios, which offers all kinds of creative services and can be found on Facebook HERE. Enjoy!
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