EBD: I finished your novel, Lead Poisoning, and I was devastated, sad, and thoughtful. Is that what you wanted your readers to feel?
JES: I was definitely going for thoughtful. I want people to think outside the box, to see the world as not just black and white, but shades of gray. It is a sad book, in the end, there are no happy endings for Kevin. I never really understood that I was writing Noir.
EBD: Your book provides commentary on the Vietnam War. Does the government take advantage of certain wayward youth?
JES: Well, times have changed. I’m not sure somebody like Kevin would even get into the Marines now. But… the military is still an option for a lot of kids without any way to pay for college, kids who need a way out. And that would be taking advantage of disadvantaged kids. Please don’t think that I am bashing the military or our troops. I fully support our troops and I think there are a lot of people who go into the military to serve their country, not as a job of last resort. But for Kevin, the military straightened him out; it did what it was supposed to do. He just fell back into his old life when he came home. I think the Vietnam War is certainly a touchstone for my generation, even though I’m on the young end of that generation. It’s something that shaped our lives.
EBD: You write so well that your words disappear. Did you want to be ruthless?
JES: Thank you! I strive to write so that nothing takes the reader out of the story. I find that annoying in my own reading, to have mistakes in research or POV that drag you out of that fictitious world. Ruthless? I know I worked very hard on this book, and my editor told me several times how clean it was. It needed very little in the way of editing. So yes, ruthless in my pursuit of good clean writing!
EBD: This isn’t a conventional mystery. It’s a portrait of a man, a killer, and yet also a husband and a father. He doesn’t seem so evil. You were sympathetic in your treatment of this killer. Why?
JES: Because I think everyone has good and bad in them. There’s a cliché for you! But really, this character came to me twenty-five years ago and he was a little scary. I had to come up with redeeming qualities. It wasn’t hard to find those qualities, because he really doesn’t want to be a bad guy. He does his best to live his life in the way he thinks is right. It is possible to have characters with no good in them at all, but they’re cardboard, caricatures. Real people are not like that. I’ve often asked myself if I’d be afraid of Kevin if I met him in a dark alley, and the answer is no. There’s no reason to be afraid of him. He’s not going to shoot random people. He’s not a psychopath. He does his job, that’s it. Now, if you threaten his kids or his freedom, that’s another story. Then you can be afraid.
EBD: I was interested how you portrayed the killer’s sons. In your research, did you find any evidence of criminal traits passed down to the next generation genetically or did the research show social conditioning determined criminal tendencies?
JES: To tell you the truth, I didn’t research that all that much. I know alcoholism is an inherited trait, and I know about the warrior gene, but I do think it’s a combination of nature and nurture, like everything else. I have three kids, and watching them grow up was a lot of my research.
EBD: How long have you written?
JES: I’ve been writing all my life. I put books together when I was nine years old, doing the illustrations and the writing and using a stapler to bind them. I’ve had teachers who always encouraged me, and I love making up stories. I never sent out fiction though, until about fifteen years ago. It took a long time for me to be willing to accept that there might be rejection, and there was an awful lot of it.
EBD: Is this your first published novel?
JES: Yes. I’ve had lots of short stories and a bit of non-fiction published. This book was rejected by 80 agents before I went to small presses. It doesn’t fit into standard categories.
EBD: How do you like your publisher? Can we know the terms of the contract?
JES: My publisher has been very supportive. It’s a small press, so there are limitations on what they do. I do all my own marketing aside from their website. I believe interested readers can obtain a copy of the contract directly from Mainly Murder Press. I know I got a copy of it before making the decision to sign with them. They are a standard royalty paying publisher.
EBD: Is there a sequel to this book?
JES: Sequel and prequels! This is the third novel I finished, so the other two are prequels. I hope to pitch the first one –STRESS FRACTURES– to my publisher next. They want to see a certain sales figure before they’ll consider another book from me. I also have the second one finished –FROSTBITE– and a fourth one nearly done –ARRHYTHMIA.
EBD: What are you doing to promote Lead Poisoning?
JES: I’m doing a lot of hand selling. Everywhere I go, I try to mention the book. I always have some on hand, and I’ve sold quite a few that way. I sold every one I had with me at a recent writer’s conference. I’m doing bookstore appearances, one in November (where they sold out of the thirty copies they had on hand,) two in January, one in February. I ‘m also a member of the Sisters in Crime New England speakers bureau, which puts me in local libraries. I sent out numerous review copies and have several nice reviews out there. I also have a website – http://jeseymour.com/ and a facebook page.
EBD: What’s next for J. E. Seymour?
JES: First a Kindle version of Lead Poisoning, then hopefully get STRESS FRACTURES published. Lots of short stories in the works, I just sent a Kevin story out to a Christmas Noir contest. He comes off a lot darker in that story, but it’s from earlier in his life. I have other characters I write about as well, mostly for short stories, but I hope to develop a novel out of one of those. Everyone keeps asking for a horsey novel, because horses are what I do in real life.
And thank you J.E. Seymour for visiting WWK. I got my copy of Lead Poisoning, an atypical mystery, exploring the life of a killer, from Amazon. Pick up a copy. J.E.’s writing is a pleasure to read.
WWK Blogger Paula Gail Benson has two short stories running in Kings River Life Magazine this weekend, "Pelican Spring" and "The Mama Factor." Both are Mother's Day short stories. You can read them by going to: http://kingsriverlife.com/category/kings-river-reviewers/terrific-tales/
Linda Rodriguez is a finalist in two categories for the International Latino Book Awards (given out at BEA the end of May)--one for Every Last Secret and one for editing Woven Voices: 3 Generations of Puertorriquena Poets Look at Their American Lives (with Gloria Vando, Anika Paris, and Anita Velez-Mitchell). Congratulations, Linda!
The second SinC Guppy anthology, Fish Nets, has been released by Wildside Press. WWK authors, Gloria Alden, Warren Bull, Kara Cerise and E. B. Davis have short stories in this volume, which can be bought at Wildside Press, the usual retailers and will be available at the Malice Domestic Conference. Look for "the story behind the stories" on May 1 here!
Upcoming Salad Bowl Saturdays include authors Sasscer Hill on 5/18 and Carolyn Mulford on 5/25. If you are interested in being a guest blogger, send a message to Jim Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org.