Interview With Author Jeffrey Allan Danelek

Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!

A native of Minnesota but a resident of Colorado since 1969, my life has been a journey that has taken me down many different paths—some good and some not so good—but all of them useful in my journey. After a stint in the Navy (as a navigator and, briefly, an air traffic controller) I attended the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, specializing in illustration and graphic design. Since then, I have worked for a wide array of employers, from the public school system to the aerospace industry. I even worked for a couple of years laying out an international magazine for a local televangelist (who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty).

Besides writing, my hobbies include—but are not necessarily limited to—art, politics and political history (I can name all 45 presidents along with the years they were president and what party they were, none of which has proven useful to date), world and military history, religion and spirituality, numismatics (coin collecting) paleontology, astronomy (and science in general) and Fortean subjects such as Bigfoot, UFO’s and things that go bump in the night. I enjoy writing both fiction and non-fiction, much of it with decidedly spiritual, religious, cryptozoological, historical and/or paranormal overtones, and consider writing to be my life’s passion.

I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t pursue my writing career with the prerequisite determination until fairly recently (I like to think of it as a progressive learning thing) with my first published feature article appearing in the March, 2002 issue of Fate magazine. Striking up a good relationship with Fate’s parent
publisher, Galde Press, I decided to submit an entire manuscript for consideration and in September of 2003, I was blessed with my first book, Reconsidering Atlantis: A New Look at a Prehistoric Civilization (now out of print). Later I was able to get a larger publisher (and one known for its paranormal-theme clientele), Llewellyn International, out of St. Paul, Minnesota, to look at some of my manuscripts, the result being the publication of my first “real” book, The Mystery of Reincarnation in 2005. (Out of print but now available through iUniverse.) This was followed by The Case for Ghosts in 2006, Lessons from Atlantis in 2008, UFOs: The Great Debate in 2008, 2012: Extinction or Utopia in 2009, and The Case for Reincarnation in 2010. (All now out of print.)

I also have had a couple of books published by Adventures Unlimited Press out of Kempton, Illinois, one that deals with the mysterious sighting of “airships” reported over California and the Midwest in the winter of 1896-97 (the first UFO flap?) entitled The Great Airship of 1897 and a second, which came out in 2011, on the early history of aviation entitled Phantoms of the Skies: The Lost History of Aviation from Antiquity through the Wright Brothers (with co-author Chuck Davis). Both books are especially important to me, as my publisher at AUP, the well-known Fortean writer David Hatcher Childress (yes, that David Hatcher Childress) permitted me the opportunity to not only write the books, but do the layout and cover designs as well, which is a rare thing for publishers to do nowadays. (In fact, I can’t think of any full service publishers who do!) Further, David agreed to publish a fiction trilogy for me under a new imprint (Dragonstrike Press), which is my first foray into being a published novelist. The three books, Serpente Gigante (2012), Nightman (2013), and Dragon Soldiers 2013) are an adventure/horror series that chronicle the adventures of Paul and Sarah Manhart, the world’s first—and, as far as anyone knows, only—husband and wife team of cryptozoologists as they travel around the world in search of monsters. Unfortunately—or perhaps fortunately for the reader—they inevitably find their subjects and spend the rest of the book trying to survive the best efforts of their quarry to kill them. (It’s a case where one really can enjoy too much success!)

Finally, I’ve also published my first spiritually-themed novel, Friend of God, with Fifth Estate Publishing out of Blountsville, Alabama. It’s a thoroughly scurrilous and heretical tome that examines the crucifixion of Christ through the eyes of Judas Iscariot. My thanks goes to Doctor Joseph Lumpkin for giving me the opportunity to expand beyond the paranormal into new territory (and for affording me the opportunity to also do my own layout and cover design. Books just “feel” so much more like they’re yours when you can take them from just an idea to final product personally. Who says that a background in graphics doesn’t pay off?)

Perhaps the best part of being a writer has been the opportunities it has afforded me to meet a host of interesting people in the literary and paranormal community, among them real life ghost-hunters, past life regression hypnotists, Wiccans, and everything in between. It has also provided me the chance to do lots of radio (I’m told I have the face for it); over the last few years. I’ve repeatedly been a guest on Coast to Coast with George Noury and have appeared on Whitley Strieber’s Dreamland Radio Show, the x-zone with Rob McConnell, EUP Radio with Scott Colborn, Erskine Overnight, Para-X Radio with Rusty O’Nhail, and lots of others. I’ve also had the opportunity to speak at several seminars, most recently at a paranormal conference at the haunted Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado as well as onboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach. All-in-all, a lot of fun.

My personal philosophy is that life is about learning and growing, both intellectually and spiritually, and that is the perspective from which I approach each project I undertake. As for my writing, fame and wealth are not the goals (though they are acceptable consolation prizes); the point of the exercise is to give others a piece of yourself in the hopes that in your words they’ll find something that speaks to their needs, answers their questions, or even touches their heart. To have a stranger come up to you and thank you for expanding their awareness or giving them an answer to a question they have been pondering is what writing is all about, and if you can happen to make a living doing that in the process, then it’s worth all the effort.
At least, that’s how I see it.

What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?

There aren’t any. Everything is a product either of careful research or my imagination.

What inspires/inspired your creativity?

I like to ask “what if” questions. What if Lee had won at Gettysburg? What if Judas wasn’t really trying to betray Jesus, but help him proclaim his messiahship and everything just went horribly wrong? What if the mysterious lights seen over the Midwest in 1897 was evidence of advanced but secret human technology? What ifs are a goldmine of ideas!

How do you deal with creative block?

I don’t usually have too many problems with that. Normally the entire plot or outline is already in my head before I sit down to write, so all I usually need to do is type. With nonfiction, it’s simply a matter of presenting information in a logical yet concise and interesting manner; with fiction you simply need to hold on for the ride and see where the story and characters tell you to go.

What are the biggest mistakes you can make in a book?

Too much narrative and a lack of action (in fiction). The hardest part of writing compelling fiction is knowing when enough is enough, keeping the story moving along, and trying not to get caught up in the backstories. (It’s not as easy as it sounds.) With nonfiction, the biggest mistake writers make is presenting the information in too dry a style, or including far more information than the reader really needs (or wants). Sometimes less really is more.

Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?

I prefer shorter titles; sometimes just a word or two that may not make sense immediately but turns out to be perfect once you understand the story. For example, Friend of God may not sound like a book about Judas Iscariot, but once you understand his perspective and what he was trying to do, it makes perfect sense.

In terms of covers, I like a lot of color and nice typography. Of course, I didn’t get to choose all my covers (the publisher usually handles that) but I try to make the covers I design as much a work of art as the writing is. I really hate very plain covers or something that looks like it was scrawled onto the back of a Walmart shopping bag.

How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?

It depends of who is giving the negative reviews and what they are saying. If it’s a respected source or the criticism is well articulated, it can be a real learning opportunity. If it’s just a general “didn’t like the book” there’s not much I can do with that. Just recognize that everyone has their own tastes and you’re never going to make everyone happy.

How has your creation process improved over time?

Honestly, it hasn’t changed all that much. I get an idea for a story, I ponder it for a while, and then, when I’m finally ready, I sit down and give it birth. The creative process really doesn’t change all that much. What changes, however, is your ability to implement those ideas. In other words, while the writing improves, the creativity remains much the same.

What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?

The best: how easy it is to get sucked into the subject manner or plot of a novel and live inside that world for days or even weeks at a time. It’s almost like leaving Earth and traveling to another planet for a short time. The worst: being rejected by publishers and agents on a regular basis. Finding a good publisher or a qualified agent is far more difficult than writing is, and a source of great disappointment. Most surprising: that someone can actually get paid doing something they would normally do for free. Also very surprising—especially when it comes to fiction writing—is how the characters, once they start being fleshed out, start telling you what’s going to happen next. It’s really a lot of fun to see what they come up with.

Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?

I really enjoy trying to write books that help people—either in terms of learning about things like ghosts or UFOs in my nonfiction—or spiritually or emotionally in my novels. I really want the reader to come away with more than they brought to the table, or even find bits of themselves and their own lives in my characters and their adventures.

What role do emotions play in creativity?

In my novels, I get very emotionally invested in my characters, which is what generates the most realistic dialogue. Without feeling what your characters are feeling, you can’t truly understand them or care about what happens to them.

Do you have any creativity tricks?

Just don’t push it. The ideas will come in their own time and in their own way. Trying to be creative only makes it harder to be creative.

What are your plans for future books?

I am currently working on several novels with spiritual themes that I hope to see in print soon, bringing my writing career full circle from paranormal non-fiction to aviation history to inspirational fiction. All in all, things seem to be moving along pretty well, making me enthusiastic about the coming years and providing me the impetus to keep pecking away at my keyboard.

Tell us some quirky facts about yourself

I was a German soldier who was killed in Russia in one of my past lives. I also teach classes on spiritual enlightenment as well as coin collecting. (How’s that for quirky?)

All of my books, including sample chapters and ordering information, can be found on my website at www.ourcuriousworld.com. I also have another website that maintains my writings on spirituality, religion, and reincarnation at www.quest4spirit.org.

Author: NFReads.com

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