Jeff O’Brien once ate a two-pound hamburger and a pound of bacon-cheese fries at Fuddrucker’s. He isn’t proud of much else. He also wrote BigBoobenstein and Journey to the Edge of the Flat Earth.
1. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Oh, I sure can. That’s easy. I live in New Hampshire. I hate it here. I want to move to warmer climates. I’m obsessed with aliens and UFOs. I have a hamster and two guinea pigs. I love to read books and write them too. One time I ate a two-pound hamburger and a pound of bacon-cheddar fries. It was my proudest moment.
2. Can you take us through a typical writing session? Do you listen to music? Or maybe lock yourself in a basement for complete piece and quiet?
I wish I had some kind of method that worked every time. Typically, I struggle for weeks or even months to get my ideas out, then it suddenly clicks and I’ve got the first draft of my book done in three weeks or sometimes even two. Sometimes it’s when I’m at home in the quiet. Sometimes it’s when I’m at the cigar lounge and there are guys talking loudly with multiple TVs on around me. It seems to be up to my brain whether or not I’ll be productive, regardless of where I am. My brain has a brain of its own, I guess.
3. You are a self-publisher, and always have been, correct?
Correct. My books are all self-published. I’ve had a few stories picked up for anthologies along the way, but I don’t even bother with that anymore.
3a. Sub question: Promotion is never easy and I believe it can be even harder when you self-publish. What have you learned over the years that works for you? –
What works for me is working alone, doing everything myself except the obvious: editing, cover art and design. I’m sure all the publishers I’ve ever attempted to work with think I’m a complete dick, snowflake, diva, whatever you wanna call it. It’s kind of embarrassing, actually, which is why I just go it alone now. My story is my story. I can’t change something when a publisher or editor asks me to. If what they wanted was what I wanted, I would have written that the first time. So I’m happier and make more friends doing my own thing.
3b. Second sub question: Do you have any sure-fire methods for getting books into people’s hands?
The only method I know of automatically getting a book into people’s hands is by giving them away. I do those Kindle giveaways every now and then. I’ve actually found they tend to boost sales of my other books a little bit when I do them. For every fifty people that gets the free download, there might be one or two who like what they see and throw down a few more bucks to check out more of my stuff. So that’s something I do once in a while, but there is no sure-fire way of getting your book into the right people’s hands. I’m not a successful author, and I’ll not pretend to be one. I’m still figuring this shit out.
4. You used to play in bands, playing both bass and drums at different times. Do you find it a similar struggle to get your writing out as it was to get people to your shows, or buy your music?
It’s exactly the same, man. Which makes the stigma around self-publishing so friggin annoying. When I was chasing the metal dream, we funded our own recording, paid for our own gas, and got the fuck out on the road and played to as many people as possible. People praise that. People see your book is self-published and they’re like fuck you. But, like anything else, I just don’t have the time or the energy to give a fuck. That’s valuable energy I can put into writing fucked up shit. I do what I do and I love it.
5. What has been your biggest struggle with writing? Is there a book or story of yours that was more difficult to finish than any other?
Heart Shaved Box took me four years to finish, and it’s my shortest book, at just over 22K words. I don’t know what held me up with that one. I think maybe I loved the title so much that I wanted the story to live up to it. I think I did okay. I depicted Jesus (the main antagonist) as a pedophile, and the Catholic Church as a world-wide pedophilia ring. So maybe God and Jesus were watching over me trying to halt my progress. I hope I’m barred entry to the pearly gates and have to have orgies with Satan and his hot demon chicks for all of eternity.
6. Who are your literary influences? What books are your favorite? Are there any books or authors that you repeatedly re-read?
The main writer who has had a massive impact on me in Piers Anthony. But I got just as much inspiration to write from being a kid in the early 90s and watching Comedy Central. Mystery Science Theater 3000, Monty Python, Kids in the Hall, etc. There was a time when it was good to watch TV! I’m so famn lucky to have been a sponge to CC at that age. So much amazing shit that opened my young eyes up to the world, and culture, history, sexuality, etc. A little later I got into John Waters and TROMA and that kind of thing, and years later I found my niche with combining the absurdist, dirty humor of the aforementioned shows with the shock and gore of the movies I loved. I’ve always had to look somewhere other than books for inspiration because virtually no one but me writes the kind of shit I write.
As far as favorite books go, it’s a toss-up between A Spell for Chameleon and On a Pale Horse, both by Piers Anthony. I love fantasy, and I’ve read The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan like four times. I love sci-fi, but the overly technical shit goes way over my head. I’ll make no claims of being smart or anything like that. Horror of course too, but I don’t read it much anymore. I’ll always love it, but I devoured so much of it in my life I need to a break.
7. When did you decide you wanted to be a writer? Were there any books that were the catalyst to starting you on this path?
I made a few attempts throughout my twenties but I was too wrapped up in playing music. I didn’t give writing an honest shot until I was about 28, and had my first book out when I was 30. I think it was just the right time. My influences, which I mentioned above, had been stewing in my brain for almost twenty years by that time. Once I committed to writing, it all came spewing out of me like diarrhea.
The first book I read the made me say: “Fuck, I want to do this!” was probably Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill. It’s just such a perfect horror story, and the combination of horror and metal made me realize I could include all my passions into one.
8. You write Horror, Bizarro, and Sword and Sorcery, and even a YA book. Is there one genre you prefer over the others? Do you think you’ll try your hand at any other genres?
My pretentious little goal has always been to be like Piers Anthony, meaning that I’d like to write any genre and make it my own in a way that the reader will know it’s a Jeff O’Brien book. Piers Anthony is pretty much a genre of his own. Sort of like Tarantino too. Not that I’d ever compare myself to either of those guys!
I need to seriously tackle something that involves Ancient Aliens. I have about half a manuscript written that involves them, but it’s not really going anywhere. Until then I just gotta keep telling the stories my brain’s brain keeps coming up with.
9. What is next for Jeff O’Brien? You recently released The BigBoobenstein: Omnibust Edition, do you have another book ready to put out into the world or are you finishing something up?
I have a few things in the works, mainly a horror story that’s kind of a tribute to the films of Herschell Gordon Lewis. It’s my typical fare. Goth chicks, boobs, sex, gore, and all that other stuff.
10. Tell us about your most recent release. How has it been received to previous releases?
Journey to the Edge of the Flat Earth was kind of an experiment. I wrote it almost entirely in stream of consciousness style, just to see where my mind would go. I was pretty happy with the results. It’s raised a few eyebrows and gained me a few new readers, but I’m still the “BigBoobenstein guy” and probably always will be, and I’m perfectly fine with that. I’m just doing this because I love it. If it somehow turns into my not having to spend 40 hours a week in a meat room, I’ll be grateful. But, I am a realist. So I’ll keep doing what I do in my free time and loving it.