Greetings 🙂 Today I have the pleasure of interviewing author / artist / actor Jeff Musillo. His latest novel, The Eternal Echo, released a few months ago (Feb 10).
The Eternal Echo is a terrifying story, equal parts literary and horror. Doctor David Ravensdale is a madman who conducts an experiment by adopting a baby and raising him from infancy to adulthood, strictly by use of technology. The Good Doctor believes he is attempting to discover the key to the human psyche, and conducting one of the most significant experiments known to man. In actuality, he’s raising a murderous monster. The Eternal Echo is a millennial mix of Frankenstein and American Psycho. You will never look at your computer the same way again.
- Hi and thanks for stopping by my blog. Tell us a bit about yourself.
Thanks for having me! My name is Jeff Musillo. I’m currently living in Brooklyn. I’m the author of The Ease of Access, Can You See That Sound (poetry), Snapshot Americana (non-fiction), and my latest novel is The Eternal Echo. I also paint and have had the chance to show my artwork at various shows in NY. I sometimes act. The next project I’m in is a pilot for HULU called, Shelter. They’re doing the final edits for that pilot now. I’m excited to see how it all comes out.
- I believe The Eternal Echo is your latest release. Where did the inspiration for this story come from, and can you give us a brief overview of it?
With this book, at first, I wanted to make a story that was a bit more lighthearted. But that didn’t happen. The more the protagonist developed the more he took control and guided the story to where it was supposed to go, which is into darkness and horror. The protagonist – Doctor David Ravensdale – is a madman who conducts an unusual experiment. He adopts a baby boy and raises the child from infancy to adulthood, strictly by use of technology.
Ravensdale believes he is attempting to discover the key to the human psyche, and conducting one of the most significant experiments known to man. In actuality, he’s raising a murderous, psychotic monster.
- Your writing appears to span quite a breadth of genres and styles. Do you have a favorite or ‘most comfortable’ genre?
I don’t really have a most comfortable or favorite genre. I like playing around with different ideas and feelings. I try to not overthink what I should do or even what I want to do. If a story feels authentic I pursue it, no matter the genre. I suppose it’s all about what clicks at a certain time.
I recently finished reading a memoir where the author wrote about how her emotions and viewpoints are similar to an old school radio, the type with a dial, and how she just keeps turning the dial until something clear comes through. I think writing is sometimes like that.
- What would you say your most significant influences are toward shaping your genre and writing style?
There have been a number of writers who have influenced me a great deal. Hunter S. Thompson. Charles Bukowski. Kurt Vonnegut. John and Dan Fante. Chuck Palahniuk. Bret Easton Ellis. Hubert Selby Jr. Marquis De Sade. To name a few. But I also think of my home state as a major influence. I grew up in New Jersey. A friend of mine who is not from Jersey once looked me over and said of my outfit, “You Jersey guys are weird. You never know if you’re going to a club or a dive bar or are going to build a house or teach some class.” He said this because I was probably wearing something like work boots with jeans with a light sweater under a blazer and some gelled up hair. But I think there’s something to that. There are a bunch of individuals from New Jersey with the ability to exhibit a whole range of different personalities. And that has definitely influenced my writing.
- Some writers have little idiosyncratic habits. For example, the first word in each of my novels is a statement reflective of the mindset or situation of the main character at the outset of the story. Do you do anything like this or have any ‘easter egg’ type things you insert into your writing? (If not, do you have any particular habits – e.g. a particular cup of tea you /must/ have in order to write?)
I like that! Like a treasure hunt. Now I’m going to be looking for that in everybody’s books. The only habit I have is that I go outside to smoke a cigarette after I complete a page. So these damn words are killing me. But, in actuality, I do find that taking a step away every now and then helps me a lot. It sometimes helps me see an angle in the story that I wasn’t noticing before.
- Tell us a bit about Ease of Access. I noticed it’s classified as a psychology / counseling title. Is this a fiction novel?
Is it labeled as counseling somewhere? That’s pretty funny. I hope no one finds a counseling vibe in it, at least not in the sense of obtaining advice. The story is about an apathetic male prostitute who is hired to service reality TV stars. It’s dirty and peculiar but I think it does have some philosophy in it as well. It was published a couple years back by an independent financier, but people have said there’s some similarity between one of the characters in the novel and someone who is currently running for President.
- For your fiction writing, do you tend towards being an outliner or a seat-of-the-pants type writer?
I hardly ever outline. It might be because I can occasionally be a bit impatient. The thing is though, I love letting the story take itself where it wants to go. When I overthink things the writing stops being fun for me. And that’s really the main reason I’ve been writing for as long as I have – because I find it really fun.
- Which of your writing projects was the most fun to work on, and which the least?
Each project was a lot of fun simply because I had the desire to do it and wasn’t being pushed into it. But there have been moments or sections in certain projects that I didn’t necessarily enjoy working on. There’s a scene in The Eternal Echo that involves sexual abuse and I found it really difficult to write. It made me incredibly sad.
- Have you ever had a reader comment “make your month?” If so, tell us a bit about what the reader said and why it resonated with you. If not, feel free to share the best (or most wild) thing a reader has said about your work.
Oh I don’t know that phrase. What’s that mean?
I’ve had a lot of funny conversations in connection with The Ease of Access. Due to the content in that book, a good number of people have informed me about some of the unusual sexual scenarios they’ve had. Their stories were sometimes humorous. They were also sometimes pretty damn uncomfortable.
- Between when you started as a writer and now, what’s the most surprising or unexpected thing you’ve encountered about getting published?
The most surprising thing I found is how each book after the first one is still difficult to get published. I was naïve. I thought it would be smooth sailing after publishing my first novel. Don’t get me wrong, it’s become slightly easier, but it’s still hard work to get the stories out there. But that’s good. I believe the struggle keeps me hungry and pushes me to write better. It makes me learn more. I think discomfort goes a long way. It keeps people on their toes. Possessing total convenience is a good way to become indolent.
- Do you have any future projects or ‘stuff-in-progress’ you can share a few words about? What’s next for Jeff Musillo?
I’m currently writing a story about the return of Jesus, but in this story no one knows he’s actually Jesus, so he’s treated almost as if he’s homeless as opposed to supernatural. It’s a strange one so far.
- If you could be any of your fictional characters, would you? And who/why?
Hell no! My characters are creepy and dejected and often alarming. I think they’re fascinating from a distance, but I wouldn’t even want to be in a room with them.
- Do you have a favorite novel that you’ve read?
That’s a tough. There are so many great novels. But if I could read only one book for the rest of my life I think I’d have to say Ham on Rye by Bukowski. It’s got everything. Humor. Sadness. Relatability. Perseverance. Although Bukowski probably wouldn’t use that word – Perseverance. I think he would just call it living.
- Assume that The Eternal Echo becomes a movie – who would you pick to direct it?
I’ve actually been speaking with a Finnish Director about a possible adaptation. He made a really interesting horror/comedy film called Bunny the Killer Thing. He’s a cool guy, so it would be amazing if that all came together. But if that doesn’t work, I was thinking about stalking out and begging Darren Aronofsky. That shouldn’t be a problem, right?