A few weeks back, I had the great opportunity to meet up with author Jeff Dawson for lunch and talk about books, publishing, and a whole lot more. Over cheeseburgers, fries and giant onion rings, Jeff enthralled me with story after story about his life and his incredible knowledge of WWII. He was also gracious enough to give me a copy of his WWII vampire novel, Occupation. That’s right; the book combines sinister Nazis against vampires you can root for in one hell of a great story. Today, I’m interviewing Jeff so you can get to know him, as well.
Brian: Jeff, welcome to my blog. It’s a real treat to interview a fellow author who has combined two of my favorite subjects: horror and WWII history. Tell us about your vampire vs. Nazis thriller, Occupation. What’s the story about?
Jeff: Plain and simple; evil versus evil. The story follows the historical events of Germany invading Poland September 1st, 1939. When the Nazis start implementing their plan of shipping off the undesirables, they have no idea they are stealing the food supply of two warring vampire clans: The Romanovs and Boirarskys. Will the clans continue to fight amongst themselves, or combine and take on a force more evil than themselves: the Third Reich? Caution, if you’re a fan of Twilight, the only thing sparkling in this work is the moonlight reflecting off the mutilated bodies of the SS.
Brian: The vampires are obviously fictional, but does where the story takes place relate to any true events in WWII Poland?
Jeff: Yes. The Nazis set-up Krakow as the capitol of the General Government in Occupied Poland. Many of the Jewish residents were shipped to nearby Auschwitz and other camps.
Brian: I know you’re a huge war buff and that your shelves are filled with nonfiction history books. So what inspired you to come up with a horror story that mixes real WWII history with vampires?
Jeff: An interesting question. I didn’t come up with the idea, rather two women did. The lady taking care of my mom suggested I write a love story about WWII. Nope, not happening. Saw Enemy at the Gates and was very disappointed. Seriously? A love story in Stalingrad. No! I called my deceased’s fiancé’s daughter Jessica and asked her if vampires were still big. She convinced me they were. So, for two or three months I thought about combining the two in a believable historical scenario. The result: Occupation.
Brian: As someone who has done countless research for a historical novel, I’m curious how much research you had to do for this book? Did you go over to Poland? Did you study vampire lore? Or did you just tap into that encyclopedia mind of yours and let your imagination run wild?
Jeff: The later would be true. I haven’t traveled to Poland until recently; never read a vampire novel in my life. I tapped into the memory banks and let the story flow.
Brian: I read somewhere that when you were in school you used to shoot war films. Tell us a bit about that. Did it pave the way for you to become a storyteller?
Jeff: Yeah, a couple of my buddies, back in junior high, shot a few short 8mm films. To say the least, they were really bad. Yes, I still have them. I wouldn’t say they launched me into storytelling, just the opposite. We took our stories and valiantly attempted to put them on film. Steven Spielberg has nothing to fear.
Brian: Before being an author, you worked for years in road construction. Tell us a bit about what that job was like. What made you switch careers to writing books?
Jeff: I’ll keep it toned down, since this is the family hour. If you like working outside in 110+ temps or even the bone-chilling 20 degree delight, sign on and be prepared to be called every wonderful accolade Webster’s Dictionary can’t print. At times it was a thankless profession because the average driver looked at us with disdain and contempt. “Hey, we’re only trying to help the flow of traffic. Take a pill.” Those comments were usually greeted with the one finger salute. “Back atcha, buddy.”
Back surgery in 2010 derailed the construction career, so I took up writing.
Brian: You’ve written a number of others books for different genres? Give us a brief synopsis of each of those books. Which book is your favorite?
Jeff: My favorite is Love’s True Second Chance, a memoir about my high school sweetheart. We reunited in Jan of 2009. Seven months later her breast cancer returned with a vengeance. The story chronicles the love we shared.
Why Did Everything Happen? This is another memoir/autobiography. How many times have we found ourselves wondering why our lives didn’t follow the path we laid out. That question was answered August 29, 2009 at a small cemetery in Seagoville, TX.
Terror at the Sterling. The story is loosely based on actual events. Mel Thornton is given orders from the new GM, Cheryl, to evict two hookers. The eviction plunges him back into the ’70s and an unsolved murder. Think vampire/zombies. Will Mel live to tell the secrets of the past?
Gateway: Pioche: How about an unconventional time travel/sci fi/political thriller with a touch of the Vegas mob thrown in? The co-author Larry Welch pitched the idea to me in March of 2012. The story revolves around four Stanford grads, Muki, Larry, Judith and Abdul. After six years of studying and obtaining two Masters Degrees, the kids decide to take a vacation across the United States before joining the work force. First stop, Vegas with the hopes of earning extra cash for the trip. Their winnings don’t go unnoticed by local mob boss Nathan Francisco. The kids find themselves in deadly pursuit, leading them to a military complex NE of Pioche, NV.
Destination D.C. is the 2nd in the series. In hopes of getting the vacation back on track, our intrepid travelers find themselves enmeshed in a plot by the Fourth Reich to overthrow the U.S. Government.
The Baseball Coaching Manual: Little League to High School Volumes I and II. I spent twenty plus years coaching and umpiring baseball. The books contain the overlooked fundamentals of baseball. Firstly, the first three letters: f,u,n. Sadly, fun has been taken out of the game. I give a no nonsense look into coaching kids.
Brian: Sounds like you’ve written a wide variety of books for all sorts of readers. There are many aspiring writers out there looking for ways to be more successful at completing books. Can you share your writing schedule and offer some success secrets to create time to write?
Jeff: Like any job, you’ve got to work at it and keep pushing yourself, because no one else will. If you don’t work well on your own or are undisciplined, this might not be a career you want to enter. I try and write each day, but that doesn’t always happen. Many say you need to write even if it’s bad. If it’s bad, why write? I wait for the characters to let me know they are ready for the story to continue. When this happens, I can crank out between 2,000 to 5,000 words in a day.
Brian: I share your same theory. When I’m writing bad stuff because the words aren’t flowing right, it feels like a waste of time. I may write a sentence or paragraph to keep me connected to what I’m writing, but mostly the books I’ve accomplished have come on days when my characters are letting me know it’s time to write and then I can write 2500+ words a day.
Jeff: Discipline is the key here. It’s so easy to walk around aimlessly, turn on the TV, or fiddle in the garage. None of those will get word one on paper. SIT down and do it. Stop procrastinating or worrying if it’s going to be any good. DO IT! Will you make mistakes? Of course. It’s the mistakes which make us better. One other thing, do not give up and if you’re serious. Patience and perseverance will pay off.
Brian: Good advice. Any new books on the forefront, like a sequel to Occupation or something in the same WWII horror genre?
I’m working on sequels to Occupation and Target Berlin: the third in the Gateway series. With luck, I’ll release a poetry book in time for Christmas
Brian: Jeff, it’s been an honor having you as a guest author. I look forward to talking with you again soon. For anyone looking for a fascinating read, get yourself a copy of Occupation today. In this supernatural thriller, the evil Nazis have finally met their match. Find out what happens when they start taking away the vampires’ food supply.
Occupation Book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DzQKaezOTrg
About Jeff Dawson
I spent twenty-five years in the wonderful world of road construction. Back surgery in 2010 put the skids on that career. My body couldn't handle the rigors of twelve to sixteen hour days, six to seven days a week anymore. As I convalesced, licking my wounds, I wondered what to do next. Not being out in the sun getting baked, or dodging traffic, was going to be a hard act to follow. Seriously, what else did I know? An article in the Dallas Morning News caught my eye. It was about being a professional speaker. Hmm. That sounds interesting. Becoming mobile again, I took a seat in front of the blank monitor, pondering what to write.
Let's start with something we know: my life. The first work was titled God's Plan: A Glimpse Into One's Life. I re-titled it six months later to Why Did Everything Happen? This is a look back at the last twenty-five years and how the death of my partner, father and true love affected my life. I was amazed at the revelations. Since then, I've moved on to write in several different genres. Some say I should change my name when diverting from the path. Well, right or wrong, I'm sticking with my name. The current works range from the love story of my one true love: Debbie Beck--RIP 7-20-2009, an alternate historical perspective of Vampires and WWII, a newly released Sci-Fi time travel adventure to Baseball Coaching Manuals. Granted, not every book I write is for everyone. I understand that, but I hope I'm showing readers diversity can be a good avenue.
I currently live in the DFW area (Dallas-Ft. Worth), spending a lot of time with my daughter, her girls and my oldest son. When I was in construction, I never had or took the time to enjoy what surrounded me: love, family and friends. My true love, Debbie, and her girls reminded me what was important in life; "we work to live, not live to work."
I hope you take a chance on a book or two.
Jeff’s blog: http://jeff-dawson.blogspot.com
Jeff’s blog: http://jeff-dawson.blogspot.com