Jason Sechrest has been a published writer since he was 15 years old, when he began his career as a staff writer for Femme Fatales Magazine, interviewing women of the horror, science-fiction and fantasy genre.
In 2016, he was hired by Stephen King’s publishers, Cemetery Dance Publications, to write the monthly column “What I Learned From Stephen King.” In it, he explores the wisdom, life lessons, and spirituality hidden within King’s many works.
In 2018, Sechrest sold his own first work of horror fiction to Cemetery Dance. His short story, “Orange Grove Court,” will appear in a 2019 issue of Cemetery Dance Magazine. His second story, “Jonah Inside the Whale: A Meditation,” was published by Scarlet Galleon Publications in their paperback anthology, Fearful Fathoms: Collected Tales of Aquatic Terror (Volume One).
KR: Could you tell me a little about yourself please?
You might know me from my Cemetery Dance column, “What I Learned From Stephen King,” where I explore the hidden wisdom, life lessons, and spirituality in King’s work. I also write my own horror stories, which have been published by Cemetery Dance, Scarlet Galleon, and most recently on my own Patreon page where members can get a new short story every month.
You can read a free excerpt of one of those stories here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/excerpt-road-you-24975975
KR: What do you like to do when not writing?
I’m a film buff. I love watching movies – anything classic and anything horror.
KR: What is your favourite childhood book?
When I was 7, my stepfather handed me a copy of Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, and when I told him I didn’t know what even half of these words meant, he proceeded to hand me what is to this day the largest dictionary I’ve ever laid eyes on. He said, “When you find a word you don’t know, look it up in here.” So I did, and as it turns out, I hated The Old Man and the Sea. So it wasn’t that one. (KR: HAHA) But I loved what he gave me next, which was Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Even more, I loved reading the tales of Edgar Allan Poe. The Tell-Tale Heart kept me up into the late hours of the night, both because I couldn’t stop reading it and also because I swore I kept hearing that ‘thump-thump’ of the heart coming from somewhere within the walls of our little condo in Columbus, Indiana. (It was probably my step-father trying to scare me.)
Anyway, I didn’t read too many children’s books growing up. I was raised in a house full of avid readers and was given the adult stuff very early. My TV and video game time was heavily regulated, but I could read whatever and whenever I wanted.
KR: What is your favourite album, and does music play any role in your writing?
I’m a huge Madonna fan. I’ve actually written a semi-autobiographical book about the influence she had on my life. Which sounds way more boring than it actually is, but I can’t give away the twist of what it’s really about just yet. I’ve yet to do anything with that book, other than give it to her as a gift. I handed it to Madonna upon meeting her a couple years back. It’s an extremely personal book and it needs some more work.
As for my favorite album, I love them all, but I could listen to The Immaculate Collection on repeat for the rest of my life.
KR: Do you have a favourite horror movie/director?
Oh absolutely. Alfred Hitchcock and Psycho. Greatest movie ever made.
KR: What are you reading now?
I’m reading The Dark Half by Stephen King. First time reading it!
KR: What was the last great book you read?
I just revisited The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Her prose is so perfectly written, it feels inhuman.
KR: E-Book, Paperback or Hardback?
All of the above, man! I probably read eBooks the most these days, but I collect first editions, and a well-worn paperback makes a wonderful travelling companion.
KR: Who were the authors that inspired you to write?
When I was 10 years old, I read Stephen King’s It, and that did it for me. I was hooked. That book taught me the power of metaphor before I’d even heard of the word. That you could use a character like Pennywise to symbolize something so much greater, that you could use a story to tell a profound human truth is what made me at 10 years old want to become a writer.
Never before had I so completely understood the power of the written word to both entertain and teach a lesson, to tell a story and in its very telling shift one’s perspective and make an impact upon one’s life.
KR: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
I have to see where the story takes me. I like to be surprised, and I like to give the characters room to become who they want to become instead of who I want for them to be.
KR: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
My research usually amounts to reaching out to a single person and saying, “Hey, is this possible?” One of my fellow Cemetery Dance columnists, Bev Vincent, is a wonderful writer of short stories, and one thing a lot of people don’t know about him is that he also happens to be a chemist. I was writing a short story of my own recently and had a question that required an expert knowledge of chemistry, so I sent him an email. I hung the entire basis of whether or not I would even write the thing on his answer. Boy, was I ever happy when he wrote back and said, “That’s doable.” Of course, doable doesn’t necessarily mean practical. So when the editors got ahold of it, they had different ideas. But I’m still glad I wrote it the way I did. Too much research can get in the way of the fun. If it doesn’t work, your editor or someone is bound to tell you, and you can always go back and fix it later.
KR: How would you describe your writing style?
Oh gosh, I have no idea. One thing I can say is that I write to be read aloud. What I mean by that is that after I’ve written a chapter, I’ll read it out loud, and I find it changes the sentence structure of just about everything. If it doesn’t sound right coming out of my mouth, it doesn’t end up in the final draft. What sounds right to the ear I think reads right to the eye.
KR: Describe your usual writing day?
I am most inspired as soon as I wake up in the morning, and just before I go to bed at night. That’s when the ideas seem to come. The second my eyes pop open, that’s when the best stuff usually strikes.
KR: Do you have a favourite story/short that you’ve written (published or not)?
I have a short story coming out this year in Cemetery Dance Magazine called “Orange Grove Court.” I’m really excited about that one. There’s a story I wrote more recently called “The Road That Takes You There,” and that has been called “horror with heart” by a lot of reviewers, which I just love.
It’s available exclusively to members of my Patreon page at: http://patreon.com/JasonSechrest. It’s a short one, but it packs a punch.
KR: Do you read your book reviews?
Oh, absolutely. I live for reviews, both from readers and writers. Not to be praised necessarily, though that’s always nice – but really to learn what’s working and what isn’t.
KR: How do you think you’ve developed as an author?
I became a published journalist when I was 15 years old. That career took off very quickly for me, and I put my dreams of writing horror on hold. It would be 20 years before I would pick up the pen to write fiction again, and I think the years I spent observing or writing about other people helped me develop a great deal. Mostly though, I think what develops anyone as an author is developing as a person. The more empathy you have for people and the more you try to understand them, the better you can write to the human condition.
KR: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received regarding your writing?
After I read Stephen King’s It when I was 10, I decided I was going to sit down at my father’s typewriter and write the great American novel. As it turns out, it was about 2 pages long. I called it “Murder on Washington St.” and I sent it to Stephen King. He wrote back and was very encouraging. He said it was great work and told me that I could send along anything else I had. But the most important thing he said to me was, “Never stop writing.” That’s the best piece of advice I’ve ever been given.
KR: What scares you?
Oh gosh, everything. That’s why I write. Writing scary stories is what keeps the nightmares at bay.
KR: Can you tell me about your latest release please?
“The Road That Takes You There” is the most recent short story, and again – your readers can enjoy a free excerpt of that here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/excerpt-road-you-24975975. The story is about George Tinker, an old man who has been driving the same old country road all his life, until the day something appears along the side of that road. Something that wasn’t there before. Something that couldn’t possibly have just popped up overnight. And something that soon becomes the sum total of all George’s fears.
KR: What are you working on now?
Another short story for my Patreon members coming next month. This one’s called “Lifeguard.”
KR: You find yourself on a desert island, which three people would you wish to be deserted with you and why?
You can choose…
a) One fictional character from your writing.
b) One fictional character from any other book.
c) One real-life person that is not a family member or friend.
Ha! I love this. From my writing? Susan Walsh from “Orange Grove Court.” I think she’s a survivor. She’s my kind of people. From any other book, maybe Roland from The Dark Tower would come in handy. And of course, I’d have to bring Stephen King. Stranded on a desert island, I might just be able to convince him to write a story with me. Even if we had to write it with our fingers in the sand. Even if all we had written was washed away by the tide. None of that would matter to us because we would have written, and the writing is all.
KR: Thank you very much Jason.
You can find out more about Jason by visiting his Facebook Page
To read Jason’s insights into the horror genre please visit www.jasonsechrest.com
Please follow Jason on Twitter @jasonsechrest
Jason Sechrest has an official Patreon page where readers can enjoy a new short story or essay every month here
The Road That Takes You There
Something unfamiliar has appeared alongside the old country road George Tinker has been driving all his life. Something dark and relentless in its refusal to be defined. Something that in time will become the sum of all his fears.
You can find The Road That Takes You There and other stories via Jason’s Patreon Page