Author Don Gillette stops by Kendall Reviews for a chat.

Don Gillette is the author of three novels, PandemoniumPhantom Dead Man, and Sarcophagus; and a collection of short fiction, Old Leather. A fourth novel, Dark Voices, is scheduled for release in early 2019.

His latest book, Fallen Angels, is a collaboration with artist Don Gilbert. This full-size collection of drawings and accompanying poems details the existence of the fallen angels–supernatural beings responsible for all events in our lives.

He has also written three full-length poetry collections, Bourbon Street MemoryWalking By The Nightpath, and the critically acclaimed The Face In The Mirror Is Not Mine, along with four chapbooks, Monkey Head Fallout, In The Land of the Koonga Girls, Sandpaper on Sunburn, and Overland Bridge. His work has also been featured in the Horror Writers Association Poetry Showcase Volume III

His complete journals, The Meeker Collection: Humor from The Wilson County Advocate 1991-1994, chronicle his independent newspaper work and he has also published short fiction, editorials, and literary articles for The Journal of American Folklore, Criticism Literati, Janus Head and other lesser known periodicals.

Don has been writing since he asked for (and received) one of the original “Tom Thumb” typewriters for his 6th birthday. He spent 26 years in the Tennessee Army National Guard and served on active duty during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. He retired in 1996 as a Chief Warrant Officer Four and subsequently spent 20 years as Vice President of Military Operations for Reese Group, Inc.

He was born and raised on the Atlantic Coast and currently lives with his wife, Sim Yoon, in Nashville, Tennessee.


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KR: Could you tell me a little about yourself please?

I was born in New England, raised on the Atlantic coast, and ended up in Nashville at age 18. In 1971, I joined the US Army and retired 26 years later as a Chief Warrant Officer 4.

During my spare time, I picked up a BS and MA in English, published short fiction, non-fiction, and poetry and worked as a freelance journalist. After the military, I took a job as a newspaper editor where I also wrote a weekly column for their “Political Funnies” page. Those humor pieces were collected and published in 2012 as The Meeker Collection.

After that stint, I took a position as vice president of military operations for Reese, Inc. in Nashville and continued writing in my spare time. I left there in 2013 to write full-time.

KR: What do you like to do when not writing?

I play guitar and sing for The Willy Loman Band, a blues/rock outfit. I also enjoy cooking, baking artisan breads, and making hard cider.

KR: What is your favourite childhood book?

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

KR: What is your favourite album, and does music play any role in your writing?

Led Zeppelin I is probably my favorite album but I like so many… Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell, Neil Diamond’s Hot August Night, The Clash’s Combat Rock, I could go on and on, but I can’t listen to vocals when I write because I concentrate on the lyrics and lose my train of thought–unless it’s something like The Ramones or AC/DC where the lyrics are completely secondary to the music.

KR: Do you have a favourite horror movie/director?

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The original 1931 “Frankenstein” will always be my favorite horror movie—it was my first. I remember we were living in Dover, my room was on the third floor of an old, Victorian house, my parents were out, and I watched Frankenstein at 10:00 p.m. I haven’t been right since. As for directors, it’s hard to beat John Carpenter.

KR: What are you reading now?

I just wrapped up Stephen King’s The Outsider. Phenomenal. The guy is a genius. I’m a juror for a major literary award this year (not allowed to say which one) so I’m keeping busy reading the submissions publishers are sending me. Bad Man by Dathan Auerbach is next up.

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KR: Who were the authors that inspired you to write?

Kurt Vonnegut, Hunter S. Thompson, Rex Miller, and Stephen King. To me, King took a genre that was ridiculed and marginalized for more than 200 years and brought it back, literally from the dead—and almost single-handedly. He had some help from Ramsey Campbell, Dean Koontz, Clive Barker, Robert McCammon, etc., but without King, Carrie, and ‘Salem’s Lot I don’t think horror would be enjoying this ride.

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KR: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?

I’ve done both, but I prefer seeing where a concept takes me. Working from an outline means sticking to it or revising it—so you find yourself either confined by the outline or spending half your time re-writing the outline.

KR: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Most of my research is done online and I do it as I’m writing. I use a two monitor set-up and Google is always up on the second monitor. But my greatest research asset is the people I served with in the military. For the novel I’m working on now, I’ve already talked to two attorneys, a police sergeant, a doctor, a psychiatrist, and an investigator—and I served in the Army with all of them.

KR: Describe your usual writing day?

I go through spells. If I’m working on a novel, I may not write for 2 or 3 days and then I’ll write an entire chapter at one sitting and let it digest. If I have an idea for a short story, I have to do it in one sitting, regardless of whether it takes an hour or all day. Poems can take me months or minutes—and you can usually tell which took months and which took minutes. If I’m going an article for a magazine or a literary journal, the research takes weeks and the article takes a few hours.

But I see I haven’t answered the question. My usual writing day is balls to the wall, ass to the chair. Not every day is my usual writing day.

KR: Do you have a favourite story/short that you’ve written (published or not)?

I published a story called “Candlelight” in my latest collection Old Leather and it may be my personal favorite. I had just gotten a Fender butterscotchTelecaster like the one Keith Richards plays. He calls it “Micawber” after a Charles Dickens character. I felt the anthology needed one more story, so I started writing about a creature that torments several generations of one family and can only be seen in candlelight. The family calls the creature “Micawber.”

KR: Do you read your book reviews?

Yes, definitely. If they’re good, I bathe in them; if they’re bad, I take them at face value. If it’s obvious the reviewer is an asshat, I ignore them. I had a reviewer once leave me a one star review because he claimed he couldn’t follow the plot-line from chapter to chapter. No damned wonder the plot line changed from “chapter” to “chapter” – it was a book of short stories. (KR: HAHAHAHA)

KR: Any advice for a fledgling author?

Read. Read, read, read. Write when you’re ready but never stop reading. And remember that it’s all about story. All about being entertained. I don’t like to discourage young writers, but Joseph Conrad said it best: “Art is long and life is short, and success is very far off.” The days of you writing one blockbuster and living in the lap of luxury for the rest of your life are long over. If you’re in this for the money, you’re in the wrong game. If you’re in it for the fame, you’re in the wrong game. If you love to write—if that’s what floats your boat—congratulations. You’re a writer.

KR: What scares you?

Okay, the truth. Big, strong Army officer. Not afraid of any man living. Well, let me tell you… Have you ever been in the grass minding your own business and a garter snake comes slithering in front of you? Or you’re in an old house and a mouse darts across the floor? I squeal like a child. I do that Bugs Bunny dance—the one he does when he sees that big, red, hairy monster, Gossamer. On a physical level, little quick things scare the living shit out of me. On a psychological level, the only thing I’m afraid of is something happening to a loved one that I can’t control. Helplessness scares me.

KR: E-Book, Paperback or Hardback?

Tough call. I like the convenience of the Kindle. I like carrying 200 books with me when I’m traveling. But I like the tactile sensations of a real book, whether it’s paperback or hardback. It also depends on what the book contains. If it’s a novel, I’m okay with an e-book; if there are any graphics, I want it on paper.

KR: Can you tell me about your latest release please?

My latest release is a bit out of the mainstream. The artist Don Gilbert and I have been good friends since high school (Gilbert / Gillette—alphabetically we were always seated near each other) and we had always talked about doing something together. A few years ago we began work on Fallen Angels, a full-sized collection of illustrations and descriptive poems depicting creatures we called fallen angels—beings responsible for everything that goes on in everyone’s lives, be it good or bad. When we had the manuscript completed, traditional publishers balked at the costs involved since the book is letter-sized, has a matte black finish, and the illustrations are very detailed. But we balked at their suggestions to cheapen it up, so we ended up publishing it independently which was a good call quality-wise. We may do a Volume II at some time in the future—Gilbert is knocking out drawings much faster than I can knock out poems. I love poetry and playing with words, but it’s an entirely different animal than writing a novel or short story.

KR: What are you working on now?

I’m working on a new horror novel written in both first person and third person. I’ve wanted to try that for quite a while and see if I could pull it off. It’s fun because you, the writer, are the voice of the narrator, so you get to act—but it’s also interesting in that you get to stand back and tell the reader about things of which the narrator isn’t aware. In a first person novel, the reader doesn’t know anything unless the narrator tells them; in a third person novel there’s no personal interaction. The only drawback is that the reader may not like the narrator. The narrator’s got to be likeable. So I’m making him me. No—I’m kidding. He’s an amalgamation of likeable people I’ve known through the years.

KR: You find yourself on a desert island, which three people would you wish to be deserted with you and why?

  1. One fictional character from your writing.

Terry Hollister. Terry is the narrator in my novel Dark Voices that’s slated for release in early 2019. He’s a 40 year old man with a degree in English and a teaching certificate, but he’s too shy to teach high school English—doesn’t do well in front of an audience. Terry works in a grocery store and loves it. But he also tutors exceptional children (for big bucks) and tutors developmentally challenged children gratis. Terry’s true calling, however, is that he can sense the presence of evil…or rather, he can sense evil presences.

  1. One fictional character from any other book.

Zachary “Zock” Crowe from William Goldman’s The Temple of Gold. Zock has always been my favorite fictional character because he’s insanely smart, insanely naïve, and a devoted friend to Ray Trevitt despite Trevitt’s flaws. Before William Goldman decided to become rich writing movie scripts, he was one helluva fiction writer. The Temple of Gold has always been my favorite book.

  1. One real life person that is not a family member or friend.

That’d have to be Richard Dawkins. If you’re going to be stuck on an island, might as well have someone there who’s brilliant.

KR: Thank you very much Don.

You can follow Don on Twitter @dongillette

You can visit Don’s author page here

To find out more about Don please visit his official website

Fallen Angels is a collaboration between author Don Gillette and artist Don Gilbert.

It is a collection of poems and accompanying drawings detailing the existence of the fallen angels–beings responsible for every facet of our lives from birth to death and everything in between.

Whatever happens to you, good or bad, a fallen angel is responsible. Wherever you go, there is a fallen angel there to control your life. Your first day of school, your first kiss, your last breath; a fallen angel is responsible. Some are good, some are not. Some are caring, some are not.

They have no conscience and they have no soul.

You can buy Fallen Angels from Amazon US & Amazon UK

Once the darling of New York art insiders, Gene Carney’s well has run dry. On the advice of his agent, he decides on a cross-country trip to “clear his head.” The trip leads him through Pulliam, his old hometown, where things went… wrong… years ago. And with Gene’s return, things begin to go wrong again.

You can buy Pandemonium from Amazon US & Amazon UK

An experimental novella following events in the life of Conrad Ritley, an average everyman suffering from the inability to keep times and places in chronological order.

You can buy Phantom Dead Man from Amazon US & Amazon UK

Political Funnies from the pages of the defunct Wilson County Advocate, a local weekly newspaper that enjoyed a brief but fiercely loyal readership from 1991 until 1993 in Middle Tennessee. This volume contains all of the articles published under the pseudonym “Jimmy Joe Meeker” – the loud-mouthed, often-angry, sometimes-insightful, but always amusing alter-ego of Don Gillette. Founded on a whim, and never taken too seriously (especially by its founders), The Advocate prided itself on exposing the dirty laundry of small-time politicians and railing against the injustice in small-town government.

You can buy a copy of The Meeker Collection from Amazon US & Amazon UK

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