Like many young people who join the military, Wayne Jackson wanted to serve his country and go on an adventure beyond the confines of Mineola, Long Island where he grew up. As a Military Policeman in Baumholder, Germany he served Uncle Sam and took sometime to travel throughout Europe.
When he was deployed to Saudi Arabia in 1990, his unit was filled with confidence and youthfulness. During their tour of duty, his unit, along with Army engineers, constructed some of the first detention camps in Iraq. His platoon was attached to a unit of Army intelligence officers and he assisted with the apprehension and interrogation of Saddam Hussein’s spies that operated covertly in the cities of Safwan and Basra. Eventually, Wayne’s unit was awarded for processing over 10,000 enemy prisoners of war. However, after six months of witnessing the atrocities and rapid degradation of mankind, Wayne Jackson knew he’d never be the same.
Once he returned to Germany, Wayne was reassigned to Ft. Jackson, South Carolina where he later became a member of the Special Reaction Team (SWAT). There, he served the remaining years of his service tussling with PTSD and the dramatic aftermath its malignant destruction. Once he was honorably discharged the demons of the past were always around the corner and once his beloved mother died in 2001, they came calling and Wayne resorted to alcohol and became one of the walking wounded like many other former soldiers suffering from PTSD
After a period of darkness, Wayne was able to find his way back to life through writing. Although he never considered himself a writer, Wayne actually began journaling his military experiences in 1988 when he joined the Army. Instead of writing about his experience in Saudi Arabia, Wayne found a sense of peace and creative zeal that was dormant for a long time, which is how the In Lieu of Light Series was born.
Wayne Jackson has a unique perspective that relates to both soldiers and civilians. In Lieu of Light (Dailey Swan Publishing May 2008) has received terrific reviews and is amongst the showcased titles at the BEA in LA.
The following is an interview with Wayne by Eric Brasley of Books of Soul conducted on October 19, 2008.
- I have to ask the most obvious question first, what was your inspiration for writing In Lieu of Light?
To be honest and off the cuff, Eric, when I was living in South Carolina, I found myself at the lowest point of my life. I was in a very dark place spiritually after witnessing the death of my mother and taking on the huge responsibility of raising my younger brother.
Although the basic blueprint for the story began years prior, after reading the first three novels of Anne Rice’s Vampire series, I discovered a missing element and wanted to capitalize on it. I wasn’t sure how to approach the story until I found myself empty and spiritually bankrupt. I was then able to harness the negative energy and make it work for me.
So in short, I would say several tragic moments in my life have ignited my ambition and Anne Rice has inspired me to write about them.
- Did your military experience help in developing your novel?
Yes. I would say that my military experience most certainly has tempered me as an artist. Having experienced war and combat I knew then I wasn’t going to make a career out of the Army. The atrocities that I witnessed still linger and from time to time I am able to draw from memory just how brutal (mankind) can be.
I used photography and writing as my avenue of escape while we marched forward as the rawest element on earth.
- Authors seem to approach the task of writing in different ways — writing certain scenes first & building a story, writing the end first, etc. How do you write? Did you have a favorite time? A favorite spot?
I call my approach to writing “drops in a bucket.” First, let me say you must have an outline before you can begin, it’s the most practical blueprint. The writer can always alter the basic blueprint as the story evolves but you should begin with the basics, after that it’s just drops in a bucket.
Whenever a thought comes to me I have a pen and some paper or I use my hand so as not to lose the idea. At the end of the month, I place all the writing in separate folders that correlate to the sections of the outline. Then after a few months, I begin to piece the story together using the collective material.
So far as a favorite place or time, I’d say no. But if I needed a character analysis, I would sit for hours in a coffee shop or a mall and write descriptive details of the patrons as they passed. I’m sure many thought of me as some psycho or pervert, shooting glances at them. But what better way to create a character of fiction than from the living?
- What shaped your writing style? Where did you get your writing experience and hone your “chops”?
For this question I would have to refer back to the first question, but to expound by saying my grandmother (Laverne Jackson) was an awesome creative writer and has also in some way inspired me. I must give credit to the dearly departed.
- Can you introduce us to Sabrina and Chantelle, the Le’Noach sisters? How did you come up with these characters?
The two sisters, Sabrina and Chantelle, both bi-racial children, grew up on their father’s plantation in post-slavery South Carolina. Most of their lives, they lived under the protection of their father and his estate but in some ways are bound to the land because of racial barriers.
One tranquil evening while they were playing on the outskirts of the plantation, they encountered young white men from the neighboring estate. A conflict ensues, and the young women and their brother fight for their lives. A chain of events occur and Sabrina is abducted by a stranger (a vampire) that was passing through toward Charleston.
Sabrina’s inner strength and beauty is what saves her from the vampire’s thirst and an untimely death. The vampire obligates Sabrina to do his bidding and to help him kill another vampire. In turn, he sets her free. Sabrina returns several years’ later craving companionship and family. She leads her younger sister astray, into a dark and seedy life, a lifestyle that Chantelle finds repulsive.
(Sorry, I speak vaguely so not give too much away)
The two sisters represent how we each deal with traumatic moments in life. How we choose separate paths in order to cope with a negative experience. I believe everyone has found themselves in a dark place spiritually and some want to free themselves of it in search of redemption. Others like Sabrina choose to dwell in darkness and, as their malignant life continues, their hatred grows too.
- Horror fiction always has its “gotcha” moment, either something suspenseful or something gory, that has the reader turning the page. You don’t have to give too much away but what scenes or events will give your readers the chills?
I would have to say the slaughterhouse chapter. Many readers are taken aback by what occurs in the slaughterhouse, when Sabrina is carried off by the group of boys and into the slaughterhouse. Then the vampire is provoked by their aggression and exacts his own nature upon everyone.
- You have plans for a second volume. What’s next? What seeds are you planting in this novel that will carry us to the next one?
The second novel is complete and due to be released April of 09. The seeds planted in the first book are the mysterious years that Sabrina was missing before her return to the United States. I write about her adventure with her abductor in England while they tracked his maker.
I also lead the reader into Chantelle’s quest for redemption and her search for religion which doesn’t help her situation on a personal level but reveals a cure. Chantelle realizes she must first be released from Sabrina’s fettered love in order for the cure to work.
- What are your plans for marketing and promoting your novel? Are you looking forward to the book readings and booksignings?
Other than selling books out of the trunk of my car and soliciting book stores for signings, I leave the rest to my agent and publisher. They pretty much tell me what to do and where to go and sometimes not in a nice way.
- Do you belong to any writer groups?
I use to belong to a writing group when I lived in Miami while I was promoting this book. They were very supportive and we took turns critiquing each others’ work. I recommend writers that are just getting started to join.
I would like to join another group but at the moment I’m just inundated by the demands of my agent and the endless pursuit to sell more books. I feel I spend a great deal more time marketing than writing.
- What horror authors do you look up to?
I don’t really look up to any horror authors I was relegated to this genre by my publisher. He said, “If it’s got gore and vampires, it’s Horror.” I believe it’s more suspense with a touch of gore but a story of inspiration as told from a macabre viewpoint.
- If I was to peruse your book shelves, what would I find?
I have a very long book shelf. Most books that I have read I’ve donate to the library or VA Hospital where I’m employed. If you perused my “shelf,” you’d find:
Anne Rice’s collection
Edgar Allan Poe’s collective works
Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray
Ernest Hemmingway’s The Garden of Eden
Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
C.S. Lewis’ The Screw Tape Letters
Franz Kafka’s book of short stories
T.S. Elliot’s The Waste Land
Elizabeth Nunez’ Prospero’s Daughter
Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye
You would also find a host of poetry books, and books on fine cooking and photography.
- Since it’s Halloween time…. What was your favorite costume? And, what got you scared as a kid?
The most frightening is the clown costume. I don’t know why but some people should not wear that costume. I usually keep it simple and dress up as a monk or the Grim Reaper. It saves time and money.
- What is the creepiest thing you’ve ever eaten?
As a child, I was forced to eat “cow tongue.” I sat at the table and cried for an eternity but my uncle made me eat it. He called it a delicacy. I called it awful and abusive.
- Back to writing, what is your favorite part? Developing plots, creating characters, writing dialog or something else?
My favorite would be writing characters and being descriptive as possible. A person’s mannerisms can tell a story alone, and too many writers get caught-up in dialog. Of course, dialogue can move a story but without a good description of the characters, the story has little depth. Many words can be said without the character even speaking.
- Do you have any tips for your fellow writers? Anything that has worked for you in writing, finding a publisher & agent, in promoting your book?
The best advice I can give is to believe in yourself even when others don’t! Take criticisms lightly but pay attention to a good critique. Above all, don’t sign a thing without sound legal advice even if you have to pay for it.
Over the years I’ve saved a few bad contracts that I refused to sign and occasionally I pull them out of my briefcase and look at them. It fuels my ambition.
Other people will recognize your talent and do their best to exploit you. Many people want a free ride at the cost of your talent, sacrifice, and hard work. Don’t give credence to their cause!!!!