Jason Jack Miller, the Author of Hellbender, The Devil and Preston Black, and The Revelations of Preston Black graciously took some time to answer my three silly questions.
Question 1: First I'd like to say that I love love loved the character of Ben. *Spoiler Alert thanks for not killing him off. End of Spoiler Alert*. And as I said in the book review Pap reminded my of my Grandad so I loved him quite a bit as well. Did you have a favorite character to write/read when you’re rereading/reviewing HELLBENDER other than Henry? I'm an author myself and when I reread my own book, I'm drawn to rereading certain characters. Who were you drawn to the more you wrote it and read it.
Ben really took on a life of his own. In HELLBENDER, Ben was little more than a supporting character, in there to help move the story along. He ended up getting so many of the good lines, and that really seemed to resonate with people. After that reception, I knew I had to bring him back for REVELATIONS. In fact, I'm not really sure I had a choice.
I wrote HELLBENDER as my thesis for Seton Hill University's Writing Popular Fiction program, and at the time, Henry represented the way I felt about the mountains and Appalachia. Perhaps I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder about the way I perceived people looking at me and my rural upbringing. So I wanted to show Henry as a responsible, intellectual person of Appalachian origin. And as a result, Ben had most of the fun. (And the good lines.)
Not surprisingly though, I really felt the most drawn to Katy by the time I finished REVELATIONS, She felt the most honest, the realest, and the least like a caricature.
Question 1b: Any chance that some of the other characters from Hellbender might get their own stories like you've done for the character of Preston. I didn't talk much about Preston in my book review but you did a fairly good job setting his character up for his own book which I have not read yet (but I will) Any chance Ben gets a chance to shine or maybe you'll craft Pap's back story. I loved Katie and Chloe as well and I'd really love to hear more about the magic they practice and know.
Well, since you asked…. My next book, ALL SAINTS, is pretty much a Ben story. It's a weird version of THE WIZARD OF OZ (set in Yucatan, Mexico) that lets Ben deal with his PTSD once and for all.
Ben is also the star of a short story appearing in Despumation Press's premiere issue this February. "Rhythm of War" is a snapshot of Ben and the events surrounding a firefight in Fallujah.
The first two or three books were meant to be read in no particular order. HELLBENDER was my thesis, and was written first. But THE DEVIL AND PRESTON BLACK comes first chronologically. The story lines don't merge until THE REVELATIONS OF PRESTON BLACK. So if I tell you more about ALL SAINTS, I might give away some of what happens in REVELATIONS. Needless to say, Ben does what none of us thought was possible (with regards to an antagonist.). And he does what Preston most certainly couldn't.
You'll see that THE DEVIL AND PRESTON BLACK is almost as much a Katy story as it is a Preston story (No Ben yet. Sorry.) But it also introduces us to this other character who becomes very important later.
My wife, Heidi, introduced me to Madeleine L'Engle and the idea of a linked series, where we follow the events of a family, or group of people, rather than just one person. And so far it seems to be working out pretty well for me.
Question 2: Let's talk about charities for a second. As everyone who has been to this site knows, my favorite is George Mark House. (I'm very tied to the organization and if you want to know more about why, just hit up the My Son tag on my blog to learn more about what they did for me and my family and what they continue to do for us and other families like us) Here's your opportunity to talk about organizations that make your heart go aflutter and your skin get all goosebumpy with the happies. If you'd like, take a second to talk about a charity or organization that you support or you'd like to mention and why its important to you.
The mountains are near and dear to my heart. For so long, the place where I grew up was more a source of shame than anything else. As a kid, I played in abandoned coal mines and in old coal tipples. The county I grew up in has the distinction of being Pennsylvania's second poorest, and it seemed like no matter where I went, I was reminded of that fact. Add in high unemployment, a "worse than average" health status score, and a suicide rate that was higher than the state average, and you can see why I was reluctant to talk about where I grew up.
But the mountains changed all that. When I started working as a whitewater raft guide I saw a side of these hills that I never could've imagined. I met people who were awed and astonished by the mountains and their beauty. I met business people who saw opportunity where most only saw despair. So when I had a chance to give something back, I chose Friends of the Cheat, a group that, "… supports the preservation of the Cheat Canyon and encourages land use that protects sensitive wildlife habitat." http://www.cheat.org/
When I was a guide back in the 90s, the Cheat was a dead river. Acid mine drainage had made it unfishable and undrinkable. But the Friends of the Cheat have done some amazing work in the last twenty years to change that. And their Cheat Fest held each May is a heck of a party!
For ALL SAINTS I'm looking at veterans' charities to work with. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America does some amazing work. http://iava.org/
Question 3: This is important! You will be graded! What is your favorite character in the movie The Goonies and why? What that character choice says a lot about you as a person and I WILL judge you accordingly. (For example, if Mouth is your favorite character, I'm not sure we can be friends.) Please note that if you have not seen The Goonies and you don't feel you can register an opinion, I may send you a copy just to remedy this fact. I have done it. You can ask Steven Luna (@stevenluna) if you don't believe me.
Hey Mikey, gotta go to the Bathroom?
You thought I was going to say 'Mouth' for a second, didn't you?
It's weird, because I never really thought of this. But when asked, Mikey was the first one to pop into my head.
Mikey had the unenviable responsibility of being in charge. More than Josh even. Mikey had the plans and the heart, and that's how I see myself—as the one who has to make sure everybody's going to be okay. The one who stays up at night worrying. Sometimes it sucks, being the responsible one, but it must come from being the older brother. (Right now a bunch of people are reading this and wondering who the heck I'm talking about. And I'd remind them that the Goonies question is being answered by 'Jason Miller,' not 'Jason Jack Miller.' Big difference there. Huge, in fact.
Jason Jack Miller knows it’s silly to hold onto the Bohemian ideals of literature, music, and love above all else. But he doesn’t care.
His own adventures paddling wild mountain rivers and playing Nirvana covers for less-than-enthusiastic crowds inspired his Murder Ballads and Whiskey series, published by Raw Dog Screaming Press. The first three books are currently available: The Devil and Preston Black, Hellbender, and The Revelations of Preston Black. The next installment, All Saints, is due out in 2014.
Hellbender was Jason's thesis novel for Seton Hill University's Writing Popular Fiction Graduate Program, where he is now adjunct faculty. The novel won the Arthur J. Rooney Award for Fiction and is a finalist for the Appalachian Writers Association Book of the Year Award.
His career got its start when he co-authored an outdoor travel guide with his wife in 2006. Since then his work has appeared in newspapers, magazines, literary journals, online, as part of a travel guide app for mobile phones, and in the award-winning writing guide Many Genres, One Craft.
When Jason isn't writing he's on his mountain bike or looking for his next favorite guitar.
He is a member of The Authors Guild, Pennwriters, and International Thriller Writers. He lives just outside of Pittsburgh with his wife, Heidi, and a cat. His blog is http://jasonjackmiller.blogspot.com. Tweet him @jasonjackmiller.