Guest Post by Jerry Knaak
I have always idolized writers. When I was growing up in Rochester, N.Y., as much as I admired professional athletes, my hero was my father – and my idols were writers. The first novel I read for pleasure was Moby Dick by Herman Melville, I adored The Black Stallion by Walter Farley, and I consumed Hardy Boys mysteries by Franklin W. Dixon. But it was Gothic Horror that affected me the most. I read Dracula by Bram Stoker when I was nine. I read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley shortly thereafter.
Throughout high school we’re made to read literary classics like To Kill a Mockingbird, The Catcher in the Rye, Of Mice and Men, et al. I hated the Charles Dickens and Shakespeare force feedings. I gravitated toward the darker things, the Gothic, the dystopian.
H.P. Lovecraft entered my life at some point in high school. The Call of Cthulhu and numerous movie adaptations of his stories – From Beyond, Re-Animator – and all the films and stories he influenced – the Evil Dead franchise, In the Mouth of Madness, Lord of Illusions, and countless others, had a profound effect on me.
Many people at my book signings have asked what inspired The Dark Passage Series. I point to Dracula and Gothic Horror. I always felt that if I were to write a book it would be a vampire tale and the main character would be a female vampire. Stoker created one of the most iconic villains of all-time and set the bar for the genre. I am privileged to walk around in it.
In my late teens I became aware of the Beat Generation, although I am ashamed to admit I did not read much of their work. I was enthralled by who they were not what they wrote. I finally read Jack Kerouac’s On the Road a few years ago and I fell in love with it. The seminal work also told me that I could write a book. His narrative style was similar to my own blogging style, albeit much more eloquent and descriptive. I read The Dharma Bums and The Haunted Life and half of The Unknown Kerouac.
So, in early 2016, I decided to see if I could pen a novel. I had a premise and a character. It took off and I scored a publishing contract on my first and only query. Thirty-thousand words into the sequel I landed a deal for books two and three in The Dark Passage series. The first, The Dark Truth was published by Trifecta Publishing House out of Port Angeles, Wash., last November, and the sequel, The Dark Descent, dropped this past April. The third, The Dark Terror, is due out in October.
Several Barnes and Noble locations, and my local indie store, have hosted me for book signing events. One Barnes and Noble invited me to participate in a panel discussion. This weekend, I will be part of a panel at the San Francisco Comic Con at the Oakland Convention in downtown Oakland, Calif.
Earlier this evening I learned that I am a finalist for the 2018 Golden Stake Award at the Vampire Arts Festival taking place in Transylvania as I write this.
All of this has happened as I manage working the day job and spending time with my family. Finding time to write can be daunting, but I have been deadline oriented professionally for 25 years. The pressure to meet deadlines has actually helped me achieve these dreams.
As a kid, I always relished creative writing assignments in school and I have been an avid reader since I was very young. I have been writing professionally in one form or another for more than 25 years.
The Dark Passage series is my first real foray into fiction writing. When I was in the Navy and deployed for Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm aboard USS Saratoga (CV-60), I turned my letters home into prose. I detailed my adventures at sea and in Turkey and Israel as memoirs instead of just notes. I’ve written some short stories over the years but they are lost to the ether.
A few years ago some issues cropped up in my professional career and I needed validation. My confidence was shaken. My abilities were doubted, even by me. My main character reflects my transformation. I am in a much better place and role now.
What does this all add up to?
When I received my author copies for The Dark Truth, I was floored. Here were my words in book form. It was a heady tonic. I collect books. I love Stephen King and Dean Koontz and Clive Barker. I never thought I would see my name on the spine of a book.
I never thought I would see a book with my name on it on the shelf of a bookstore.
All of these things have come true.
I now have a seat at a table where I have always wanted to sit and I feel like I deserve that seat. I feel like I belong. I move in circles with published writers. I am a novelist, a storyteller, a word-slinger. I have my validation. I am an author. And nothing has ever felt more natural.
I belong. And nobody can ever tell me I don’t.
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