Interview with Jeff Whelan

Jeff Whelan

Interview Date: 4/2/2012


Jeff Whelan was born near Chicago and did his growing up in the smallish town of DeKalb, Illinois. Taking time to travel up and down the east coast with a carnival in his teens and spending a good part of his 20s living and working in San Francisco, Jeff returned to DeKalb and, to his surprise, found himself settling down and starting a family. Jeff worked 20 happy and fulfilling years in the field of special education. Then, thanks to the high cost of day care, he became a happy and fulfilled stay-at-home parent. Now that his children are both full-time schoolers, he has made his triumphant return to work by day as a special education paraprofessional and remains, by night, a home-based medical transcriptionist.

From an idea born in 1982, Jeff's first full-length novel was finally completed in 2001. Ten years later, he discovered the wonders of e-book self-publishing and is delighted to have a way to share his story with readers hungry for a departure from adolescent wizards and teenage vampires. Matters of life and death, it turns out, don't have to be so serious all the time.

When did you start writing, and was there a significant event that prompted you to do so?

I've probably been writing since I could wield a crayon but a lot of those early works are long gone. One significant event that I can remember was back in 2nd grade when we were assigned our first book report. We had to choose an animal and write a one page essay. My essay on alligators was chosen as the best and read aloud to the class by the teacher. I guess it was then that I knew I had something in me. Too bad that teacher didn't retire into the publishing field. I'd be more than happy to send her more work.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be? (Assuming said power would be reasonably "powerful.")

Wow. So many to choose from. But I think it would have to be the ability to duplicate myself at will so I could get more stuff done.

Kev's response: That's a good one - although from what I know about you, I'm wondering if these clones wouldn't split themselves and you'd end up with a crowd, all of which would go running off after that Wendy's girl with the pigtails into the giant pit.... >;P

Do you have a favorite superhero from novels, comics, or movies?

I've always been partial to The Mighty Thor. As a youngster I really dug his hair. And that hammer. My oldest has gotten into Thor now so I still get to enjoy him.

Kev's response: Pfah! One does not need to rely on kids to enjoy our superheroes! The kids should learn from us to love them!

Where do you get your inspiration for writing? What motivates you?

Just about anything. When it comes to poetry, nature is a big motivator. With fiction, it's the absurdities of most human behavior. My greatest inspirations, however, are my wife and my two sons. They are what truly brought me to life.

Kev's response: I believe you are confusing them with Dr. Frankenstein, but I'll let it go for now....

Do you pre-plan your stories, or are you a by-the-seat-of-the-pants style writer?

A little of both. With fiction, I'll chew on an idea for months, even years, before sitting down and letting the pen take over (I prefer to write first drafts longhand). Most poetry just falls out on its own.

Do you write only when inspired, or do you have a set schedule where you sit down to write?

I wish I could say I had a set schedule but working two jobs and being a full-time family man does cut into my time. When truly inspired, I'll find time to scrawl down lines, ideas or poetry just about anywhere on just about anything (I always carry a pen and paper). My most effective writing is done well after dark and into the wee hours.

Do you have a favorite genre to write in? To read?

I love to write science fiction because it allows me to make up just about anything and have it seem plausible. I love to read speculative fiction as well but not necessarily hard-core sci-fi. Oh, and my boys and I are way into Marvel comics and graphic novels.

What do you enjoy the most about writing?

I enjoy being in the zone, when the story seems to happen by itself. When I feel like I'm just a catalyst for the story, moving the pen on the paper so that the words can come out. And I love it when stories take their own direction, going places I didn’t expect them to go.

Is there any part of writing that you don't enjoy?

Getting started. And finding the time to continue. And let's not forget all those rejection notices.

Can you tell me something odd about yourself?

I can wiggle my eyeballs at will. (Would that be considered a superpower?)

Kev's response: I'll write that one off to a flaw in Dr. Frankenstein's machinations, but experiments DO go awry....

Do you write one story at a time, or do you have several novels in the works at one time?

One at a time, although there are several irons in my mental fire at the moment that need tending.

Where do you see the future as far as paper books versus digital e-books?

I believe, and I sincerely hope, that paper books will be with us forever. They have something we will never get with e-books - the heft, the feel, the smell, the durability. But I also believe, and sincerely hope, that e-books are here to stay as well. They have afforded independent authors the ability to get stories out to readers when royalties and fame are not the primary concern. Would it be great to be the next Stephen King, J. K. Rowling or Suzanne Collins? Sure. But mostly we've got stories to tell and we just want them read. The e-book industry has given us the opportunity to make that happen apart from traditional publishing, which can be a tough nut to crack especially for writers in very narrow niches such as humorous, young adult science fiction. Not to mention e-books are generally way cheaper then paper (once one has made the investment in an e-reader).

What are your current projects?

There is a sequel to Space Orville tentatively titled Methuselah's Cradle that's been brewing in the back of my mind since I finished the first book. I've even got notes, which is a rare thing for me. Also, I wrote an autobiographical short story called Greyhound (which can be found on my blog) based on my 19th year when I left home, found myself in Miami and wound up with a job travelling with the carnival. Greyhound, which only covered the leaving home bit, was very well-received and there have been requests for more of the rest of that story. That's at the front of my mind right now. It's a pretty wild story I'd like to tell.

Do you have any advice for others about self-publishing?

Do it. It's ridiculously easy. Keep plugging away at the print publishers if you must, but if you really want to just get your writing out there, it can be done. If I may share some links for prospective self-publishers, I started with Amazon at Smashwords is another resource at Barnes & Noble is another at as is Lulu at Finally, once you've self-published your e-book, surrender yourself to the social network. I shunned it for years until I got Space Orville out there. Then, at the knowledgeable behest of my wife, I got started on facebook. Next thing you know, I'm on twitter, I've got a blog and I list my book on as many social networking sites as I can find. Without a publisher, you bear the burden of marketing your own work and the internet has a bazillion resources for independent writers. Use 'em.

Do you have any online sites where readers can find out more about you (and your books)?

I sure do, thanks for asking! is my Wordpress blog where you can find my some of my short stories and poetry as well as samples of my novel, Space Orville, and links for purchase. is my page at The Independent Author Network where you can also find samples and links to Space Orville as well as check out my author bio. The Independent Author Network, by the way, is a most excellent resource. Newbies should definitely consider hooking up with them. is my personal facebook page, if anyone is interested. is Space Orville's facebook page, which has been subject to the new facebook "timeline" that I personally loathe.
Any and all are more than welcome to follow me on twitter @SpaceOrville.
Finally,,,, and are links to my author pages at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and Lulu respectively.

Kev's response: Jeff, thanks for being part of this with me, and I wish you the best. Perhaps another jolt of electricity will fix that eye thing. :)

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