Ginger Nuts of Horror
Geoff Jones graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Creative Writing from the University of Colorado. His honors thesis was a novella about dragons taking over the world.
Over the next sixteen years, Geoff worked as a video game designer, writing story and dialog for licenses such as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, The Spiderwick Chronicles, Conan the Barbarian, LEGO, and Marvel Superheroes.
Game development taught Geoff how to engage his audience through pacing and flow. He learned the importance of keeping a character’s goals at the forefront while setting up and solving smaller mysteries along the way.
In 2012, Geoff became a User Experience Product Manager for an analytics software company and began work on his first novel.
Geoff Jones lives in Colorado with his wife and two daughters, and has begun work on his next novel, also about everyday folks trapped in an extraordinary (but quite different) situation.
Read Geoff's entry in The Book That Made Me series of guest posts here
Could you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
As a child, I loved the way escapist entertainment could transport me off on an adventure to another world and I always wanted to do that for other people.
When I was eight, I had a homework assignment to be interviewed on audio tape. My father asked what I wanted to do when I grew up. I replied that I wanted to work for George Lucas. I still have the tape in a box somewhere. In 1996, I started working at LucasArts.
I worked in video games for 16 years, building adventures in the worlds of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Conan the Barbarian, Marvel Superheroes, The Spiderwick Chronicles, and LEGO.
The games industry is very tumultuous, however. All four studios I worked for have ceased to exist. In 2012, I got a “real job” as a Product Manager at a business analytics software company. Things are more stable, but I’m not taking people on adventures anymore, so I started a novel.
After three years of writing and re-writing, I have published The Dinosaur Four, a Stephen King-style sci-fi thriller about ten everyday strangers who suddenly find themselves transported back in time.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I love to ski in the winter and hike in the summer. I stay busy with two young daughters who play softball, basketball, volleyball, and are also into Irish dance and gymnastics. I have a pilot’s license, though I’m not current right now.
Of course, I still love to escape off to adventures on other worlds.
What’s your favourite food?
Sushi if we’re going out, anything on the grill if I’m cooking.
Who would be on the soundtrack to your life story?
John Williams, Hans Zimmer, John Carpenter, James Horner, Basil Poledouris, Don Davis
I had the opportunity to see John Williams conduct the San Francisco symphony last fall with Stephen Spielberg on stage. It was magical. For two hours, I was a child again.
Do you prefer the term Horror, Weird Fiction or Dark Fiction?
Who are some of your favourite authors?
I’ve ready everything by Stephen King and love George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire. I’ve also been reading and enjoying books by Joe Hill, Cormac McCarthy, Peter Heller, Andy Weir, Gillian Flynn, Ernest Cline, and Hugh Howey. Nevertheless, I really don’t think I read enough.
What is your all-time favourite horror novel, and film?
Misery keeps coming to mind. Paul Sheldon’s situation is so utterly hopeless and yet believable. When he finally turns the tables on Annie Wilkes, I can’t help but cheer.
I have to go with Alien for the film, even though it isn’t as effective on repeat viewings. But that first time through… wow!
If you could erase one horror cliché what would be your choice?
I’ve read a few books lately that don’t bother to explain or even really establish the rules of their universe. Anything could happen, so long as it served the plot. I can suspend my disbelief pretty easily, but please set up some rules and stick ton an internal consistency.
Which fictional character would be you perfect neighbour, and who would be your nightmare neighbour?
I would love to live next to Quint. He’s such a great storyteller and I would laugh every day as he taunted the landlubbers. I’d need to be on the upwind side, though.
Keep me away from Amy Elliott Dunne. That woman is insane.
What do you think of the current state of the genre?
It’s exciting to see self published books taking off and finding audiences. As a kid, I loved Romero’s Living Dead films and would have gobbled up any books I could find about zombies. Today, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a book about zombies.
What was the last great book you read, and what was the last book that disappointed you?
I loved The Martian by Andy Weir. It’s a great survival story about an astronaut getting stranded on Mars.
I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane recently, and while I found it to be beautifully lyrical, I was never really engaged. It just wasn’t my taste.
How would you describe your writing style?
I plant lots of seeds about things that are coming up in the story. It’s not quite foreshadowing… more like fore-seeding. I think this helps the reader connect dots along the way.
I also read my work out loud (again and again) to make sure it flows well. It’s a painful process, especially when I discover that my daughter has been standing behind me for the past ten minutes.
Are there any reviews of your work, positive or negative that have stayed with you?
As a video game designer, I sometimes got feedback that I was too subtle. I didn’t want to spell things out for people quite as much as they needed. I’ve carried this lesson forward into my novel writing.
What aspects of writing to do you find the most difficult?
Again, as a video game designer, I always worked collaboratively with a team. I was able to collect the best ideas from everyone in the group, and then get tons of feedback during development to make my work stronger. Writing has been a challenge because it’s such a solo effort. I’ve done my best to remedy this by working with a professional editor and also sending out early drafts to a few dozen beta readers, but it’s still tough.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
I’m not sure I’d ever write about vampires. They’ve been done to death.
If you could kill off any character from any other book who would you chose and how would they die?
I’d kill off Roland at the end of The Dark Tower. Anything would have been better than what happened.
How would he die? A T-rex, of course.
What do you think makes a good story?
You have to know what the characters really want, believe that they will never get it, and then find that somehow, against all odds, they do.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?
I try to make sure they are easy to read. Helen was originally Helena, but it flowed poorly when I followed her name with a word beginning with the letter A. Helena asked…. Helena and… Helena accepted…
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?
My career as a video game designer taught me to embrace feedback and helped pare down my ego to something controllable.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
A quiet space with blocks of time, readers who are willing to provide critical feedback, and lots of determination.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
Rachel Weaver, who recently published the literary adventure Point of Direction, pushed me to really escalate the conflict. Instead of having a character think you’re an idiot, he should almost always come right out and say it. “You’re an idiot.”
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
I have been soliciting reviews from indie reviewers, as well as friends and family, of course. I had a free book promotion about ten days after I published, and the response was phenomenal. I’ve been promoting heavily on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Ironically, the fact that the video game industry is so unstable means that my friends and former co-workers are spread far and wide. I’m hoping that will help The Dinosaur Four get noticed as they tell their new co-workers across the country.
Who is your favourite character from your book and why?
I love them all, but Morgan sure was fun to write. He has no filter. He says whatever comes to mind, no matter what anyone else thinks.
How about the least favourite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
I suppose that might be Helen. She’s an old grump. It would not be fun getting stuck in the late Cretaceous with her, but you’d still be happy to have her around, because of her experience hunting, fishing, and camping.
Fame, fortune, or respect?
Honestly, if I can help people escape from their daily lives and go off on exciting adventures, I have succeeded. Doing that really brings me joy.
What piece of your own work are you most proud of?
I’m immensely proud of The Dinosaur Four. According to feedback from my readers, the book succeeds in doing all of the things I wanted it to do. The characters are memorable and distinctive, the action set-pieces and dinosaur attacks are vivid, thrilling, and horrifying, and the book flows along quickly with mysteries that are introduced and resolved at a steady pace.
And are there any that you would like to forget about?
Back in my video game days, I build the first three levels for Star Wars: Bounty Hunter. These levels introduced Jango Fett and many of the game mechanics, but they were way too challenging for the start of the game. I apologize to players everywhere.
For those who haven’t read any of your books, what book of yours do you think best represents your work and why?
The Dinosaur Four is my first novel. See above.
Can you tell us about your last book, and can you tell us about what you are working on next?
I’m working on a novel that may end up becoming a series. Like The Dinosaur Four, it’s about everyday folks trying to survive in an extraordinary situation, but the scope is much larger. There’s an element that is very loosely inspired by the television show Lost, but don’t worry, I will make sure everything makes sense.
What's the one question you wish you would get asked but never do? And what would be the answer?
I always expected I would get more questions about how The Dinosaur Four compares to Jurassic Park.
While I was revising The Dinosaur Four, I read in an article that James Cameron had originally pursued the film rights to Jurassic Park. He went on to say that that Spielberg had made a dinosaur movie for kids, but that he would have gone further, nastier, much nastier.
This resonated for me. I felt like The Dinosaur Four was like the James Cameron version of Jurassic Park, emphasizing character and terror over science and philosophy, with dinosaurs that are more monstrous than magnificent.
And the triceratops in The Dinosaur Four do more than just lie around sick!
Find out more about Geoff by following the links below
Business is brisk at the Daily Edition Cafe as Tim MacGregor arrives to meet his new girlfriend. Two joggers enjoy a hit of caffeine before work. A delivery man takes a break from his route. Behind the counter, the baristas are busy brewing, frothing, and pouring.
But on this morning, the cafe and the people inside are suddenly transported millions of years into the past.
Ten strangers find themselves in the world of Triceratops horridus and Tyrannosaurus rex. Three survivors compete for leadership of the group, while another plots to keep them all in the past. Tim only wants to find out what caused the disaster and how to get home.
THE DINOSAUR FOUR is a fast-paced action-adventure mixed with carnage and suspense in the tradition of JAWS, THE MIST, and JURASSIC PARK.