Many in indie publishing circles know Gurley from his cover work, including Hugh Howey’s SAND, Michael Bunker’s Pennsylvania, and the list goes on… (Full disclosure: Gurley was incredibly gracious to me last summer, designing the covers for my Veil series as well as Ant Apocalypse.) While the covers are striking on a number of levels, Gurley has continued to work on his writing, which is exceptional on its own merits. His spectacular WOOL series Greatfall has consistently been a bestseller in Kindle Worlds, his short stories have been widely praised and were recently collected in the book Deep Breath Hold Tight, and advance praise for Eleanor has been high.
Jason will say later in the interview that Peter Cawdron has compared the book to Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. While I haven’t read the entire novel yet, when I read an advance portion months ago, I was immediately struck at how similar in tone it really was to Gaiman’s latest book, but it also reminded me a lot of some of Dean Koontz’s works, notably Odd Thomas.
I had an opportunity to interview the man, and he did not disappoint. Following are some very revealing answers that will give you insight into the man behind Eleanor.
I noticed from your biography that you were born in Texas, but then lived in Alaska. Tell me — what is the best and worst things about the Witness Protection Program?
Well, the best is that they send you places like Alaska. And the worst is that they make you change your name to Gurley. Man, the fights I got into over that name. Man. I got called ‘Swirly Gurley’ a lot, by one guy in particular. I was never really sure what he meant by it, but it seemed to make him laugh, so I let it go.
‘Let it go’. As if I was six-three and smacking other kids around like they were paper cutouts. Nope. I was the skinny kid with too-big glasses. My nickname should’ve been Easy Target.
Thanks for opening up these painful memories with the first question of the interview, by the way. <sob>
I “heard” that you have a problem with quotation marks. “True?” or “False?” What other punctuation could the world live without? (Please say Oxford Comma — I could use the blog hits.)
I assume you’re referring to my early novels, and not my deep-seated prejudice against clarifying punctuation marks. You’re right, of course. The Man Who Ended the World, and my two series novels The Settlers and The Colonists, are quotation-mark-free. And man, some people really, really don’t care how good your book is when you leave quotation marks out. Some people really, really love their quotation marks.
Not that I blame them. Who doesn’t love a good quotation mark? Chewy, satisfying… and there are two of them! And, if used properly, there are two more at the end!
I don’t expect the hubbub is over yet, though. My next book project is The Travelers, the final book in the series I mentioned above. And if you think I’m putting quotation marks into the last book of the series just because some people weren’t happy about the first two… well, you’d be wrong. See, as much as other people may be sticklers for punctuation, I’m a stickler for continuity. Perhaps even more so.
That said, I wrote those books quotation-mark-free on purpose, not because my keyboard was broken or because I was thumbing my nose at years of tradition. I’d call Cormac McCarthy over here to defend me, but I’m afraid of him.
My cat’s name is Ellie, which is short for Duke Ellington, but she’s a female cat, so we sometimes lengthen her name to Eleanor. How did you know this and how long have you had hidden cameras inside of my home?
I’m really unsettled by this. Not that you found the hidden cameras — by the way, you only found four of them; I installed seven — but that you have a female cat named for a man but whose male name you shorten, then extend again into a female name. That’s like me saying my daughter was named Ralph Waldo Emerson, but we call her Emma for short. Actually, no that’s not quite right at all. I’d have to shorten her name to something else first.
I’d try, but my brain is already confounded by this logic, man.
You’ve been so wonderful to so many new authors (myself included — thanks man!). If I had to make a movie about your life, I would love to see a scene like at the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life” where all the people George touched (not literally — that’s gross) stepped up when it made a difference, except in this case dozens of authors would send tweets on your behalf (since we are all antisocial introverts).
I’m going to confess something here that I’ve never confessed to anyone else: I’ve never seen It’s a Wonderful Life. But the scene you’re describing sounds an awful lot like the “O Captain, my Captain” scene from Dead Poets Society, or the bell-ringing scene from White Squall, or probably fifty other scenes from thirty-two other movies.
Also, I don’t know what you mean about being wonderful to authors. I go out of my way to be cruel and inhospitable to other authors as often as possible.
With all that said, what movie would you liked to be dropped in the middle of? What part would you play?
Field of Dreams. I’d be Ray Kinsella, the Costner character. There’s nothing I don’t love about that movie. And just talking about it now makes me really, really, really want to watch it. The Costner part would be perfect for me, except I’d start crying when I said, “Dad? Want to have a catch?”
So that’s my answer, I guess. Except I’d also want to be James Earl Jones. I really want to know what’s in that corn, Will. What’s in the corn?
(I’ve seen Children of the Corn. Enough said.)
I’ve always thought I wanted to live in Washington state (no property tax), but do all my shopping in Oregon (no sales tax). Why are you taking my dream and doing it backwards?
I wish I had an answer for you. I really do, Will. I really do. You’re just going to have to be okay with my not having an answer for this one. I hope that it won’t keep you up at night.
What is the best thing about being a father (and no fair saying everything)?
Well, that changes every day. Right now, though, the best thing is dance parties. Squish will run up to me or to my wife and say, “Dance party!” and start doing this crazy, running-in-place jig. So we’ll dance along, and there we are, the three of us, just jog-dancing in the kitchen at seven-thirty in the evening, for no particular reason.
It really doesn’t get any better than that.
I just noticed that you designed the cover for the #1 book on Amazon and it wasn’t Hugh Howey’s. Who did you have to kill to make this happen?
Right? I couldn’t believe it when I saw it. And you’re right, I did expect that if this ever happened, it would be with one of Hugh’s books. We got really close with Sand — I think he got all the way to #2 on Amazon with that one. But I’m really stoked that it happened with this one. Since you didn’t mention the title, I will — it was Max Allan Collins’s Supreme Justice. And I’m really excited about it being that book because I’m a big fan of Max’s work. It’s probably his most obvious title to be a fan of, but Road to Perdition is really special to me, both his book and the film adaptation. I’m just floored that I got to work on one of his books at all. That’s not supposed to happen.
What’s the craziest thing anyone has said about Eleanor yet? How are you dealing with the hype before the release?
The craziest has to go to Peter Cawdron, who so kindly compared the book to Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Runner-up is probably Michael Bunker, who compared it to A Wrinkle in Time. I love both of those books, and Gaiman and Madeleine L’Engle are so much more accomplished than me. Clearly Bunker and Cawdron have lost their minds.
I’m trying to deal with the hype by creating as much of it as I possibly can! This book is so very special to me. I want to give it every chance to succeed, and to do everything right that I possibly can. So I’ve been all over the place, doing interviews like this one (thank you!), showing up on podcasts. I was on the Self-Publishing Podcast last week — my first video interview ever. I’m doing another one this week, and another in July, and trying to schedule more.
I’m also doing everything I can to get the book into as many people’s hands as possible. Everyone who has subscribed to my newsletter, for example — some eight hundred people at last count — are going to get free copies of the book later this week. (So if anyone wants in, they can sign up at jasongurley.com/free-books/) And I’ve put together an exclusive ebook, The Eleanor Sketches, for anyone who preorders the novel.
I’ve spent thirteen years writing this novel, and it’s finally done. And I think it’s actually good. So I’m trying to do right by it — if not for me, then for my 2001 self, who is somewhere back there in time, just starting to dream up the first lines of the book while on an Oregon highway at four a.m., with no idea of how many more years he’ll spend revisiting and rewriting those lines.
Thanks for having me, Will!