Like many young men joining the military, Wayne Jackson wanted to serve his country and embark on an adventure beyond the confines of Mineola, Long Island, where he grew up. As a military policeman in Baumholder, Germany, he served Uncle Sam and took time to travel around Europe.
When he was sent to Saudi Arabia in 1990, his unit was full of confidence and youth. During his tour of duty, his unit, along with army engineers, built some of the first detention camps in Iraq. His platoon was attached to a unit of Army intelligence officers and assisted in the capture and interrogation of Saddam Hussein’s spies operating covertly in the cities of Safwan and Basra. Ultimately, Wayne’s unit was awarded for prosecuting more than 10,000 enemy POWs. Yet after six months of witnessing the atrocities and rapid degradation of humanity, Wayne Jackson knew that he would never be the same again.
Once he returned to Germany, Wayne was reassigned to Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, where he later became a member of the Special Reaction Team (SWAT). There, he served the remaining years of his service battling post-traumatic stress disorder and the dramatic aftermath of its evil destruction. Once he was honorably discharged, the demons of the past were always around the corner and once his beloved mother died in 2001 they came to call and Wayne turned to alcohol and became one of the walking wounded as many other former soldiers suffering from PTSD.
After a period of darkness, Wayne was able to find his way back to life through writing. Although he never considered himself a writer, Wayne actually began journaling his military experiences in 1988 when he joined the military. Instead of writing about his experience in Saudi Arabia, Wayne found a sense of peace and creative zeal that was latent for a long time, which is why Instead of the light series born.
Wayne Jackson has a unique perspective that relates to both soldiers and civilians. Instead of light (Dailey Swan Publishing, May 2008) has received rave reviews and is among the titles featured at Book Expo America in Los Angeles.
The following is an interview with Wayne by Eric Brasley of Books of Soul on October 19, 2008.
First I have to ask the most obvious question, what was your inspiration for writing In Lieu of Light?
To be honest and offhand, Eric, when I lived in South Carolina, I was at the lowest point in my life. I was in a very dark place spiritually after witnessing the death of my mother and taking on the enormous responsibility of raising my younger brother. Although the basic plane of the story began years before, after reading the first three novels of Anne RiceIn the Vampire series, I discovered an element that was missing and wanted to take advantage of it. I wasn’t sure how to approach the story until I found myself empty and spiritually bankrupt. Then I was able to tap into the negative energy and make it work for me. In short, I would say that several tragic moments in my life have ignited my ambition and Anne Rice it has inspired me to write about them.
Did your military experience help you develop your novel?
Yes. I would say that my military experience has certainly tempered me as an artist. Having experienced war and combat, I knew then that I was not going to pursue a career in the Army. The atrocities I witnessed still persist and from time to time I can draw from memory just how brutal (humanity) can be. I used photography and writing as my escape route as we moved forward like the rawest element on earth.
Authors seem to approach the task of writing in different ways: writing certain scenes first and building a story, writing the ending first, etc. How do you write? Did you have a favorite moment? A favorite place?
I call my approach to writing “drops in a bucket”. First, let me tell you that you must have an outline before you start, it is the most practical model. The writer can always alter the basic blueprint as the story evolves, but you have to start with the basics, after that it’s just about drops in a bucket. Whenever a thought comes to me, I have a pen and paper, or I use my hand so I don’t lose the idea. At the end of the month, I put all the writing in separate folders that map to the sections of the outline. Then after a few months, I start to piece together the story using the collective material. As for a favorite place or time, I’d say no. But if I needed a character analysis, I would sit for hours in a coffee shop or a mall and write descriptive details of customers as they passed. I’m sure many thought of me as a psychopath or a pervert and shot them glances. But what better way to create a fictional character than from the living?
What shaped your writing style? Where did you get your writing experience and hone your “skills”?
For this question I would have to go back to the first question, but state by saying that my grandmother (Laverne Jackson) was an amazing creative writer and has also inspired me in some way. I must give credit to the deceased.
Can you introduce us to Sabrina and Chantelle, the Le’Noach sisters? How did you come up with these characters?
The two sisters, Sabrina and Chantelle, both biracial girls, grew up on their father’s plantation in post-slavery South Carolina. Most of their lives they lived under the protection of their father and his estate, but are somehow tied to the land due to racial barriers. One quiet afternoon, while playing outside the plantation, they came across young white men from the neighboring farm. A conflict ensues and the young women and their brother fight for their lives. A chain of events occurs and Sabrina is kidnapped by a stranger (a vampire) who was passing towards Charleston. Sabrina’s inner strength and beauty is what saves her from the vampire’s thirst and premature death. The vampire forces Sabrina to do his bidding and help him kill another vampire. In turn, he releases her. Sabrina returns several years later longing for company and family. She leads her younger sister astray, into a dark and sordid life, a lifestyle that Chantelle finds repulsive. (Sorry, I speak vaguely so as not to reveal too much) The two sisters represent how each of us deals with traumatic moments in life. How we choose separate ways to cope with a negative experience. I think everyone has found themselves in a spiritually dark place and some want to break free from it in search of redemption. Others, like Sabrina, choose to live in darkness and as her evil life continues, her hatred grows as well.
Horror fiction always has its “caught” moment, be it suspenseful or gory, that makes the reader turn the page. You don’t have to reveal too much, but what scenes or events will give your readers the creeps?
I would have to say the slaughterhouse chapter. Many readers are puzzled by what happens at the slaughterhouse, when Sabrina is led by the group of boys to the slaughterhouse. Then the vampire is provoked by his aggression and demands his own nature on everyone.
You have plans for a second volume. Whats Next? What seeds are you planting in this novel that will lead us to the next one?
The second novel is complete and will be released in April 2009. The seeds planted in the first book are the mysterious years that Sabrina missed before her return to the United States. I write about her affair with her kidnapper in England while they were tracking down her creator. I also lead the reader on Chantelle’s quest for redemption and her quest for religion, which doesn’t help her situation on a personal level, but reveals a cure. Chantelle realizes that she must first break free of Sabrina’s chained love for the cure to work.
What are your marketing and promotion plans for your novel? Are you looking forward to the book readings and book signings?
Aside from selling books from the trunk of my car and requesting signatures at bookstores, I leave the rest to my agent and publisher. They practically tell me what to do and where to go and sometimes not in a nice way.
Do you belong to a group of writers?
I used to belong to a group of writers when I was living in Miami while promoting this book. They were very supportive and we took turns criticizing each other’s work. I’d like to join another group, but right now I’m inundated with my agent’s demands and the never-ending quest to sell more books. I feel like I spend a lot more time marketing than writing.
What horror authors do you admire?
I don’t really admire any horror author, I was relegated to this genre by my editor. Said, “If it’s got blood and vampires, it’s Horror.” I think it’s more suspenseful with a hint of blood, but an inspirational story told from a macabre point of view.
If you took a good look at your book shelves, what would you find?
I have a very long shelf of books. Most of the books I have read I have donated to the library or Veterans Hospital where I work. If you examine my “shelf”, you will find: the Anne Rice collection, the collective works of Edgar Allan Poe, the works of Oscar Wilde The Picture of Dorian Gray By Ernest Hemmingway The garden of Eden Vladimir Nabokov Lolita By Bram Stoker Dracula CS Lewis’ Screw Tape Letters TS Elliot’s Franz Kafka Storybook Waste land Elizabeth Nunez Daughter of Prospero Milan Kundera The Unbearable Lightness of Being By Toni Morrison The bluest eye The Bible You will also find a wealth of poetry books and books on fine cooking and photography.
Since it’s Halloween time … what was your favorite costume? And what scared you when you were a kid?
The scariest is the clown costume. I don’t know why, but some people shouldn’t wear that costume. Usually I keep it simple and dress as a monk or the Grim Reaper. Save time and money.
What’s the creepiest thing you’ve ever eaten?
When I was a child, I was forced to eat “Cow tongue. “I sat at the table and cried for an eternity but my uncle made me eat it. He called it a delicacy. I called it horrible and abusive.
Going back to writing, what is your favorite part? Developing plots, creating characters, writing dialogue or something else?
My favorite would be to write characters and be as descriptive as possible. One person’s gestures can tell a story on their own and too many writers get caught up in the dialogue. Of course, dialogue can move a story but without a good description of the characters, the story has little depth. Many words can be said without the character even speaking.
Do you have any advice for your fellow writers? Anything that worked for you when writing, finding a publisher and agent, promoting your book?
The best advice I can give you is to believe in yourself even when others don’t. Take criticism lightly, but pay attention to a good criticism. Above all, don’t sign anything without good legal advice, even if you have to pay for it.
Over the years, I have saved some bad contracts that I refused to sign and every now and then I take them out of my briefcase and look at them. Feed my ambition.
Other people will recognize your talent and do their best to exploit it. Many people want a free ride at the cost of their talent, sacrifice, and hard work. Don’t give your cause credit!