Author Interview: Jude S. Walko

a tree that's half in darkness, half in light; text says, 'author interview: indie book spotlight'

Check out this review of The Unhallowed Horseman by Grimoire of Horror!

front cover of the unhallowed horseman. small text says 'a novel by jude s. walko' 'foreword by jonathan kruk'

1.      Paperback, hardback, audiobook?

For reading, I’m a paperback guy. I love the feel of the paper in my hand. The smell of older books. The crease every new set of fingerprints leaves on the pages, and any notes or inscriptions that show the history of who may have read it. 

As far as publishing my book, ebook for convenience, paperback for the same reasons above, and hard cover for the collector. I’m also working on the audible version for those on-the-go.

2.      Pick a genre, any genre!  

Horror! No matter how much I stray from it, I always seem to keep coming back. If I am to define it even further, psychological thrillers with a twist get me every time.

3.      What is the first book you remember reading?

If we are not counting Dr. Seuss and children’s books, the first book that I really processed intellectually was Where The Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.  This was followed by seeing the 1974 film version with my school, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house including teachers and children alike.

4.      What book shaped your childhood most?

Definitely Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. It was the first time it felt like it was completely acceptable to follow your imagination down any rabbit hole, and that this was not only normal, but encouraged. Also all of Judy Blume’s coming-of-age books, like the Fudge series, definitely were captivating and inspiring. 

5.      When did you first start writing?

I remember trying to create my first stories somewhere probably around the age of 10. My first “Yuppie Puppy” was a colossal failure.

I had always written poetry and prose for as long as I could remember. In high school seminary, quickly followed by college, I had some great mentors that encouraged my abilities. I soon found that writing was one of the things that came most naturally to me, and that it was a great way for me to express my ebullient imagination on paper, even more so than the spoken word. It wasn’t until my mid 20s that I attempted to write screenplays which eventually led to my debut novel nearly two decades later.

6.      What made you want to write? Does it still hold true?

I guess there were two things.

The first being that eternal flame that burns inside all creative personalities. The need to create something out of thin air, to tell a story over a metaphorical “campfire” and get an entertaining reaction out of it. The need to be able to share an experience or a shred of morality through storytelling and without beating someone over the head with it. The more imaginative and beguiling, the more receptive the audience would be.

The second being that I have so many stories in my head. I don’t know where they come from, but I definitely need an outlet for them.

Both of these reasons still hold as true today as they ever did.

7.      What book/poem are you most proud of creating?

My novel, The Unhallowed Horseman, is what I am most proud of. It’s the culmination of everything I learned as a storyteller. It includes all the life experience, education, and wonderful examples of fiction that came before mine, to help guide the way. What’s more, it’s a homage to some of the things that have influenced me over the years like Washington Irving, Classic Literature, Tim Burton, Halloween and my older brother, among many, many others.

8.      Did you publish your first book or is it for your eyes only?

I did publish it. I needed to get the story out into the world come Hell or high water. 

9.      How many books/collections have you published so far?

So far I have published just the one, but more and more of my prose pieces are creeping up online and through various outlets. I do want to publish a collection of my short stories at some point, and I have been mulling over my next novel ideas since the very moment I completed the first one.

10.   What genres do you write in (or hope to)?

Mainly horror or psychological thriller, and although it’s good to brand oneself, I don’t like to pigeon-hole myself into a single genre. I have written love stories, children’s fairy tales, coming of age and a tinge of Sci-Fi, but definitely if I want to be well known for a single genre, it will be horror. 

11.   Do you do research for your writing or is it all in your head?

The story is all in my head, but research is absolutely necessary. I often say that the internet is an author’s biggest distraction and simultaneously their greatest tool. Nowadays, so many people have access to information. You would be a fool not to use all the materials at your fingertips to embellish the validity of your fiction. And that’s just historical and factual things. That doesn’t even include the wonderful world of expanding one’s vocabulary. Every author does it and for very good reason.

12.   To plan, or not to plan your plot?

To each their own. But for me I can’t plot ahead of time. I build my world around characters with rich histories and deep backgrounds.  The protagonists are often flawed and the antagonists can sometimes have redeeming qualities, just like most real humans. I cannot fit a square peg into a round hole, meaning I often don’t know how my characters will react until they are thrown into a situation. If I try and plan that ahead of time it takes away the spontaneity of their actions, or more importantly reactions.  Also the story is King! Sometimes it dictates that a character reacts a certain way, or even dies. Something I wasn’t originally or consciously plotting. In the end, you can always clean up your structure, but to me planning everything kills my personal creative energy. Also if I’m getting “Divine Inspiration” it will come in the moment, not off a cue card or outline structure.

13.   What route of publishing have you chosen? Do you plan to stick with it?

I self-published and I don’t mind. I have a lot of parallel experience with this in the film world. It’s studio versus indie. Traditional publishing obviously allows more people to have access to your work, as well as the all important PR and advertising, but there is something to be said about controlling all the creative materials as is the case in the Indie or self-published world.

Of course, we would all love to be the next Stephen King, but barring that, I will not let my stories be held back simply because I cannot get timely responses to my query letters.

14.   If you could live inside another author’s universe, which one would you pick? (Ex: Middle Earth, Narnia, etc.)

As much as I would probably regret it in real life, I always wanted to live in Charles Dickens’ Victorian England. Maybe I’m reincarnated from that time, because I feel a strong connection to it.

As far as fictional world’s, Roald Dahl’s chocolate factory, or J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World would be pretty damn cool. 

15.   Do you currently have a WIP?

I have many, including several scripts. My next task, however, is to choose which WIP I am going to spend the time on as my next novel. I think I have narrowed it down to three so far. Stay tuned.

16.   Tell me about the character you’ve created who is dearest to your heart.

Oh, so many. I guess, “One Exalted MonSieur SavoirFaire” was one. He was a wealthy aristocrat who bullied everyone while living only to find himself wandering around as a tormented spirit in death with nothing, despite all his riches in his former life. The character and his world is very Dickensian.

Another is the Vicar of Borley which I played as an actor in the film I wrote and directed called, The Incantation. He is an amalgamation of many of the ghost stories, and Hammer film and Christopher Lee inspired characters I love so much.

17.   What do you consider your *current* magnum opus?

Definitely The Unhallowed Horseman. Not only because it at one point was 100k+ word novel (now edited down to about 96K), but because, as mentioned, it’s the culmination of my life experiences, intellect, storytelling and influence from nearly five decades of life, great literature and mind-blowing cinema.

18.   Do you have a favourite romance in your books? Or, if yours features no romance, tell us about your favourite character friendship!

In my current novel the budding romance appears between Vincent, an on the edge dysfunctional teen with some mental health issues, and Lorraine, the epitome of the well-behaved and obedient daughter. They’re complete opposites. The great thing is that their relationship works as a literary vehicle. It waivers between true emotions of love, fear and codependency. Throw into that her overprotective father, Vince’s troubled homelife, and some extraordinary circumstances, and it really becomes a relationship tested by fire.  It may not turn out the way you expect.

19.   Do you listen to music as you write? Recommend a favourite writing song.

YES! I love epic songs and moody songs. Usually instrumentals, so that singing along doesn’t distract me from the writing. Some of my favorite go-tos are “Alice’s Theme” from “Alice in Wonderland” by Danny Elfman, “He’s A Pirate” from “Pirates of the Caribbean” by Hans Zimmer, “Blood Red Roses” by C21FX, and Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”.

20.   Do you have any character art for your books, whether by you or another artist? (Be sure to credit/link if you can!)

Absolutely. My novel first started as a screenplay. As such I hired a fantastic artist, Jake Bowen, to create character art including one inspired by the real life Stan Lee.

You can see most of it on this video of the book’s original fundraising campaign.

21.   If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

Write because you have to. Everything I have done and achieved in life, has not been for fame and fortune and more times than not, did not yield those things.  Write because you have a story to tell, only the way you can tell it. And please remember this: every great literary work came from an author who was most likely sequestered alone with their thoughts, sometimes working by candlelight, and oftentimes not even being recognized for it until posthumously. But yet decades, or even hundreds of years later, we are all still here discussing their works.

22.   Have you entered any writer contests? Tell us about your experience!

I was writing weekly short stories on Reedsy for quite a few months. But to be honest it quickly became discouraging. Although writing each week was a healthy habit at the time, I felt it was forcing me to output stories when I wasn’t necessarily in the creative mood. That ultimately became counter-productive for me personally. It did help me produce some stories I’m proud of, however, and they are still there if anyone cares to read them.

23.   Who are your top 5-10 favourite writers?

Roadl Dahl, Charles Dickens, Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe, Ray Bradbury and strictly from a creative, not political standpoint, J.K. Rowling and H.P. Lovecraft.

24.   Link us your book/twitter/goodreads or wherever we can best connect with you!


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