Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Pets in Writing with Jeremy Higley

This week we’re going to find out a little about author Jeremy Higley. October’s theme is ‘Pets in Writing’ so Jeremy will be talking about pets. He’ll also tell us a little about himself and his writing, and answer some fun questions.

Jeremy Higley was born in California but now lives in Arizona. As of 2016 he’s a graduate student working on a master’s degree in English. He’s also an instructional aide at a local elementary school, a novelist, and a contributing editor for a nonprofit student success company called LifeBound.

Beverley: Are you a pet person?
Jeremy: You got me. I’m a pet person. One of those toy humans you can carry around in a purse. My owner’s a little sparing with the treats, but still... it’s a good life. No complaints. At least she doesn’t dress me up and take pictures for her Instagram. So unnatural. :-P
Beverley: Do you think pets (dogs/cats/birds/ horses/ etc.) belong in books? Why?
Jeremy: I think anything humans can be made to care about can find a place in human books, but animals aren’t just something humans care about. Animals are an important aspect of what makes us human. We need animals. They hold an irreplaceable role in the story of how humans came to be, and they continue to inform our humanness in ways both striking and subtle. Narrative worlds that don’t include animals tend to be barren and alien, stark and unfriendly. There are certainly stories out there that don’t include animals, but they are the exception. And a very strange exception at that.
Beverley: Should they be the main characters? Why?
Jeremy: They can be, and for more reasons than you can count. Animal characters have been an important part of the storytelling mythos for much longer than literature as we know it has existed. The first cave paintings, which could very well be interpreted as having a narrative aspect, were about animals. Why do we tell stories about animals? A cynical view would hold that we first told stories about them because it allowed us to hunt them better. With stories we could wear the animals as masks, and try to think as they thought. I like to think it was never so cut and dry, however. Animals have always inspired our respect and appreciation. Even as we took advantage of their presence in the environment, we’ve learned to respect the fact that not all animals can be tamed. Not all animals can be our friends. And the stories about the foxes, wolves, spiders, and tigers of the world... those have turned out to be some of our most interesting.
Beverley: Should animals in books talk?
Jeremy: It depends on the book, of course, but I would be disappointed if there were ever a day when people stopped writing stories about talking animals. And that’s not just because I’m a hardcore fan of Brian Jacques, Beatrix Potter, and A. A. Milne. Sure, anthropomorphism is a bit like recreating the world in our own image, but that’s only one of its many uses. It can also offer voices to characters who wouldn’t normally have a voice.
Beverley: Do you include pets in your books? 
Jeremy: Duskain, the continent on which The Son of Dark is set, is just coming out of an economic and cultural dark age. As a result, most of the animals you would truly call pets, in the modern sense, only exist in the houses of the aristocracy. Most of my characters have work animals, such as Zar’s horses and Mynjar’s elephants, who have an important function to serve. They’re both more and less than pets.
Beverley: Any other thoughts on pets, and pets in books?
Jeremy: Speaking of elephants, I made a point of making them the livestock animal in the land of Duskain, because it raised interesting questions for me. The characters acknowledge that there was a time when elephants were intelligent and wild, but generations of domestication and breeding have resulted in a creature that is much more like modern cattle. Cattle, meanwhile, continue to roam free in Duskain and have never been domesticated. They’re much more intelligent than the average cow you’ll encounter now. We don’t always realize it, but the way we humans treat animals has a profound effect on them, not just now, but far into the future. I think the same can be said for the way we treat each other.
Beverley: Which genre or genres do you write or prefer to write?
Jeremy: I’ve mostly written fantasy and space opera. Someday I think it would be fun to write historical fiction, and even some non-fiction. I have this clingy dream to one day write a book called Dating for Weirdos, for those who feel a bit different and even left out when it comes to romance.
Beverley: What prompted you to write in the genre/s you do?
Jeremy: I feel speculative fiction’s popularity is well-earned. It combines the sublimity of the fairy tale with the human interest of drama, leading the novel closer and closer to what epic poetry once was for the ancient. Is that really why I write in these genres, though? No. I write them because they’re fun to read and to write.
Beverley: What genres do you enjoy reading?
Jeremy: Well, fantasy and science fiction and space opera and other such speculative fiction are among my favorites, and they inspire a great deal of my writing. That includes such classics as Ray Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein, H. G. Wells, Orson Scott Card, T. H. White, Tolkein, J. K. Rowling, and C. S. Lewis, with plenty of Rick Riordan, Brandon Mull, Brandon Sanderson, John Flanagan, David Eddings, and Robert Asprin thrown in the mix. But I also love Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, and Percy Bysshe Shelley. An odd mix, I know.
Beverley: I’d love to hear what you think of the present genres, how they’ve been affected by self-publishing and where you think they might be headed.
Jeremy: I’m not convinced we’ve gotten to the point where self-publishing is a threat to publishing. If anything the situation is quite the opposite. As the Information Age grows and the varieties of media proliferate, people need industry gatekeepers more than ever. But who said anything about self-publishing and publishing being at odds? If anything, I think they cater to different audience needs. I go to Netflix for shows with a strong story, but I go to YouTube for variety shows, funny videos, and educational shows. Novels are still, by and large, much easier for a publisher to distribute widely than an author.  Some authors manage to break into the industry on their own, but most do not. It’s so much work that could be devoted to writing. Webcomics and blogs, on the other hand, are almost exclusively self-published. They’re a mostly digital media, and require a very different kind of marketing from a novel.
Beverley: How long have you been writing?
Jeremy: I made my first real attempt at writing a novel when I was fourteen. The story branched out and grew until it was so monstrous and the stakes were so high and the situation was so impossible that I just couldn’t write my way out of it. I’m going to have to revisit that novel, one of these days.

Beverley: Who influenced you the most in deciding to become a writer?
Jeremy: A very determined German lady, who wouldn’t award me my Communications merit badge until I could produce college-level prose.
Beverley: What obstacles did you have to overcome to begin creating your work?
Jeremy: There weren’t any obstacles in the way of beginning. I was first starting to make up stories when I was a toddler, just like most children. Storytelling is a very natural human ability. I think that was the biggest realization I had to make before I could start writing novels seriously, though. I didn’t need to wait for some vision of my best writing self to materialize. I just had to get started. Every author, great or small, has had to start in the exact same place. With a first word.
Beverley: What gets your creative juices flowing?
Jeremy: Disney villain songs. Those are some go-getters, I tell you. Very proactive. Know what they want. We could learn more from them, at least in terms of how to get things done.
Beverley: What will stop your creative muse the quickest?
Jeremy: Tooth pain and social anxiety.
Beverley: What do you have for breakfast?
Jeremy: Cold cereal, an apple, and an episode of Good Mythical Morning.
everley: What do you wear when you are writing?
Jeremy: Pajamas! Oh, I wish. More often than not, just whatever I happen to be wearing when I get some time alone to write.
Beverley: Where do you do most of your writing?
Jeremy: Lately, I’ve been writing at the local college library. There’s lots of silent study spaces, a snack vending machine, and decent wifi.
Beverley: Do you have a favorite cartoon character? Why?
Jeremy: I think Aang, from Avatar: The Last Airbender, is one of the best-written characters in an animated show you’ll ever find. I recommend the series as a powerful example of high fantasy TV at its most accessible and engaging.
Beverley: Who would you love most to meet 'in person' and why?
Jeremy: I don’t have to admit to anything. You can’t make me! You’ve got nothing on me, officer!
Okay, okay. It’s Lindsey Stirling, because I’d like to thank her for how inspiring her music and the story behind her music has been to me and my art, and even my life.
That or Enoch. Don’t ask me why.
Beverley: If you had an unexpected free day what would you do with it?
Jeremy: I’d spend it with people I love. Or characters I love. Or both!
Beverley: What are you working on now?
Jeremy: I’m working on the sequel to my first book. This one is titled: Tales of the Darksome Thorn: Dead Forsworn, and continues the adventures of Skel and his fellow adventurers. A war is brewing. The Irontree Forest is on the move, and the armies of Duskain must be gathered to meet it. Oblivious to all this, Skel’s team has fallen into the clutches of a tribe of rogue golems called the Trin. Greedy and inhuman, the golems prove to be a force too great for even Nynsa to deal with. Each team member will have to grow and adapt if they ever hope to reach the shores of Craun and break Marga’s curse.

Blurb for The Son of Dark (Book 1, The Darksome Thorn):

A thousand years ago, the wizards of the Nynsa  failed to follow the prophecy of the Darksome Thorn, and now the greatest evil of their time has survived into the next age. 
Now, the Darksome Thorn has revealed a new prophecy, and the very evil they failed to kill is working to use that prophecy to his advantage. Forces of evil run rampant in the land of Duskain. Ancient powers are stirring. A greater darkness is imminent...
...and Skel, the foster son of an elephant herder, finds himself caught in the middle of everything. Will Skel's newly developing powers be a help or a hindrance...

Buy Links:

Amazon UK:

You can find Jeremy at:

YoutubeTrailer Link:

Don’t forget to check back next week for another author interview and discussion of pets in books.


  1. Well done , Jeremy. You answered these questions in an intelligent and creative way. It’s an interesting read.

    Best of luck with your book


    1. Thank you, Linda! They were fun questions to think about.