Interviewed by the impeccable Steve Turnbull

The following was originally posted in Mr. Turbull’s regular Voidships Newsletter. Be good lads and lasses and subscribe to this wonderful steampunk newsletter here. And… to celebrate, I’m offering Klockwerk Kabaret for .99 cents for a limited time! Get your copy now.

Here is the interview in its entirety.

jack_hands_logoI’m not entirely sure what a Zombie King looks like but if anyone can claim the title it’s probably Jack Wallen. He is best known for his huge range of zombie books – I didn’t count them – but he also has another series of books called the Klockwerk Movement which are steampunk.

We’re allowed to call it a series because he’s just about to release Tick Tock Girl the sequel to Klockwerk Kabaret.

I chased Jack down, pinned him against the wall and forced him to answer questions. I have to say they are very complete answers so grab a coffee/tea/gin and take a seat to discover all there is to know about him and his works.
Steve: Tell us about yourself. Who is Jack Wallen?
Jack: I’ve been an artist soul since childhood, creating new and “improved” versions of all those monsters that live in every child’s closet. Halloween was my “jam” and that feeling of awe-struck wonder I had every time October rolled around carried into adulthood.

Before I became a writer, I spent the majority of my adult life as a professional actor. I did Broadway, Shakespeare festivals around the country, and countless theatres and productions. It was that experience that really shaped my soul and coerced me into the world of writing.

Steve: And when did you first, without hesitation, call yourself a writer?
Jack: I’ve always considered myself an “artist in motion”. What I mean by that is I have allowed my artistry to evolve from one medium to another with as little separation as possible. During my last few years as an actor, I knew I had to find a new form that would allow me to feed my soul. I’d already penned a number of stage plays, so the transition was very natural. Even with the ease of transition, it wasn’t until I’d written my third book that I truly considered myself a writer.

Everyone has at least one book in them. Writing a sequel to that book is often just as easy. Venturing beyond the world of that first work is where you finally test your mettle. So the third book, proved to me that I could truly navigate the waters of authorship.

Steve: You’re just launching Tick Tock Girl. Tell us about it?
Jack: Tick Tock Girl is the second book in the Klockwerk Movement series. As you might have already inferred, the series veers toward clockpunk. Time has always fascinated me.

The first book, Klockwerk Kabaret, was my first steampunk novel and originally going to be a one-off. However, I enjoyed the writing and the world so much, I had to return. Steampunk is such a lush and dense genre that offers up layer upon layer of fascination and intrigue.

The series follows husband and wife team Nathan Gage and Olivia Nightingale as they run the Klockwerk Kabaret as well as protect Mainspring from the nefarious goings on that spill from the Keep of Keys.

The description of Tick Tock Girl is simple:

Tick. Tock. Tick Tock. The clock is winding down. Let’s play a game, a daring game, until the bells do sound. She plays with time like a lover’s touch, a mesmerizing skill. She’ll steal your heart, your clockwork heart, and then your very will.

Nathan and Olivia are back and this time the clock is not on their side. From the heart of the Keep of Keys a new villain arrives to take over Mainspring and rain down a chaos of past, present, and future nightmares.

Tick Tock GirlSteve: I can’t deny I love the cover myself – how did it come about?
Jack: When I was looking for a cover for the first book in the series, I came across Maria Urban on Deviant Art. She’s a delightful cosplayer and has a lovely character called The Lady of Time. I contacted her and asked if I could use one of the images on my book cover. She was thrilled and agreed. I sent her a signed copy of the book and she’s been so lovely and wonderful about it.

When I started working on the second book, I naturally wanted Maria back. I had already written the first few thousand words of the story and sent her the opening pages that described the Tick Tock Girl character. I asked if she wanted to create the character for her cosplay portfolio and she did. It was perfect. After three photoshoots, she sent me hundreds of images to choose from. Selecting the final image for the book was one of the hardest things I’ve done as a writer (they were all that good).

Steve: You’re probably most well known as a horror author, so why steampunk?
Jack: I don’t like to be pigeonholed with anything I do. Yes, what I mostly write is horror, but I tend to write what I love and what my heart and mind call out for. After diving very deep into the apocalyptic genre (which is my bread and butter), I needed a break. I’ve always been keen on fashion and adored the look and feel of steampunk. The genre is so wide open and combines so many elements that could appeal to anyone. Writing Klockwerk Kabaret was probably the most fun I’d had in my career to that point. It was pure joy.

Naturally, being a horror writer, my take on the genre wound up being a bit darker than the standard fare…but it still has all the “requisite” elements that make the genre so glorious.

Steve: Bearing in mind your subject matter, how real do you consider your books to be? Is that even important?
Jack: I find it fascinating that readers are willing to suspend disbelief…but only up to a point. To that end, I do everything I can to make my work believable within the framework of what I’ve created. Once you’ve set the stage and pointed the reader in the right direction, anything can happen so long as it follows the laws you’ve set forth. I think lovers of fiction don’t expect your work to suffer the slings and arrows of man-made reality. They open up my books, they understand the ground rules are set and so long as I play by them, everything is good to go.

Steve: Is there a message in your novels that you want readers to grasp?
Jack: Most of my novels center around a thin thread of self-acceptance and truth. Even Tick Tock Girl carries a bit of that within the warp and weft of the story.

Steve: Is there an author you really admire? Why?
Jack: Clive Barker is my idol. He was the first author to convince me to read and write. No other author manages to weave together grace, eloquence, and the horrific as well as he.

Steve: What are you working on next?
Jack: At the moment I have three projects going. I’m writing the sixth full length novel in my I Zombie series, Fry Zombie Fry – which should be released late summer, 2015. I am also working on a co-authored book with three other dear friends of mine: Armand Rosmailia, Jay Wilburn, and Brent Abel. This book is the second in a horror comedy series we started writing last year. Finally I’m hoping to release a very special “themed” zpoc short story collection with some of the top writers in the genre. This collection is called Middletown Apocalypse and will hopefully arrive late summer/early fall, 2015.

Steve: How is this world a better place because of your books?
Jack: I have heard from a number of readers who’ve told me my books have helped them through some really tough times. One reader took my I Zombie series into rehab with her and swears its the only reason she made it. That is what it’s all about for me…using my craft to help people escape when they need.

I don’t just write to entertain…I write to turn the mirror in upon the collective face of humanity and highlight the good and the bad, the beautiful and the horrific. To me, the written word is an incredibly powerful device and I try very hard to use it with grace and heart.

Steve: Thanks, Jack.