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  • Writer's pictureMorgan Elliott

Interview with Jeff Chapman

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I'm back with another author interview. Today we have Jeff Chapman spending some time with us. Jeff and I are kindred spirits. We both have a love for the oddities of the world. Jeff is a fantasy writer. He enjoys adding darker elements to his books which only elevated his book for me. The Great Contagion was a wonderful read. It gave me October vibes in the dead heat of August. The book had everything from realistic drama to magic.It transported me into another dimension and I have to say, I'd like to move there permanently. I'm honestly a little jealous of Merliss. She was an amazing character. One of the stronger female leads I've read and she has to be to survive in her dying land. Seriously, if you're weird like me and crave spooky words year round, this book is for you. Check out the links below to grab your copy!

How did your writing journey get started?

I remember some story writing assignments from grade school but those were derivative. I was probably sixteen when I started creating my own stories. These were Edgar Allan Poe-inspired stories of the weird and macabre. Fortunately, none of those early attempts have survived, but my initial interest in the macabre lingers in the darker elements of my fantasy tales. I took a couple creative writing classes in college and received some positive feedback. After settling into a career, I wrote during my free time but without much hope of publishing. Following a serious illness, I became very serious about my writing and publishing.

Have you traveled a lot? Where is your favorite place?

I’ve been to most regions of the U.S. and Canada. I’ve also been to Asia a couple times and once spent two weeks in Vietnam. Hanoi was a wonderful city to visit with its mix of French colonial architecture and Vietnamese culture.

Is there an author (dead or alive) that you would love to meet? Who?

Kafka, at a coffee house in Prague. I want to know why he didn’t finish The Castle. Although I suspect his answer will be unsatisfying. Still, it would be a great conversation.

When you were a child/teenager what did you think you’d spend your life doing?

When I was a child, I had the usual dreams of being a professional sports star. I set my sights on basketball or bowling. As I matured to a teenager, I imagined myself as a diplomat or an expatriate writer.

How do you find inspiration for your stories?

I have a strong desire to craft stories. Where does that desire come from? I don’t know. The inspiration for particular stories is easier to pin down. For example, the Merliss Tales were inspired by a cat that my family adopted off the street. Smokey arrived at our house one day begging for food. She was sick and starving. After a trip to the vet, we had a new cat. Smokey possessed several old battle scars. One of her ears was notched and two of her four canines were missing. This gave me the idea for a character based on an old soul in a cat’s body. Merliss was born.

Do you have any family traditions? Which is your favorite?

Each member of the family orders a book for themselves before Christmas. The day after Christmas, we spend the day reading our new books and snacking on leftovers.

What does your writing process look like? Do you spend lots of time researching?

I start with a situation and a vague idea of who the protagonists are and where the story is going. I find my best ideas come to me during the creative process of crafting the story. Outlining does not work for me because I come up with better ideas while I’m writing.

Each day when I write, I review what I’ve written the previous day. Some writers take things out when they revise. I tend to add, usually more physical details and improved dialogue. When I’m done with the first draft, I do a read-through to fix inconsistencies and weak sentences. I then send it to beta-readers or an editor. I avoid multiple rounds of revision. It doesn’t take long to revise a story to death.

I’m too impatient to do a lot of specific research before I start writing a story. If I need details about something, usually something historical, I will do some research. I read historical works along with lots of fiction and I enjoy watching documentaries. It all goes into my head so it’s all research in a way.

If you could experience something for the first time again, what would you pick?

Maybe seeing the Rocky Mountains or the Pacific Ocean. This time I would do better at recording my emotions.

Do you have any writing quirks?

When I can’t remember a place or character name, I’ll put in XXX and continue writing. If I’m making great progress, I don’t want to stop and look up a name or invent one. Part of my revision process is cleaning up all those XXXs. Occasionally one of those XXXs will make it all the way to my editor.

What are you most proud of in your life?

Raising my children. It’s a lot of work that never ends but the rewards last a lifetime.

What are your plans for the next year? Any big writing projects?

I’m at work on a novel in my Merliss Tales fantasy series. Merliss is the spirit of a young woman who has been trapped inside the body of a gray cat. She had been training to become a healer/shaman, so she retains some magical abilities, but she lives as a cat. The magic which transferred her spirit to the cat gives her physical body an unusually long life. We’re talking thousands of years. Merliss aids her human companions in their battles with disease and supernatural threats. I’ve written two novels in the series (The Great Contagionand Cat Sidhe) and a short story “The Water Wight.” My work in progress is The Breath of the Sea, which is set several centuries in the future from the first two novels. The story revolves around an injured mermaid and a dying girl who befriends the mermaid. Merliss is drawn into events to protect the mermaid.

Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?

Don’t get discouraged, don't give up, and read more books. You can never read too many books. The only failed writer is one who stops writing.


Jeff Chapman explores fantasy worlds through fiction and is the author of The Merliss Tales fantasy series, The Huckster Tales weird western series, and The Comic Cat Tales series. Trained in history and computer science, Jeff writes software by day and explores the fantastic when he should be sleeping. His fiction ranges from fairy tales to fantasy to ghost stories. He's not ashamed to say he's addicted to dark hot chocolate, and he loves cats. Jeff lives with his wife, children, and cats in a house with more books than bookshelf space.


Plagues kill but Merliss has far more to fear than a disease.

Merliss is no ordinary cat. She's a young girl's spirit trapped in a cat's body. While the magic that banished her has snatched away her ability to speak to humans, it has given her a life spanning millennia. For centuries she has lived with the cunning folk, assisting their efforts to heal the sick and ward off malevolent creatures. Now a bleeding sickness has thrown the medieval community into chaos.

The cunning man Hailaird and his apprentice Fendrel are in danger from the disease. The life Merliss has worked so long to build is in jeopardy. Before she entered the cat, she had trained to be a shaman. Do her centuries of experience hold a secret to a cure? But disease isn't her only nemesis.

A pair of malevolent creatures have crossed the moor into the forest, threatening more havoc. With disease and monsters ravaging the land, Merliss is hard-pressed to survive. It couldn't be worse, until a mob looking for a scapegoat turns its wrath on Merliss. Tooth and claw and magic may not be enough.

The Great Contagion is the gripping first novel in the dark fantasy Merliss Tales series. If you like strong and dynamic characters, rich description, magic and intrigue, then you’ll love Jeff Chapman’s Merliss Tales.

Grab The Great Contagion today to see Merliss use her wits and magic to rescue her friends and herself.

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