I have a stack of unread books nearly three feet high sitting on the floor near my already jam packed bookcase. This isn’t because I don’t like to read, far from it…I love to read! It’s fundamental isn’t it? It’s just that time is indeed a precious resource & over the decades I’ve found that I have very little of it to spread around. So, over the last few years, reading books has fallen by the wayside for me. I get to them when I can and if I can read one book a year then it was a very slow year for me. Why am I recounting my sorry history of book reading to all of you? Well, a few weeks ago I received an email asking if I would be interested in reading a book called “WHISPER OF CROWS” by JAMESON HESSE. Normally when I receive a book request I just hand it off to my editor with instructions to pass it on to whomever is reading books at Horrornews this week, I just don’t have the time. But for some reason I opted to accept this request. I couldn’t tell you why, something about the title perhaps? Either way I received the book a few days later & I just looked at the cover for a day or two, dread filling my soul at the thought of actually having to open & read it! But open it I did and once I began to read I found myself pretty much ensnared by the web JAMESON HESSE had woven! WHISPER OF CROWS is an exciting, scary read full of wild twists & lurid violence!
An even more interesting story is the one that JAMESON HESSE has lived up till now. Born in a small town outside of Harrisburg, PA he’s named after his dad, an artist, who passed away one month before the birth of his son. JAMESON was subsequently born on his dad’s birthday & shares his name. A rowdy teenager who had many arrests & even spent some time in a christian reformatory & juvenile detention, JAMESON eventually left his town & moved to NYC where he studied acting & learned how to play guitar. After the birth of his first son he moved to Florida where he spent a lot of his time working with various animal charities educating children on the importance of protecting endangered species. He also continued working on his music career & fronted several Orlando based bands in the 90’s. He joined a New Jersey band called MARY’S MAGNET and they released one album before breaking up.
After that he moved to Canada & secluded himself for three years in the Northern Ontario Forest where, through a spiritual awakening, he believes he was finally able to find himself. Eventually he settled back in the US where he studied psychiatry & philosophy and dabbled in a few business ventures. It was during this period where he met the mother of his second son whom he’s raised since infancy because of a serious illness that rendered the mother incapable of caring for him. JAMESON summoned his other son to live with him & he has since devoted his life to raising his two sons. Currently he lives in L.A. & has several film/book projects in various stages of development.
Horrornews: In terms of writing, would you say you have your own particular style or are there authors you respect & try to emulate?
Jameson Hesse: I don’t know if I try to emulate. A lot of people would say this but I think I have my own style. I don’t know but other people have compared my style to STEPHEN KING’S style, but I think our styles are completely different although our type of storytelling might be similar. Actually you could say that my influences are KING, DEAN KOONTZ, MARK TWAIN certainly had some influence on my style as well.
HNN: In writing the character Kanaan James(The main character of the book) did you draw on any of your experiences as a youth in order to flesh out the character? In other words are any of the situations, not the overtly supernatural ones of course, based on your personal life experiences?
JH: [LAUGHING] Well why not the supernatural ones?
HNN: OK! The supernatural ones as well! [LAUGHING]
JH: The quality of the characters is based on real life people that I’ve known in my life. I would say every single character has some truth to them.
JH: Kanaan is certainly a character I relate to in some ways. I’d never say that I relate to him completely or else someone would be knocking on my door looking to put me in a mental institution! It’s not exactly how my childhood went but I can certainly relate to the feeling of being an outcast, that’s kind of how I grew up. The town it takes place in (DELSIN FALA) is based on a small town in Pennsylvania, the stepfather (SCARFACE JOE) is based on my actual stepfather. You’ll have to use your imagination to determine which parts are closer to my life experiences but they’re in there.
HNN: I know your father passed away before you were born but is your mother still alive?
JH: Yes, my mother is still alive.
HNN: And what is your relationship like with her? I’m only asking because of Kanaan’s relationship with his mother & how much of it might be similar to yours.
JH: We talk, I don’t go out there too often. I left that town when I was 18 & really haven’t been back too often, I don’t make a great habit of it. My relationship with my mother has been rocky over the years but now as I’m getting older I’m trying to develop a relationship with her.
HNN: How important is family to you personally?
JH: It’s very important! I have three boys (8,10,18) and they mean everything to me.
HNN: Is the name of the town in the book (DELSIN FALA) the actual name of a town or is it something else? As soon as I read it I thought it was an anagram or an acronym & I went nuts over the next few days trying to figure out what it might have meant!
JH: That’s nice to hear because it actually does have a secret meaning to it! I’ve been waiting a long while for someone to bring that up but you’re the first!
HNN: AHA! [LAUGHING]
JH: Actually the real town is called GOLDSBORO and the reason I always thought the place was so strange is because it doesn’t really exist! It’s a town but it’s not on any map. It’s considered to be part of the city of ETTERS, PA but it’s a separate town and it’s out away from everything. When I was a kid there was literally nothing out there! You could walk for 5, 10 miles of nothing & suddenly find this odd little town by the Susquehanna river. The town is a bit famous for being the place where most of the photos detailing the Three Mile Island nuclear melt down were taken from in 1979. DELSIN FALA is actually an American Indian term. I don’t remember which tribe it was from, it might have been Navajo but it’s an American Indian term meaning “He Is So Crow”.
HNN: How many of your personal philosophies ended up in this book?
JH: I think a lot of the philosophies here are ones that I’ve tossed around in my head. I tend to think that every philosophy has something to it even though a lot of people have come up with some outrageous ones over the years! All of the philosophies in the book are definitely things I’ve pondered over the years and I probably still do believe in most of them. I had to cut so much out of the novel regarding Kanaan and his thoughts, there was a lot more of that in the original version of the book but my editors convinced me that I might lose some readers because of it so I had to omit some of it. One of these days I’d like to have some way for people to have access to all of Kanaan’s inner thoughts, maybe on my website.
HNN: There are a lot of instances in the book where Kanaan is angry at god for allowing him to live what he feels is a miserable life. There are also a few instances where he thanks god as well but I found all of these times odd because as I read your book I never thought of Kanaan as a particularly religious individual. There is an instance in which we learn that his mother is a churchgoing woman but I didn’t feel like Kanaan was especially pious. Assuming that there’s a bit of you in the character I was wondering what religious denomination (If any) you follow or if you believe in god yourself?
JH: I definitely believe in a source of energy. Going back & forth with Kanaan, his childhood is similar to mine as I too was brought up in a really strict, christian atmosphere and I always questioned it because it never really made much sense to me. But that was because it was always described to me in the wrong way & as I got older I began to appreciate the teachings of Christ. As I grew from a child to a teen I drifted away from all of it but when I came back to it as an adult I realized that it’s actually good stuff. It’s the fake churches & politicians that switch it all around & make it seem like it’s not good but in reality the original teachings are quite amazing! All of the different religions teach the same thing, they just go about it in different ways. Politicians have hijacked religion and have turned it into something that it was never meant to be. I do believe in god though, it’s all about a personal relationship with him. No religion needed.
HNN: I agree. I was raised Pentecostal.
JH: Oh yeah! As a teenager we switched to a Pentecostal church. That was a little scary!
HNN: I found it to be a bit hypocritical as I got older. Going to church was all about gossiping, not praising god. So I try to maintain that same “Personal Relationship” with god that you just mentioned.
JH: There are a lot of people who questioned me about that because they read the book and ask how can I be a spiritual person who is all about positivity & focused on what’s good about life yet I wrote all of this negative content? I don’t look at it at all as negative though! [LAUGHING]
Take for instance a scene that takes place later in the book, the bathroom scene…
HNN: Oh yeah! That’s a tough one to get through without visualizing it and it isn’t pretty.
JH: Exactly! It’s disgusting & horrifying but when I get done writing a scene like that I don’t feel horrified, I actually feel really good. I feel like I released some negative energy! It’s almost like REIKI [A form of natural muscle therapy using the hands] and negative energy is pushed out of your muscles. It feels so good when that energy is out of your system and the feeling I get when I’m writing something really horrible is very similar to that. It’s like a release for me when I write something like that, I use the negative energy stored in my body to create scenes like that one & I spit them (& the negative energy) out onto the page.
HNN: So you would consider writing to be a form of therapy for yourself?
JH: Yes! Definitely. I always say that if I didn’t get all of this stuff out of my head & write this book I might have gone insane!
HNN: Kanaan goes through a lot of pain in the book, both physical & emotional. It felt like as he suffered through this pain he was becoming more of a man & more confident yet he still acted as if he was a “Deer in the Headlights” in certain (Avoidable) situations, almost as if on purpose. Were you consciously substituting pain for the usual rituals of manhood or was Kanaan just losing his mind and didn’t realize it yet?
JH: Wow…that’s a great question! The first thing I think of is the scene in the old house where he puts his hand through the glass to try and get himself out of the comatose state he’s in. He went through a lot of pain but at a certain point it made him feel alive, sort of what like cutters do. Nowadays cutting is more of a trend but originally the idea behind cutting oneself was to make you feel more alive! He was definitely learning to become a man through that for sure because his character evolved from that point on. That’s pretty much the only way I can answer that question right now, that was a really good question! I wasn’t ready for a question like that!!
HNN: As I read the book I had ideas of who/what the character of Abigail actually was & as it turned out I’d pegged her correctly but it was a lot of fun getting to the point when Kanaan realizes it as well. Before writing the book did you have Abigail’s story arc all planned out?
JH: That evolved as I was writing it. I also write screenplays & it’s best to write them with some form of structure so I tried writing the novel structurally as well but I ended up just writing and discovering where it would go along the way, it just unfolded itself like that. And then when I got to that part I started thinking about Kanaan’s psyche & I thought “Y’know what? What if he’s really crazy and he’s really imagining this”? I thought of the quote from Gautama Buddha which says “That which is real is that which never changes” and what he meant was that everything you see is just your interpretation of it. There is no true reality except for the soul or the spirit, they are the only things that never change while everything else (The material things) does. I’m always questioning “What is real”? If I’m feeling down or depressed I ask myself “Is this real? Do I really need to be feeling this way”? That’s kind of what happened while I was writing the book, it became a sort of exploration into Kanaan’s mind. He just wanted her so bad, he just needed her love. If you go deeper into it it’s really not about Abigail at all, it’s about Kanaan feeling so empty & creating something to fill that hole. She was like his drug & it was really very selfish of him to act the way he did. A lot of women were told that the book was a love story as well and they ended up saying “This wasn’t a normal love story! It’s a one sided love story”! They were pretty mad! [LAUGHING] He wanted to do whatever he could do to keep that feeling because it was good to him. He had never felt that in his life & he didn’t want to lose it.
HNN: There’s a very subtle layer of homosexual subtext running throughout the book that I noticed as I got deeper into it. Was that intentional or did it just end up that way?
JH: I think it came out that way and I think that happened for a reason. Some of it is based on my childhood & I had a lot of experiences with older gentlemen when I was young. I lived in a very small town & although I didn’t know too much I knew that this was weird. When I was 18 I moved to NYC & lived there for awhile & it was there where I got to understand & change my entire view of homosexuals. When I was young I thought of them as abusive, perverted, disgusting old men but as I grew older I met & befriended many homosexuals that were really decent, good people. It was then when I realized that it’s the individual that’s perverted & not their sexual preferences. For some reason stuff like that always seemed to find me when I was young, it never happened to any of my other friends either…just me.
HNN: Not to delve too much into your personal life but are you saying that you’ve had sexual experiences with other men as a child?
JH: I’ve had experiences with older men making advances at me.
HNN: And how did you react to these advances?
JH: I usually reacted with anger. The first time something happened to me was when I was four years old & at that point you really can’t do much since you don’t really know anything. Whatever happens to you at that point is something that you’re just gonna assume is part of life. As I got older the anger from what happened to me as a child came out, I had a lot of anger issues back then & I acted out because of it.
HNN: I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to act as if I’m a therapist or anything…
JH: I understand. This is a great interview by the way! This is really deep, most of the others I’ve done only glossed over the surface but you’re really asking some good questions. I like the way you do this!
HNN: Well it’s only because of the book you wrote and the messages I got from it that I thought to ask these questions. In a sense you wrote these questions up yourself.
HNN: There’s a line in the book that read “The billowing white mist was as thick and fluffy as the cotton up a teddy bear’s ass”. I loved the descriptive quality of that line & I wondered where did you study writing?
JH: Thanks, it’s one of my favorites too! I never studied writing ever, I don’t like to admit it too often but I didn’t read much growing up. I remember reading a lot as a child but as a teenager I didn’t read much of anything at all but I was always writing, I played some guitar & I wrote lyrics, songs and stuff like that. Once I started this novel I started reading more, but I never had any formal training to write or anything like that…I’ve just always been a writer. I guess I did read different things but in my own way I didn’t really start reading novels frequently until I was in my 30’s. I feel like now that I’ve written one I want to read what others are like what other people are writing about. And I hope that my style is different from other people since my influences on writing a story like this one are different from others. I don’t know anybody that would use that kind of description when talking about some fog. My son is gonna love to hear that you liked that line! My oldest boy helped me a lot with editing & putting things together, he’s read the book many times and he loved that line too.
HNN: As much as I loved the book I have to admit being a bit incensed at the end of it because it doesn’t really have an ending! There’s a cliffhanger at the end and I went bananas because I wanted to know what became of Kanaan. Are you working on a sequel?
JH: I’m definitely working on a sequel & it’s been in the works for awhile. I’m currently writing two other novels that I’m working on but I like to focus on one thing at a time and right now I have two films that I’m developing and I have to put most of my focus on them.
HNN: Let’s talk about your work in film for a minute. You wrote, directed & wrote the music for a film called “A DARK DAY’S NIGHT”.
JH: Well we used a lot of other music on the film as well but I did write some music for it.
HNN: You’ve also acted in films as well. Do you consider yourself an auteur? Are you comfortable with that title?
JH: I can do a lot! When it comes to art I can definitely do a lot because I dabble in everything that is related to art. That being said I wouldn’t know if I would consider myself a really good actor just yet. I don’t think I’ve gotten a good enough role to really explore that. I’d love to get a meaty role though because I really love acting but directing is what I’m really interested in. As for being good I think that writing is my thing, it’s what I’m best at but I think I’ve proven that I can certainly do other stuff. I love music & I spent years trying to become a rock star but I just wasn’t good enough. I was good enough to play on a stage for years in NYC and that was decent but I was never good enough to be as good as I wanted to be recognized for.
HNN: What do you hope to accomplish as a author & a film maker?
JH: I really love Stephen King’s reputation & I’d love to achieve something similar. I don’t really like he pushes stuff out there though, I think some quality control might be helpful because a lot of his stuff I just don’t like. But then again the rest of his work is just outrageously good, just top notch so I’d like to have a similar career but I wouldn’t just release new material because I have some stuff that’s never come out before. I’d rather release four really great novels in my whole life than release 100 of them and have half of them be crap.
HNN: And as a film maker?
JH: I just want to keep making good movies! I never really considered doing anyone else’s material as I have enough of my own to work with and I’d like to keep working with what I’ve got, I want to keep writing/directing my films. I’ve always been fascinated with the art of film making, I was a photographer most of my life & the photography aspect of film making is truly something I want to explore.
HNN: Do you have a favorite horror film?
JH: If we go by what scared me the most the very first time I saw it I’d have to say “THE GRUDGE”. First time I saw that it scared the shit out of me & it was PG-13 which I thought was just great! You have to really judge a film based on the first time you watch it because after that it holds no surprises for you and that one just scared me silly. I grew up watching “FRIDAY THE 13th” & “HALLOWEEN”, the established classics of my youth and I really love to watch a good horror film. Another personal favorite for me was “SILENT HILL”, I always liked that one.
HNN: Interesting choice. There’s a lot of nightmarish images in that film.
JH: That’s kind of how my brains work! I think if I was let loose with a big budget the film I created would be very similar to that one. It’s definitely very similar to the type of film I would direct if I had no budgetary issues to worry about.
HNN: Do you have any cinematic idols? Anyone whose films you just have to see no matter what?
JH: Quentin Tarantino. I think that he’s great & definitely an influence for me. Oliver Stone is another name that comes to mind as far as respect for his body of work. But I have some reservations as to the direction both of them have gone in as of late.
HNN: Really? What is it that either of them have done recently to make you feel like this?
JH: Take “DJANGO UNCHAINED” for example. It’s a great film with an incredible story but (& I don’t want to sound like I’m standing on a pedestal above either one of them) I think his films are extremely ego driven & way too long. Remember the scene he was in? Why was he even in it? All it did was give him a few lines and some face time with his camera. It was a stupid scene that just made an already long film longer. If they cut out 30 minutes of that film it would have been perfect. “PULP FICTION” was just perfect, there wasn’t one thing that didn’t belong in it, it’s a perfect work of art. He put himself in the film, which he does a lot, but to me it just cheeses the film up when I see him on the screen. In the scene he was in, the men he was with were scruffy looking with beards but Tarantino was clean shaven, it’s all about the details! I really like Rob Zombie’s work because of his attention to detail although I don’t think his films are particularly deep or have anything meaningful to say. I’d really like to see him direct a film without his girlfriend (Sheri Moon Zombie) in it! I think he has a really refreshing take on horror though & he takes the time to get all of the little details just right.
HNN: When does production start on the “WHISPER OF CROWS” film?
JH: That’s hard to say right now, we haven’t even started pre-production yet. I wrote the screenplay before the novel was even released and it’s based on the first half of the novel & the end of the movie is the big reveal regarding Abigail. It was fully financed at one point & we were ready to start production but the financing fell through at the last second, that’s the 3rd time it’s happened to us in the past three years! I have another film that we’re currently calling “ALL THE SHADES OF HELL” and we’ll probably go into production with that one first. It looks like it’s going to be a really good one & I’m very excited about it. As for “WHISPER OF CROWS”…If we can get it past this stage of development & find financing for it that’d be great! Otherwise I’ll probably have to re-write it & try to add the second half of the novel to it somehow and start again.
HNN: I thought it was all set & being produced as we spoke. It had already been cast correct?
JH: We actually had a cast & crew ready to go! I’m not saying we’re throwing it out just yet, it’s just that this new project has gotten a lot of attention in the past two weeks so we want to focus on that right now. We have Peter Dobson (A DARK DAY’S NIGHT) & E.G. DAILY (PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE) signed and ready to go. We’re still looking for a Kanaan though…
HNN: That’s gonna be a tough role to cast!
JH: Yeah! The actor has to have something extra to fit into Kanaan’s shoes for sure.
HNN: Thank you! I have to admit that I really don’t review books much because I don’t have time to read them anymore but I agreed to read this one and after a few pages I had to get a pen & start highlighting certain passages that I wanted to ask about. I was totally engrossed in Kanaan’s story & I have to thank you for giving me the opportunity to both read it & speak with you. I forgot what I was missing & now I’m gonna start tackling my book pile!
JH: That makes me feel great! It’s nice to hear someone appreciate my work that way.
“WHISPER OF CROWS” is available at bookstores everywhere & online at Amazon.com in both printed & digital formats. To learn more about JAMESON HESSE & his work go to www.jamesonhesse.com