Jeff DeMarco
Jeff DeMarco is a writer of post-apocalyptic thrillers.
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Keep scrolling to read their author interview and an excerpt from their latest book!

Q: Tell me about yourself as a writer, anything that would interest your readers. Don’t write a book but be complete. What’s your typical day look like and how do you work your writing/promoting? Tell us about the mechanics – where do you write, any quirks, etc.


A: My typical day starts with magic beans and embryos of the unborn (Coffee and eggs). I shuttle the kids off to school and daycare and then do my best not to wake the sleeping monster upstairs. She’s a lovely, kind monster, and a supportive one at that, but she works nightshift as a nurse practitioner. Wake her before it’s time, and feel her wrath (I asked before I wrote this, so I wouldn’t get in trouble). I work about 7 hours, with a break for lunch and exercise. (I’ve found that while this line of work makes me happy, It’s terribly sedentary.) On any given day, I’m either writing, editing or promoting. I work as a literary and industrial writer and editor, and usually the things that make money come first. Sad as that may be, to forego writing my masterpiece for a few days, paying bills is important too.

I have an office, but I seldom use it. I usually write on my laptop, but the tricky parts I tend to use a pen and legal pad. I like being comfortable, and I’ve actually written some of my best work laying on the carpet.


Q: Tell me about the protagonist and antagonist of your latest book. What are their goals in the story? Is your hero/heroin reluctant or a willing warrior? Is your antagonist all bad or is there good in there somewhere?


A: My Protagonist is an explosive ordinance technician. He arrives home from a middle-east deployment to find a broken nation. A virus decimates the population. Martial law is declared. Evan is at odds with his superior and antagonist, Captain Haegen. Ordered to do the unthinkable, and engage the enemy – civilians. Will he follow orders and stay alive, or will he run, risking death and dishonor?

Captain Haegen believes that the end justifies any means, and that America must survive, one way or the other. But at what cost? It also seems that he’s linked to the secret organization at the heart of this coup. But how high up does the conspiracy go? We’ll find out… In book 2 or 3.


Q: Interesting. I like big plots. Now tell me how and why you got into writing? How long have you been doing it? How do you go about creating a story?


A: I started writing as a kid – bad poetry and short stories. I was one of those kids always caught in my head, daydreaming. Years passed and I didn’t write, embarrassed because it was “uncool,” and “unmanly.” Instead, I spent my high school and college days playing football, then joined the Army as a field artillery officer. Either way, I’m thankful for that life experience, and for the start of my professional writing career. I think I’ve written around 4,000 op orders, trip reports, white papers and journal articles.

My Fiction writing career started once I was out of the Army. Three years ago, sitting in my office as the Quality Manager of a milk processing plant, I knew that I needed my life to go in a different direction. I started small, publishing short stories under several pen names (which I don’t readily give out). It took a good deal of work until I finally finished something I was proud to put my own name on, and that’s my debut novel Into Armageddon (found here: I still daydream, but now it’s with a pad of paper and a pen.

Regarding how I create a story, in the words of Gary Busey in the movie Soldier: “When you want to insert a nail into a piece of wood, don't do anything fancy or glamorous. Just take the damn hammer and hit the son of a bitch until it's in."

My style isn’t flashy, and it doesn’t need to be. Just like building a house, each individual skill set, hammering a nail, cutting a board, painting a wall, isn’t difficult. What you’re left with is a home. Pretty standard, I follow the 7-point story structure, typical scene structure. To get good at it, I read as much ‘how to write’ books, as I do fiction. When constructing my first draft, I simply tell myself, “Just say what the #$%# happens,” and “Keep going, you’ll fix this garbage in editing.” And that’s what it is… garbage, but at least you have something to work with now. The trick is going back and polishing up your words. Fix the grammar and syntax and plant the Easter eggs to make you look clever.


Q: Very well said, Jeff. Which do you prefer, character driven stories or plot driven stories? Why should readers care?


A: Imagine most of the Transformer’s movies. Aside from that Widwicke kid with the funny name, what were the other (human) characters names? (No googling.) Can’t remember them? Neither can I. Now think of the Hunger Games. What was that main characters name? Yep… Katniss Everdeen. It’s not just the funny name that makes you remember her. You’d probably remember her if the author named her Marie Smith.

Plot driven stories are great, especially in the movies. They serve their purpose – lots of explosions, lots of action. They help you escape reality, and they have their place. Their plots usually make sense with laser clarity (which is why they’re plot driven), i.e. deliver the Staff of Cybertron before the planet is destroyed. Cool! Let’s go blow stuff up! Unfortunately, nobody cares about the characters in those films. They might as well (and often do) die.

Similar to plot driven stories, in character driven stories the stakes are set and they’re high, but dissimilar, the main character has been built up, knocked down, built up again and you’ve been hanging on their every word because you identify with the emotional roller coaster that they’re on. You see their flaws and you hope to God that they’ll overcome them before the final climactic confrontation, and that’s really what character driven is all about – emotional, political, physical or spiritual change. If the author’s done their job, you should be suffering along with that character, all the way to the bitter-sweet end.


Q: Tell me about your story point of view preferences, tense preferences, and any other thing of interest to you along these lines as we delve into the mechanics of creating a story.


A: I prefer 3rd person past tense, and 3rd past participle for flashbacks and such. I do some short stories in 1st person present tense, but that’s really just experimenting.


Also of note: I try not to sound smarter than anyone. I went to college, and I’m even headed for a master’s degree in English and creative writing. That doesn’t make me smart… life experience does. And life experience tells me to be humble, not give unsolicited advice and not write like I’m writing a dissertation (not that I’d know what that’s like).


Q: I do and it ain’t fun. Believe me. But let’s lighten it up. What are your all-time favorite books – top three? Why? Don’t skimp here. Explore it with us? Tell us what genre they are. Who is your favorite author, if different from your favorite book?


A: Just three?! My favorite Authors are Ayn Rand, Cormack McCarthy and BV Larson, all for different reasons. Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead is without a doubt my favorite book of all time. It would have been Atlas Shrugged, but the 60 page John Gault diatribe in the middle of the book was a bit much. Something about Howard Rourk’s stoic indifference to the allure of ‘what’s popular,’ instead of ‘what’s right.’ Also, I am by definition a Libertarian, although pretty moderate in my outlook. I believe that no one’s entitled to the fruits of another’s labor. I try to write with that viewpoint, but don’t like it taking over the story. I suppose with a story titled Tread: Fallen Nation, it was inevitable. It’s a cautionary tale of when we let a domestic threat – government take over of every facet of our life.

Book number 2 is The Road. For that matter, I also love No Country for Old Men, also by McCarthy. With The Road, it was McCarthy’s minimalist, yet deeply poetic descriptions and dialogue (though, I admit, I dislike his lack of punctuation). I also like the very end of both, where he’s talking about ‘carrying the fire.’ Something so vague, yet it hits you on an emotional level with laser clarity. I actually get a chill up my spine thinking about it.

Book 3 is Watchers by Dean Koontz. He has a way of weaving webs into his story that make everything come together at precisely the right time – absolutely a master of his craft and something to aspire to.

Last, and I won’t mention a book, but my favorite indie author is BV Larson. When embarking on this writing quest, I decided to reach out to people who had been where I was and made it to where I wanted to be. Of the dozen or more successful (top 100) indie authors I reached out to, BV was the only one that responded. I’ll never forget that.


Q: What do you find is the most difficult thing about writing fiction? The easiest thing? Elaborate.


A: Absolutely, the easiest thing is to knock out a rough draft. It’s so much fun to first breathe life into your idea. It’s like making a baby, almost. Editing, on the other hand, is like raising a toddler. There’s crying and vomit and runny noses (and that’s from the parents). Editing is a labor of love, and if you don’t love it, you can always hire someone (like me) to take care of it for you.


Q: Very nice analogy. Tell me about your travels. Where is an interesting place you’ve been? Do you travel to research your stories?


A: I’ve been to a few countries in the middle-east, Germany, Ireland and Canada. Without question, the best (and craziest) place I’ve been is Jordan. Without getting into details, I was in with the host nation military, and I vividly recall sitting out on their veranda, smoking cigars and sipping tea and Turkish coffee in the cool night air. That place is definitely in one of my stories, but I don’t generally do travel research.


Q: What kind of stories do you refuse to read?


A: I don’t read anything portraying rape, pedophilia or bigotry in a positive light. I absolutely read stories with those things in there, but they’re either denounced or historical facts.

(Questioner aside: I had to put down John Grisham’s first novel, A Time To Kill, when I first tried to read it because of the rape scene at the beginning. Great writing. Terrible stuff. Took me years to pick the book up again.)


Q: Finally, the most important question – DC or Marvel? What is your favorite comic book character ever? Don’t say none. If you don’t have one, make something up!


A: Iron Man was my guy for a long time, but he just lost it. I guess I’m a Captain America guy now.


As a Marvel guy myself, this was an excellent response!


And that closes my interview with novelist, Jeff DeMarco. Be sure to have a look at his books. I have and I will again in the coming weeks.


500-word excerpt from Tread: Fallen Nation -

The last thing Evan remembered was her head resting gently on his shoulder as his eyes became heavy. The painkillers were wearing off and a dull throb started. His eyes opened to the desert - desolate mountains far off in the distance. Boulders and scrub-grass pock marked the land along the dirt road they were traveling. A call came out over the radio. “Atlas 1-1, this is Atlas 2-1,” his friends voice, Staff Sergeant Bobby Don, rang out through the static, garbled from the signal jammer, a Duke electronic warfare system. “We have a culvert approximately 200 meters ahead… Go do your thing.”

“Copy that,” Evan said back, staring down Bobby’s lead MRAP armored vehicle 50 meters ahead. He looked back at Private Hayes. “In 3… 2… 1” The doors swung open in sync. As if carefully choreographed, they both aimed their eyes and rifles down at the ground, then swept in bands out away from the MRAP armored vehicle. They stepped out with a crunch of dirt and rock, crouching down below the vehicle to look for IED’s. Evan keyed the microphone fixed to his shoulder. “Clear.” They shot out at a 20-degree angle, forward of the vehicle, stepping over stones and rutted ground from flash floods; a sweeping motion of their rifles in an imaginary box, side to side along the ground, then up along the embankment running along the road.

Evan knelt down, parallel with the corrugated steel pipe passing underneath the road; a blockage, maybe rocks, maybe garbage, then he saw it, an ant trail - buried wire leading up towards a rocky outcropping 300 meters away. He took another good look at the entrance of the culvert, a second ant trail leading out, running parallel with the road. “Bobby,” he transmitted. “Recommend you back the fuck up, secondary IED, hard wired.” The air shifted.

Crack! The first round of a bolt action rifle ricocheted at the dirt around his feet, followed by the Clack, Clack, Clack, of automatic weapon fire, the shriek of RPG’s. Evan turned and sprinted towards the outcropping, bullets whizzing past his head. At first, he could hear it, then he felt the ground shake beneath his feet, the pressure and heat on his back, and he knew Bobby was dead.

Part of him didn’t care anymore, standing exposed in the Afghani wasteland, his own life meant nothing now. He would find the trigger man and kill him, as warfare demands, but it wouldn’t matter. Bobby didn’t need to be here, and neither did Evan. Revenge would not be sweet, and perhaps Evan would die before he even made it there.

Machine guns fired from all directions, the sound of grenades impacting rapidly in the distance meant that someone in the convoy must be alive and fighting back.

Evan rounded the rocky outcropping and found a man in dirtied clothes, his face covered by a white and black shemagh, hunkering down against the boulders as though clinging for dear life. In the insurgent’s eyes… no, the man’s, not the animal he’d been conditioned to see them as, he found only fear - the same fear he had felt moments before Bobby died, the same fear he felt now, asleep on a bus headed towards Colorado.

Evan knew he was dreaming now, perhaps hallucinating from head trauma, he wished desperately for release from the nightmare, yet its grip forced his hand as the memory ran along its track. Thankfully, these were not the worst of his dreams. The barrel of the rifle aimed, no moral fiber would keep him from revenge, and then he fired.