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What are you writing?

“I’m writing a fantasy/horror/conspiracy novel that takes place during the Fourth and Fifth Crusades: Ottonius, which is a very, very old German name. It’s the name of a semi-immortal being who figures prominently in the story, one of the names he’s lived under.”

Tell me about it.

“The story is about a very secret order within the Catholic Church in the early 13th Century — even though they’ve existed for centuries. Their purpose is to hunt and eradicate supernatural creatures, particularly ones that are considered a threat to Christianity. And they end up getting involved in real-life conspiracies within the Church and the ruling class of Europe behind the Fourth Crusade. That’s the conspiracy aspect of the story.”

What made you write it?

“I’ve always found the era of the Crusades fascinating: people putting their lives absolutely on the line for what they believed to be the highest good. Even though the Crusades have kind of a bad name now because, you know, there’s a lot of cynicism people have in their minds about what they think the real reasons were, and they forget that the people at the bottom, the rank-and-file, really were doing this because they believed they were serving the Lord. Frankly, I always thought it would be interesting to write a vampire story [set] during the Crusades, kind of a mixing of genres and eras.”

Why should someone read this?

“Honestly, it’s mostly an escape. Read the first page to have an adventure, see a world that’s recognizably ours but very different from ours, in a different time, when magic is real. See characters who are caught up in problems much larger than their lives, that are changing the course of the entire world and have metaphysical significance. That’s why you should read the first page. The goal as a writer after that — you want to read the next page because you want to know what happens.”

Do you have a favorite section?

“I’d say the favorite sections are the battle scenes because you get to see the characters’ cleverness and their ruthlessness. You see into their minds, mostly, in the fight scenes. Some of the scenes that deal with the main character’s relationship with God, I think, are the deepest ones. A recurring theme of the story is people trying to do the highest good to serve God, but being deceived by people much smarter than them as to what would serve God’s will — another theme for the Crusades.

“The Fourth Crusade is the perfect Crusade for the story because, for very complicated reasons, they ended up attacking two Christian cities and going home. And so a lot of Christian knights ended up, for decades, feeling tremendous guilt and doing years of penance for their involvement in the Crusades.”

Tell me about your writing habits.

“I write almost exclusively in cafés — it worked for J.K. Rowling; it works very well for me. I wrote a 230,000-word novel almost exclusively in this café here, up in the loft. I’ve spent more time in Claire de Lune than the staff. I write on a laptop, once in awhile for brainstorming in a notebook. I try to write every day but I don’t make it every day because I’m working. And when I can, I’ll clear off entire days to do nothing but write. My stories are sufficiently long and complex that I can have one section I’m brainstorming on, one section I’m editing, one section I’m rearranging — so there’s a variety of tasks to do. Whatever state of mind I’m in, there’s something I can do to work on the book. I’ve made a lot of sacrifices in life to have the time for writing.”

What’s your day job?

“I’m a scientific software engineer at Lockheed Martin. I work on passive sonar systems — the kind that doesn’t deafen the marine mammals. I’ve got evenings and weekends [to write]. Earlier in my career, I just saved up money so that I could, in between jobs, take off months at a time to do nothing but write and do some traveling. I’ve kind of been a starving artist without having to starve.”

What are your relationships like?

“All my friends are pretty smart people, a lot of them academics. I’d say that more than half of my friends are creative in some way; they’re either writers or painters or sculptors. As an artist you relate best to other people who have something they’re doing that is central to their existence, that they turn off the TV for, that they use up their time off for. As far as very close relationships, I’m engaged and about to be married. She’s an artist and a writer. It’s really important to be with someone who understands your need to focus, your need to be completely absorbed in your work — who will support you even when supporting you means leaving you alone for a little bit.”

Name: Jerry Guern | Age: 36 | Occupation: Writer and Software engineer
Neighborhood: Golden Hill | Where interviewed: Claire de Lune, North Park

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