Wednesday, March 23, 2016

What Drives the Creative Process? Interview with Crime Novelist, Jerry Otis

Title: The Gaf Killer: Son of Zodiac, Author: Jerry Otis
Why do we love to read about the murderers and serial killers, gangs and mafia bosses? For some people it is trying to look behind the exterior of the murderer. Why drives them? What are the motivating factors that them off? Could it have been prevented? These questions may come to mind as when a person reads a crime novel or short story, or watches the myriad crime dramas on television and in the movies. Perhaps we may never know, but one thing is for certain: These dark tales with convoluted and complicated motives behind the characters fascinate us;  whether we’re reading about it in the latest crime thriller or hearing an actual news report. While many questions remain to the why many are fascinated with them, it is well known that crime fiction continues to be an extremely popular genre and seems to resonate with a broad population base. 

So with this in mind, The Winged Quill wanted to know: How does one go about creating the crime novel? To answer this, of course, I wanted to go to the source itself: The writer. Jerry Otis is an author with two books under his belt, including Frostburg Lane, with another in the works, so I thought he would be a great source of information on the subject. He was kind enough to indulge me in my little quest for answers. He was also kind enough to share  the links to his book on Amazon. 

TWQ:  What inspired you to want to write about the Zodiac killer?

Jerry: Over the years I’ve had interest in the Zodiac, starting back when this deranged individual created havoc and mayhem in the San Francisco area, and surrounding states during the late 60’s to early 70’s. My original novel/manuscript started out as a border patrol agent who turned to crime. Then because of my interest in the Zodiac I switched gears and decided to write a fictional crime thriller based on, as if, the original Zodiac had a son who carried on where his dad, the Zodiac left off. There’s a sentence in the book, by the Son of Zodiac showing how much he admired his dad, the original Zodiac serial killer. A truly deranged individual who continued to think, throughout the story, that what he was doing was perfectly normal, and that the ones he kills didn’t deserve to live, doing you and I a big O favor.

TWQ:  I've heard that many suspense writers like Stephen King does not really start out with a plan, he just goes with the flow and free-writes linearly as it comes but some writers use a different process. What process did you use to plan out and plot your story, if any?

Jerry:   I go with the flow. I knew about the original “Zodiac” from the late 60’s to early 70’s, who terrorized the Frisco Bay area, and surrounding states. So I did some research and dug deeper into his scenic. After gathering a fair amount of info from police reports and some eye witnesses, I went to work writing this book of fiction, based on, as if the original Zodiac had a son who inherited his psychopathic traits, and continued on where his daddy left off. The reason I used “Daddy” is because that’s the way the Son of Zodiac referred to him. In the book he states, “Only if my daddy could see me now, he’d be so proud of me.” In his deranged mind, he truly believes that.

That was the main plot scheme. I did know the main character, other than the Son of Zodiac, would be a Special FBI Agent by the name of David Drake, who forms a taskforce, at the asking of the director of the FBI, and begins a cross-country track-down with three of his hand-picked Special FBI Agents that he’s worked with before. So in answer to that question, yes I do go with the flow like Stephen King does, in that respect. The one thing I did have an idea of, is how the story would end, and for that tidbit of info, you’ll have to read the book.

TWQ:  The elements of a good story which consists of making character and places stand out in the reader’s mind to make them really experience the story. Once you have a concept/idea/character, what general direction do you head to from there?

Jerry:  I did a lot of research, before, during and after writing Gaf Killer-Son of Zodiac, as I do with everything I write. Even down to the street names, freeways, towns, and characters etc., that were used in the book. Btw, Google maps comes in very handy when researching street names, city layouts and main roads and freeways. All the locations in Son of Zodiac are actual streets and communities, or towns and states mentioned in the story. As in one of Marie’s other questions, referring “Going with the flow” as luck would have it, when I was about two thirds into writing Gaf Killer, my proof reader Kimberly Lovoy found a link to a psychological medical term that’s used in determining just how crazy a person is, it’s called ‘Global Assessment of Functioning’ or ‘GAF.’ I’d like to claim I knew about that term before writing this story, but it just happened to be dumb luck on my part. The reason the Son of Zodiac, went by the name Gaf, has nothing to do with that medical term used in the mental health world, but after finding out about that term, I went back and re-wrote a chapter, so I could interject it into the storyline. So going with the flow was definitely used here. You have to be flexible. One thing for sure in writing any kind of novel, you’ll spend months editing your original manuscript.

TWQ:  How do you plot yourself along?

Jerry: My mind acts like a video camera. I write what I see. Some ideas come at the oddest times, I thought about the plot a lot while driving, and came up with several ideas while taking showers. Some people listen to music while taking showers, I think about different scenarios. I’ve even woke up from a dead sleep, and an idea came to me, maybe one I had been stressing over, and in that case, or the times when I come up with an idea while taking a shower or driving, I can’t get to my desktop and fire it up fast enough, and make note of it, so that idea isn’t lost and forgotten.

TWQ:  How long did this novel take you to write?

Jerry: First of all I want to give credit to Kimberly Lovoy, my proof reader, who’s now been with me on three manuscripts over a four plus year period, with her eyeballing my mistakes (I’ll admit it, I’m a lousy speller) it would be a daunting task, to say the least. With that said, Gaf Killer was a 3 year ordeal. 2012-2013 wrote manuscript. September 2014 I was signed by Black Opal Books. September 2014 through July 2015, edits/re-writes with Black Opal Books. Actually I was still doing some editing up to one week before its release on August 1st, released nationwide. Then even shortly after its release, I went back and did some editing on approx 20 pages, had the publisher make those minor corrections, that reflected in the next copy ordered. In writing, it’s always in the editing. It takes way more time to edit a manuscript, than it does to put words to paper, either handwritten or typed, using “Word.” Btw, before I was signed by Black Opal Books, my manuscript was rejected by 48 other literary agencies.
TWQ:  Many writers suffer at one point or another from writer’s block. Did you have any problems with this?

Jerry:  My advice is to step away and take a break. In my case strum the guitar, or go for a drive, or get some sleep. After being away for a short time, not for days, you’ll come back with new ideas, and wonder to yourself, “Why didn’t I think of that before?”

TWQ:  Do you have any future books in the works?

Jerry:  I’m currently working on another crime thriller called, “David Drake Chronicles – The Love Maids Case”, which will be released in 2017. I already have the book cover made, and am deep into the storyline/plot etc. It’s a continuing series, where Special FBI Agent David Drake and his team of hand-picked Special Agents solve another “Who Done It?”

TWQ:  What advice would you give for an aspiring writer?

Jerry:  Do your research, and first and foremost, other than editing, editing, editing, learn how to write a good “Query Letter” (Google that term), so when you do have an edited, and polished manuscript to pitch, you can start pitching your manuscript to literary agents, with the hopes of getting signed. Without knowing how to write a good, one page “Query Letter”, literary agents won’t give you the time of day. Btw, don’t be surprised if you get rejected, my Gaf Killer manuscript was rejected 48 times, over a six month period, till signed by BOB September 2014.

TWQ:  Thank you, Jerry Otis, for taking the time to sit down with The Winged Quill for this interview.

Jerry:  No problem Marie, thank you. I enjoy doing interviews. Thank you for this opportunity. Hopefully I’ve given new writers some insight into how the publishing world actually works. If I can do it, just about anyone can.

Jerry is also working on a movie trailer for The GAF Killer, available to watch here:

Purchasing information: 
The GAF Killer is available at Amazon: 

To order a signed copy from Black Opal Books: 

When ordering, type Attn: Arwen “THE GAF KILLER-SON OF ZODIAC” in the subject line. In the body of email: Give Arwen your name, address etc, and she’ll email you an invoice, then you can pay using the email’s Pay Pal, and Arwen will get a signed and numbered copy to you ASAP.

To email him directly:

Hope you enjoyed this post. Hopefully will have more interviews to come in the future! Have an event or something creative you would like to spotlight: Email me directly here: I am always looking for new and interesting things to post about-Mariehelena.

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