Jeff Strand: Seven questions

The once-Tampa Bay-resident talks to CL about Atlanta, horror and Portillo's.

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click to enlarge Jedd Strand - Courtesy of Jeff Strand
Courtesy of Jeff Strand
Jedd Strand

With a new book out — Sick House, about a slightly unusual type of home invasion — and a recent move from Tampa Bay to Atlanta, Jeff Strand has lots to say. If you're not familiar with this horror writer, trust us, he's a lot funnier than Stephen King. He writes YA and adult horror, and his website bio explains his life in great, great detail. Go ahead, read that — but then come back here and finish the interview. 


You write for adults and the YA audience. How do you balance writing for those two worlds?

There are fewer F-bombs and decapitations in my YA work. It's really not difficult for me to balance the two, and I think that being able to follow up an intense thriller with a goofy comedy for kids keeps me excited about the things I’m writing. Even in my adult horror novels, something like Pressure is quite a bit different from something like Benjamin's Parasite, so I'm used to telling widely varied stories. That said, promoting them is two entirely different beasts. My adult promo tends to be mostly online, whereas promoting the work for younger readers involves actually interacting with other human beings. (Yes, they let me into schools.)

On your website, you suggest new-to-you readers start with your book Blister. The blurb on your website makes it sound almost like a romance… that… that can’t be right, is it? Also, why do you suggest readers start there?

That would be a pretty twisted little love story, huh? Blister is a horror/thriller novel and not a Harlequin romance, but yes, it goes into territory that one might not expect from a book where the cover is a lady whose face is covered in gauze. The "Which book should I read first?" question is always tough, and my answer changes depending on the person. Dweller is the novel that most of my fans like the best, but it's a deeply sad book and not necessarily the first place I'm going to direct a new reader. For a generic answer on my website, I went with Blister because it's a pretty good representation of what my work is all about, while being a bit more lighthearted and less gruesome than my other horror novels.  

You and I share a birthday. Would you like to comment on the brilliance of December babies?

My short story "December Birthday" was recently published in the anthology Christmas Horror Volume 2, and it shows the disastrous consequences when a man hears "It's a birthday present AND a Christmas present!" one too many times. I don't condone his behavior but I empathize with it. I used to be part of an online group of people who were all born on December 14, 1970, but we really had nothing to say to each other.  

click to enlarge Jeff Strand: Seven questions
Courtesy of Jeff Strand

Let’s talk about your most recent book, Sick House; it looks delicious. Do you have a passage you’d be willing to share with our readers?

"Paige and Naomi both threw their arms around Adeline. She wanted to tell them that she loved them and reassure them that everything was going to be all right, but she thought her words would lose their ability to soothe if blood spewed out of her mouth while she spoke them."

You recently moved to Atlanta from Tampa Bay. Other than the weather, what do you miss most about living here?

Let's not move past the weather so quickly. Tampa Bay weather was paradise! Paradise! Yes, I'd said, "Well, it'll be good to get out of those miserably hot summers," but I was wrong! Oh, so wrong! The cold here suuuuucks! I miss tacos at Loli's Mexican Cravings, sushi at Pisces, and hot dogs at Portillo's. (Portillo's is a Chicago import, but the Tampa location was just as good as the original.) There's a better selection of movies in Atlanta but the theaters themselves aren't as nice. And I miss streets where you have more than half an inch between you and the car beside you. 

Your wife Lynne Hansen is a filmmaker, which is why you moved to Atlanta. Any chance she'll turn one of your books into a movie? 

Yes! She's going to be adapting my not-yet-published book Cold Dead Hands, which is about a group of unlucky grocery store patrons who are trapped in a freezer during a terrorist attack by some Second Amendment enthusiasts. Our marriage will be fine — she has total creative control over the movie, I have total creative control over the book. 

What’s the worst sentence you’ve ever written? 

I wrote literally thousands of pages of material before I got published. You want me to narrow it down to a single sentence? OK, let's go with "I think we need to talk..."

Maybe that needs some context. In high school I wrote a screenplay called Curses, and I needed two of the characters to meet up and realize that they'd been cursed by the same witch. So I had them walking on opposite sides of the same street, talking out loud to themselves about their problems and then overhearing each other (italics mine, to emphasize that I wrote a scene in what I just knew would be a major motion picture where my main characters talked out loud to themselves about their problems and then overheard each other from opposite sides of the street) leading to the "I think we need to talk..." line. Even for something written by a 16-year-old, that was pretty frickin' stupid. It was very kind of you to make this the last question of the interview so the reader goes away with that as their final impression. 

Our pleasure.

You can get Sick House on Kindle.

Cathy Salustri is the arts and entertainment editor for Creative Loafing Tampa. Email her here

About The Author

Cathy Salustri

Cathy's portfolio includes pieces for Visit Florida, USA Today and regional and local press. In 2016, UPF published Backroads of Paradise, her travel narrative about retracing the WPA-era Florida driving tours that was featured in The New York Times. Cathy speaks about Florida history for the Osher Lifelong Learning...
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