Jeff Musillo is a writer, visual artist, actor, and director. He is the author of The Ease of Access (2013) Can you See That Sound (The Operating System, 2014) Snapshot Americana (Roundfire Books, 2014) and The Eternal Echo (Strawberry Books, 2016). His paintings have been exhibited in over twenty shows around New York, and have been showcased in magazines in both the U.S. and Europe, including The Menteur in France, Arrow Magazine, and Aesthetics Magazine. His paintings were also in the feature film, In Case of Emergency. His work in film, as a screenwriter, director, and actor, has premiered at The Hoboken International Film Festival, The Jersey Shore Film Festival, and The Katra Film Series. His screenplay, In The Ring, is currently in pre-production and will be directed by Aaron Latham, who wrote Urban Cowboy and The Program. And he was recently cast in the HULU pilot, Shelter. He currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.
Jeff Musillo Author Interview
S&S: The Eternal Echo plays with an idea that has been touched upon many times in psychology. That being parental influence on children’s mental and emotional state. What got you interested in writing about the topic?
JM: For me, it’s not just about parental influence. I’m really interested in chain reactions as a whole. It doesn’t just have to be a terrible father raises his child wrong and that child grows up to be a terrible adult and that adult raises his own child terribly and so on and so forth. Although I do find that fascinating, and it does play a major part in this novel, the whole Matryoshka Doll element of it all. But, back to chain reactions as a whole, I like thinking about scenarios that, for example, start with a stubbed toe and somehow end with a hostage crisis on top of a skyscraper. Maybe there was parental influence in this situation. Maybe there wasn’t. It all depends on the characters in the story. It just so happened that in The Eternal Echo the chain reaction involved a mad scientist influencing a child’s mind in a vicious way.
S&S: Your works definitely do cross genres! Is there any particular reason you haven’t settled into one area?
JM: I don’t think there’s any particular reason. I think jumping around from genre to genre is all about a certain time and a certain disposition. If a mood strikes to write a poem, then I write a poem. If it’s non-fiction, then it’s non-fiction. With The Eternal Echo, it turned out that I was in the mood to take a crack at Horror. I never feel one way all the time, which I’d have to believe is the same for many people. There are moments of happiness, despondency, excitement, weariness, etc. My writing reflects that day-to-day, moment-to-moment shift.
S&S: What’s your coffee/tea mug say about you?
JM: The mug I’ve been using recently is this great Mikasa Swirl Square White mug. I was using an old and cracked smiley face mug for a while. But I’m getting married very soon and me and my fiancé got these really nice Mikasa mugs as a gift. So I guess this new mug says, “It’s sometimes nice to have nice things.”
S&S: How much research did you do for The Eternal Echo?
JM: I didn’t do very much research for this novel. I wanted to be surprised as I wrote. There were a couple of things I looked up in connection with locality and weapons and human anatomy and sex dolls. But when it came to the actual story and the character of Ravensdale I didn’t do any research. I essentially let Ravensdale take the story where he wanted it to go.
S&S: From your bio, it’s obvious you also have an interest in film-making. Do you hope to one day see The Eternal Echo made into a film?
JM: I would love that! And I would love the great Malcolm McDowell to play Dr. Ravensdale. I recently spoke with a film director from Finland about a possible adaptation. He was into what I told him about the story so my publisher sent him a copy and we’re waiting to hear back. I think it would be interesting to see this story on screen.
S&S: Favorite Girl Scout cookie? (You can tell a lot about a person by their Girl Scout cookie choices!)
JM: No doubt about it – Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies are my favorite. But they have to be refrigerated. Room temperature Thin Mints kind of gross me out. But, when they’re cold, they perfect.
S&S: Until I met my partner, I had no clue people did this. He put the Thin Mints in the freezer, and I just sort of stared at him in confusion. Interesting to know there’s others out there that do it!
S&S: At only 168 pages, The Eternal Echo is just over my page number to consider a work a short story. Do you feel like you’ve written it in it’s entirety or do you feel like it’s a book or a set of characters you may revisit at some point?
JM: That 168 page count is the Kindle edition. I don’t have a kindle, so I don’t really get how that works. The paperback is 198 pages, even though it’s the same exact story in each format. It’s still on the short end of things when it comes to a novel, but I definitely feel this story was told in a complete way. There might be a way to bring Ravensdale back at some point down the road, but I can’t say the same for some of the other characters.
S&S: Are you someone who re-reads books? Or are you a “one-time-done” type person?
JM: There are a good number of books I’ve re-read. For starters, I’ve probably read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas around 10 times. Some other books I’ve read numerous times are: And the Hippos Were Boiled in their Tanks, by Kerouac & Burroughs. Junky, another one by Burroughs. Many books by Bukowski, as well as many books by Fante, both John and Dan. Shoplifting from American Apparel, by Tao Lin. And American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis. There is always a new gem one can pick up from re-reading a story.
S&S: Touching on your film works again, I see that you’ve had films featured in a couple of festivals. What’s that been like for you?
JM: That, to me, is the most terrifying thing. I remember sweating a lot and nervously shifting in my seat the entire time for the premiere of a film I was in called, Parker and the Box. It was my first real experience with being on a big screen and the producers packed the theater. I looked away every time my face made an appearance in the film. No fault of the filmmakers, of course. I was just uncomfortable seeing myself like that. But that was over 5 years ago. I think I’ve gotten a little better with it all. Although, a couple years back, a short film I wrote, directed and starred in was accepted to a festival in NY, which I couldn’t have been happier about, but I wound up sneaking out the back door as the film played.
S&S: How long did it take you to write The Eternal Echo from idea taking root to final draft being finished?
JM: This was the fastest literary experience I’ve ever had. I started writing The Eternal Echo on January 3rd 2015, I sent my completed manuscript to Strawberry Books around early August, and then I signed a contract with them on September 9th. It’s the best experience I’ve ever had with a publisher. I was definitely very lucky on this go around.
S&S: …and finally, what’s the first horror movie you ever remember watching and did it have a long term effect on you?
JM: The Shining! It had a huge effect on me. It still does. I definitely didn’t understand everything that was going on when I first saw the film. I was pretty young. My friend’s older brother had the VHS. But I remember being incredibly frightened by Jack’s frozen and dead face, after he got lost in the maze. Out of all the crazy stuff that occurs in that film, that image sticks with me the most.
Did this perk your interest in The Eternal Echo? If so, you can buy a copy on Amazon.