Interview: Jeff Hirsch, Author of The Eleventh Plague

A)    Who are you?


1. What is your favorite animal? 

I have simple tastes. I like scrappy short haired mutts and taciturn but secretly affectionate cats. If you’re talking wild animals, I do love a good giraffe. They look like they shouldn’t exist, but there they are.

2. If you were a superhero, what power would you want?

I want, more than anything, the superhuman ability to erase and restore portions of my memory at will. Why? With that power I could finish the first draft of a book then completely wipe it from my memory before reading it and starting the second draft. I don’t thinking there could possibly be a better rewriting tool than the ability to read your book the way a regular reader would.

3. What did you get a degree in, if any? What do you do for work? Does that relate to your book in any way?

BFA in Acting and an MFA in Dramatic Writing from UC San Diego. During the day I work at a non-profit in the ad industry. We do award shows,  educational programs and the like. I suppose spending my days in corporate America has taught me something about surviving an apocalyptic wasteland. 🙂

4. Are you left-handed or right-handed?


5. It’s the zombie apocalypse: what office supply do you bring? Because it’s the only way to take them down. I have binder clips. Another friend has paperclips. Someone else is bringing staples. Duplicate supplies are welcome and will be necessary 😉 (yes, this is a joke question.)

You know those paper cutters that are little tables with a swing arm on the side that has a big sharp blade on it? That’s what I’m heading for. Remove that arm and you’ve got a perfect zombie cleaving machete.

B) Reading/Inspiration


1. Who are some of your favorite authors? books? movies? tv shows? Did any inspire you for 11th Plague?

Let’s see. Authors? Susan Cooper, Jeffrey Eugenides, Michael Chabon, Tim O’Brien to name just a small few. Books? The Dark is Rising. How I Live Now. The White Darkness. Feed. Lonesome Dove. The Stand. Tv Shows? Buffy. Homicide. Battlestar Galactica. Mad Men. Parks and Rec. Louie. Movies? Since theres way too many to even try to mention, my fallback position for favorite movie has always been and always will be The Outsiders.

As to inspiration for The Eleventh Plague, I thinkGary Paulsen’s Hatchet helped inspire the tone and focus of the book.

2. Music and food are important to gaining inspiration. What music do you listen to for inspiration? What food is your comfort food? Inspiring food?

Both those things are incredibly important to me, but I can’t say I use either as inspiration. However, when I’m really stuck on something I’m writing I have been known to retreat to the kitchen where I listen to The Clash and bake a pie. There’s something about doing that that really hits my mental reset button. Plus, afterwards there’s pie.

3. What are you currently reading? Perhaps recently reading? What are you looking forward to reading next?

Just finished Lev Grossman’s The Magician King, the sequel to The Magicians. Loved both but actually preferred the sequel. Looking forward to Sarah Darer Littman’s Want to Go Private and Jeffrey Eugenides’ new book.

4. You’re stranded on an island with 5 books of your choosing. What are those 5 books? (I’ll give you a sixth if you name The Eleventh Plague.)

Lonesome Dove

The Stand

The Lord of the Rings

Moby Dick (this way i might finally get around to reading it)

SAS Survival Handbook: How to Survive in the Wild, in Any Climate o

SAS Survival Handbook: How to Survive in the WIld, in Any Climate, on Land or at Sea


5. You said in another interview you had a thought about a dad and son burying and grandpa and that The Eleventh Plague came from there. Where did you go next? Meaning, what did you do to get to the next part of the book?


I know this sounds overly simplistic but really I just tried to go through it step by step. It went something like this.  “Ok. They’re on a hill. The next thing they need to do is get down off the hill and get back on the trial. Except now Dad is thinking he doesn’t want to be on the trail anymore, but he doesn’t know how to tell his son that.” Once I had that I had an activity they needed to do (get down off the hill and get back on the trail) and the beginnings of an interpersonal conflict and an internal conflict.


C) Writing/Inspiring Thoughts:


1. What was your least favorite part of writing/publishing The Eleventh Plague? How did you get through that time?


Honestly the whole thing was amazingly smooth. My editors and the whole team at Scholastic are great. If anything was tough it was waiting for the book to get out there and to start hearing what people think of it.


2. What is one piece of advice that you wish you’d had before starting this whole ordeal of writing and publishing?


That it takes time to get to where you need to be to get published and that the timeline is different for everyone. Some people write their first book and hit a homerun, some people take years. Some of those nights of self doubt would have been alot easier if I knew I was more of the latter.


3. You’ve just won some prestigious award for The Eleventh Plague. What do you say in your acceptance speech?


Oh, I think it would just be a ridiculous amount of thanking people. My wife first and foremost but it’s really amazing how many people it took to make this whole thing happen.


4. Any new projects on the horizon? What about book signings or public speaking?


Yep, I’m working on the second draft of a novel call Magisterium that will be coming out Fall 2012 from Scholastic. It’s the story of a 15 year old girl named Glenn and her adventure in a world where the laws of the universe aren’t entirely consistent.


5. T.J.’s Triangle Self-Evaluation: There is only one wrong answer and multiple correct ones. Imagine, if you will, a triangle with the top point having the word “RANDOM” on it. The bottom left has the word “COOL” on it and the bottom right is “WEIRD”. Where do you put yourself in the triangle? You can use this as a reference to visualize the thought:


Hmm. I’d say somewhere between random and weird. Maybe closer to random since I never know what I’m going to be like on a day to day basis.