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.


Nothing to Be Seen Here

Yep, basically, this is an empty blogpost with nothing really important to say.

See, I’ve been busy. Writing? Nooooooo. Work has decided that it needs to eat up my brain so that I can’t funciton properly to do things for NaNoWriMo. I have achieved over 10,000 words. Only 40k to go, right? I can do that….8 days….meh, who am I kidding. Goal will be (as long as I ‘fail’ at this one) is to finish by December 31st. And somehow, get enough ready so that I can pitch at LDS Storymakers in May.

Just an FYI, I can’t wait to register for Storymakers. Why? Mostly because I want to pitch to Sarah Crowe. Why? Because she’s awesome. Two of my favorite authors have her as an agent. One of my favorite writer friends is hoping to one day have her as his agent. I just think I should be added to that list. (Yes, I’m that entitled. 😉 )

And other than that. I have nothing else to say, except:

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.


LDS Storymakers was a two-day event that I nauseating talked about for the last few months. Out of the three conferences I attended in the last year, it was definitely the best. Let me give you a rundown of the events:

Bootcamp: I paid extra to do a two-day, morning bootcamp session. And let me tell you, whoever you are, that it was awesome. I am very willing to pay that again. My table’s writing guru (or whatever they were called) was Kirk Shaw, senior editor of Covenant. He was very awesome to have as the guru (or whatever). The rest of my group was Tamara, Graham, Deirdra, and Julie. I have to say, each of them are more talented than me at writing. Tamara actually has a new book coming out from a small press publisher. Graham had been at the conference before and seemed to know everyone. Deirdra has finished two separate books that seem to fit in a series and ended up with a manuscript request from one of her pitch sessions. And one of Julie’s entries in the young adult category won that category. So congrats to her. My manuscript got a little ripped apart. And oddly enough, it didn’t hurt. I learned that my story is good, but my ‘craft’ needs to be honed a lot.

There were four breakout sessions on day one. It was a difficult process deciding which ones to attend.

#1: Laura Rennert, a senior agent at Andrea Brown Lit, did an awesome presentation about query letters and pitches. I thought that it’d help a little to attend this class. Well, I was wrong. It helped a lot. I really want to redo a lot of stuff for my book and try to send it to her.

#2: Aprilynne Pike, author of NY Times Bestseller Wings, did a presentation on fantasy in the YA (Young Adult, if you don’t know) market. She’s a great presenter because she’s got the right amount of energy along with a great presentation.

In between the second and third sessions, I bought Dan Wells’ I Am Not a Serial Killer, which I can’t wait to read (after the other two books that I’m trying to read right now.)

#3: J. Scott Savage is in my top 3 favorite all-time presenters. I mean, the man is awesome. He did a presentation on writing villains. Like Aprilynne, he’s got enough humor mixed with knowledge mixed with energy that makes him awesome. I was too intrigued by his presentation that I forgot to take notes. Oh well, I’ll just email him to get them (hopefully he’ll hold up to his promise).

#4: I was originally going to go to a different presentation. I acutally wish I did. I went to someone else’s presentation and checked out early. Which was fine. I needed to get out and stretch my legs after all the sitting.

Keynote: David Wolverton is awesome. The man has written under both David Wolverton and David Farland. Sadly, I’ve never read any of his books, but I intend to. There’s just so much for me to read right now. He gave so much insight. Ending day one with his insightful words made me want to go out and write.

Throughout the day, I got the privilege of meeting Heather Moore, Annette Lyon, and many more people. Mary also got Rachel Ann Nunes’ signature on one of her books as well as purchasing a Janette Rallison book and getting it signed. Most importantly, I got to get James Dashner’s signature in his second 13th Reality book. I also got to meet aspiring authors Gail and Debbie, who were from Colorado during our dinner before getting a headache from sitting far too close to the speakers during Shaun Burrows mini-concert. We ended up buying two of his cds as well.

More from LDStorymakers in my next post. Until then:

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.