Monday, April 25, 2016

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Jeff Musillo, Author, Visual Artist, Actor, and Director

Jeff Murillo, Author
Reviewers describe Jeff Musillo as a “prolific and eclectic author, who has the ability to surprise his audience with something completely new every time.” His latest novel, THE ETERNAL ECHO, is about a boy raised strictly with technology who turns into a “murderous monster—” a story without humor, because, Musillo says, he couldn’t fit any in. He both likes and dislikes technology.

In addition to writing novels, Musillo is also a visual artist, actor, and director. His paintings have been exhibited at more than twenty shows in NY and presented in a number of publications. His various films have premiered at several film festivals. He takes advantage of the benefits of each art form to express what he’s feeling. He’s currently working on a new story about the return of Jesus who no one knows is Jesus, resulting in his being treated as if he’s a homeless person. Musillo lives in Broklyn with his wife and family.

Q: Your latest novel, THE ETERNAL ECHO, described by reviewers as “both chilling and eye opening”, tells the story of a boy raised strictly by technology with disturbing results. How did you conceive of such a plot? Do you dislike and/or distrust technology?

Jeff Musillo: I have moments where I both like and dislike technology. I suppose I sometimes distrust it too. I usually find myself liking it though. There are plenty of positives with technology. Technology can be used to help spread the word on small businesses and artistic projects. It can help connect people from all over. It can also help shed light on areas that are contending with terrible struggles and deserve more attention. But then there are moments when I’m walking down the street and I keep getting bumped into people who can’t stop playing candy crush or something. Those are the times when I hate technology.

But with this book, at first, I wanted to make a story that was a bit more lighthearted. It just didn’t stay on that course. The more the protagonist developed the more he took control and guided the story to where it was supposed to go, which is into darkness and horror. It just so happened that the darkness and horror were connected with the misuse of technology by a complete madman.

Q: A reviewer says THE ETERNAL ECHO is “perfect balance between fiction/story telling and realism.” How do you assure readers that your story is credible, or believable? Does it matter?

Jeff Musillo: Believability is important to me. It’s what gives the reader something to truly clutch. With writing, the most important thing to me is making the characters recognizable and convincing, which in turn makes the entire story authentic. I think that starts with the language. It might be occasionally difficult, but it’s always best for a writer to dump their ego when they’re working on a story and do what’s best/normal/exciting not for themselves but for the actual character(s). By doing so, a writer might be taking themselves into unfamiliar and sometimes startling places, but it will be a place of genuineness.
Q: “Both main characters in this story are deeply flawed, and in them I see a lot of myself, especially with my own up bringing.” What makes your characters relatable in THE ETERNAL ECHO?

Jeff Musillo: Making relatable characters is all about how a writer approaches his or her story. I once heard Bryan Cranston in an interview talk about Walter White and, when asked about dealing with the sometimes contemptible nature of that character, Cranston said something about how it’s not his job to judge Walter White, but that it is his job to bring the character to life and maintain his existence in a way that Walter White would actually exist. It’s the same thing with creating and writing literary characters. The writer shouldn’t judge. The writer should ask, What would this character do next and why would this character do such a thing? By doing so, characters become fuller and more human.

Q: When you write, are you intending to strictly entertain your readers or do you want to deliver a message or two? Similarly, is your visual art intended to say something?

Jeff Musillo: It’s a little of both. When I write and when I paint I am the first audience member for the particular project. So I start writing and painting things I’d like to visualize. And then the story or the painting takes itself where it wants to go and I just follow. But I do believe someone who works in an artistic way is usually trying to say something – sometimes they’re saying something silly, sometimes they’re saying something significant. And sometimes, when everything is clicking, delivering a message and entertaining a reader can go hand in hand.

Q: THE ETERNAL ECHO is your fourth published novel, and you are also a visual artist, actor, and director. Do you prefer any of these creative outlets more than the other? Or does each of them produce a different sense of satisfaction?

Jeff Musillo: I boil everything down to Storytelling. There are of course different ways to tell a story. Through literature. Through film. Through visual arts. But I still look at it all simply as storytelling.

I view the brain as a cabinet. Somedays I want work on the novel, so I open that cabinet drawer. Other days I want to paint, and on those days I open the necessary drawer. This way it’s pretty much all part of the same thing, but it’s still separated and situated neatly.

Q: Your other novels fall into different genres. How do you select what stories you’ll write?

Jeff Musillo: It’s all about mood. This too I try to keep as simple as possible. If I feel like working the poem then I make a point to do so. If that’s not happening, maybe the short story will. I just try to keep my mind open to whatever mood might pop up. This way it always keeps the actual act of writing fresh and amusing.

Q: How valuable is humor to telling your stories and/or creating your characters?

Jeff Musillo: It’s funny, if you asked me that before I wrote THE ETERNAL ECHO I’d say that humor, even in trace amounts, is always essential to a story. I still believe that, for most stories, finding something funny to work with is not only enjoyable but also provides a major advantage to the story as a whole. While I was writing my other novel – THE EASE OF ACCESS – I found it important and entertaining to locate humorous moments. However, there is absolutely no levity in THE ETERNAL ECHO. I just couldn’t find any opening for a laugh. I don’t believe the story called for it. I suppose each story calls for its own thing. If a story should be dark, make it dark. If it should be funny, make it funny. But never force anything because that push will be obvious to the reader.

Q: Adjectives such as “unique,” “different,” “surprise,” “new” are used to describe your written works. What makes you look at the world askew and off center?

Jeff Musillo: See that’s the weird thing. I honestly believe I look at things in a normal way. And in conversations with others, I often feel like I’m the boring person. But when it’s all said and done, ever since I was kid, I’ve known what really interests me and all I can do is pursue those interests. I’ve never really thought about whether those interests are unique or typical. I’ve always just pursued what felt right.

Q: What’s next?

Jeff Musillo: I’m currently writing a story about the return of Jesus, but in this story no one knows he’s actually Jesus, so he’s treated almost as if he’s homeless as opposed to supernatural. I’m not sure yet if it’ll be a novel or a novella, but I’ve been having a good time working on it.

Q: Tell us about Jeff Musillo. What do you like to do when you’re not writing, painting, acting, or directing? I mean, what do you like to do for fun (assuming you have time)?

Jeff Musillo: That’s honestly it for me. That’s who I am. When I’m not doing those things I’m working a day job so I can eventually do those things. If you add hanging out with my wife and my family members to writing, painting, acting, directing, then you’ll get the whole picture. That’s everything there is to know about me.

About Jeff Musillo

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.

THE ETERNAL ECHO is a terrifying story, equal parts literary and horror. Doctor David Ravensdale is a madman who conducts an experiment by adopting a baby and raising him from infancy to adulthood, strictly by use of technology. The Good Doctor believes he is attempting to discover the key to the human psyche, and conducting one of the most significant experiments known to man. In actuality, he’s raising a murderous monster. THE ETERNAL ECHO is a millennial mix of Frankenstein and American Psycho. You will never look at your computer the same way again.


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