1. Tell us about your most recent project (written or published). What inspired it?
Right now I’m working on a serial story for Patreon, told in weekly installments, then bundled up once a month or so and posted to various websites. I’m really excited about the opportunity and challenges presented in telling a story in these episodic bursts; I think it really allows you to experiment with the plotting and structure in ways that maximize the impact of how things roll out.
This first serial is something I’ve been developing for a while, called “The Cult of Maximus”. Two mismatched police officers — a large, gentle wolf and a small but aggressive rabbit — are investigating the disappearance of various homeless people within their jurisdiction of Fog City. The discovery of what’s been happening to them pulls them both into a sprawling conspiracy that has designs on guiding the kaleidoscope of sapient species to the next stage of evolution. Now, this pair has to find a way to discover just how deep this cult goes and how to stop them while being in over their heads every step of the way.
I hope that the serial will give me the ability to arc out a deep exploration of these characters and how their experience with this mystic, impossible problem changes them — both inside and out. Of course, those changes manifest in ways that affect the people around them, and this serial will explore that as well. I’m really fascinated by how personal changes become community changes, and how those become bigger socio-political changes given enough time and momentum. We don’t exist in a vacuum, and I’m really jazzed about the opportunity to show that step by step.
All of this will be taking place in the context of a story with an erotic nature, which is also exciting and really tricky. I’m going into this with the idea that erotic stories can discuss serious and interesting topics; they can be arousing, thrilling and thoughtful at the same time.
2. What’s your writing process like? Are you a “pantser,” an outliner, or something in between?
Definitely “something in-between”. I’ve found that it really helps me to pull through a story if I have signposts that can lead me to the next big thing, so I really love having an outline that allows me to see the rough shape of a story. However, the story almost never turns out to match the shape of the outline I’ve given it.
When a story “grows legs”, it’s a sign that you’ve really tapped into something but it can also throw all of your plans out of the window. Characters end up doing things you’d never expect, pulling new characters from the ether that you never planned for; or a character will resist a certain plot point because there’s something about their personality that makes a necessary action impossible for them to take, so you have to back up and get to know this person in your head a little better.
So while the outline is definitely a big help for determining the joints of the story where things pivot, you might find that you need to reconstruct it on the fly fairly often.
3. What’s your favorite kind of story to write?
I think I really love telling stories about outsiders. People who resist type a little, perhaps, or feel that they don’t belong for one reason or another. I love digging into a character to figure out how they work, what makes them feel disconnected from their environment, and then writing the story that moves them a little closer to the world they inhabit.
Most of the stuff that I end up showing is erotic in nature, just because I’m a big fan of macro/micro stories as well. There’s something about the way physical transformation necessitates a shift in your mentality that I love exploring too; when you gain or lose physical power, it changes the way you see yourself and your place in the world. It’s more than simply lording power over someone else, it’s also dealing with this real, physical difference that separates you from your world and what that does to your psyche.
4. Which character from your work do you most identify with, and why?
This might just be because it’s what I’m working on now, but Officer Tom from “The Cult of Maximus” is someone I’m having a lot of sympathy for right now. He’s this sort-of average guy who holds strong beliefs without necessarily voicing them, who feels in over his head with his job most of the time, who is trying to balance the demands of this difficult profession with his home life. And just when he feels like he’s getting his feet under him, something else comes along to pull the rug out from under him! It happens all the time in life, and I think that’s what makes it such a fun story to write.
5. Which authors or books have most influenced your work?
It’s a huge list. Furry-wise, I’ve gotten my sensibility from Kenneth Grahame and Alan Dean Foster, who both do this really great job of rooting their furry characters in the real world and marrying instinctive urges with sentient, reasoned expression. The Wind in the Willows and the Spellsinger series are so much fun because the societies that have been imagined in them feel really lived-in and true. I love furry stories that lean in to the distinctive habits of various species.
Otherwise, I’m a sucker for books that are poetic, but simple. I’m a huge fan of Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut, Stephen King and Johnathan Lethem; they have this deceptively conversational style that hooks you well, but there’s a lot going on underneath word choices and sentence rhythm and how they’ve built their paragraphs. It’s really fascinating. I think I break for people who can tell great stories while still aiming to be accessible and really connecting to their audience. I’ve found I don’t have a lot of patience for those folks who act as gatekeepers; stories are for everyone, and they should be treated as something special that almost anyone can find something worthwhile in.
6. What’s the last book you read that you really loved?
I just finished book three in The Last Policeman trilogy, called World of Trouble. It’s written by Ben H. Winters, and it tells the story of this beanpole of a police detective who insists on doing his job even though an asteroid is getting set to crash into the planet and end life as we know it. In the last novel he’s looking for his missing sister, just days before the world is going to end.
What I love about it is how Winters treats Hank Palace (the titular policeman). Hank is clearly running a fool’s errand, and in a way he absolutely knows it. But he’s compelled to do it, to spend the rest of his days doing his dream job to the best of his ability. The most fascinating aspect of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction is watching what emerges from within people when the constraints of society are removed. When you’re faced with this very real existential threat and a lot of the ideas we’ve all agreed to buy into are discounted, who are you? Hank knows who he is, even though he’s reluctant to let go of the old world that’s crumbling down all around him. It’s so great.
There are a lot of other books I’ve read that I genuinely love, but they haven’t been published yet so I won’t talk about them. I’ll just say I’m really excited to see them released.
7. Besides writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
I’m a pretty hard-core geek, so there’s a lot of television and movies that I love to watch. I’m a big fan of The Leftovers, Agents of SHIELD, Game of Thrones and Supernatural; I love watching movies in different genres, but nothing quite thrills me like a great horror film.
Dungeons and Dragons are a big draw for me; right now I’m running a Pathfinder game and playing in two Star Wars games as well as a Dresden Files game, and that’s a lot of fun. I really do tend to spend most of my free time awash in stories; either participating in them, or enjoying them.
8. Advice for other writers?
In so many ways I still feel like a baby writer who has no business giving advice to other writers. I guess my best piece of advice is to find a way to make writing fun enough that you’ll want to do it every day and serious enough that you’ll want each story you tell to be better than the last. Passion and dedication really are the things you need to pull you through your writing career.
9. Where can readers find your work?
I’m everywhere! I have a personal/storytelling blog over at http://www.jakebe.com.
My writing is on FurAffinity, Weasyl and SoFurry: just look for “jakebe” there.
My Patreon is here, where I’ll be posting parts of The Cult of Maximus in 2016: https://www.patreon.com/jakebeserials
10. What’s your favorite thing about the furry fandom?
I love that the furry fandom is so BROAD. No matter what you’re into — writing, video games, art, comics, performance, music — you can find a scene within the fandom that you will fit. It’s really great to see so many people pursuing so many different passions all within the same community. What’s more, we really support each other’s projects in great ways. It’s just a lovely thing to see.
Check out Jakebe’s member bio here!