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JD Oliva Talks Writing PTSD Characters
I recently interviewed comic book writer and novelist, JD Oliva, about his book that’s currently on Kickstarter: Harvest Moon. We spoke about transitioning from comic books to novels and writing characters with PTSD.
I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did speaking with JD.
Anthony Pollock: Thank you for taking the time to chat with me this week. Please tell the readers a bit about yourself and the work you do.
JD Oliva: Hi, my name is J.D. I’m a writer from suburban Chicago. I have two comics miniseries, but now my focus is on novels. I currently have nine books out. My work focuses on the horror/supernatural-thriller genre. I like to think my stuff is grounded in reality, but these unexplainable phenomena happen just behind your shoulder.
Anthony Pollock: Tell me a bit about the inspiration behind Harvest Moon.
JD Oliva: Harvest Moon started as a story that I wrote in creative writing in the sixth grade. At its core, it’s a story about a cop, his son, and a werewolf. It’s been something that has grown up with me and has changed and evolved as I’ve grown up. I didn’t quite have the final piece of this story figured out until I became a father.
When created I this story, I sympathized with the kid character, but being a dad changed the story’s focus for the better. I’ve always loved horror stories and have had this strange fascination/fear of the occult. The Thomas Harris books and the film Manhunter are also huge influences on the story.
Anthony Pollock: Where did writing start for you and what is your origin story?
JD Oliva: I’ve telling stories since childhood. My grandfather bought a word processor for my 11th birthday, and I’ve always been writing something. I studied film in college and thought it would be my route. After making two independent films, I realized that being a filmmaker is a life I didn’t want, but I still had stories I wanted to tell. I started writing comics, studying in Andy Schmidt’s Comics Experience courses.
I ran two successful Kickstarter campaigns for my comics, DELUGE and RED SUNRISE. My comics work was well-reviewed, but I could never wrap my head around the financials. This led me to prose writing, and it’s really where I found my niche. I’m very comfortable in this world. It allows me to tell my stories and not spend any time away from my family.
Anthony Pollock: Harvest Moon is clearly influenced by works of Crime Fiction but where does the overall genre sit for you? What are your go to’s?
JD Oliva: Absolutely! I love true crime stories, and like I said, the work of Thomas Harris (Red Dragon/Manhunter, in particular) is a massive influence on me. I’m a big Stephen King fan, so I can deny those influences either. Though it’s a scary werewolf story, it does lean more into the thriller world.
The spinoff series, THE BOOKS OF JERICHO, is even more firmly planted with one foot in the thriller space, the other in the paranormal. I think supernatural thriller is the best way to describe my stuff. I like to think of Harvest Moon as “what if Michael Mann made a horror film?”
Anthony Pollock: One of the characters in Harvest Moon deals with crippling PTSD. What is your experience with PTSD?
JD Oliva: I’m fortunate enough to have never suffered from PTSD myself. On the other side of my life, I’m a high school wrestling coach. One of my former athletes discovered his brother’s body after committing suicide. Having dealt with him in high school, I knew he suffered from some bad PTSD. Fortunately, he’s in a much better place now and is helping kids work through their own issues.
While I was writing this book, I interviewed him and talked about how PTSD affects him. He spoke of how sounds and smells trigger reactions in him. We talk about hallucinations and how he dealt with them. Learning from a survivor helped me shape a more authentic character and helped ground the story with a basis of reality.
Anthony Pollock: What are your biggest obstacles when it comes to your work? How do you overcome them?
JD Oliva: I have a pretty good understanding of plot. My comics background helps me with creating tight outlines. But I struggle as a typist. My editor is constantly on my for typos and sentences that make no sense, but because my brain knows what its supposed to say, fills in the gaps. That’s a big struggle for me. So I really rely on my editor and proofreader to help me where I’m weak.
Anthony Pollock: How did you go about finding the right artist to work on this project?
JD Oliva: Richard P. Clark painted this spectacular cover. He was my artist on DELUGE, and he’s fantastic. We’ve known each other for a decade, and there is no one else I wanted to work with. The cover is excellent, and the original artwork is available through the Kickstarter campaign.
Eric Rose created the artwork that we used in the Kickstarter video. Although it’s a novel and not a comic, it was important to me to create a visual representation of the characters and story. Eric and I worked together on RED SUNRISE, and my farm noir story SHUNNED. We’re going to be doing another comic project soon.
Anthony Pollock: Many of us creators work on projects outside of our 9-5 jobs. Do you have any advice for balancing careers with passion projects/side hustles?
JD Oliva: If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way to make it work. Most of the writers and artists I know have “day jobs.” If creating is important, you’ll find the time.
Anthony Pollock: Do you have any upcoming releases you would like to discuss?
JD Oliva: This Kickstarter focuses on Harvest Moon, but the Books of Jericho are also available. I have another trilogy of books coming soon, and I’ll be launching another Kickstarter around Halloween. My goal is to get to a point where I can put out a novel every six weeks or so.
Anthony Pollock: Thank you for taking the time to do this! Where can readers find you and your work?