Jeff Musillo is a writer, visual artist, actor, and director. He’s the author of The Ease of Access (2013), Can You See That Sound (The Operating System, 2014), Snapshot Americana (Roundfire Books, 2014), The Eternal Echo (Strawberry Books, 2016), The Charming Swindler (Michelkin Publishing, 2016), and Small Boy, Big Dreams (Michelkin Publishing, 2017).
His paintings have been exhibited in shows and magazines in both the US and Europe, and will soon be seen in the upcoming 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. He was recently cast in a television pilot titled Shelter.
He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
For more information about Jeff, visit http://jmusillo.wixsite.com/jeffmusilloart
Describe Your Desk:
My desk is surprisingly clean right now. This is only because my wife and I recently had a guest staying at our place. Where there are usually two or three stacks on my desk, there is now only one. That stack consists of a book called Trying to Float by Nicolaia Rips, a Rolling Stone magazine, a headshot and resume of mine for my next audition, a benefits package from CBS that I’ve yet to open – I don’t know why, but I’m always afraid to do so – a National Geographic, and a page of random notes for a novel I’d like to start working on next year.
What's the Story behind your latest book?
I think it’s my most human story yet. It’s about chaos. Love. Personal demons. Ambition. Crushed dreams. Perseverance. I guess, in a way, it’s about what we do with the life we have while trying to create the life we want.
What is the greatest Joy of Writing for you?
The greatest joy for me is getting lost in the story. When I start a writing session it usually takes anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour to find a good groove. Before that happens I always feel like I’m working on an unsolvable puzzle. But then it happens – things start clicking and coming together. The words begin making sense and it feels as if a huge weight has been lifted and all I can think about is the story. It’s a great feeling.
What are you working on next?
I’m currently working with a great guy named Bryce Prevatte. He is illustrating a children’s book I wrote which – I’m very happy to say – will be published next year by the fantastically awesome Michelkin Publishing. (NOTE: Small Boy, Big Dreams is available now!)
What is your writing process?
Give in! Years ago, I used to outline and outline and outline and I think it made my writing stale. I’m not saying that outlining does that for everyone. It works for a lot of people. But, for me, it usually doesn’t. So now, if I have an idea that I think might work, I sit on it for a little while, and then if I’m still thinking about it and excited about it months later I grab a notebook and write out the whole first draft by hand. I like to use a notebook first because it helps me get the story out without overthinking it. In the notebook, I write more with my heart than my head. Once the first draft is done, I transfer everything to the computer – my least favorite part of the process – and then I simultaneously flesh it out while carving away until I get something that hopefully works. I think of writing kind of like making some sort of a weird ice sculpture. You have a big piece of ice and a chainsaw – now how do you use these things to tell a story.
Who are your favorite Authors?
Hunter S. Thompson. Charles Bukowski. John Fante. Dan Fante. Kurt Vonnegut. Bret Easton Ellis. Chuck Palahniuk. Marquis de Sade. Hubert Selby Jr. Dostoevsky. Camus. I realized the other day that I don’t have many female writers on my bookshelf, which made me a little upset with myself. So I’ve been working to change that. I recently read Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, which is a great novel.
What do you read for pleasure?
All of those authors I listed before. They always give me a good jolt. I work at CBS and, thanks to their connection with Simon & Schuster, I get to grab a good number of free books. Some are strong, some not so much. After I go through a few of those, I always go back to that aforementioned list of authors. They’re the ones that challenged me the most and give me the most joy.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in New Jersey. A friend of mine who is not from Jersey once looked me over and said of my outfit, “You Jersey guys are weird. You never know if you’re going to a club or a dive bar or are going to build a house or teach some class.” He said this because I was probably wearing something like work boots with jeans with a light sweater under a blazer and some gelled up hair. But I think there’s something to that. There are a bunch of individuals from New Jersey with the ability to exhibit a whole range of different personalities. And that has definitely influenced my writing.
When did you first start writing?
The first story I remember writing was a comic called Lightening Man. I can’t recall my exact age, but I was young. It was a really stupid story about a guy being pushed into a pool by his friend just as lightning struck the water. The friend left him for dead, but what really happened is the protagonist survived and developed the power to shoot lightning bolts out of his hands. Not my most original material. I definitely remember getting serious about writing in high school. I think it’s pretty typical, but I was pretty angsty and weirdly disheartened during those years and writing stories and poems and even rap songs made me feel like I was in a better space. I’m a much happier person today, but writing remains that old friend that’s continuously there for me.
Do you remember the first story you ever read and the impact it had on you?
I started reading a lot when I was pretty young. A lot of comics and children’s books and things of that nature. And I was writing songs and poetry at a young age. But it wasn’t until my freshman year in High School that I had that major jolt. I read Hell’s Angels by Hunter S. Thompson and I thought to myself, “I want to do this!” With that book, with his writing, Thompson was just so loose and fiery and original and he had fun while also jumping into danger, and he did it all with such a great respect for journalism. Once I read that book I knew I had no other choice but to be a writer.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I’m honestly at my least inspired when I first wake up. I’m a night person. I feel like I can think better between the hours of 12:00 am to 4:00 am. But, since my day job is freelance work, my hours change all the time. I’ve been having to wake up at 7:00 am every day this summer and that’s been kind turning me sideways, especially when I first wake up in the morning. But every day I remind myself that there is something new to learn, something new to write, to film, to paint, and that gets me going. Honestly, that’s been the mindset that has motivated every day for the past 16 years.