The Writing Life: Reflections, Recollections, And a Lot of Cursing by Jeff Strand

Jeff Strand, whose work Publishers Weekly has called “wickedly funny” and Kirkus has called “ridiculously stupid,” has had one of the least meteoric rises to success in the publishing industry. But he eventually got there, even if he should probably put “success” in quotes.

He’s been at it a long time, and has learned a lot of lessons along the way. And he shares them with brutal honesty in this very book, along with plenty of hilarious (and sometimes painful) anecdotes about his career.

This is not a book that will tell you how to format a manuscript or write a compelling query letter. It’s a book about how to cope with rejection and bad reviews. Book signings where nobody shows up. Helplessly watching your peers go on to greater success than you. He’s been through all of that and so much more, and in these pages you’ll have a bunch of laughs as you commiserate and figure out how to get through it all.

The IndieMuse Review

If 2020 has given us anything this year, it has been a stellar lineup of non-fiction books about writing horror, whether that be the practicalities, or in the form of a memoir. I previously gave a glowing review to Brian Keene’s brilliant End of the Road. To round out the year that also gave us Tim Waggoner’s Writing in the Dark, Jeff Strand has gifted us with The Writing Life just in time for Christmas.

For anyone new to Jeff Strand, he currently has over 50 books to his name spanning a career of well over 20 years. Although he is primarily known as a comedy-horror writer, he has also published a number of young adult books, crime novels, short story collections and a fruit centric romantic comedy. The Writing Life is his first full-length non-fiction book and tells the sometimes heartbreaking, often hilarious and consistently entertaining story of his career as a published author.

The book seems to have been written expressly to appeal to horror writers, either established or newcomer, but I don’t want to sell the book’s appeal short. Anybody with a passing interest in writing, or the horror genre in general, will find plenty to enjoy here. In fact, Strand is such a warm and likeable narrator, I’d be genuinely surprised to find a reader who doesn’t find something to like about this book.

Strand’s self-deprecating, conversational tone makes for a breezy, entertaining read and as the chapters are split into easily digestible sections I found it difficult to resist binge reading the whole book in one sitting. Chapters like ‘The Thrill of Rejection’, ‘The Joy of Negative Feedback’ and ‘The Fun of Bad Reviews’ contain a mix of humorous anecdotes and brutal honesty while others, like ‘Working With Other People’ and ‘Some Thoughts on Pseudonyms’ are filled with interesting behind the scenes tidbits and revelations that fans of Strand will get a big kick out of.

The books real triumph is that it is able to balance all the highs and lows that so clearly come with being a writer who lives paycheck to paycheck, switching effortlessly between light and cheery and painfully truthful, from stirring to serious without missing a beat. It really gives you a taste of the unpredictability of the career that Strand has chosen for himself, and it feels almost like we’re voyeurs, intruding on his life, so effective is his delivery.

Motivational, inspirational, and with a down to earth and relatable delivery, while being as funny as you would expect from a Jeff Strand book, The Writing Life is a welcome addition to Strand’s ever-growing bibliography. We can only hope we won’t have to wait another twenty years for his non-fiction follow-up.

RICHARD MARTIN

Richard started reading horror books at a young age, starting with R L Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Point Horror’ series. He traumatised himself at the age of twelve when he read Stephen King’s ‘IT’, and never looked back. He is currently based in the UK, where he lives with his partner, and an inappropriate amount of books.

2 reviews for The Writing Life: Reflections, Recollections, And a Lot of Cursing by Jeff Strand

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  1. Holly Daring  

    Take this one to the nice quiet place in your house and read it with the lights out at night. I enjoyed it so much I ordered another of the authors books.

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  2. Collene Maltese  

    This was a really entertaining book, I’d highly recommend it. The characters were believable, the plot was interesting.

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