Horror Writers Association

Veterans in Horror: Interview with Jay Whales


Jay grew up in small town, southeast Missouri, battling sasquatches, rednecks, witches, booger eating bastards, drinking Spine Likker fresh from the spigot and just having fun.  Jay rode in the back of pickup trucks, never heard of a seat belt until he started working and he and his best friend watched shitty horror movies every chance they got, before Jay up and ran off to the US Army.

Tell us a bit about your military service. Years? Branch? Specialty?

I joined the US Army in 1983 and spent the next 25 years as a Military Policeman and then a federal agent/criminal investigator as a CID Special Agent, just like the television shows NCIS, except for the Army, and different.  I retired after 25 years service, having lived overseas and deploying to each “hot zone” over that time, visiting each continent except Africa and Antarctica, at least once.

What role, if any, did reading and writing play during your military service?

As a law enforcement officer, reading and writing were very important, it seems 90+% of my time on the job was doing one or the other.

What inspired you to start writing?

I was always told he had a vivid imagination, coupled with my love of reading, becoming an author just seemed to be the right thing to do.

What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?

As stated in my bio, my best friend and I watched horror movies voraciously while growing up.  Also, I read horror books, good, bad or indifferent ones, whatever I could get my hands on, while growing up and while traveling the world with the US Army.

What role, if any, does your military experience play in your writing?

I try not to write “military” stuff in my writing, however, a lot of the scenarios or characters are based on events encountered during my time in the Army.

What is your favorite depiction of military service in all of literature? Why?

Subject to change, but at this moment, I would answer this with most any military character written by the late Tom Clancy.  His depictions of Cold War era veterans, “getting the job done,” keep me reading each and every time I read his books.  There probably many other authors that I could say the same about, but Tom came to mind as soon as I read this question.

How do you feel military veterans and the broader military experience has thus far been represented in the horror genre?

“Game over man”, Bill Paxton as Private Hudson in the 1986 movie Aliens.  Generally, I feel military experience and veterans overall are well represented in the horror genre.  Most of the time, a military character will “save the day” or at least die trying their darndest to save the day.

Who are some civilian characters in horror that you think would have made for great soldiers?

Pretty much any character played by Lance Henriksen and I think Milla Jovovich as “Alice” in the Resident Evil series would have been a good military person.

Who are some military veteran horror authors you recommend our audience check out?

This question required research and I either was not looking in the right place or there is not a central place to find out which horror authors are military veterans.  I did verify three reliable authors I read all of the time are military veterans and I recommend anyone who hasn’t read these authors go do so RIGHT NOW:  Brian Keene, Edward Lee and Richard Matheson.  I have met two of the three and they were very down-to-earth guys.

What’s something about veterans most people don’t know?

Military veterans are low-key people and secretly liked being thanked for their service, outwardly feel uncomfortable in public places when people say it to them.  The job of a veteran is demanding and only other veterans would understand it.


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