‘Jesse Teller’

chaste-1Today, I’d like to welcome Jesse Teller, author of “Chaste” to The Thursday Interview. Before we get started, a quick intro!

Jesse Teller fell in love with fantasy when he was five years old and played his first game of Dungeons & Dragons. The game gave him the ability to create stories and characters from a young age. He started consuming fantasy in every form and, by nine, was obsessed with the genre. As a young adult, he knew he wanted to make his life about fantasy. From exploring the relationship between man and woman, to studying the qualities of a leader or a tyrant, Jesse Teller uses his stories and settings to study real-world themes and issues.


No.1 Would you break the law to save a loved one? .. why?
Yes. Breaking the law can be paid for. You get time. Your life is put on hold. You go to prison, a lot of horrible things. But, it’s not permanent. Saving a loved one is permanent. And if you know that you could have done something, but you chose not to, that’s permanent, too.

No.2 What is the difference between being alive and truly living?
I think dreams play a big part in that. Not necessarily accomplishing your dreams or reaching your dreams, but having them. If you can imagine a better life, and you can work toward that better life, then you’re alive. But if you can’t see things changing for the better, if you can’t see happiness and fulfillment around the corner, then you’re just living. There are other things, too: love, family, friends, career. But I think the big one is dreams. Because with dreams, all those other things are possible. You just have to pick your dreams very carefully. Dreams are about love, same thing as love. Love is a choice. It’s a commitment. Saying you love someone is less about a chemical reaction in the body and more about a choice. Same thing with dreams. You have to make the choice to have a dream. I could tell you I want to be a quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, but unless I choose to commit myself to that, it’s not really a dream. I wanted to be a fantasy writer, so I committed myself to it. I think that’s the essence of truly living.

No.3 What motivates you to write?
There are times when I think that writing is a compulsion, like someone excessively cleaning a house or overeating, like it’s a primal urge to cover up some weakness in my life. But I don’t think it’s that. There are times when it seems that way, but I don’t think that’s it. I think the thing that drives me to write is devotion to the story. I never feel more empowered than when I’m telling a story, whether that story’s written down or spoken verbally. There’s something magical about seeing something in your head and conveying it to another person. I won’t say I’m addicted to that… yeah, I will. It’s an addiction, a bone-deep need. I have to tell stories. I’ve had to since I was a child.

No.4 Why do humans want children?
You know I’ve met a few couples that don’t want children. I sit back and study their lives, and sometimes I see their lives as being shallow, but that’s judgement, and I don’t like judging people. So, you gotta look past that. What I’ve found is, usually it has to do with love. A couple is so in love with each other that they think a child would pull away from that love. I remember thinking that for a while. Some people just don’t want the hassle.

For the others, for the couples that become parents, I think it’s primal. Procreation is the primal need of most living creatures. It’s one of the base drives. I think that with a lot of people, with me in particular, it’s about a second chance, about hope. I look back on my life, and the darkness in my childhood, and I think, “What could I have been without all the abuse and all the derailing of my dreams?” I think that here, in my children, is a chance to make that right, and to see what I could have done. For a lot of people, it’s devotion to the spouse, and the hope that comes with the idea of raising something between the two of you, two people who love each other nurturing one thing to grow. With some people, it’s just cool. First time my kid looked at me, as we were putting together a playlist for a road trip, and he said, “Daddy, we’ve got to have Judas Priest,” I realized how cool it was to have a kid.

No.5 What was the biggest challenge in creating your book “Chaste: A Tale from Perilisc” ?
It was the waiting. I wrote Chaste in 2004, and it was terrible. I realized at one point that I was not a good enough writer the make the book good, to make the book great. No matter how much I rewrote, I just was not going to make it spectacular. So, I had to wait. I had to read more, and I had to write more. I had to write book after book, and form myself into a better writer, and devote myself to becoming a better storyteller. Then, once I had learned how to do it, I could go back and rewrite Chaste, and bring it to the level of quality it needed to be. It was the waiting, the waiting until I was good enough, that was the big challenge.

No.6 What is the most important thing you have learned in life so far?
The most important thing I’ve learned in life is how to love people. It’s not really something you’re born knowing. I was talking to a friend’s child. He was in high school and on the verge of dropping out. I was asked to talk to him and try to focus him. I talked to him about a lot of different things. I realized hours later that I had missed the most important one, the most important thing I could have said to him. So, I went back, and I got in touch with him again. Sent him an email, and I told him the most important things were the relationships he would have in high school, to take his love life seriously, to really focus on the girlfriends he would have. It was a weird thing to say, because I had always been told in the past that those things were not important. Don’t focus on your girlfriends. Focus on your schoolwork. But the early relationships we have in our lives teach us how to relate to our significant others. They teach us how to talk to each other. Because at first, in our first relationships in school, we are disasters. But over time, we learn how to talk to our significant others. We learn how to treat them. And in the end, the most important thing we ever learn is how to love. If you have little education and a terrible job because of it, and your work is hell, but you come home to the love of your life, a man or woman who cherishes you, who you love well, and who loves you back, you can have a very happy life. It’s not education that enriches our lives. It’s our ability to love people.

No.7 How did you come up with the title “Chaste” ?
I name my books after the cities they take place in. My editor, when she first read Chaste, she was talking to me about protagonists, and she said it was like the protagonist of the book was the city itself. I think the places we live have a personality, have a face. You could even say the cities we live in have a dream. When a small town gets its first Walmart, a lot of the citizens are filled with hope, the city is overwhelmed by job potential, things like this. I’m not really a Walmart guy, but I think you understand what I’m getting at. With my work, a lot of the personality and a lot of the character is in the setting itself. So, all of my books are named after cities. Sometimes those titles make sense; sometimes they don’t.

I knew the book was going to be dark when I came up with the concept. I had a concept of a book cover. It was a dark, sinister cover with “Chaste” written in white. And I thought, “Here’s a word of light and hope on a dismal book cover,” and I was intrigued by that idea, by that visual. The word “chaste” has always seemed to me an unattainable goal. To find a truly chaste man or woman is almost impossible. Everyone is blemished somehow. So, the concept of a city named Chaste with the history and the present that I envisioned for it scared me, and set my mind on fire. This book, if I had chosen another title, would not be what it is.

No.8 How do you handle personal criticism?
Used to be really, really bad. It would come as rage that would burn out and end in depression. But then came 15 years of therapy. And with that came a certain level of enlightenment. I realized no one person can please everybody. It’s the way individualism works. If you’re living a life of truth and choice, there are people who are not going to be able to see eye-to-eye with you. A lot of politicians and religious leaders try to make it so that everybody loves them, and everybody agrees with them. They end up becoming washed out and faded, milky and hazy, and people really can’t tell what they stand for after a while, because they don’t stand for much. They’re too busy trying to please everyone. They’re too busy smiling to ever really have an impact. Compare that to a fire-and-brimstone preacher who truly believes his sermon can save the soul of a person. He doesn’t care if everyone likes him. He’s willing to set fire to the church to save one soul. He’s willing to burn it all down if he can lift a single person from the ash. That’s what I want to be, and it comes through my work and my life. I’m not trying to write the most popular book. I may never reach a best-selling list. But there are going to be people who are fanatic fans of my work. There are going to be people who believe in the books, and believe in the writer. The work is going to change lives. So, it doesn’t bother me that certain loved ones don’t have the stomach for my darkness, because for the most part, those people live in happiness, and they don’t need me. It’s the other people who do.

No.9 Why should people read your book?
Chaste studies certain themes. It studies the death of a leader, the desperation to be important, the hope of love, and the will to fight darkness. Those are all noble topics to discuss. But Chaste is truly about a dark past tainting a future. It’s about the weakness in being held hostage by the abuse that overwhelmed your past. Chaste is about overcoming that darkness. Anybody in an abusive relationship, anybody controlled by a dark childhood, is going to read Chaste and understand. Anybody who loves someone who has suffered a mind-numbing tragedy in his or her past, and can’t get beyond it, is going to learn a language in which to talk to that loved one. Chaste is about overcoming your abuser. Chaste is about making peace with God. And Chaste is about the fragile hope that a person, any person, can turn his or her life around. Writing Chaste healed me, and I think reading Chaste can heal others.

No.10 Why is there something rather than nothing?
In my life, there used to be nothing. I had no concept of love. I had no overwhelming dream. I had no family. The only thing that kept me alive was a handful of friends who allowed me to be selfish and neglectful. But one of those friends truly loved me and saw the need, in that time of my life, for me to be selfish. She stuck around. She was there to support me, to hold me, to heal me. At times, she watched me burn. At times, she saw the flicker of hope. The entire time we were together, she was teaching me the language of love. Love is a language. If you’re willing to learn it, you can become fluent in it. But not everybody is willing, and not everybody has a good teacher. Many people stumble through a stilted vocabulary. And that was me, until she taught me. With love comes hope. With love comes promise. With love comes focus. With love comes compassion, for yourself and others.

Armed with only the language of love, you can build an army of friends and family to fight back the darkness of your life. Armed with only the language of love, you can scrape off the self-loathing in your life, and create self-esteem and self-confidence. Armed with only the language of love, you can build a home for those you cherish, and a nurturing environment to help you and the people around you grow to their potential. You can change the world. You can understand God. You can make peace with the lack of God. Love is not all you need, but it is the foundation from which you build everything. Love changes nothing into something. Wherever it finds root, it can grow something.

Thank you Jessie 🙂
For taking the time to answer
my questions & the best of luck with your new book!



When her devout parents died, Cheryl turned her back on her god. Years of denial and self-loathing have defeated her. Her life consists of taking orders and succumbing to abuse. A group of strangers stops in Chaste for the night, but an unnamed threat is preying on the town. Tragic deaths have become more and more frequent. Cheryl wants to protect these travelers, expose the evil force, and save her fellow citizens, but she must find a way to believe in hope.



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