Posted March 31, 2014 by in Interviews

Getting to Know Harry E. Gilleland, Jr.: Interview

Harry E. Gilleland, Jr. Photo by Homer Scarborough

Harry E. Gilleland, Jr. Photo by Homer Scarborough

Harry E. Gilleland, Jr., is no stranger to the publishing world, but it was not his first career. Born and raised in Macon, Georgia, Gilleland earned his Bachelor of Science degree in microbiology in 1966. That degree was followed with a master’s in the same field of study in 1968. In 1973, after a tour in Vietnam as a captain in the United States Army, Gilleland continued studying the field of microbiology and earned a doctorate degree from the University of Georgia. He also spent time doing post-doctoral work at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada. After completing his studies, he became a faculty member in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Louisiana State University’sHealth Science Center in Shreveport. He taught and worked in vaccine research for 29 years before retiring in July 2004. He and his wife, Linda, live in Shreveport, where Gilleland devotes his time to writing.

Q: Over the past few years, you’ve written several literary works. What are the titles of your books?

A: My titles include Poetry for the Common Man: Storoems and Poems (2003); Gilleland Poetry: Storoems and Poems (2005); Bob the Dragon Slayer (2005), a fantasy novella; White Lightning Road (2006), a contemporary romance novel; Poetic Musings of an Old, Fat Man (2008); Aldric & Anneliese (2011), an action-adventure historical fiction novel; Poetry Books Don’t Sell! (2012); A Wandering Warrior (2013), an action-adventure historical fiction novel; and Zack’s Choice (2014), a crime-heist-mystery novel. [See our review of Zack's Choice here.]


Q: You’ve published in several different genres over the years. Which do you prefer, or feel that you have had the greatest success writing?

A: I like to experiment with different genres of novels. I really enjoyed writing my newest novel in crime/mystery. However, I’m not sure what genre I will try next time. I will always remain a poet at heart.


Q: Your education and career were in microbiology. That is quite a leap to what you are currently doing. Were you able to use your background in science in your writing now?

A: I honed my writing skills by writing scientific works, such as research papers. I published 44 papers in leading microbiology journals, and I wrote grant applications, reports, and lecture notes. Late in my scientific career, I became immersed in writing poetry.


Q: What have been some of your successes in the publishing world?

A: I have published over 400 storoems (story-poems, a format I pioneered) and poems. One of my storoems won $1,000 for second place in an international poetry contest in 2008, while another poem of mine won $200 for High Distinction in the same contest that year.


Q: You say you are a poet at heart, but you’ve got several works of fiction under your belt as well. How did you transition from poetry to fiction?

A: After writing only poetry in my creative writing career for years, I was challenged by a friend to try writing prose. That challenge resulted in the novella Bob the Dragon Slayer. I enjoyed the change from writing poetry, so I continued writing both. Since 2003 I have published nine books: four of poetry and five of prose.


Q: What has the publishing process been like for you?

A: Two of my novels were published by a small, traditional publisher head-quartered in Oklahoma: 4RV Publishing. The remaining seven books have been self-published, six through Lulu Press and this latest novel through CreateSpace.

Zack's Choice cover

Q: Your new novel is titled Zack’s Choice. Tell us a little bit about it.

A: Zack’s Choice is hard to label. It is a crime-heist-mystery novel with a dash of humor and a bit of sex. It presents the story of a college student, Zackery Gresham, who is taking a sight-seeing motorcycle trip across the southern states on his way home to his parents’ house in Portland. In the desert of New Mexico, he encounters a teenage boy and gives him a ride. The boy tells him a story about his having to save the world from the forces of evil (minions from Hell) by preventing them from obtaining the Sword of Damascus, an ancient Muslim sword that is a religious icon and art object. The sword is on exhibit at the L.A. County Museum of Art, on loan from the Vatican. Zack must decide whether or not to help rescue the sword and bury it in hallowed ground to protect it. This is the first of several potentially life-altering choices Zack must make.


Q: Is your new book part of a series or a standalone book? Which audience would you say it’s most geared towards?

A: Zack’s Choice is a stand-alone book. I have never written a sequel to any of my novels, yet. It is geared toward older teenage and adult readers. It has some profanity and one mildly explicit sex scene.

Zack’s Choice (Paperback)

By (author): Harry E Gilleland Jr.

Zackery Gresham has his life all planned. His mother is a lawyer; his father is a federal judge; and he is Pre-Law at Yale, with Harvard Law School to follow before he joins his mother’s prestigious law firm. He plans to marry his high school and Yale girlfriend once he graduates from Law School. During a school break Zack takes a once-in-a-lifetime motorcycle trip through the southern states. In New Mexico he has a chance encounter with a strange hitchhiker. The resulting chaos will bring Zack face-to-face with a choice that could alter his life forever. Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers’ Favorite: 5-stars Zack’s Choice is an adventure story written by Harry E. Gilleland, Jr. Zack is having a last adventure before going back to Yale for his final year of pre-law studies. His life is planned and set out: a law degree from Harvard and then a career with his mother’s law firm. He’s been touring the Southern states on his Harley on his way home to Portland. While Zack’s parents were not at all enthusiastic about this trip, Zack stood his ground and has been having a great time. Everything changes when he stops to pick up a young hitchhiker in the deserts of New Mexico. The hitchhiker, Bobby, seems aimless and too young to be on his own, so Zack treats him to dinner and shares his motel with him. When Zack wakes up, Bobby is gone, along with Zack’s wallet. Zack calls home for extra cash and continues on his trip, stopping in Las Vegas for a show and some gaming before going home. He’s surprised to find Bobby walking down the street and, on apprehending him, hears a very strange story indeed. Harry E. Gilleland’s contemporary fiction novel, Zack’s Choice, is a first-rate adventure tale. The plot is fast-paced and very entertaining. Zack is a good boy when the reader first meets him, whose big act of rebellion from somewhat domineering parents is a summer trip on his Harley. He’s already resigned to it being his last big thrill when life interrupts. Bobby’s story is so crazy, yet compelling, that I was taken in as well and began to think Zack’s Choice was another fiction genre altogether. There’s a lot of humor as Zack blithely goes off to school, not fully realizing what he’s done, and a grim peek into the legal machinery the unwary can get enmeshed in. Zack’s Choice is literate, fun, and entirely unpredictable, and I enjoyed it immensely.
List Price: $7.59 USD
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Mollie Smith Waters

Mollie Smith Waters teaches American literature, theater, and speech at a small community college in rural Alabama. Her hobbies include reading, writing, traveling, and walking.