Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Douglas Clegg - Author Interview

Novels: Neverland, Isis, Afterlife, Purity, The Words, The Priest of Blood, The Lady of Serpens, The Queen of Wolves, Wild Things: Four Tales, The Attraction, Nightmare House, Mischief, The Infinite, The Abandoned, The Hour Before Dark, You Come When I Call You, Naomi, The Halloween Man and Mordred, Bastard Son

> Pitch your latest novel.

Neverland is a southern gothic tale of childhood games and family secrets -- and the supernatural -- set in the 1960s. Beau Jackson and his family go to their grandmother's summer house on Gull Island, off the southern U.S. coast. There, he and his unruly cousin Sumter begin to avoid the argumentative world of their parents by going to a shack in the woods -- which they've christened "Neverland," because it's the place they've been told never to go.

While their games in the shack begin innocently enough, when Sumter's darker side emerges these games grow into nightmarish rituals that explode into absolute horror.

> What are your favourite three books?

The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford

Seven Gothic Tales by Isak Dinesen

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

> What made you want to be a writer?

I've been writing fiction since the age of 8, so it came out of a need to tell stories -- which I'd been doing since before I began writing even at that age. As a kid, I used to hyper-exaggerate everything and make a story -- a drama -- out of anything I experienced. My mother was wise enough to sit me down with a typewriter and tell me to write it all down. That was when I was eight. And I haven't stopped writing it all down.

I was one of those kids where a library card and a book fair made me more thrilled than pretty much anything else. I could skip the go-carts, the movies (although I liked movies, too), any number of things in order to get to that library and check out books every week. And then the school book fairs? When I was a kid I pitied my mom a bit, because I'd beg for just about every book I saw.

So, books and writing were my great loves from a very young age -- and telling stories was something I could not stop doing from the first day I learned to talk.

> Where do you think the horror genre is heading? (Are there zombies in your literary future?)

I can't guess this -- I think horror fiction is a very primal area of human expression. Life has both nightmares and dreams, and horror fiction tends to emphasize the nightmarish side.

Regarding zombies, no idea. I'm not planning on it, and there are plenty of terrific writers who are doing the zombie thing now without me stepping into it at the moment. Still, I won't rule it out if I come up with a good story.

> In the books you’ve written, who is you favourite character and why? Which character is most like you?

Certainly, some of my favorite characters that I've written are in my novel, Neverland. I'd say Sumter Monroe, the boy with the darkest imagination in existence, is someone I was fascinated by when creating him. What makes someone want to escape into darkness? At what point does a person find beauty in terror?

So, that led me through the creation of Sumter in Neverland, and I would say he's up there with my favorites from among all I've written.

Which character is most like me? All of them. All of them come directly from my perceptions, and I think a little bit of me is in each of them. Well, except the horrible ones, of course.

Neverland - Book Trailer
Uploaded by dreadcentral. - Arts and animation videos.

> If you could, would you change places with any of your characters?

No. I prefer my life, but it's great to live vicariously through the lives of others!

> What was the first novel (published or unpublished) that you wrote and how long did it take to write it?

My first novel, Goat Dance, was also the first one published. It took me a few months -- physically -- to write the first draft, but I'd been thinking about it for a few years before I wrote it. Then, another several months of revision before it was published.

> What was the hardest scene for you to write?

When I write a novel, all scenes seem equally difficult to write -- because I want to take my imagination and translate what I've seen in it to the page, using language (which is often inefficient for describing something.)

In Neverland, the scenes that were roughest on me were the emotional ones -- because the story hit me at a psychological and emotional level regarding family, love, dysfunction and understanding the kind of secrets in a family that cause pain.

> One of my coworkers is wondering if you'll be continuing Mordred's story.

Absolutely, if a good publisher picks it up.

> What is the strangest question you have ever been asked by a fan?

I can't think of one. My fans tend to be smart, friendly, and fairly well-read. They're people I wouldn't mind hanging out with and talking books and movies and maybe sharing a meal or coffee.

> What was the most fun book signing, convention, etc. you’ve attended and why?

A special pajama party/movie night at Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego -- back in 2001. My novel The Infinite was just out in hardcover, but also there was a very, very bad movie version of my novel, Bad Karma. So, I got a tape of Bad Karma, and Maryelizabeth Hart and Jeff Marriotte set up a television after the signing. People showed up for the signing in pajamas and bathrobes and we all sat around and watched -- and laughed -- through this horrible movie version of one of my novels.

It was the most fun I can imagine -- and the readers who showed up were funny and bright and we just all had a good time. And many copies of The Infinite went out the door that day.

> If you still have one, what’s your day job?

My only job is writing fiction. That's it.

> What is your university degree in and does it help with your writing?

I have a Bachelor of Arts in Literature. It has helped me immeasurably -- and I'm glad I spent those four years immersed in the earliest of English-language fiction and drama, American literature, Scandinavian, German, Russian, etc. Spending four years intensely studying the great dramatists and novelists and poets of the past several hundred years has allowed me to really understand fiction in a way I don't think I would have if I'd spent those years studying something else.

Also, those years of study return to me at various times -- and I go back to those works and re-examine what writers have done through the centuries, and why it has worked, why their fiction has staying power.

> When and where do you write?

I write in my home office, usually during the day, sometimes at night. I don't keep a schedule -- I wait for a novel or story to take me over before locking myself away with it. Otherwise, I go for walks, stare at walls, read, go see friends and do things. I try to take summers off, when possible, so I can enjoy life outside of work, too.

> According to your website you consider yourself an innovator with regards to books and technology. In what ways have you used new technology to interact with readers and promote yourself?

After I'd had several books published, I launched the first email serial novel in 1999, sponsored by a publisher, free to subscribers. Later, I sold both hardcover and paperback rights to that book -- which was called Naomi.

That made news around the world. A bit later, other writers and publishers began doing this kind of thing, but at the time, pretty much all of them told me I was making a big mistake. As it turns out, it revitalized my writing career.

I also established a direct communication between readers of my books via my newsletter at the time, and very few published novelists had tried that at that point. Most of them sent announcement to their readers, written in third person. I wrote directly to the subscribers to my newsletter, and I've gotten to know a lot of these readers over the years.

I think most writers on the internet have become innovative over time, and this doesn't surprise me, since writers tend to be idea-driven people.

> What’s the best/worst thing about writing?

The best thing is when a book comes alive.

And the worst thing is the inability to turn off the mind once a book comes alive. You just have to see it through, shape it, revise, and live with it as if it is more important than you are during the time it takes to finish it. When that happens, you know you won't get as much quality sleep as you'd like, and also you have to demand that those around you are understanding -- which is unfair to them.

> What is something you didn’t know about the publishing industry before you had your first book published?

I didn't know anything about publishing when I began. I just hoped for the best and sent my manuscript off.

> What was your first foreign language sale and how did you feel getting it?

That goes back a ways. I think the first one was to either the U.K. or to France, with my first book, Goat Dance. It felt great.

I've been thrilled when books of mine sell overseas. Right now, my recent trilogy The Vampyricon has been released in Germany, and it's exciting for me to see these books and the excellent translations for them.

> Do you have any advice for hopeful authors?

My best advice is ignore advice and write what you absolutely believe in writing, and which would nourish your soul even if it never sells.

> Any tips against writers block?

Don't get it.

> How do you discipline yourself to write?

I love writing so much, the discipline is in getting away from it and having a life beyond it. I've been writing fiction for 20 years, and it's bigger than my life. So, part of the struggle is always to reclaim your life from it.

> How many rejection letters did you get for your first novel?

One, but the same week it was bought by another house -- so it wasn't much of a tragedy.

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