Hello, April! How quickly you showed up this year… And you brought a guest! April’s Featured Author is Andy Gavin, y’all – come say “HI!”
drey: Hello and welcome to drey’s library, Andy! Thank you for taking the time to visit us this month.
I am in awe when I read your bio… What you can tell us about yourself, in (about) ten sentences?
AG: I’m a lifelong creator and explorer of worlds. As far back as first grade I remember spending most of the school day in one day dream or another. I had a huge notebook stuffed with drawings, story bits, and concepts for an elaborate Sci-Fi/Fantasy world I cobbled together from bits of Star Wars, Narnia, and Battlestar Galactica. By fourth or fifth grade not only was I losing myself in every fantasy or Sci-Fi novel I could, but I was building Dungeons & Dragons castles and caverns on paper. Then from 1980 on the computer.
Over the following decades I wrote dozens of stories and created and published over a dozen video games, all set in alternative universes. And as an avid reader (over 10,000 novels and who knows how many non-fiction volumes) it was no surprise that I eventually decided to write some books of my own.
drey: Your journey to writing (novels) took quite a few years, with some very interesting stops along the way. What inspired you to (finally) take pen to paper? Or fingers to keyboard, as it may be…
AG: From at least high school on I always intended to write a bunch of novels. Work just got in the way.
And the thing about making games is that you can no longer do it mostly by yourself. These days, most games are big teams of over a hundred people, with budgets over 50 million dollars. All that means that it’s not about your creative expression (most of the time), but about getting it done, well, on time, and on budget. And the roll of team lead is largely about fire fighting and resource (*ahem* people) wrangling.
So, I really wanted to focus directly on the creative aspects. Dozens of story ideas have been bouncing around in my head for years, and I felt it was time to let a couple of them out.
drey: Where do you write?
AG: My work space is extremely messy but with a great view of Santa Monica and the Pacific Ocean. I write on a 12 core Mac Pro with two Apple 30” monitors. Yeah, I’m a computer geek, and an Apple weenie to boot. I write in Scrivener which is a totally awesome writer’s word processor. Any writer still using Word is crazy.
Unless something distracting is going on I try to have my butt in the chair by around 10am (after working out) and more or less keep it there until around 6pm. If drafting new prose I try to do about 2000 words a day. I write, then I do a polish pass. If I had to rewrite significantly during that pass I’ll do a third sweep to cleanup. Then I print and run to my wife for instant feedback. Next I email it to my Mom and my “story consultant” (one of my friends who reads it right away). Feedback is good. I find that I’ll often redraft a chunk on the basis of these early comments.
drey: There is absolute nothing wrong with being an Apple weenie… 🙂
For those who haven’t been introduced to your writing, what would you say to pique their interest?
AG: I’ve always been a huge vampire fan and I’ve read and watched a large percentage of the oeuvre. But also as a history buff I wanted to write a supernatural story that was more grounded in real history and legend. I’m always thinking, “that could have been so much better if they didn’t make up the historical backstory” so I started with the villains. What kind of ancient evil creatures might still be around? What do they want? And what legitimate human reason would they have to destroy the world (Buffy-style)? I don’t exactly answer the question in The Darkening Dream, because the motives of 5,000 year old baddies should be mysterious. But trust me, they have a plan, and the sheer audacity of it will literally shake the foundations of the heavens.
drey: Tell us about The Darkening Dream. Who is your target audience?
AG: The book has a couple different audiences. At one level it’s a fast paced horror story packed with action, pretty solid characters, and even a bit of dark humor. I tried to marry a fairly hardboiled realistic tone with some pretty wild and dark stuff. The overall effect is pretty creepy and should appeal to those that like HBO fantasy dramas (True Blood, Carnivàle). There’s also a lot of interesting history and religious and occult detail in there which appeals to an older more historically oriented audience. But I tried not to ever let it bog the story, which just moves and moves. Finally, the book has young characters and some romance for the younger fan of urban fantasy (Laurell K. Hamilton, Kim Harrison, Jim Butcher).
drey: Sounds like it’s right up my alley! *makes mental note to dig up copy of The Darkening Dream*
How would you describe your journey to publication?
AG: Almost 2 years. At least 9 major drafts. As my first novel, this one took a lot of rewriting. It’s 95k words, but at its largest it was 186k! But then what took me by surprise was the shifting publishing landscape. I originally started the book in 2008 (but took a year long hiatus for work and my son’s birth). The increasing brokenness of the traditional route and the rise of the self-published route was totally new – although not that surprising considering other digital trends. I did two rounds of querying on The Darkening Dream, one in 2010 and one in 2011. Even though the book was much better (and shorter) in the later round it‘s clear that for agents submissions are growing on one hand and sales declining on the other.
Eventually, after hearing about 50 agents say “vampires are dead” (duh!) without reading the book, I decided to produce and publish it myself. It looks pretty darn sexy too if you ask me, and reviewers and readers seem to think the undead are thrashing and biting as vigorously as ever.
drey: Um, I don’t think vampires are dead – just the sparkly ones… 😉
I usually ask my authors what other profession they would choose, if they weren’t so focused on writing great stories. In your case, I’d ask what else you would add to your portfolio.
AG: Perhaps restaurateur. I’m a huge food and wine guy and even an accredited sommelier (Italian wine only). I periodically fantasize about opening a world class restaurant. Then I come to my senses.
drey: Senses – they just get in the way…
Smackdown: Two of your favorite characters face off in the ring. Who are they, who wins, and why?
AG: Al-Nasir and Joseph never really got to dig in and duke it out without the whole “he might kill my daughter angle.” Evil cunning vs. book smarts and pure faith. Sadly, Nasir would most likely get the better of him. But don’t count old Joe out, his mentor, Sarah’s Grandfather RJME, was able to summon the celestial chariot, and that is some badass stuff. From the lost tales of Joseph’s youth:
“He gestured upwards, calling out adamantly in ancient Hebrew. His cane burst into flames, blazing like the blade of the Archangel Michael. From behind him, a light rose, almost like a dawn, and with it a great and joyous song. From the horizon flew a great celestial chariot, forged of four intertwined glowing angels, each with four faces, the faces of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle. Each angel had four wings, together forming the box of the chariot. Where the wheels should be, two more angels, wings locked together to form rotating discs. The rider of the chariot could not be perceived or described, such was His magnificence.”
drey: What can we look forward to next?
AG: I have a second finished novel (it’s been through four major drafts and a full line edit). It’s called Untimed and is a YA time travel novel that chronicles the crazy adventures of a boy no one remembers, who falls through a hole in time and finds himself lost in the past. It’s very different with an extremely immediate first person present voice (in this book the only thing anyone can hold on to is the present). It rocks. Seriously rocks.
drey: Where oh where do you find the time to do all that you do? (i.e. which god should I offer what sacrifice to add additional free hours in my day?)
AG: I sacrifice a daily goat to Dionysus, and in exchange I do not have to sleep, but instead work in a mind-bending frenzy. Or maybe I can time travel, allowing myself to repeat each day 9 times.
drey: Huh. Guess I should go buy a couple of goats…
And, last but not least, the quickie 5:
- Your breakfast table includes what three food or drink items?
Nutella, Eggs Benedict, really good pastries from France (with lots of cream), and a great cappuccino.
- Upcoming film offerings: What’re you looking forward to? Or is it all been-there, done-that?
I want to sneak out to see The Hunger Games. And let’s not forget The Hobbit.
- Ice-cream is ____________.
- Superheroes and capes: Yea or Nay?
Nay on the capes. Yea for Professor-X. Alright, Magneto has a cape and he’s pretty bad-ass.
- Your most-often-used swear word is _____.
Shit! (I’ve always been scatological)
Now, keep on reading for your chance to win Andy’s The Darkening Dream for the Kindle.
Andy has graciously offered up a Kindle copy of The Darkening Dream for y’all, if you live in the US. To enter, fill out the form below before April 30th. Good luck!