Interview with Top Five Finalist Sci-Fi Author Andy Gavin
September 9, 2012
This is the second in a series of interviews from the Top Five Finalist authors in the Best Indie Books of 2012 Awards. The New Kindle Book Review announced the finalists on September 1, 2012. The winners will be announced October 1, 2012.
Today’s interview is with Sci-Fi finalist Andy Gavin, author of The Darkening Dream.
Let’s see what Andy wants readers to know about him.
1) Who was your favorite character to write in this novel?
My 900 year-old vampire. He’s just so deliciously evil and fun to write. Al-Nasir, as I affectionately like to think of him, is mid-upper management, like an undead Executive Vice President of Acquisitions. I wanted a personage of exceptional age, power, and menace, yet also no CEO or CTO level player — even if he has aspirations. Al-Nasir has been sent west from Europe to Salem Massachusetts. This is no small thing for a vampire, particularly in 1913. A steamship is a dangerous place for the daylight challenged — especially if they have a habit of snacking on the crew. But come he does, under mysterious orders from the loose cabal of occult baddies with whom he works. Al-Nasir finds things. And with the patience and tenacity only the dead can muster.
2) How is this novel different from the competition?
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 TDD, 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.
3) Share one secret about this book in its development.
The book was once twice the size, about 186,000 words! Eek gads! It’s 95,000 as published. And even at that big size there was at least a novel worth of material on the outline that I never wrote. The bigger drafts included 60,000 words of Joseph (Sarah’s father) backstory set in the 1880s and 1890s Austria-Hungarian Empire. This detailed how he got his powers, and how he became entangled with the Horn and its pursuers, particularly his nemesis Khepri. There was some really cool stuff, but ultimately I and my editor concluded that it was backstory, and didn’t move the primary plot along fast enough. Other things that got cut were a huge bit where al-Nasir and Parris break into the Masonic Lodge in Boston and Parris’ own backstory, involving how he met Betty.
4) Share one secret about yourself.
I’m a ridiculous foodie and wine guy (I blog about it here), to the level of being a certified sommelier and attending 27 course truffle diners. Yet, I also have a secret weakness for “comfort” food (particularly candies) like Skittles and Spicettes.
5) Where does your inspiration come from?
WithThe Darkening Dream my inspiration was both visceral and cerebral. The visceral part was this image I had – and some might consider me disturbed – of a dead tree silhouetted against an orange sky, a naked body bound to it, disemboweled, and bleeding out. The sound of a colossal horn or gong blares. The blood glistens black in the sunset light. Bats circle the sky and wolves bay in the distance. But sacrifice isn’t just about killing. It’s a contract. Someone is bargaining with the gods. And on the cerebral side, 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 TDD, 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.
6) Tell us a little about your target audience, what kinds of readers are most likely to enjoy the book?
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).
7) What can you tell us about the awesome cover?
The cover photo-illustration is by award winning fantasy artist Cliff Nielsen. In deciding what to do about the cover I combed through the more recent books in my 10,000 novel collection and put aside ones with covers I liked. Going through those I found like eight (including the new edition of Narnia!) with covers by Cliff. But it was really the Map of Time cover that totally sold me. I had to have him do mine. So I called.
8) What type of music do you like listening to? Is there are particular song that fits your novel?
I’m a very eclectic music listener. 70s and 80s rock. Some new stuff (including Lady Gaga and Katy Perry). Lots of classic Jazz (like Miles Davis), lots of classical. All sorts of weird stuff from Ottoman court music to Tibetan monastic chants to medieval Spanish tunes.
Lyrics interfere with serious writing or editing so trance techno is one of my favorite genres for that. Or something spacy like jazz or Tangerine Dream if I don’t want to pound.
If I was picking the soundtrack to the film version of the book I’d use mostly period music. Scenes with the villains might be different. Al-Nasir begs for a remix of Nasirid court music, or sufi music, both are pretty weird and exotic sounding. Instrumental when he’s in normal mode, then blending to an amped up electronic remix when he gets “aggressive.” Parris might have as his tune something like Loreena McKennitt’s “The Mystic’s Dream.” Which if I had to pick a single song that typified the mood of the book, would be it.
9) What was the first paranormal book you read?
The 1st real novel I ever read was Isaac Asimov’s David Starr, Space Ranger. That started me off bright and early (seven or eight) with my long pattern of reading speculative fiction. I pretty much only read fantasy, science fiction, or supernatural novels. An early one I remember that you might consider paranormal was Escape to Witch Mountain by Alexander Key. Many of his books involved children with superpowers running from “the authorities.” These are great books, and sadly many are out-of-print.
10) What other projects are you working on or having coming out next?
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.
Right now (as of early May) it’s out on submission to New York and London publisher’s via my agent, Eddie Schneider of JABberwocky.
Thanks, Andy. Good luck come October 1.