31 January 2014
Interview with author Dylan J. Morgan
I met Dylan J. Morgan the same way I meet a lot of my author friends these days: through Twitter. Dylan is a Kiwi who was raised in the U.K. and now lives in Norway; a prolific indie horror author - he has nine books out, including his newest, Flesh, which he just released on January 11th - who's supportive of other indie authors; and an all-around nice person.
Thus, it is my pleasure today to bring you the following interview, wherein Dylan reveals where his story ideas come from, why he self-publishes, and how he markets his work, among other deep, dark secrets. (Okay, maybe not so deep or dark, but he's a horror author. I'm trying to create a mood here, people.)
*Ahem* The interview. *Spooky noises in the dark*
What possesses you to write horror?
I write horror because it’s an exciting genre and one that encompasses all others. I feel it’s the only genre where you can get away with including horror (obviously), mystery, thriller elements, science fiction (to a point), romance, and erotica. It’s easy to add humor to horror—the genre is so versatile, and even though I classify myself a horror writer I don’t feel my stories are limited by any boundaries.
Tell us a little about your newest release, Flesh.
Flesh is a story about a backwoods community terrorized by an ancient Indian legend, the Wendigo. In order to try and sate the evil spirit’s hunger, the police take drastic action and tie innocent victims to a post in the woods to keep the Wendigo fed and out of town. The sheriff is a drunk, and his past comes back to haunt him and throw him headlong into a volatile situation that threatens to destroy everything he holds dear.
I wrote Flesh about six years ago. It's the second full-length novel I ever wrote, and it has taken me a lot of rejections, edits, and soul searching to get the book to where it is now. It contains violence and gore, desperation and sex, and an ending that I know has made at least one reader cry—so that’s a good thing. Check out the sample pages available on Amazon and Smashwords and you’ll see the book opens with a woman murdering her husband, cutting him into pieces, and eating his remains. I think that sets the tone for the rest of the story.
The cover is interesting, too, so thank you for including it. When I hired a cover artist, I wanted an image of a young woman tied to a tree in the forest, which is a scene from early in the book. After searching for good stock art images online without any success, I decided to take my seventeen-year-old daughter out into the woods behind my house and get her to pose for the cover. She’s a model anyway, so she didn’t mind doing that . . . but I didn’t literally tie her to a tree, though. Haha.
Where do your story ideas come from?
They usually come from snapshot images in my mind or bizarre thoughts. I had a daydream once, years ago, of a young girl arriving home with her parents on a stormy night. She’s in the back of the car as it drives slowly through town, and in the shadows of her neighborhood she can see deformed shapes lurking, following their vehicle. I wrote a short story about this scene: the girl was given the name Deanna; the deformed shapes became monstrous crossbreeds that were created by sex between vampires and werewolves—and that in turn started a snowball rolling that turned into my novella trilogy, Blood War, about a centuries-old supernatural war between vampires, werewolves, and hybrids. That short story is included in the first book, Bloodlines, and Deanna has since become a very important figure in that world.
I’m thankful that my mind can be very creative.
Who are your favorite authors to read? Do you have an all-time favorite book?
There was once a time when I’d say that my favorite authors were Stephen King and Dean Koontz, but those days are long gone. Now, my favorite authors to read are my peers, those who I aspire to be like and do better than, those who write alongside me in the small press world. Fellow horror authors Craig McGray and Joe Hart are must-reads for me now, and Griffin Hayes has created a fantastic zombie world with his Hive series of books.
Carrie Clevenger is an awesome author, and I totally love her Crooked Fang books, and her character—bass-playing vampire Xan Marcelles—is one of my favorite characters I’ve recently had the pleasure to read. K. R. Rowe, a romance author, is a huge talent, and her latest release, Amber and Blue II: Victory, is something I urge everyone to check out. There are so many others I’ve left off.
I don’t think I have an all-time favorite book, but one of the best books I’ve read recently is, without doubt, Kin by Kealan Patrick Burke. I would have given that one 6 stars if it was at all possible, and virtually everything I’ve read from Kealan has been nothing short of awesome.
What are your goals as a writer? What effects do you hope to have on your readers, and what do you want your writing career to look like?
My goals as a writer are to create books I enjoy writing and books people enjoy reading. If I manage to do the first point, well, then I’m happy. If I manage to achieve both then I’m ecstatic.
I’ve already had one reader say that a scene from my debut novel, Hosts, left him feeling nauseous. Another reader said that she cried at the end of Flesh. A line in Hosts about a foreskin has been remarked upon—more than once—as being one of the most humorous lines people have read. I’ve already achieved the kind of effect I want my readers to feel; I just want more of it, and wish that I had more feedback. Reviews are very important to me and it’s why I always write them for other writers.
I want my writing career to be populated with books that I am proud of. I think that’s vital.
Why did you decide to self-publish your books?
Self-publishing gives me complete control over my project, and it means I’m 100% happy with the final product. I can control the formatting, the cover image, when it’s released, etc. Plus I can keep a track on how well my work is doing. I have a novella published through an ebook publishing house, and I have no idea how many copies I’ve sold; that’s annoying. The other books that I’ve published through publishing houses have left me feeling dissatisfied—either due to formatting issues or cover art—so I’m glad I now own the rights to all those works so I can make a product I am proud of.
Oh yeah, and with self-publishing I no longer have to write a bloody one-page synopsis, which has got to be the biggest pain in the ass about being a writer.
How do you promote your books? Which promotion tool(s) have you found to be the most effective?
I promote my books through my blog (which I should add to more often than I do) and primarily through Twitter. I’ve heard a few people mention that Facebook doesn’t do much to improve sales and I can understand why, which is why I haven’t created a fan page there. I’m currently supporting, and being supported by, other great authors on Twitter via retweets and interaction. I also have a Goodreads profile, and all my books are featured there. I think interaction is vital in promotion. Don’t just plug your own book; help other writers plug their work, and more often than not they’ll return the favor.
How long does it usually take you to write a book, from inception to completion?
Usually about three to four months, certainly no longer than five. A lot of that depends on what time of year it is and what’s going on in work and at home. There can be a lot of distractions. In the winter, when the temperature is below freezing and snow is drifting outside my door, I’d rather be in my warm office writing. During summer it’s easy to sit out in the sun and drink beer, so my writing suffers a little. I have a physical job, so how busy we are there dictates how much writing I can get done, depending on how tired I am when I get home.
But I always try to make time for my writing. It’s about making the effort, because no one else will. I sacrifice a lot of family time in order to write.
What do you do when you get stuck in your writing?
Take a break and forget about writing. I listen to music or watch a movie. Play Skyrim on Xbox. It helps to take me away from the problem and relaxes my creative side. I tend to find that when driving to work (or sometimes working) or preparing a meal or even taking a shower, my creative mind wakes up again and resolves whatever issues I had. A story cannot be forced!
Who reads your books before they get published? Do you have beta readers? An editor?
I have one main proofreader who gets all my stories, every novel a chapter at a time, the moment they’re completed. This is when most of the editing is done. He’s become a very good friend. He lives in Texas and we have the Dallas Cowboys in common, but we’re both very honest with each other (I edit his work, too) and we trust each other’s judgment. It’s a very good working relationship.
I do usually then get some beta readers to go through the novel for me. There could be one or two extra readers, sometimes three. They’re not regular; I have had a few different beta readers over the years. I prefer these readers to be female, as so far a female’s eyes haven’t been over my work and they often pick up on things that I and my initial proofreader miss. I haven’t yet hired an editor, but I have seriously thought about it. How reasonable are your rates? ;-)
What writing project(s) are you working on now?
I’ve recently started work on a new novel. It’s tentatively titled The Sickness and is about necromancy. I’m hoping to have it completed by Easter. But there’ll be other books released before that one comes out, as I have two novels already written that are going through final editing stages. One is called End Times and is about an age-old war between angels and demons and focuses on the end of the world; the other is called The Dead Lands and is a futuristic apocalyptic novel set on a distant planet in a distant galaxy. It’s a bit sci-fi, to be honest, but there are strong horror elements running through the book. I’m not sure which of those two to release first.
Advice for new/aspiring authors?
Don’t give up, which seems pretty obvious advice, but a few rejections or bad reviews can ruin some people. And on that point, grow a thick skin. Not everyone will like your work; some will hate it, so be prepared for that. If you’re serious about becoming a writer you have to take the criticism with as much grace as the praise—in fact criticism is often the better because only that will help you improve your craft. Edit your book thoroughly, even if you have to pay an editor to go through it. A poorly written book will not sell well. The same goes for cover art: hire an artist to design a great-looking cover. Everyone can notice a poorly Photoshopped, half-assed effort. Read daily. Write daily. That’s about it.
Dylan would love to connect with you on Twitter (@dylanjmorgan) or on Google+, and you can find out more about his work on his website and his Goodreads author page.