Wednesday, December 2, 2009

[Interview] Dylan J. Morgan

Dylan J. Morgan was born in New Zealand and raised in the United Kingdom. Currently, he lives and works in Norway.

His books include the novel, Hosts (Wild Child Publishing, 2009; DJM Entertainment, 2009) and the novella, October Rain (Sonar 4 Publications, 2010). His short stories have been featured in anthologies that include Gentlemen of Horror (Sonar 4 Publications, 2009) and Wolves of War (Living Dead Press, 2009) as well as the January 2010 in Issue 9 of Necrotic Tissue.

In this interview, Dylan J. Morgan talks about the importance of growing as a writer:

When did you start writing?

I remember writing some books when I was still in school, but on those occasions they were just pieces of paper folded in half, stapled together and the stories were written in pen and they weren’t very good. Storytelling has always fascinated me and I started reading full length novels at an early age.

I’ve been writing seriously now for 6 years. Reading books and discovering I had a talent with the written word gave me the encouragement to consider getting myself published. That was probably a little more than 6 years ago, while I was still writing clueless stories just to satisfy my own desire to write.

I thought getting published would be easy; just write the story and send it in but that’s not the case. It’s hard, crafting a story that the editor will like (because first and foremost if you can’t write a story good enough for an editor to like you’ll never get anybody to read it).

I started at the bottom and worked my way up; writing stories I thought were good enough that ultimately were not. Being afraid to send that story in is not going to get you published. Just write it, polish it, edit it, and get others to critique it, edit it again, polish it once more, and then send it in. That’s exactly what I did to achieve my current status as a published author.

How would you describe your writing?

My writing is dark. Predominantly horror.

I’ve written a published novel about prehistoric killer parasites and unpublished novels about the Wendigo and another about vampires and werewolves.

I’ve written a novella called October Rain which will be released early next year which has science fiction elements in it, but which is also a very dark, tragic story.

My stories are gruesome yet entertaining but do tend to steer clear of Hollywood endings.

Who is your target audience?

I guess it would be quite broad, my target audience, if indeed I have a target audience at all. I hope most people are like me and read all sorts of material. That said, I prefer horror -- but I will read crime and thriller novels, erotic, even romance if there was nothing else to read.

With any luck, people who are interested in reading new horror authors will stumble across my name if they haven’t already done so, like what they read and want to read more from me. As long as anyone who reads my work enjoys it and finds it entertaining -- then, that’s all I’m after.

Which authors influenced you most?

Certainly a lot of Stephen King’s early stuff was a huge influence to me, and virtually anything by Dean Koontz.

James Herbert has provided some influence but not as much as the other two.

At the start King wrote stories that entertained me, made me enjoy the story and get deeply involved with the plot and the characters. I think he influenced me the most in my decision to become a writer. Koontz on the other hand has inspired me a lot more since I’ve started writing seriously. The way he crafts a story, builds the plot and the suspense; it’s like a master class with each book written. Koontz definitely inspires me to improve my craft.

How have your personal experiences influenced your writing?

I try not to let any personal experiences of mine come through in my writing or indeed to influence which direction I’m going. Saying that, a couple of my stories have been written from life experiences: a business trip to Poland; a boat trip in Oslo Fjord, but these are simply scene-setting occurrences.

I never consciously inject anything of myself, or my life experiences, or those of anyone close to me, in any of the stories I’ve written so far. Fiction is fiction, even within my world and it has to be like that.

I’m a family man and as such I have to separate what I write with how I live my home life.

What are your main concerns as a writer?

My main concerns would be, first and foremost, writing stories that weren’t entertaining. Regardless of the venue the work appears in, and regardless of how big a name I do or don’t become, my main aim when I submit stories is to have them accepted and to have readers be entertained by the stories. If I fail that then I’ve failed in my duty as a writer.

The best way that I deal with such issues is to have trustworthy proofreaders. I never send out any stories if they haven’t had a few good edits done by myself and then been read (and sometimes re-read) by my proofreaders. They often catch things that I miss. It’s a practice I recommend to any up-and-coming writer. Don’t think your story is good enough if you haven’t let others read it first.

The biggest challenge I face as a writer is bettering the work I’ve just completed. I don’t want to write x-amount of books that are the same. I don’t want my next project to be inferior to the one I’ve just wrapped up. It’s important to me to grow as a writer, to continuously improve my craft, and it’s not easy to do. Writing what I want, what excites me. If the story enthralls me then hopefully it’ll enthrall others too.

Do you write everyday?

Yes, I write everyday -- at least I try to! Sometimes life gets in the way but for the most part I write daily and I try to accomplish one thousand words in a session.

Basically each session starts with me reviewing and editing what I wrote the night before and this usually drags me back into the story enabling me to pick up where I left off and continue writing. Sometimes it doesn’t, and sometimes I envisage scenes from later in the book and I write those instead. I can have multiple scenes being written from different chapters. It’s all a bit jumbled but it works for me.

As stated, my aim is to write 1,000 words a day but as long as I write constructive prose then that’s all I ask for. I write until the flow has gone: either by family disturbances that require my attention or because I’m just burned out. There’s no point forcing the words. Once they stop flowing, I stop writing.

How many books have you written so far?

So far I have written three full-length novels and two novellas, although not all are available.

Only one of my novels has seen publication, Hosts, a biological horror novel set in a Canadian ski resort called Snow Peak during the worst snowstorm in living memory.

In the novel, a family of frozen First Nation people has been discovered on a mountainside near town and the archeologists examining the body allow it to thaw out too much. Something resides in the corpse; a prehistoric parasite that comes back to life and infects the town with disastrous results.

Hosts has had very positive reviews so far. It is available as an e-book through the publisher, Wild Child Publishing. And, complete with new cover art, the novel has been re-issued in print format by myself which is something I’m very excited about. More details can be found on my website.

My second published work is a novella entitled October Rain. It will be available in both print and e-book format in January 2010 through Sonar 4 Publications.

October Rain is a tragic story about Steele, a bounty hunter for the Martian government during a time in the distant future when the sun is a red dying giant and Earth is scalded rock. Steele has been promised one more assignment before he can leave Mars to start a new life with his beloved family. But he discovers a horrific truth behind the government’s intentions, and a torturous twist of fate leaves him fighting not only for his own life but for the people he cares most about. It’s an exciting read.

Of my other written works, the two novels are in various slushpiles and the other novella resides with proofreaders.

How long did it take you to write October Rain?

The first draft probably took me about six weeks to write, but this book was written four years ago so it’s had multiple drafts, countless edits, and at least four different proofreaders go over it. If it isn’t tight now it never will be!

Sonar 4 Publications will be publishing the book. I selected this publisher because of one main reason: they publish a blend of horror and sci-fi. I’m not a sci-fi writer, but with the book being set on Mars in the future there are obvious science fiction elements.

Sonar4 publish straight-up horror, or straight-up Sci-Fi or a mixture of both. There are horrific elements in October Rain, although none blatant, but this publisher seemed the best fit for my work. So far this has presented me with nothing but advantages. I’ve been very pleased with how my relationship is going with this publisher and I’d thoroughly recommend anyone else checking their guidelines.

Which were the most difficult aspects of the work you put into October Rain?

This is a hard question to answer. At times I struggle with my muse but generally I find writing an easy task, nothing is difficult when it comes to transferring the plot from my mind and onto the page. What is difficult for me is spending time away from my girlfriend and my kids while I’m writing.

I try to write at night, when the children are in bed and the house is quiet, but my ideas don’t always follow that pattern. Weekend mornings I use to sit down and edit and sometimes write, but always when I’m done I feel a tad guilty for spending time at the keyboard and not with those I care about the most. But then I try to make the most of the time I do spend with them.

What did you enjoy most?

The editing -- like I do with all my work.

I might be in the minority here but I seldom really enjoy the process of writing a novel/novella even though I find it relatively easy. For me, writing that last word is always a great occasion and is generally greeted with a sigh of relief and perhaps a celebratory beer.

Editing the story, watching it truly unfold into the final product is by far the part of the writing process that I enjoy the most.

What sets October Rain apart from other things you've written?

The one main difference with this book to any of the others I’ve written is that it is set in the future, in space, which is a destination I’ve never been before in my writing. I tend to keep things in the present (or the past, in some instances) and I’ve never gone outside the Earth’s atmosphere before. It’ll be interesting to see how this book is received.

In what way is it similar to the others?

It’s certainly my style of writing. I haven’t changed the formula from what I usually do when I write stories, so hopefully -- even though this is not strictly a horror story -- people will still be able to recognize it as being the work of Dylan J. Morgan.

What will your next book be about?

As of this moment, October Rain is my latest book and no others have been accepted. Of course, I hope this will change.

I have two novels at various publishing houses just waiting to be picked off the slushpile, so hopefully it won’t be too long before I have something else available for people to read. One of those is called Flesh and is about a Wendigo spirit terrorizing a Northern Wisconsin town.

The other novel, Bloodlines, is an epic novel which could easily be separated into a trilogy of novellas -- it tells the story of a centuries-old blood feud between vampires and werewolves who have crossed the bloodlines and created a monster race of hybrids. All three species are fighting for control of the supernatural world.

The novel I’m working on now is a bit secretive but I will say it involves angels, demons, and the end of the world.

What would you say has been your most significant achievement as a writer?

Getting published is always a significant achievement for a writer and while this is right up there as one of my most significant, I feel that’s bettered by the simple fact that people have liked my work. Not everyone will, I know that, but to have feedback from readers saying they enjoyed the story makes all the hard work, effort, and time spent away from my family just that little bit easier to bear.

Possibly related books:

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Related article:

[Interview: Part 2 of 2] Tonia Brown, Conversations with Writers, November 29, 2009

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