The dates of the original Q&A session were 7/25/06 through 8/1/06.
Author David Thomas Lord recently visited the ARWZ Community Forums to answer questions from fans and ARWZ readers in an Interactive Q&A. The questions and conversations in this transcript are in no particular order, and may vary from the order in which they were originally asked.
Dear David Thomas Lord, there are some questions I would like to ask: 1) Many artists proudly state that for them, it has always been totally clear they would like to devote themselves to arts. Have you always known for sure you would like to become a writer? At what age did you start writing? 2) In what ways has your life changed since you had your fist book released? Are you busier thinking about marketing methods, discussing your books with readers, etc compared to the time before your first book was released? 3) Are many/most of your friends writers or artists, too? In case you are friends with other writers, too, do you tend to discuss book ideas together? Looking forward to reading the answers, kind regards from Vienna, — magusachan
Hi, Mags. To begin with, I've always felt, from a very young age, that I'd be involved in the arts. All through my school years, I painted, and when I entered my teens, I began to work in the theater. The funny thing is, although I always wrote, I never considered that it would be my ulitmate career choice until Bound in Blood.
As a little kid, around eight years old, I was a reporter for the neighborhood newspaper, which I put out with my friends. I wrote a short story in high school and my teacher praised it, but I didn't like her, so I ignored her praise. (Talk about cutting off your nose!) I didn't write another short story until many years later.
What has changed most in my life after the publication of Bound in Blood is that I have writer friends now. While I was working on that first novel, I knew no other writers, so I had no one to tell me if I was screwing up or not. I had no one to tell me how to find an agent or a publisher, or what to expect when I did find one. Nowadays, yes, I do spend more time talking about the business of writing as opposed to the art or craft. And, the best part, I get to correspond with readers ( I hate and never use the word "fan") and hear what they respond to in my writing. That, truly, is the most rewarding. I have heard, twice, since the publication of Bound in Blood that I, through the book, had turned someone into a reader. I guess it doesn't sound like much, but it is by far the most rewarding thing I've heard regarding my writing.
Finally, for most of my life, my friends had mostly been artists, performers and musicians. I'd not known many writers before I was published. Now, the majority of my friends are writers.
Writers don't tend to talk about new projects. I don't because I feel that I'd rather expend the energy writing a story than talking about it. Other writers feel it's bad luck to talk about something that isn't published yet and still others fear that someone will overhear and steal the idea. I'll tell close friends what I'm planning, but that's it. Oftentimes, they'll have good ideas for places to go for research.
Mostly, though, when writers talk about writing, they talk about the business aspect. They talk about editors and agents, new markets, magazines that have folded—things like that. Sometimes we'll talk about another writer we've read, the pros and cons. Pretty much, Mags, it's like professionals in any other business.
Thanks for the questions. I hope I've answered them well enough.
You have described how your friends have changed over the years and since you have started to concentrate on writing rather than any other art form.
Have you personally recognized that writers are different from e.g. painters? actors? Is there anything in particular that applies to writers, any certain characteristics e.g. some actors enjoy being in the spotlight, even privately, being the "talk of town" etc.? — magusachan
I think that the biggest difference between writers and other artists is that writers are always willing to help one another. When I first joined the Horror Writers Association and when I went to my first World Horror Convention, I was struck by how giving the pros were—not only to each other, but to every level of writer, even (maybe especially to) the unpublished.
I know of no other artisic pursuit in which the members alert others as to new markets, sales techniques, etc. than writers. Writers are always willing to say: "Contact my agent, or my editor." They introduce you to people you should know and steer you from those you should avoid. I see little to no jealousy and a great deal of support.
Now, that you are into the writing business yourself, what is your personal viewpoint on book fairs? Would you personally prefer reading in e.g. cafés, smaller restaurants (we have such occasions here in Vienna)—or would you rather prefer to read to a huge audience? — magusachan
What I have been to, Mags, is the World Horror Convention. The WHC is a four-day meeting of horror professionals, primarily writers, publishers, editors and illustrators, with booksellers and fans as well. There are panel discussions, readings and a film festival.
I really like going to WHC. It's the only time of the year I get to see my friends, but I also enjoy doing the panels and sharing what I've learned about writing and the business.
As far as doing a reading is concerned, I don't mind what size audience I'm reading to. I've read to groups as small as a half dozen and to others very large. The intimacy is something that I create, not them. In the theater, you learn to draw an audience to you, rather than reach out to them. The only hard part, oddly, is making eye contact. Even though it's something I wrote, I still read from the book. I've never memorized anything I've written. So, I have to be absolutely certain I know where I am and what comes next before I look up, away from the page. Still, I think it's important to make that personal contact with the audience, so that they feel you're reading for them, not at them.
Hi Mr. Lord, I'm always asking people (not just authors, everyone) what influences them, what experiences they had that caused their imaginations to go in whichever direction. What were your influences? Who did you read as a younger man? What experiences lead to your path? And i'd like to thank you for giving so much of your time to us at ARWZ. We really appreciate it!!
Hi, Dagny! I'd be happy to answer your questions if you'd stop calling me Mr. Lord.
When I was young, I read a lot of classic literature (save the "geek-calling" until later!). I read The Iliad and The Odyssey, Shakespeare, and lots of mythology, all interspersed with a lot of comic books. I graduated to Poe, Hawthorne, Stevenson, and others. But I think the writers who've most influenced my writing are J.K. Huysmans and Gabriele D'Annunzio. They both wrote prose the verged on poetry, which is something I strive towards.
As I'd mentioned elsewhere on this forum, I directed for the theater, rewriting Marlowe, Shakespeare and the Greek playwrights, before writing my own. But in writing a novel, I get to be the playwright, director, set, lighting and costume designer, all the actors—everyone. I think it may have been my frustration in doing only one role in the theater at at time that lead me to writing fiction.
Finally, you're very welcome. I've very much enjoyed the time I've been spending here on this forum. Thank you all so much for having me.
I hope this hasn't already been covered, but can you tell us a little about Triptych of Terror? How did it come about? Who are the other contributors? What makes the project unique? — Lee Thomas
Before I answer those questions, I'd like to introduce the others on this forum to the Bram Stoker Award winner (and my good friend) and very talented, Lee Thomas.
During the World Horror Convention last year in New York City, I had lunch with my agent. She asked me if I'd like to do a novella based on the vampire universe I'd created in the Bound series. She wanted to couple it with another novella by another of her clients, horror writer John Michael Curlovich, but she also wanted a third writer for the collection. After discussing a very short list of candidates, she agreed to the Canadian editor and writer, Michael Rowe.
But, I didn't want to do a novella based on my Bound writings. Pretty much, I felt that everything I had to say about vampires would be said in the series. So, I proposed that we each do a novella using one of the Halloween icons (that is, any character commonly used for a Halloween costume) and having all of them end on Halloween night. That way, we could each be strongly independent of one another, though we had a connective link.
When I asked Michael if he'd be interested and first wrote to John, I told them my idea and that I wanted to call the collection, Triptych of Terror. I asked them each for a synopsis of their novellas and a bio by a certain date, so that the agent could approach publishers with the completed package: all three synopses, bios and the proposal I wrote. Within five months, Alyson said they were interested and we began working with editor, Joseph Pittman.
John Michael Curlovich has worked with Alyson before, writing for them such novels as The Blood of Kings and Blood Prophet. Michael Rowe is famed for editing such collections as: Brothers of the Night, Sons of Darkness, Queer Fear I & II, as well as his essay collections: Looking for Brothers and the soon-to-be-released, Other Men's Sons. John is using the gargoyle in his novella, "A Holy Time for All the Dead." Michael uses witches in "In October" and I'm using a fairy in "The Secrets of the Fey."
Triptych of Terror is coming out October 1st and to my knowledge is the first collection of of gay-themed horror novellas.
It's good to see you here, Lee. I hope to see you here more often.
You mentioned you had written some plays. Could you tell me about them? — Ian
When I was directing for the theater, I oftentimes rewrote classics, so that I could tell the story my way. So, after rewriting Shakespeare, Marlowe, and the Greeks, I turned to writing my own pieces. As you would suspect, they were heavily influenced by the aforementioned. And, since theater audiences, at the time I was writing plays, wanted more contemporary, experimental theater, I wasn't as sucessful as I'd hoped. I do still love the plays I wrote and wouldn't change a thing about them. Still, I don't want to see them produced and I may just recreate one or two as novels.
That would be very interesting if you recreated them as novels. — Ian
One of them is most certainly going to become a novel. I really liked the play, but feel that I could do much more in the novel form.
Truthfully, novel writing is like super-playwriting or super-screenplaywriting. You get to create the story, create the cast, design the sets, the costumes, write the dialogue, produce, direct and act! What could be better than that?
I have to say, Ian, that my biggest influences in writing aren't other novelists for the most part, but playwrights. Especially the ancient Greeks, Moliere, Racine, Marlowe and Shakespeare. The language was superb and the plots were absolutely fundamental.
This is something I am starting to realize. William Goldman says that just being a screenwriter isn't enough for a full creative life and that you have to do something else where quality matters. Screenwriting is what I have the most passion for but I am now thinking I will write novels as well. — Ian
Well, I'm not going to start criticizing William Goldman, but there have been some stunning screenplays—every bit as worthwhile as a fine novel. I think we each have different sensibilities that are attuned to one form or another. It's possible that in writing a novel, you will discover what it is that you like about screenwriting. For me, novel-writing culled all my interests into one form.
This is my favourite question to ask any author: How do you keep track of what you've written as to avoid contradictions and/or discrepancies and how do you avoid continuity issues? — Johnnycab
I have to admit that I'm constantly checking and rechecking to make sure of what I'd written about a character or location previously.
With the major characters of the Bound series, I've created a notebook for each of them. I have their birth date and place, height and weight, eye and hair color. I include their likes and dislikes and add, as I go along, things I've said about them.
But, I still have to go back and reread the notebook and the previous books to remember what I'd said. I like to describe my characters and locales fairly well, so that the reader can picture them as I do. But the trap there is that I always have to remember exactly what shade of blonde or what architectural design I'd used. So, I keep the notebooks and previous books on the desk's small bookshelf the whole time I'm working.
It does drive me nuts when I'm reading a book and the color of a dress, or a door, changes. A broken window is magcally fixed, or it's no longer night.
David, I recall you saying that you used to paint for a living. What did you paint? Portraits, landscapes, abstract, ceilings, walls? (Joke). Which did you prefer to paint? — Ian
It is hard to describe my paintings. I had worked for some time with a great deal of color, breaking the picture down into its components with thick black lines—rather like stained glass windows. Then, the lines grew thinner and more fluid, and the colors less vivid. Finally, all of my paintings were just human figures—flesh against gray backgrounds. Although they were identifiably human, there was a sense of abstraction in the way the figures were posed.
I preferred to paint in acrylic on canvas, because I worked quickly.
I'd love to paint again. I'd need a bigger place. Ulitmately, I'd want a house on the water with one small building (like a guest cottage) for an office and a larger second one for a painting studio. So if the "lotto gods" are listening....
Having had the priviledge to read both Bound in Flesh and Bound in Blood, I observed a huge difference in style. Although you retained a classical phrasing in this newest novel, Bound in Blood displays a much more pointed sense of style. You've dropped most of the slow build of the predatory vampiric sexual activity, in favor of a faster pace, less self-involved characters, and some deliciously poignant scenes of Mike's mental disintegration into his new lifestyle. What prompted the change? Was it story demand? Or was it a change in your own personal view of the story? — Nickolas Cook
Nickolas, when I first discussed the series with my editor, I said that I wanted to use different styles from one book to the next. I want the storyline and the central character to dictate how the story is told. So, the next book, Bound in Hunger, will, again, be different from both of the first two, and the fourth book, Bound in Thirst, will be different from each of the preceding three. I wanted to avoid what I'd seen in a great many series: that it was just one very long story seperated by ISBN numbers.
Bound in Blood, because it focused on the vampire Jack Courbet, had a particular style. I wanted him to signal a return to the heartless monsters that vampires first were. I had had enough of those self-pitying, remorseful vampires. Jack was a monster and that's all I wanted him to be. Since the story centered on Jack, it was important that his self-involvement was primary. Nothing mattered to him but his survival.
Mike is a strikingly different character from Jack, although they pass for twins. Mike did not want the life that the vampires wanted, but still, he is forced to go through a horrible change; one he fights. The extreme sex and violence of the first book was necessary in establishing Jack as soulless and callous. Since it was already established, I didn't feel that it was necessary to reiterate that in this book. So, I was determined to keep the sex and violence to a minimum and emphasize the supernatural element of the horror.
I'm very pleased that the stylistic differences come through as well as they seem to. Oftentimes we say we want to do this or that with a book, but aren't sure the reader will see it. Thanks for putting my mind at rest.
Can you give us any hints of what stylistic modes you have planned for the next Bound books?
You know, Violet, I almost hate to say "no," but it might reveal way too much. All I can really say is that I've left hints about the final three books in Bound in Flesh.
Bound in Hunger uses a very old literary style, but the story is very edgy, with some extreme sex and violence.
Bound in Thirst combines two genre types into one. It will be very gloomy, dark and moody, with flashes of striking violence and horror. Imagine a dreary, humid, overbearing rainstorm with stunning flashes of lightning.
The final book, The Vampire Maker (no, it doesn't have a Bound title), uses everything in the SF arsenal. Although I think each of the books gets wilder than its predecessor, they only barely prepare you for where I'm going and what I'm doing with this book.
Bound in Blood was your first published novel. Was it the first novel you wrote? — Ian
Yes, Ian, Bound in Blood was my very first attempt at writing professionally. I know that most authors start out by writing short stories in order to develop their "voice" and style. It also helps to make your mistakes in shroter fiction before tackling a novel. But, I've never really done things the conventional way.
David, you said that you didn't start out writing short fiction, but in another thread you mentioned that you had written a number of plays. Is it possible that your writing for the theater was where you served your apprenticeship, rather than the short story market? Maybe that's where you made your mistakes before working on a novel. — pecooper
I think that's absolutely one way of looking at it. However, writing something that's strictly dialogue isn't a huge help in writing fiction.
When you're writing a novel, a really important thing to remember is the balance between the dialogue and the pure narrative. There isn't a formula saying you need so much of this and so much of that. It's a feel you develop by doing it. It's kind of like making a great bolognese sauce. You can watch great chefs, read great recipes, but until you do it, you won't have a clue.
So, what I learned from my playwriting mistakes helped me marginally with dialogue, but not all that much. Dialogue only serves a certain purpose in fiction writing. In playwriting, it's the whole ball of wax.
How do you decide where to start a story? By which I mean, what elements go into your first sentence? Or into your first paragraph? Thanks. I've enjoyed reading the rest of the questions and answers.
— Martin Mundt
I'd like to begin this by introducing the Alternative Reality group to a wonderful writer, Martin Mundt. It has been my experience that Marty is one of only three writers who can successfully write humorous horror. Whereas most attempts at this are either not funny, not scary, or neither (!), Marty is a master of delicious torments. Do yourself a favor and visit his website (http://www.martinmundt.com)
Marty, I've always appreciated the great opening line, so I try to begin with a startling or intriguing snetence. In Bound in Blood, the opening sentence, "He rises." was the only thing I never changed. Very simple, but very evocative for a vampire tale. Bound in Flesh begins with "I'd taken to drink." A very revealing statement that compels the reader to find out who's saying it and why.
I wanted the opening of Bound in Blood to be almost mundane. So it continues with "He pads down the hall from the den where he slept, through the recently arranged living room, to the spotless and guest-ready bathroom." Very simple statements, but they beg questions to the reader's mind. Why did he sleep in the den? Why is the living room recently arranged? What kind of man has a bathroom that's spotless and guest-ready? Then, I make him a bit more complex with " 'Happy birthday,' he says to the arrestingly handsome face in the mirror, studying it for telltale signs of change that never seem to appear. No new wrinkles; no puffiness; no scars. No fleshy road signs at all on his face, this map of his life." What kind of man am I talking about who has no flaws and doesn't seem to age? This is certainly speculative fiction!
So, whereas I give you a man who presents nothing but questions in BinB, I give you the opposite in the opening of BinF—a man who is compelled to tell you this: "In my disconsolate loneliness, in my unhealable soullessness, in my intolerable soloness, I’d taken to drink.
I’d taken to drink for its restorative powers. That’s what I’d told myself, and anyway, I’d taken to drink. And another day began for me, Mike O’Donald. Ex-cop, ex-lover, ex-man."
Nowadays, we'd want to say, "Whoa! Too much information!"
So, in essense, what I like to do is to draw the reader immediately to the character by offering an insight with no explanation. The nameless man of BinB appears to be compulsively orderly, yet, paradoxically, he slept in the den. The man of BinF seems to be wallowing in self-pity, and yet he takes the time to offer an overly poetic reason for drinking and even make a very subtle joke about the restorative powers of alcohol.
I like for openings to draw the reader in to the story's style, show the quirks in the characters, and present an undercurrent of "something odd is going on here."
For me, I like my opening sentence to be fairly simple in structure. Both of these examples are essentially a subject and predicate. The opening sentence (although I won't tell it here) of the next book, Bound in Hunger, is the same. Simple declarative sentences.
Thanks for asking, Marty, and I hope you'll come back. These readers should know more about you.
What is your writing schedule?
Normally, Ian, I sit down to the computer at about 9am. I look first at my email to see if anything needs to be answered immediately, then I shut off the internet connection and open Word. I reread the last few paragraphs of what I'd written the day before, to get myself back into the scene. Then I write until 3pm. So, depending upon the amount of mail I had to answer, I work for about five hours. About 8pm, I go back to reread what I'd written earlier and make changes or write notes for the next day. I do that for a couple of hours.
I like to say that I don't write every day, but that's not exactly true. I don't work on the book at hand if, after staring at the screen for five minutes, nothing comes out. Then, I might play with a short story or write notes or ideas about something new. So, I do write something daily. I always have a notepad and pen with me everywhere I go. You never know when you'll get a good idea, see something you want to describe, or overhear a conversation you want to steal!
I recall from the interview that you are well-read in the greats of classic horror literature, though I'm curious as to what sort of contemporary fiction you keep up on. Who are your favorite authors currently publishing both in and out of the horror genre?
Off the top of my head, I’d have to say: Inside the genre, I enjoy reading Peter Straub, Douglas Clegg, Jack Ketchum, Mort Castle, Stewart O’Nan and Dan Simmons.
Outside, I enjoy Joyce Carol Oates (although it could be debated that she’s NOT outside), Donna Tartt, Salman Rushdie, Stephen Fry and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I've also read all of the Harry Potter books and enjoyed them. There are probably dozens of authors I haven't included. Should I add my address book?
Do you ever read any of the other "alternative reality" genres (i.e. science fiction, fantasy, or historical fiction)? If so, do you have any favorite authors in those genres? — Violanthe
I must admit I'm not a fan of science fiction. Frankenstein and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are perhaps two of the very few I've enjoyed.
I suppose JK Rowling's Harry Potter series is fantasy and I did enjoy them. But I wonder if Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is that type of historical fiction that you consider alternative reality? If so, then include that as well as Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold.
But then, I must admit that one of my most favorite reads contains elements of all those genres: horror, science fiction, fantasy and historical fiction. The different books in the collection are attributed to different writers, but you can normally find it grouped under the title, "The Bible."
There seems to be critism in various circles about Hollywood re-hashing the same storylines for their movies and tv shows. Considering the fact that plays (example: Phantom of the Opera) are basically remade with different casts, I do not see the same critism given to that.
My question is how would a writer, like yourself, write a story that has a similar theme to other books and keep it original. — Aquaryan
You can't just look at a horror, science fiction or fantasy icon and simply say, "How do I make this different?" The idea has to come first. You don't sit down and think, "I'm going to write a zombie story" and then look for something different to write about.
If horror is your chosen genre, it's best to have read the greats in the field and then the best of the contemporary writers to get an idea of what's been done and how. You can't just change lore that's been used for decades on a whim, or worse, because you don't know about it.
Once you've read through the genre, you play the "what if" game. Every novel begins with "what if." You begin with the basis of the icon you're exploring, let's say a vampire, since it's the most common of the horror icons. Then you think, "What if I make a vampire who isn't bothered by the sun, isn't a nightwalker?" Then, you work out the details of how that could happen, the difficulties it might engender, etc.
Mostly what you'd want to do is reject certain aspects of the established lore to write new lore and a creature who is controlled by those laws.
I know you are dear friends with Karen E. Taylor. Are there any other authors who you consider good friends, and do you get together and talk about writing?
— Saundra Kane
Yes, Karen is one of my dearest friends. Until recently, Karen and I were writing very similar fiction, so we rarely-to-never talked about our writing processes. I do recall asking her if she could think of a unique color red for something I was describing (she did), but we don't discuss writing very much in private. We have both attended each other's panels on the subject oftentimes, so we pretty much know each other's opinions on horror, vampires and writing. Still, we have IMed or emailed certain scenes back and forth with specific questions about them.
It's funny, when I wrote Bound in Blood, I had no writer friends. Now it seems that most of my firends are writers. Of all of them, I discuss the art and craft of writing most often with Canadian writer and editor, Michael Rowe, although it's not what we talk about mostly. The writer friends with whom I talk about writing—and you will find many of them listed on page 124 of Bound in Flesh—usually talk about the business of writing rather than the art and craft. There's and old joke that goes something like, "If you want to know about Art, talk to a businessman. If you want to know about business, talk to an artist." It's usually people who don't write who want to talk to me about it.
Are any of your characters based on people you know? If so, how closely are the characters based on them? Or do you prefer to fabricate characters from strangers you've observed? — Queen Of The Abyss
Ah, a dangerous question, Queen.
In Bound in Blood, there are a couple of characters I based upon people I know. They aren't named for them, but I still sent them the scenes and asked if it would bother them to have that printed. I'd like to say that everyone says "yes," but I wrote a scene in Bound in Flesh and named the character after someone I know. I sent him the scene and he wrote back to say he did not want to see his name used that way, even though the character could not possibly be him. He asked me to remove the scene. Sorry, the scene was too good, so I just changed the name. He's not spoken to me since. Immortality just ain't what it used to be!
When I do use people I know, I usually blend a few into a single character. I might take one person's hair, another's frame, a third's personality or interests. The overwhelming majority of my characters are totally fictional and about 10% are a blend of people I know.
I also might use people's names or nicknames for fictitious characters. I have asked people I know if I could borrow their names, because the thing I hate most is making up character names. (The other thing I do is go through the obituaries and death notices for names.) In my next Bound book, Bound in Hunger, I'll be using quite a few of the names from a group I belong to. All of the characteristics of those characters will be invented; everything but the name. One of the members of the group even allowed me to use her real name for a major character. I wrote to her a number of times to explain what I'd be doing with the character I'd invented who bore her name. I wanted her to be sure that she wouldn't be bothered by some of the more "extreme" activities her namesake would be doing.
As for how closely the characters come to the real-life model, I've received some interesting reactions. All the real-life friends of one of those characters contacted me to say it's a spot-on description. However, when I based another character upon a friend of mine, she said, "I'd never wear that dress!" Go figure.
I'd have to say that the character enters my mind partially formed. If that partial formation reminds me of someone, I might deliberately go partially, or fully, in that direction. If the character shows up strongly independent, they don't get the characteristics of anyone I know.
Strangers and their traits show up in more subtle ways. As I've said, I carry a notebook whereever I go. So, I oftentimes write down a description of the way someone walks, what they're wearing, etc. I rarely create a character just to use the description I took down, but sometimes I'll use the note for a character who already exists.
By the way, "Queen of the Abyss" is a great name for a character! Hint, hint!
What's the most "stand out" name you've ever found in the obits, whether you've used it or still plan to use it.
There have been people who have sued authors for using their dearly departed's names, and for attributing dreadful characteristics to the aforesaid deceased. I want you to know that, while I am inspired by those names, I never actually use those actual names (or their life stories), but rather let my imagination create a new fictitious name and character after reading the obits.
Not only are all the characters, events and locations imaginary, but no animals are harmed in the writing of my novels. (Please insert the appropriate emoticon here.)
Were you drawn to writing at a very young age or did your interest develop in your adult life? — Saundra Kane
Well, Saundra, I've been writing in one form or another my whole life. Between dinner and dessert, as children, we were expected to sing a song (I can't), recite a poem or show a drawing we'd done that day.
When I was about eight, the kids on my block started a newspaper. We'd spend the morning hunting down stories, meet at lunch, and write in the afternoon, printing and delivering the paper before dinnertime.
I wrote for both my high school newspaper and literary magazine.
But, I never thought about writing professionally through those years; it was something I did for fun. Even playwriting was more of an extension of directing than a career choice. It truly wasn't until I began Bound in Blood that I took it seriously.