I would like to introduce a man who has been one of the most supportive people I’ve met since beginning Ink Drop Interviews. I can’t thank him enough for the mentions and re-tweets and for being an all-around great (and very interesting) guy… Please welcome D A Graystone, author of THE SCHILIEMANN LEGACY and TWO GRAVES.
IDI – I’m going to ask you a question that you suggested and it is one I have never asked another author, so I was intrigued by your answer. Are you a witch?
DAG – Yes, I have been a practicing Wiccan for over 10 years. My wife and I were married in a Wiccan ceremony that we wrote ourselves. One of my current projects is a non-fiction book about the Wiccan religion called ‘OMG, I Think I’m A Witch’. Much of the ‘Witches of Aquarius’ series draws from my own beliefs about witchcraft and magick. My wife and I do spells and live by the Wiccan Rede, ‘An it harm none, do as ye will’. I have that tattooed on my back, in fact.
IDI – When did you have your Eureka moment, that moment you knew you were born to be a writer?
DAG – Definitely in high school. I was already writing, both for school and just for fun. Mostly short stories and poems, but when I read ‘Living Well is the Best Revenge’ by Calvin Tomkins, I knew that was the life I wanted. To create, whether in writing, art, sculpture, cooking, is the joy of life. Even in science or math, true genius is the perfect balance of intelligence and creativity. Creativity is an underlying theme in many of my books. Mardinaud creates his game scenarios in ‘The Schiliemann Legacy’, my serial killer in ‘Two Graves’ has rather creative methods for killing his victims and in my upcoming urban fantasy series, ‘Witches of Aquarius’, creativity is key to the use of magick.
IDI – What are you working on now. Can we get an excerpt?
DAG – “The Age of Aquarius is bringing magick back to the world and the old Gods are awakening. Only a fearless group, led by a witch and an alchemist, can prevent total domination by these cruel, petty Deities.”
I find myself working on more than one project at a time. Along with a sequel to ‘Two Graves’, my main project is the first book of an urban fantasy series called ‘The Witches of Aquarius’. To battle the awakening old Gods, a mysterious old man brings together a group whose reincarnated souls have interacted for centuries. A Witch, an Alchemist, a New York/Hopi detective, a Spartan mercenary and a young boy with an unusual power all battle the Old Gods.
I am planning to have ‘WindCrusher’, the first book in the series, out in time for Yule 2011.
IDI – I know I have ideas for stories that cross over the lines of my usual genre. Obviously, you have as well. What’s your outlook on genre crossing?
DAG – You are talking to someone who can’t stay in a genre to save his life. That was one of my biggest issues with legacy publishing. They need you in a box to make their marketing easier and their bottom lines more profitable. Do I have trouble marketing and branding myself–heavens yes! Will I disappoint some readers because they are expecting one type of book from me? Possibly, but I might just introduce some of my readers to a genre they might never have considered.
IDI – A question almost every author chooses to answer from the list I send, where do you get your ideas?
DAG - My ideas come from various places, things I read or actual experiences. For instance, ‘Two Graves’ came from being bullied as a kid. I think a lot of avid readers, the introverts, book worms, geeks, brainiac, whatever we were called were bullied. And, of course, in the retreat of a fantasy world, we all dreamed of what we should have said, how we would get even. Preston Peterson, the killer in ‘Two Graves’ was like that. He just took it farther than any of us ever could–even if we secretly wanted to.
IDI – People ask, ‘Why do you write’, and I reply ‘I’m either creative or a pathological liar. I haven’t decided yet’. Actually, I think (in part) that writing is almost like being multiple personalities. Seriously, we ‘become’ the characters we write, at least for a time. We have to feel what they feel, think what they think, know what they know… so how can we not ‘be’ them? Agree or disagree? What are your thoughts?
DAG - I feel a truly successful writer has to be able to crawl inside their character. We need to walk and talk in their skin to perfect the character’s distinct voice. An extensive back story helps me. I imagined experiencing each slight, every humiliation that Preston experienced long before the storyline of ‘Two Graves’ started. Even episodes that never ended up in the book helped bring that character to life and let me experience situations from his albeit twisted perspective. And while I am writing, whether the character is a psychotic killer, a teenage girl or a career cop, I need to be that character during the scene. I will often play the scene from different viewpoints to see which advances the plot better. Now that can truly mess with your mind after a while.
IDI – Fame, pride, film adaption… what’s your dream?
DAG - I have a necklace that I have worn for, well, let’s ignore any accurate count and just say since I was 21. It is a gold bunch of bananas. It is my lucky piece and signifies my dream of spending my days writing on a beach. The particular beach has changed over the years from Key West (during my Hemmingway days) to Tahiti. It is now in Exuma in the Bahamas so we can be closer to our kids and our grandkids. We have our house picked out and I’ve tried it out a couple of times. I write so much better on a warm beach than in the winter in Canada.
IDI – Through the years, writers (among other creative types) have been known to be eccentric. Rotting apples, writing while standing only or lying down only… do you have any quirks or superstitions that are as integral to your writing as plot and character?
DAG – Although I do use a computer to write, I am picky (my wife would say obsessive) about what pens I use. I write all of my notes with a blue Sanford Uniball Micro. I edit only with a red Sanford Uniball Micro pen. I may have to stop writing if they ever discontinue the line.
IDI – Who’s your target audience? What aspects of your writing do you feel targets that audience?
DAG – Without a doubt, I am my target audience. Someone who loves to escape reality and life, get lost in a book and be entertained. Sam Goldwyn said, “If you want to send a message, call Western Union” and that is how I write. I don’t want to read about profound deep thoughts, I read to escape deep thoughts. My goal is to entertain, keep you guessing, make you break out in goose bumps or cringe and say ‘Oh man, that would hurt’. If I were to compare it to movies, I’m not wine at a literary cinema, I’m a tub of popcorn at the Drive-In.
IDI – I’ve heard argument for each side, but when writing, do you outline or sketch the entire book before you feel comfortable enough to begin your first draft or do you prefer to fly by the seat of your pants?
DAG – I am an obsessive list maker. I drive my wife nuts on any project, vacation or shopping trip we have. So, I plot out everything before I start writing. I always envied the writers who just sit down and start writing. For me, it is weeks of making notes, plotting, deciding on characters, checking research on history, on the velocity of a high-powered bullet and if a 130 pound woman really can put a 200 pound man into the trunk of a Ford Focus… and checking if he will fit in the first place.
IDI – What made you decide to take the Indie publishing route?
DAG – An electronic publisher picked up ‘The Schiliemann Legacy’ several years ago. unfortunately, they went under shortly afterward–I’m pretty sure it had nothing to do with my book. Flash forward a few years and hundreds of query letters and I read the now famous exchange between Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler. My wife and I discussed it and we decided I would give the Indie route a shot. Interestingly, within a week of deciding to go Indie, I had come up with a sequel to ‘Two Graves’, two non-fiction books, solidified the first book of ‘The Witches of Aquarius’ and came up with plot lines for two more books in the series. It has been absolutely freeing. It even gave me the chance to make my own book trailer for ‘Two Graves’ which was fun. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CfrDilqYTIU
IDI – In your opinion, what are the biggest misconceptions new authors have about the publishing industry?
DAG – Speaking for myself, I think the amount of marketing, social networking, promotion and general slogging that goes into a book once you have finished what you thought was the hard work. Writers, often a solitary, introverted bunch, have to be prepared to get out there – thank the Goddess for my extroverted wife pushing me out the door. Tweet, blog, chase reviews, plead for interviews while trying to balance the time for writing. And you have to do it even before you have finished the book – a lesson I am still learning.
IDI – When reading another author, do you find yourself taking in what you read or are you more likely to critique as you go? And if so, what is the one thing you see the most?
DAG – Not so much critique as say to myself, ‘Damn, I wish I had thought of that’ or I reread a paragraph and marvel at a turn of phrase or how a single line so clearly defines a character. Most of the time, when I am reading, especially new authors, I am just in awe of what they have done.
IDI – Years ago, when I worked outside the home and my kids were young, 9 – 5 was work time. No calls, no visits, no needs unless it was an emergency. When I began writing full-time from home, the interruptions were endless; where’s this, can you run me here, my report is due… I still needed the time to write, but they viewed my time at home as ‘flexible’. Run me to my game and THEN you can write. I hear this from writers all of the time. How do you handle the responsibilities of family and work when it’s under one roof?
DAG – As shocking as it is to me, I’m not making a living from my writing yet. Ten years ago, I quit my 9-5 (or more like 6 – 8 ) job and started a computer consulting business operating out of my home while I looked after our youngest. Then, we added a relaxation massage and Reiki business (I’m a Reiki master). So, I balance the two businesses and writing and the family. I have three things going for me: first, an incredible wife who is supportive and gives me time to write, second, great kids who make my life easier by being so independent and, finally, I’m an insomniac.
IDI – What are your thoughts on the ever-changing publishing industry? What do you see for the future, as a writer?
DAG – What do I see for the future – excitement and limitless possibilities for both writers and readers. Just like the film and music industry, the publishing industry is going through a revolution because of eBooks and Indie publishing. Change brings opportunities for those brave and daring enough to make the leap into the future. As an indie author who has made that leap, I know it unchained my creativity. That can only make me a better writer and consequently makes my books better for my readers. And the variety and choice available for the readers can only promote and encourage even more reading. I am very excited.
Anyone who would like to contact DA or purchase his work, can use the links below:
If you would be interested in participating in an Ink Drop Interview, contact me and ladybuggerly (at) hotmail dot com. (I was attacked by a bot this week – or something just as ugly – so I have to ‘code’ my email)
You can find me on any of these great sites!