Thursday, April 21, 2011

Author Interview with Derek Clendening!!


Randy and Carol Fuller face the worst horror parents can possibly face when they lose their six month old son, Kenny, to Sudden infant Death Syndrome during a freak snowstorm. In the following months, Randy wants a second chance at parenthood, but Carol isn’t ready. Their marriage disintegrates.

However, Randy discovers his second chance, anyway, when he begins to see Kenny at age four. Then at age eight, twelve and eighteen. Soon it becomes apparent that Kenny is alive and growing up within the walls of Randy’s ancestral home.

Randy has the opportunity to be a father to Kenny again, although in ways he never expected. And he must face obstacles he never imagined. The Between Years is a novel of ghosts and memory, obsession and darkness, and the undying love only a parent can understand.

Wow, what an original story! Derek, can you tell us a little about yourself?

Well, I’m a semi-young author from Fort Erie, Ontario. I’ve published in the small press and the mass-market. By day, I’m the Information Services Assistant at the Fort Erie Public Library. A great job for a fiction writer, you know? I like writing very honest horror stories that deal with serious issues and The Between Years is an excellent example of that. My young adult novel, The Vampire Way is forthcoming from Naked Snake Press and it also deals with some fairly serious issues for teens.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I’ve always loved stories. The best ones come from tidbits that are dying to be repeated. It’s like when someone approaches you and says “Pssst. Buddy. I’ve got something incredible to tell you.” I also love seeing snippets from the real lives of real people. These are the things that happen to the people we know, but we never really know about their history. We don’t know about their intimate thoughts and their innermost fears, desires and hang-ups. I’ve always wanted to know more about people than what I see on the surface. My goal was to capture this in The Between Years. I sure hope I succeeded.

What surprised you the most about the writing/publishing process?

Honestly, I wouldn’t say I was all that surprised by the publishing process. I’d been down that road my share of times with publishers both large and small. I would say that the creative control that Naked Snake Press allowed me was a pleasant surprise. I was surprised that I was able to finish this story so fast. But then the book really captured me. Hopefully it will capture the reader too. Maybe a quick turn around shouldn’t have surprised me so much after all.

What were your inspirations for creating this story?

The novel was inspired by my nephew’s illness when he was born. He had a hole in his heart and underwent open-heart surgery at 6 months of age. It was pretty scary for all of us. He’s five years old now and doing just fine. But I had bad dreams about it for the longest time. Writing about it was the only way to deal with those bad dreams. So I did. Only in this case, Randy’s son Kenny does was not born with any particular condition. Also, the freak snowstorm that occurs in the book actually happened in Fort Erie, Ontario in 2006. So I incorporated that into the book as well.

How long did it take you to write it, and did you have any writer’s block along the way?

This story was first conceived as a novella in 2008. The idea came to me while attending the World Horror Convention in Salt Lake City. So I jotted down some notes and became very engrossed in the story until I’d finished it. Then came the tricky part: finding a home for the novella as a lesser known horror writer. A publisher overseas wanted to publish it but I was reluctant to hand the rights over. And then it occurred to me that, even though I had a strong story to tell, Randy’s wife had no voice, no say in anything. A reader only sees one side of the story and that would be Randy’s. That’s too one-sided for a couple going through a divorce. And, frankly, it’s wrong. So I decided to expand the story into a novel in which both Randy and Carol individually had a voice so the reader can understand both character’s point-of-view and concerns. I started the monetization while in England for the 2010 World Horror Convention and wrapped it up by the summer. I had no writer’s block. I’m not sure I’ve ever had it. Thank God!

How do you develop your plots? Do you use any set formula?

I outline. I’m not sure if I believe any major author who says that they don’t. There’s no formula though. However, Carole’s chapters are told in the first person, recounting the past. Randy’s chapters are told in the third person and in the present tense. It is a non-linear plot and I wasn’t afraid to give up some important information at the outset. I think it’s okay to know some of the things that are going to happen – it will interest the reader in knowing how they arrived at that situation. I know I like novels that operate that way.

How did you come up with the characters of Randy and Kenny?

Randy has many of my characteristics – but he’s not based on me. Readers who know me claim that I bared my soul in this book, but it’s not like I leaked any deep secrets about myself. I just imagined how I would feel if I were placed in the same situation. I wanted Randy and his wife to be reasonably intellectual and progressive, so I figured he would have a university degree and be working as a library assistant. Carol Fuller is a writing teacher. Kenny isn’t actually based on my nephew or anything. I just compiled the things that I know about little kids—since I see them in my workplace daily—and created what I hope is a believable character. The same goes for Kenny when he reaches different ages in the book.

PhotobucketIf you could pick one actor to portray Randy on the big screen who would it be and why?

You know, I hadn’t really thought about that. But I think maybe Neil Patrick Harris would make a good Randy Fuller. He looks fairly close to how I had pictured Randy. He also has a certain intellectual sensitivity about him that would make a good Randy.

What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?

I think honesty is important. If a painter sees a mole, he or she paints it, right? So the writer should do the same. He or she should pull no punches. It’s always a writer’s primary goal to entertain the reader but I prefer to do so in a way that sheds light on things we don’t always think about. I’ll admit that I’ve lived somewhat of a sheltered life and I’ve never been exposed to some things that happen in other people’s households, families, relationships, etc. I think that understanding these things frees me from being naive. Therefore I like to write characters that deal with difficult things as an acknowledgement of the men and women who deal with these challenges on a daily basis.

This was a great story set with a haunted parent. Was there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

One challenge for me is to successfully write about a character with whom I don’t share everything in common. For example, my young adult novel The Vampire Way deals with teen pregnancy. I’ll obviously never be a teenage girl much less a pregnant one. So I had to use my imagination and put the shoe on the other foot. And then I handed the relevant chapters over to my sister-in-law and my cousin so I could get a female perspective on it. I needed to know if I had portrayed the female accurately in this instance. I think they approved, but there was obviously room for improvement. With Randy, in The Between Years, I needed to know how a parent would feel in this situation. I have no children so I was again left to my imagination. Mostly I recalled how I felt when I knew that my nephew’s life was in danger. If you turn those feelings up a few notches, I figured I could get a respectable picture of how a parent would feel. Parents who have read The Between Years have told me how amazed they were by how the parents are portrayed—particularly as written by a man who has no children of his own.

What were your feelings when you first saw the cover of your finished book?

It was kind of neat, given that the house on the front cover was my grandparents’ house. That was our ancestral home until it was sold in 2004. The novel is set in that house. I’m not sure my grandfather was so big on my writing horror stories, so I don’t know how he would have felt about it. My grandmother passed away a month or so before the book was accepted. However, she knew that the book had been written. I think she would have been pleased. The Between Years is dedicated to their memory.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Yes. Absolutely. And that is that there is no protagonist or antagonist in this book. No good guys or bad guys. A novel doesn’t have to have them. In The Between Years you will read about people with flaws and who are shaped by their experiences, both the good and the tragic. I want the reader to receive an objective depiction of this couple so they can decide for themselves who is right and who is wrong in all of this. The Between Years is a novel that trusts the reader’s intelligence. I hope that a reader finishes this book having engaged in an emotional experience.

You can find The Between Year at:Amazon

Please Visit Derek at his website:Derek's Website


Denise K. Rago said...

What a fascinating premise! I am buying this book. Thank you Derek for such a down to earth interview.

Denise K. Rago said...

Hi Derek,
I just received my copy of your novel. I can't wait to read it!

Anonymous said...

Awesome. Hope you enjoy it!

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