Coming this December, Ape Entertainment will release Demon Days by D.L. Snell and Richard Finney. We’ll have a review for you when it’s closer to the publication date. In the meantime, we wanted to do something a little different, so we asked the authors if they’d mind interview each other. And being the brave souls they are, they agreed.
Here we present the first of the two interviews. D.L. Snell writes with Permuted Press and Richard Finney. He edited Dr. Kim Paffenroth twice, John Dies at the End once, and provided a constructive critique to Joe McKinney on his next major novel after Dead City. Snell’s first novel Roses of Blood on Barbwire Vines pits zombies against vampires. His websites are exit66.net and finneyandsnell.com.
Richard Finney: Working with you was great because I was not only working with a talented writer, but with someone who has been a book editor in the past. How has working as an editor on other people’s work helped you as a writer?
D.L. Snell: Thank you, Richard – it’s been a pleasure to work with you as well!
In many ways, writing is problem solving, whether it’s at the plot level or at the scope of an individual sentence. When a writer hasn’t communicated something clearly and provocatively, the work needs repair. Editing has taught me to recognize problems and to observe them objectively from different angles; this makes solving the issues much easier because I’ve learned to think up multiple fixes, and to predict how those fixes will affect the interlocking pieces of the story.
The old dictum holds true: you don’t know something until you’ve taught it.
Richard Finney: So many people now experience their horror solely through movies. Can you make the case that these people are missing out when they don’t read horror or supernatural-themed stories/books?
D.L. Snell: Well, movies are better at producing instant scares, where the monster suddenly jumps out and startles the whole audience. A book has never done that for me. But… I once saw this photo of a mouse’s brain cell compared to astrophysicists’ simulated vision of the universe. The designs are remarkably similar. When we read stories, we are investing brainpower in the worlds; we are lighting up a fictional universe with neurons. Each one of us recreates that universe with a slightly different vision. So if moviegoers are missing out on anything, it’s the power of their own imagination–the power of creation.
Richard Finney: Have you always wanted to be a writer? What was the creative breakthrough you had that allowed you to say to yourself, “I can be a good novelist”?
D.L. Snell: I’ve been interested in writing since I was very little. Recently my grandma found an old story of mine, in which the protagonist David Hero must save Santa Claus from a kidnapper bent on ruining Christmas. I think I wrote it when I was ten. It certainly wasn’t my first story, but… I didn’t really become serious about writing until high school, or maybe even college.
I don’t recall a creative breakthrough that proved to me I could be a novelist. In fact I never really questioned my ability to write novels… until I started writing them. Now I struggle to produce 80,000 words without feeling like I’m padding for length.
Richard Finney: Can you explain a writer’s and a reader’s fascination with horror/supernatural subject matter?
D.L. Snell: Fear is the best energy drink. The active ingredients? Adrenaline and endorphins. In modern life, the survival instinct is neglected, and for some reason we feel a primal need to activate it. Perhaps it’s a form of practice, of keeping our instincts sharp. Perhaps it’s an addiction to the rush, a biological need for the chemicals of terror. One thing is certain: fear is a major reason the human race continues to develop. Fear is motivation. Fear is survival. And on the plus side: it contains zero guarana.
Also, horror and the supernatural give us a safe medium through which we can explore the horrific unknown; they help us put a face on it. And a face is something we can cope with, something we can rage against. Otherwise we’re just flailing at shadows, fighting something that cannot be fought.
Richard Finney: We’ve started writing the sequel to Demon Days. Based on your experience in writing Demon Days what are you most excited about and what do you dread the most about working on the sequel?
D.L. Snell: I’m excited about the whole prospect: What will happen with the characters? What new spin will we put on bible prophecy? Nevertheless, I’m dreading the amount of research the book will entail. The story involves politics, religion, and international settings. Jerusalem, for example, is an especially complex place where three major religions intersect at the Old City. So not only do we need to research the history of the people and their conflicts, we also need to research the ancient and culturally rich setting. And that’s just part of the work we have in store. Luckily we covered a lot of material in the first Demon Days.
[Editor’s note: we’ll have the interview with Richard Finney later today.]