Please welcome Dylan Morgan.
In Blood War you create an epic confrontation between vampires, werewolves and a hybrid species. Was it more daunting to create a new creature or add your own spin to the classic archetypes?
It was definitely more daunting to add my own spin to classic archetypes. Vampires and werewolves have been around, in folklore and legend, fiction and film, for such a long time, and the stories have all been told and retold countless times, so finding something fresh to excite me the writer in the hope of exciting the reader was certainly a challenge. There are a number of plots running through the novel, stemming from all three species, so this was a good way to keep the writing fresh and detailed—there was always something happening to advance the story.
In addition, I wanted this book to have an international feel to it, so there are a lot of different locations and settings throughout the novel. Most of the book is set in Europe, in cities that I’ve visited and others I would like to visit, so this was a productive way for me to keep the writing exciting and the characters fresh and enthralling.
My werewolves do not look like wolves—they’re bipedal, monstrous creatures. My vampires do not sparkle—they’re nimble, devious beings. A combination of both of these species was a joy to write, and not daunting at all. Of course, the hybrids were blessed with a combination of both werewolf and vampire strengths, but they inherit their weaknesses too.
How did the character Steele from October Rain come into existence?
The entire story for October Rain came from a dream, which is the only time a dream of mine has so far influenced something I’ve written. The dream involved one of Saturn’s moons colliding with the planet. My daughter was on Saturn and I was trying to rescue her. Dreams truly are bizarre sometimes, but it formed the idea for a story set in space with an unbreakable connection between the protagonist and his daughter. This is where the basis for Steele came from, me trying to rescue my daughter, and these family ties play out in the novella. The story was moved from Saturn to Mars for convenience purposes and, to breathe more life into the character, Steele became a determined, ruthless bounty hunter—but with a soft side close to the surface, which comes tragically to the fore as the story progresses.
October Rain and Blood War involve incredibly realized and created worlds. What techniques do you use to when crafting these worlds?
A lot of good fiction has its basis planted firmly in fact, and this is what I tried to establish in these two books, particularly with Blood War. It’s vital that the factual information of a story is correct or else it just won’t seem believable to the reader, particularly if that person has been to that place.
Of course, October Rain is based on Mars and while nobody has been there I’m sure everyone knows what the planet looks like. Researching the planet, the way it fits with the other celestial beings in the solar system was an important thing for me to do, in order for myself to feel connected with the story. For the non-factual information in the novella, like the city of Olympia for example, I designed a blueprint of the city layout so that it became easy for me to put myself on its streets to watch the action unfold.
Fact was even more vitally important in Blood War, as the locations used are familiar to a lot of people. The story unfolds in major European cities like London and Rome, in countries like France, Ukraine and Poland, so the factual information about the streets and landmarks had to be correct. I have been fortunate to have traveled to many of the places in the book so firsthand experience helped me greatly. With the factual information giving me a genuine feel for the story, it was then easy for the story itself to develop and unfold in my mind almost like a movie playing before me, which is an equally important tool for the writer. If I believe I am in the story, experiencing it, then the likelihood is that the reader with feel the same way.
Your novel Hosts revolves around an archaeological dig. Where did this idea stem from?
It stemmed from having a need for a plot device that worked. The original idea for Hosts had the infection coming initially from food consumed by patrons in Faulkner Lodge (the name of the hotel in the book), but then that led me back to the question of ‘How did the food become contaminated in the first place?’ A few days or weeks of mulling over the idea brought me to the conclusion that I could use an archeological dig that unearths the remains of a mummified body which has kept the infection frozen in a cryogenic state for hundreds of years. The mummy thaws and the infection is unleashed upon the town of Snow Peak, a much more plausible and exciting plot device than contaminated food.
In Hosts you use the classic set-up of an isolated group and a threat that is kept to the shadows. What do you like most about this set up?
The futility of the situation is the best part of the set-up. The two main characters, Sheriff Richard Wade and Doctor Lauren Kemper are brought together to fight for their lives and the lives of those in the town against an overwhelming and seemingly unstoppable entity. They’re isolated by a severe snowstorm . . . throw in the character Malcolm MacDonald—who is possibly the most hated villain character I’ve created—and the scenario for true horror arises. As mentioned, it is a classic set-up, and one done numerous times in the past in horror books and movies, but it’s one that always works.
Aside from your novels you have a handful of short stories published. How is your process for crafting short fiction different from full length novels?
The writing process is not much different for me, it’s still the same: I get an idea which develops and grows characters and a plot before reaching a conclusion. The main difference is not worrying too much about sub-plots for a short story, whereas sub-plots are quite important to drive a novel forward. The main plot almost always isn’t enough to keep a reader interested. The cast of characters is usually much smaller for a short story, too, so there are fewer egos to keep under control.
I used to be reasonably prolific at writing short stories, most of my short fiction was written at the beginning of my journey of learning this craft. I don’t write much short fiction these days, but I do tend to treat every chapter of my novels as a short story—they need to start with conflict, something to grab the reader and pull them further into the book; they need to have a defined purpose; and if possible they need to end in such a way as to leave the reader wanting more.
Getting the reader to turn the page from chapter X to chapter Y and through to chapter Z is often the hardest task a writer has.
Your work seems to revolve around incredibly dark material. What was the first book you remember being genuinely scared of? Was your immediate reaction to run out and find more, or lock the offending text in your closet and never breathe a word of it to anyone?
Running out and finding more was my reaction. I’d never consider locking fiction away, any kind of fiction from whatever genre deserves its place and deserves to be read. My earliest memories of wanting to be a writer are from my very early teenage years, but the first book that made an impact on me came in my early twenties: a collection of three novels by Stephen King. The book contained The Shining, Misery, and Salem’s Lot, and while those stories didn’t scare me they made a huge impact on me as a writer and set my mind straight about what excited me as a reader and where I should be heading as a writer. (I read Misery in 6th grade and remember thinking nothing could be more intense. I am also a huge fan of The Shining, both the novel and Kubrick’s) I’ll read anything, but nothing stirs the writer in me more than horror.
In saying that, I don’t think I have ever been genuinely scared from anything I’ve read. I’ve been grossed out a few times, have had a story leave an impact on me, but fear has never really manifested itself in me while reading. But you’re right; my work does lean heavily on the dark side, the pained side of life. Hollywood endings are few and far between in my stories.
What active genre authors are you currently following?
Dean Koontz has always been a favorite author of mine. I love the unique way he draws me into the world he creates, every time, in every story. I still read his novels now with as much desire as I did his earlier works. From the “small press” world, Kealan Patrick Burke is a writer who impresses me greatly. He has such descriptive prose it’s very easy to get lost in the colorful, and often violent, worlds he creates.
Do you have anything new coming down the pipeline you would like to share with us?
At the moment there is nothing “new”-new to speak of, unfortunately, but I do have two full-length manuscripts sitting in slush piles waiting for a chance at life. I am currently almost 40,000 words into a new novel which is a futuristic piece with heavy splashes of Sci-Fi and Horror, and there are three other ideas that are spawning and growing in my warped mind, ready to develop into full-fledged stories.
There are some new re-releases to watch out for, though, with my debut novel Hosts finally being available on the Kindle platform. My novella, October Rain, is set to be re-released in Kindle format by Hazardous Press (www.hazardouspress.com) with new cover art and a few minor edits.
Hopefully, there’ll be plenty to read from me in the not-too-distant future.
We look forward to it.