An Interview with D.W. Gillespie
Sirens Call Publications recently released D.W. Gillespie’s debut supernatural horror novel titled Still Dark and we wanted to take a moment to sit down with him and ask him a few questions.
Sirens Call Publications: Welcome D.W.; why don’t you take a moment to introduce yourself?
D.W. Gillespie: Everyone thinks that us horror writers must be closeted serial killers, but nothing could be further from the truth. I’m very open about being a serial killer.
Seriously, I’m a pretty normal guy. I have an awesome wife, two smart, funny kids, and I just love writing. My long-term goal is to be able to do it full time.
SCP: What made you decide to become a writer?
D.W.: The simplest way to say it, it’s just who I am. In my genes so to speak. My days and nights are just filled with constant, random, occasionally non-sensical dreaming. That’s my language, and once I realized that it was at least somewhat unique in the world, I knew that I wanted to use it.
It’s the only work I’ve ever done that doesn’t quite seem like work. It’s effort, sure. It’s a time drain, and sometimes I’m too tired to bother. But it’s also fun as hell.
SCP: What is Still Dark about?
D.W.: It’s a bit of a mashup. It’s a cabin-in-the-woods story, but not quite the way you might think it is. It’s got some sci-fi, some nature horror, and some serious gore.
The setup starts simply enough. A family is vacationing in the mountains when a strange explosion takes out all the power in the area. Pretty soon, all hell breaks lose with impossible animal attacks, voices from the woods, and a strange being named Apex that might just be behind it all.
SCP: What is the one thing you’d like readers to know about Still Dark before they read it?
D.W.: Still Dark represents years of quiet work towards becoming a better author, one that might actually be worth reading. While this is my debut novel on the market, it’s actually my 5th book. The first four have been quietly tucked away, never to be seen because of one simple fact. They weren’t good enough.
But ultimately, I’m just very excited for people to finally read it. It’s been a long road here, and I can’t wait to see what people think.
SCP: What is your writing process? Do you consider yourself to be a planner or a pantser?
D.W.: For years, I considered myself more of a planner. I think some stories really do lend themselves to a solid, well considered outline, but nothing is ever set in stone. On my last few novels, I’ve gotten a lot more experimental with my process. My favorite book that I’ve written was almost completely by the seat of my pants, and it’s no coincidence that that particular novel is very character driven.
SCP: If you could cast Still Dark, who would you choose to play your main characters?
D.W.: That’s a tough one… maybe Chris Pratt as Jim, but the chubby, non-buff Pratt. That’s how I picture Jim. Just barely capable, but brave when he needs to be. He gets the job done, but with very little panache.
For Laura, I’ll go with Emily Blunt. After seeing Edge of Tomorrow, I think she would kill it as the tough mom.
And finally, for Walt, my favorite character in the book. There’s only one answer for that one… Sam Elliot!
SCP: What is the hardest challenge that you have faced as a writer?
D.W.: For me, the hardest part of being a writer has been learning to deal with rejection. I’m a mostly quiet, admittedly sensitive kind of guy, which are traits that make for a good writer. But the one trait I was missing naturally was resilience. Tenacity. The ability to get knocked down and get back up.
I never played sports much, but I’ve grown to appreciate the lessons they teach kids, namely grit. I had to learn every bit of that through my writing. So, here’s what it would look like in my 20s…
Write a story. Slightly edit it. Lean back in my chair, marveling at my own brilliance, and send it out to a small market. Skip forward a month or two. Read rejection email. Read it again. Tell myself that the editor obviously doesn’t know true talent. Get mad and not write for a month or two.
I see now, 15 years after writing my first short story, how easy it is for people to get angry and bitter. But I just finally reached a point where I realized I wasn’t being honest about my work. I wasn’t putting in the time with edits that I needed to. The story really wasn’t good enough. And once I realized that, everything changed.
I worked harder. I took criticism under consideration. And most importantly, I began to eat rejections for breakfast. Once my skin toughened up a bit, well, it’s gone much smoother.
SCP: In your opinion, what sets Still Dark apart from other books of the same genre?
D.W.: That’s a tough one, and ultimately, it’s up to the reader to decide. I will say this… one of my biggest goals is to try my best to give people something they haven’t seen. We all know that, by now, it’s all been done, but I really work hard to give people something different. Whether or not I’m successful, well, that’s up to them to decide.
SCP: Are you reading anything right now, or have you read anything recently that is worth mentioning?
D.W.: Paul Trembley’s A Head Full of Ghosts is a hell of a book I just finished. I also recently finished Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy, which is just remarkable. I’m not quite sure how I feel about the series overall, but I’m still thinking about it long after reading it. I consider that the mark of something special.
SCP: Who are some of your favorite authors? Favorite novels?
D.W.: Richard Matheson. John Steinbeck. King. Lovecraft. Tolkien. Honestly, too many to list.
When it comes to specific books, I’d say The Hobbit is up there. It’s one of the few books I’ve read more than twice.
SCP: How do you define success as a writer? Have you been successful?
D.W.: I’ve learned over the years, that success is a moving target. 7 or so years ago, I hadn’t published a single short story. This is after years of writing on and off. That first acceptance felt like winning the lottery. Getting a novel accepted was the next big milestone. Then, getting an agent. Each one of these steps have been huge morale boosts, and I would never downplay any of them.
Success is in the eye of the beholder. Some people might be satisfied just to write one book and self-publish it, or just to print copies for their families. I would never downplay that either.
For me, I’m very excited and proud about the progress I’ve made, but I’m nowhere near satisfied. If I had to choose, here’s my personal measuring stick of success… if I ever make enough money writing that I can quit my day job, you can be damn sure I’ll consider myself successful.
SCP: Do you have words of wisdom about writing that you want to pass on to novelists and writers out there who are just starting out?
D.W.: At this point in my career, I’m still a tiny fish in the ocean, and I hate it when tiny fish try to act like gurus. Just keep working hard and be honest in your writing. That’s about all I can say.
SCP: What should readers walk away from your book knowing? How should they feel?
D.W.: Ultimately, I just hope they enjoy it. To me, it’s just a fun slice of genre that hopefully leaves them satisfied with the ride. Beyond that, well, I’m just getting started as a writer. If Still Dark plants a little seed in their minds to check me out in the future, that would be just dandy to me.
Thank you D.W. for taking the time to answer our questions. If you’re interested in hearing a little more about the book, here you go. Please don’t forget to stick around for the excerpt from Still Dark at the end!
When a thunderous explosion rocks an idyllic cabin resort in the Great Smoky Mountains, animals and humans alike begin to act strange. Jim, along with his wife Laura and son, Sam, are cut off from the outside world, but they soon realize the true nightmare is just beginning…
Deep in the snow-covered woods, something is waiting. The creature calls itself Apex, and it’s a traveler. Reading the minds of those around it, Apex brings the terrifying fears hidden in the human psyche to life with a singular purpose: to kill any that stand in its way.
Locked in a fight for their lives, Jim and his family must uncover the truth behind Apex, and stop the creature from wreaking a horrifying fate upon the rest of the world!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR — D.W. Gillespie has been writing dark fiction in one form or another since he was old enough to hold a pencil. He’s been featured in multiple horror anthologies, both in print and online. Still Dark is his debut novel, and his second book, a short collection titled Handmade Monsters, arrives in 2017. He lives in Tennessee with his wife and two children.
#Excerpt from Still Dark by D.W. Gillespie
52 Hours Post-Incident
“Please… folks, please… I know you have a lot of questions, but you’ll have to calm down…
“If everyone will please try to quiet down a bit, I’ll get us started.
“I’d first like to set expectations here. This will be very brief and will focus on the facts only. There has been a lot of speculation, and uhh… misinformation going around, and we hope to be able to give some clarity to the facts as we currently know them.
“It’s also worth stating that this press conference will not be able to give answers for everything that has happened. The investigation is ongoing and it may take weeks or even months to completely understand what has occurred here. The public needs to understand that local, state, and federal law enforcement and emergency services are combining their efforts to resolve this matter and to ensure public safety moving forward.
“Here’s what we know for certain. At approximately 10:15 a.m. January the 3rd, an incident occurred in the Smoky Mountains National Park, just outside of Gatlinburg. The closest we can tell, based on satellite data, is the epicenter of this incident is near a small cabin rental property called Black Hollow.
“Whether this incident was man-made, meteorological, or perhaps something else entirely, we don’t yet know for certain. What we do know is that widespread electrical issues followed, including power outages and disruption of various electronics such as computers, cell phones, and some cars with computer components. We also know that following this disruption, further, undetermined factors led to many injuries in the greater Gatlinburg area, including an unknown number of potential fatalities. We refuse to speculate as to the cause until we know more, but emergency personnel are now on the scene helping in every way possible.
“Now… I will open up the discussion for a few questions, but please keep in mind there is a lot we still don’t know.
“Can you say anything about the widespread reports of animals attacking people in the area and…?”
“No, and I’m sorry to cut you off, but we won’t comment on those reports at this time. There is just too much uhh, too much we don’t know to comment at this point, and it would be um, wrong to speculate until we have more answers. You…”
“It’s safe to say we’ve never seen a power outage this wide reaching. Is there any thought this might be terrorist related?”
“Everything is on the table. I won’t pretend like bad things didn’t happen here… so, everything is definitely under consideration. You there…”
“I have personally seen some of the victims that have been moved to nearby hospitals, and I’ve seen some of the injuries. Bite marks, claw marks, maulings and more… are you telling us you can’t give us any indication as to…?”
“No. I can’t. Not until we know more. Next question.”
“Can you comment on the complete evacuation of the city?”
“Not specifically, no. We’ve taken steps to ensure that residents are safe, and we’re working hard to…”
“But there is a military line, almost like a quarantine…”
“…that’s not something we…”
“…it looks more like a war zone.”
“Again, we can’t comment on specifics…”
“Well allow me to. I’ve seen aerial footage of streets literally running red with blood. Are we supposed to believe this isn’t something…?”
“…that’s enough. Please, we can’t keep focusing on things we can’t discuss at this point. I’ll take one more…”
“Is it not true that the technology needed to disrupt electrical equipment over such a range would be impossible to duplicate by terrorists?”
“I don’t see what you’re…”
“I’ll spell it out for you then. Has the government considered that this might be the work of extraterrestrials?”
“I won’t answer that… and it’s clear that we’re not going to be able to give any information which would be useful at this time. No further questions.”