Friday, March 16, 2012

Author Interview - Andy Gavin

Enter the Luck 'O the Irish giveaway for a chance to win The Darkening Dream.

Andy Gavin is an unstoppable storyteller who studied for his Ph.D. at M.I.T. and founded video game developer Naughty Dog, Inc. at the age of fifteen, serving as co-president for two decades. There he created, produced, and directed over a dozen video games, including the award winning and best selling Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter franchises, selling over 40 million units worldwide. He sleeps little, reads novels and histories, watches media obsessively, travels, and of course, writes.

Will there be more stories following these characters?

The Darkening Dream began for me with a vision of the last scene, and the story is in many ways a kind of prequel. I have a detailed outline for the 2nd book, but I haven’t started yet. After the enormous number of drafts I did on the book I wanted to write something different. My 2nd novel is a totally different universe. It’s lighter, a young adult time travel adventure called Untimed.

Do you have a favorite character in the story?

Al-Nasir, (my 900 year-old vampire). He's just so deliciously evil – and therefore fun to write.

Do you have anything specific that inspires you, or makes you think something would make a good story?

There are two answers to that, the visceral and the cerebral. With The Darkening Dream, the visceral part was this image I had – and some might consider me disturbed – of a dead tree silhouetted against an orange sky, a naked body bound to it, disemboweled, and bleeding out. The sound of a colossal horn or gong blares. The blood glistens black in the sunset light. Bats circle the sky and wolves bay in the distance. But sacrifice isn’t just about killing. It’s a contract. Someone is bargaining with the gods. And on the cerebral side, I've always been a huge vampire fan and I've read and watched a large percentage of the oeuvre. But also as a history buff I wanted to write a supernatural story that was more grounded in real history and legend. I'm always thinking, "that could have been so much better if they didn't make up the historical backstory" so I started with the villains. What kind of ancient evil creatures might still be around? What do they want? And what legitimate human reason would they have to destroy the world (Buffy-style)? I don't exactly answer the question in TDD, because the motives of 5,000 year old baddies should be mysterious. But trust me, they have a plan, and the sheer audacity of it will literally shake the foundations of the heavens.

What is it about the paranormal that made you want to write in that genre?

I’ve been obsessed with vampires for decades. Not because they are romantic, but because they are undead – and I really mean undead – and because older ones are creatures that have stretched across the centuries. But it always bugs me in stories full of supernatural where they touch on the historical roots of superstitions but don’t bother to do the research. I always felt that, as they say, “truth is stranger than fiction” – if, like me, you count myth as truth – and so I wanted to write a fast paced supernatural action story where the spooky stuff is all based on real spooky stuff. And truly, the real deal is much more creepy.

What was the first paranormal book you read?

The 1st real novel I ever read was Isaac Asimov’s David Starr, Space Ranger. That started me off bright and early (seven or eight) with my long pattern of reading speculative fiction. I pretty much only read fantasy, science fiction, or supernatural novels. An early one I remember that you might consider paranormal was Escape to Witch Mountain by Alexander Key. Many of his books involved children with superpowers running from “the authorities.” These are great books, and sadly many are out-of-print.

Who are your influences?

I’ve read so many novels (10,000 maybe) and watch so much film and TV that I have a rather large stable of archetypes bouncing around in my head. Usually characters start life as an archetype or structural need for the story. For example, in The Darkening Dream, I knew I wanted “an ancient vampire recently moved to America.” It’s a trope for sure, like in Salem’s Lot or even in Dracula (London instead of America), but I wanted to do my own take on it, sticking to certain familiar elements, then branching off in different ways. I tried to figure out who he would have been, and what he’d become. For example, he had to be from the Dark or Middle Ages. I wanted middle management. A force to reckon with, but not the oldest in the world. To be properly menacing, old vampires must be rare. So he couldn't be too old. Perhaps, no more than two or three vampires have survived from antiquity. And we dare not utter their names.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?

Spending time with my family. Reading (mostly speculative fiction and history). Food and wine. I’m an incurable gourmand. Photography, video games, technology, history, travel, and archeology are a few of my other passions. I’m particularly fascinated by the ancient western world. 

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