Andy Gavin reveals how designing a video game and writing a novel are the similar, his favorite candy, and why there is a 900-year old vampire living in Salem in The Darkening Dream.
Is The Darkening Dream part of a series or have you written it as a stand-alone novel?
I always intended TDD as the first of a series. In fact, 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. I just haven’t written it yet.
Which character was the easiest for you to write?
My 900 year-old vampire. He’s just so deliciously evil and fun to write. Al-Nasir, as I affectionately like to think of him, is mid-upper management, like an undead Executive Vice President of Acquisitions. I wanted a personage of exceptional age, power, and menace, yet also no CEO or CTO level player — even if he has aspirations. Al-Nasir has been sent west from Europe to Salem, Massachusetts. This is no small thing for a vampire, particularly in 1913. A steamship is a dangerous place for the daylight challenged — especially if they have a habit of snacking on the crew. But come he does, under mysterious orders from the loose cabal of occult baddies with whom he works. Al-Nasir finds things. And with the patience and tenacity only the dead can muster.
He sounds creepy! What is your revision process like? Did you have to go back and rewrite the plot at all?
TDD took almost 2 years and at least 9 major drafts. As my first novel, this one took a lot of rewriting. It’s 95k words, but at it’s largest it was 186k!
As to process, if I have outlined something, and I’m not feeling physically bad (sick, hungover, etc), I can pretty much pound out the actual writing. Where I waste time is in getting to those outlines. Usually, when writing a first draft, I’ll do about 1,500-2,000 pages a day every day for about two weeks, then be unproductive for a few days, then repeat.
Would The Darkening Dream make a good movie?
Oh, yes. However, story wise, TDD was originally written more like a cable series (although always in novel form). It’s a long involved story with multiple points of view, which might be difficult to squeeze into two hours. As a writer, I’m very visual, and I employed structural lessons in early drafts more akin to long-form drama than most novels. I see every scene in my head action by action, shot by shot.
In addition to writing, you are also a game developer. Are there any similarities between creating a game and writing a novel?
As a serial creator (having made over a dozen major video games) it was interesting how similar the process was to any other complex creative project. Video games and novel writing are both very iterative and detail oriented. They use a lot of the same mental muscles.
Are there any plans for a game based on The Darkening Dream world?
Not really, TDD is very story and character based, with a relatively small number of villains that are very powerful. Generally, video games need a hierarchy of villains: the boss, sub bosses, and most importantly, a lot of red shirts. It’s important for gameplay that there are lots of fodder enemies to fight.
How do you deal with writer’s block?
Usually I just power through it, although I’m in a bit of a block at the moment that I have to shake. I don’t really block, I just periodically “fall out of the habit” (temporarily) of writing everyday. As soon as I force myself back to it, I’m fine.
If you had to choose another writer as a mentor, who would you pick?
Probably Stephen King, because he’s both good AND prolific. I’d just skip the getting hit by a van and nearly dying, that sounded more horrific than some of his novels. I have lots of favorite writers, like I absolutely adore George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire, but he takes a while between books, and I’d like to be faster.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
I’m a ridiculous foodie and wine guy (I blog about it here), to the level of being a certified sommelier and attending 27 course truffle diners. Yet, I also have a secret weakness for “comfort” food (particularly candies), like Skittles and Spicettes.
Do you have any upcoming projects we can be on the look out for?
I have a second finished novel (it’s been through four major drafts and a full line edit). It’s called Untimed and is a YA time travel novel that chronicles the crazy adventures of a boy no one remembers, who falls through a hole in time and finds himself lost in the past. It’s very different with an extremely immediate first-person present voice (in this book the only thing anyone can hold on to is the present). It rocks. Seriously rocks.
About The Darkening Dream
Even as the modern world pushes the supernatural aside in favor of science and steel, the old ways remain. God, demon, monster, and sorcerer alike plot to regain what was theirs.
1913, Salem, Massachusetts – Sarah Engelmann’s life is full of friends, books, and avoiding the pressure to choose a husband, until an ominous vision and the haunting call of an otherworldly trumpet shake her. When she stumbles across a gruesome corpse, she fears that her vision was more of a premonition. And when she sees the murdered boy moving through the crowd at an amusement park, Sarah is thrust into a dark battle she does not understand.
With the help of Alex, a Greek immigrant who knows a startling amount about the undead, Sarah sets out to uncover the truth. Their quest takes them to the factory mills of Salem, on a midnight boat ride to spy on an eerie coastal lair, and back, unexpectedly, to their own homes. What can Alex’s elderly, vampire-hunting grandfather and Sarah’s own rabbi father tell them? And what do Sarah’s continuing visions reveal?
No less than Gabriel’s Trumpet, the tool that will announce the End of Days, is at stake, and the forces that have banded to recover it include a 900 year-old vampire, a trio of disgruntled Egyptian gods, and a demon-loving Puritan minister. At the center of this swirling cast is Sarah, who must fight a millennia-old battle against unspeakable forces, knowing the ultimate prize might be herself.
Genre: Historical fantasy
Praise for The Darkening Dream
“Wonderfully twisted sense of humor” and “A vampire novel with actual bite” — Kirkus Reviews
“Inventive, unexpected, and more than a little bit creepy!” — R.J. Cavender, editor of the Bram Stoker nominated Horror Library anthology series
“This book will satisfy any fan of the vampire genre and then some!” — Must Read Faster
“In a similar vein to George R.R. Martin’s writing style, Gavin often dangles his characters in the maws of danger and doesn’t shy away from … their blood being spilled.” — Andrew Reiner, executive editor of Game Informer magazine
“Now this is a vampire novel! It flows so perfectly between character point of views, it’s a great blend of historical fiction, mythology and paranormal.” — Little Miss Drama Queen Reviews
“Action-packed and suspenseful, and there were twists all over the place.” — Les Livres
“Andy Gavin has taken a bevy of supernatural elements, compelling characters, and an intricate and superbly developed storyline, and expertly weaved them together to create an original and enthralling book.” — Word Spelunking
About Andy Gavin
Andy Gavin is a serial creative, polymath, novelist, entrepreneur, computer programmer, author, foodie, and video game creator. He co-founded video game developer Naughty Dog and co-created Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter. He started numerous companies, has been lead programmer on video games that have sold more than forty million copies, and has written two novels including The Darkening Dream, a dark historical fantasy that puts the bite back in vampires.
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