January 19, 2012

roads less traveled by c delaneyCraig: Welcome to the blog, C. Dulaney!
C: It’s great to be here, and thanks for having me.

Craig: What have you contributed to the genre? What’s your best known work? Tell us about it.
C: Now, is this where I’m supposed to pimp my work? ‘Cause I’ve never been very good at that. Truth be known, I can’t stand talking about myself. Call it humble or backwards hillbilly. And yes, I catch a lot of flak from my friends over it. “You must promote your work!” So, Craig, here goes:

The answer to both questions would have to be the first novel in my ROADS LESS TRAVELED trilogy, The Plan. Simply put, it’s a zombie tale revolving around a group of friends who make their stand in the mountains of West Virginia. Minus the “West Virginia” part, sounds like your average run-of-the-mill zombie novel, huh? It actually started out that way, until I quickly became bored after having written two pages. So I scrapped it and started over.

The finished product turned out to be the result of seeing too many zombie movies and reading too many zombie books that was the “same old thing,” and so far from reality it was ridiculous. Before starting over, I had just finished a particular zombie novel that shall remain nameless and decided, “Okay, I’m sick and tired of the same old shit,” pardon the language. And so I started beating the keyboard again, this time writing a story that was as real as I could possibly make it. What would REAL people do, how would REAL people react? That was the driving force behind THE PLAN.

Sure, there’s loads of zombie action in it. Can’t have a walking dead story without the walking dead, right? But they’re more of the backdrop. The characters push and hurl the story forward, because let’s face it: without good characters, you don’t have squat.

Craig: As a writer, do you prefer fast or slow zombies, and living or undead? Building on these basic themes, what do you consider to be your own trademark or unique innovation as an author?

C: Well, in the beginning I thought I preferred slow zombies. And that worked for me in THE PLAN, and would have worked just fine in the following two books of the trilogy. The problem became ME. About a third of the way into Book Two, MURPHY’S LAW, I started to get bored. I figured if I was getting bored, then the reader would too. Enter fast zombies. But I took a step back and said to myself, “Self, how can you insert fast zombies to pick up the pace, yet make it realistic and believable?” I can’t tell you how that worked out, but I can say that Book Two is finished, edited, and with Permuted Press right now (TBR). So I guess the answer to your question would be both, as long as the faster variety is something that makes sense. They are dead, after all. Fast or slow, corpses can only do so much.

I keep throwing the word “realistic” around, so I guess you could say that’s my trademark. I can’t say it’s unique, because several of my fellow PP writers incorporate the same thing in their work. Maybe another trademark would be bringing local and regional flavor into my novels. West Virginians have a certain way about them. Speech, behaviors, etc. Write what you know, yes? I only know one way to talk, one way to think, and that’s Mountaineer. So it bleeds heavily into my work. But really, isn’t that the way for all of us?

Oh, and there’s a big fat dose of humor in my work. Horror scares the hell out of me, so I try to make it funny when I can…

Craig: What’s the last book in the genre that you particularly enjoyed?

When I found out that PP had signed two more female writers, I was excited. We’re definitely a minority in the genre, so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on their books. I didn’t have the opportunity to go to ZBC this year, so I didn’t get to meet Elly. But if I had, this is what I’d have told her: Well done! Oh yeah, and the folks leaving negative reviews don’t know what they’re talking about, or else they just didn’t get it. (That comment will most likely earn me some nasty reviews, but shit happens. Might as well say it as to think it.) Safe to say, I’m looking forward to the sequel.

Since I indirectly mentioned her, another “Well Done!” needs to go out to Jessica Meigs. You did good, girl, you did good. Also looking forward to more work from her.

I also feel driven to add that right before reading those two books, I finally sat down and read Z.A. Recht’s PLAGUE OF THE DEAD. I’d been meaning to for a long time, but repeatedly put it off. Why? I’m not really sure. It wasn’t because I was afraid of being let down; it was nothing like that. I won’t even begin to speculate; you don’t have all day to listen to me ramble on. I’m not even sure I have the words to describe how I felt once I’d finished reading. I closed the book, rested it on my lap, and said “Damn…”

R.I.P. Z.A. You are sorely missed.

Craig: What’s your favorite zombie movie?
C: DAWN OF THE DEAD. The remake and the original.

Craig: Which of the following appeals to you most about the genre ? zombies, survival horror, apocalypse ? and why?
C: Good question. I’d have to say apocalypse, because it fascinates me to what lengths some people will go in order to survive.

Craig: Which is your favorite type of story ?apocalyptic (we’re seeing the collapse), or post-apocalyptic (the collapse has already happened) ? and why?
C: Even though it’s been done a lot, I really enjoy apocalyptic. While you don’t have as many options as you would in post-apocalyptic stories, for some reason I love seeing the initial collapse, right when the shit hits the fan. How do people react? How do governments react? How fast does the “thing” (zombie virus or not), spread? How hard does it hit? Does it come in like a lion and go out like a lamb, or vice versa? How I feel about it makes me think of Roscoe P. Coltrane, “I love it I love it!” then that funny noise he makes, which I’m not sure how to spell.

Craig: What is your approach to writing? How do you complete a novel?
C: I guess you could say I’m a situational writer? Even if it’s just a one-word idea. “What would happen if?” and then write a story around it.

I learned early on that I can’t write with an outline. Sure, I’ll jot notes down along the way. But if I do an outline, I end up absolutely sticking to it, which leaves no room at all for imaginative detours. I blame the OCD. So what I do is, once I have an idea, I spend some time thinking about it. What are my main objectives? What points do I want to make? What are the key action sequences? So on and so forth. Once those are ironed out in my head, I sit down and just start typing. I aim for at least 1,000 words a day, then the next day I re-read what I wrote the day before, fix anything that needs fixing, and continue. I guess you could say that by the time I’m finished with a manuscript, it’s a first and second draft all rolled into one, because I spend so much time re-reading and editing along the way. Then I let it “simmer.” Don’t look at it, don’t think about it, for 3-4 weeks. This way, when I hit it again for a 3rd draft, I’ve got slightly fresher eyes. I usually only end up having three or four drafts of a manuscript. Again, I blame the OCD. Then I send it out to my first-readers.

Craig: Without naming names or quoting, what is the worst review you ever received on Amazon, and if you could respond to it, what would you say?
C: Someone once said THE PLAN was hurried, unrealistic, and immature. I’m paraphrasing, of course. Now, Craig, I’m all for criticism and constructive feedback, whether it’s good or bad, it doesn’t matter. It’s the only way we learn, the only way we can grow as writers. If we don’t know what mistakes we’re making, how do we correct them? That’s something I always try to stress, and something that’s been stressed to me many times. But that particular review, when read in full, made me want to reply with a sailor’s mouth (which I am repeatedly accused of having). So best I don’t say anything at all.

Craig: What makes a great character?
C: A great character is real, real, real. Whether they’re fleshed out or not, a main character or a secondary, they must be how we see ourselves. If you can do that, and do it well, then the rest will work itself out.

Craig: What are you working on? What can we expect next from you?
C: I just finished the last book of the trilogy, SHADES OF GRAY. I’ll get to work on the third draft sometime after Christmas. The workings of my next novel are floating around in my head, but before I jump into that, I believe I’ll finish the series I started for Dark Tomorrow, Thom Brannan and Rob Pegler’s site. Either way, I’ll be taking a mini-break after the final revisions for SHADES OF GRAY. This trilogy has been the last three years of my life, and finally ending it was pretty rough. Ole Dulaney needs a bit of down time before hitting the keyboard again.

Craig: Thanks for joining us, and best of luck with the launch of your trilogy with Permuted Press!

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