Monday, 1 March 2010

Interview with an Author: DEAN VINCENT CARTER

Dean Vincent Carter is the author of teen horror novels THE HAND OF THE DEVIL, HUNTING SEASON and BLOOD WATER.

After graduating from Thames Valley University with a degree in English and Media Studies, he worked in sales and as a bookseller before getting a job in the facilities department at Transworld Publishers and Random House Children's Books. Spotted by his editor after she read his company-wide emails, his first novel, The Hand of the Devil was published in 2006 to great critical acclaim.

The Hand of the Devil

When young magazine journalist Ashley Reeves receives an intriguing letter, he leaves his London office in the hope of reporting on an unusual species of insect - the Ganges Red. That evening he arrives on Aries Island and encounters the writer of the letter - Reginald Mather. At first Mather seems no more than an eccentric collector, happy to live in isolation on the island. But when Reeves unearths the horrific truth, he finds himself thrown headlong into a macabre nightmare that quickly spirals out of control. His life is in danger ...and Mather is not his only enemy ...
Both gruesome and compelling, chilling and page-turning, this much-anticipated thriller from Dean Vincent Carter will delight older readers.

Hunting Season

Eight years ago, the Austrian emergency services were called to the scene of a bizarre car accident. Eight years ago two mangled bodies were found in the snow not far from the vehicle, clawed and chewed, it seemed, by some ferocious animal. Eight years ago something unspeakable took Gerontius Moore's parents from him, leaving him orphaned and alone...And now, that something, is back. Caught up in a hunt he was never meant to be a part of, and finding help from a most unlikely source, Gerontius must once more flee the clutches of an appalling beast, before it learns its business is unfinished. Full moon or not, the hunt is on.

Blood Water

They're all dead now. I am the last one. Dr Morrow can't identify the 'thing' he found living in the lake but he knows it's dangerous ...then it goes missing ...Caught in the flood that is devastating the town, brothers Sean and James stumble across Morrow and the carnage left at his lab. The missing specimen is some kind of deadly parasite that moves from person to person, destroying its hosts in disgusting, gory ways. The death toll will rise along with the waters unless the brothers can track down the homicidal specimen and find a way to destroy it.


Why did you decide to focus on writing horror?

I have always found horror fiction exciting, and it was this that inspired me to start writing in the first place. I love the suspense, tension and emotion that horror novels stir up in the reader.

Has anything or anyone in particular influenced your writing? Are you a fan of horror films, or other writers?

I’m a big fan of Stephen King. Reading his work is what made me interested in trying to write horror myself.

Are your publishers open to all your ideas or do you have to censor yourself and tone down some of the horror elements because of your target audience?

I have had to tone things down a little in some areas. I have had to do it less for Hunting Season and Blood Water as the first book was a good learning experience and I developed a feel for where the line had to be drawn in terms of violence, gore and strong themes.

In the gore stakes, do you think less is more, that suggesting horror can be more frightening than going into intricate detail?

Definitely. The horror movies that scare me the most are the ones that hint of terrifying things lurking in the darkness and the same should be applied to books. Sometimes it is hard to get away with not using a little gore, but relying on the reader’s imagination can be a far more effective tool when trying to instil a real feeling of terror.

What, if anything, do you think potential horror writers should bear in mind when writing for a younger audience?

I think there can be a tendency to tone things down too much, focus on themes that are more associated with teens and generally ‘talk down’ to the reader in a way. This I think has a tendency to turn teens off young fiction and to drive them toward adult fiction.

What’s your experience of how children react to horror in books? Do they tend to love it more than perhaps the parents would like?

I’m not really sure about that. I don’t think parents in general mind too much, in fact I know some who have allowed children under ten to read my books, knowing full well how strong some of the content is. I think it comes down to how mature the kids are and how well the parents know what their children are reading and how they react.

Do you ever scare himself when writing horror?

Sometimes I get caught up in the horror when trying to imagine a certain situation, but I don’t think I ever really scare myself. I rely on other authors to do that!

Can there be such a thing as too much horror?

I think there can be too much gore and violence in stories, but as for general ‘horror’ I’m not so sure. It’s a very wide genre and encompasses many different types of story and story-telling. I think it’s a very popular, exciting genre so there can never be too much.

Do you thing an element of humour can become an important consideration when writing horror?

Humour can be very useful in horror as it can provide relief if the overall tone is getting a bit too oppressive and dark. In film, horror and humour often go hand in hand making people hysterical in equal measure so perhaps there is some kind of link there.

Do you use your own children or any others as a ‘sounding board’ for your books?

I have used friend’s kids as a sounding board to get a good idea of whether I’m going in the right direction. It’s all been very positive so far.

The Hand of the Devil was your debut novel. Was it your first attempt at writing a novel or did you have other manuscripts hiding away? How long did it take you from initial inspiration to finally achieving the publication deal?

I did try to write a book when I was at high school. I only managed to get to about fifty typewritten pages before running out of plot and having to end it. The Hand of the Devil was the first full-length novel I wrote. I wrote it as a short story first, then changed the story slightly and started again, planning to develop the characters and take the story in another direction. From beginning to end the first draft probably took five months, but would undoubtedly have taken a lot less than that had I been able to work on it full time.

Before achieving publication did you have to deal with rejection along the way?

No, I was very lucky to be working for a publishers at the time. I met my editor at a Christmas party and mentioned I was working on a book. She was interested and asked me to send her the first six chapters I’d finished. She loved it! The rest is history.

How long have you been pursuing your writing ambitions and what have you done along the way to improve your writing?

I’ve been writing since I was about thirteen and started with short stories, increasing them in length as I went and trying to write about as many different things for variety. I’ve also found that reading is invaluable, even of factual material as it all adds to experience. Music, TV and Film also help develop the writing ability I believe, as well as offer up new ideas.

Do you plan your stories in advance, or do they happen on the page?

I plan them to a degree but only when I’m worried about losing focus. When I get to the end of a novel and I find myself wandering a bit, I try to draft a rough structure of where events will be leading to give me something to work to. I never develop a plan of any detail though as I find it spoils the enjoyment of the creative process.

What made you think ‘I want to write for children?’ Is it a genre you enjoy reading?

I intended to write for adults originally but found that writing for children was more comfortable in terms of workload and demanded slightly less which I thought was a good way to start a career in writing. I don’t generally read young fiction, but then I didn’t do that when I was teen either!

Do you think your degree in English and Media Studies, and your experience as a bookseller has influenced and helped your writing in any way?

Certainly studying English really helps as you’re introduced to people who have been very successful in their field and who have had a strong influence on other writers. You’re also taught how to write well and what is generally considered acceptable and unacceptable. My experience as a bookseller taught me what type of books sell well and what reader’s are most interested in. It also gave me a chance to look at a lot of different books in terms of how they are marketed and how people react to covers, blurbs etc.

Which authors/stories did you enjoy reading as a child/teenager? How do you think they compare to the children’s/YA novels available today? What do you think children of today want to read?

I can’t remember a lot of the authors I read. I did read a number of C. S. Lewis Narnia books which I really enjoyed, as well as the Hobbit which was a personal favourite. I think there is a definite contrast between those classics and modern books, primarily with language and the way the characters behave, but then books will always be quite reflective of the times in which they were written.
When I was a teenager I was reading Stephen King, James Herbert and the like. It’s a natural progression. As children grow up they like to read literature aimed at those older than them as it’s considered a ‘cool’ thing to do. I think the same applies today as back then, so maybe writers of teen fiction should bear in mind that they should be emulating adult fiction in many ways if they are trying to appeal to ‘young adults.’

Are there any other genres you’d like to write in?

I am very interested in crime fiction. I haven’t dabbled much yet but it’s definitely on the cards. I have thought about a fantasy novel, but the market is very saturated and the idea of writing one strikes me as a potentially tough prospect considering it all comes from the imagination and there needn’t be a lot of research involved.

Words of wisdom and advice to any aspiring writer?

Keep writing and keep reading, it all helps to build the talent and keep the skills honed. Look at different writers, genres and also try to read factual books on subjects that interest you, just to see the different ways in which people write. Try to develop your own voice. It’s a lot easier when starting out to emulate the writing style of your favourite author, but try to find your own voice as soon as you can.

Any other comments/observations/general mind-blowing information you‘d like to add?

It’s amazing how helpful dreams can be in terms of providing inspiration. The only trick is remembering them!

Dean Vincent Carter at Randomhouse

1 comment:

Nicky S (Absolute Vanilla) said...

Brilliant interview, really enjoyed reading this - thanks to both of you!
Am off to visit Amazon right away!

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