Hello folks sorry it’s been a bit quite on the Ginger front of late. Been making good use of the decent weather. But here I am back with a bang, with a cracking interview, if I say so myself, with David M. Youngquist President of Dark Contintents Publishing.
GNOF – Hi David, how’s things in your neck of the woods?
Hi Jim. Things are going well, but I’m ready for spring to get here. Cold damp weather is still hanging on. But the family is well. My son at college is on Spring Break, so he and his girlfriend took some time off from University to have a little holiday. The wife is fine, and looking to take some more classes herself, and daughter is almost done with her last year of Middle School (fifth grade here.)
GNOF- Is Spring Break really as big a thing as the movies make out? We don’t really have anything like that in the UK
It’s absolutely huge! Millions of college students descend on Florida, Texas and Mexico like swarms of oiled up locusts. Half naked (and sometimes fully naked) girls as far as one can see. Drunk guys hanging out of their cars hollering at the girls. It’s a sight to see. In some ways, it puts Marti Gras to shame. Watch MTV Spring Break sometime for live shots from the beach. That said, my son and his girlfriend stayed here in the Midwest. It’s an expensive trip to make that far south, and they don’t have a lot of interest in spending a month’s pay getting drunk and sunburned.
GNOF – Youngquist, that sounds Nordic, am I right?
Yep. The original spelling in the church documents where the family landed is Ljungkvist. Dad’s mostly Swede. My Mom is an Adams, and the three main families of her line are the Coleman, Bell, Adams of County Cavan in Ireland. Talk about an interesting childhood. Throw in a few stray Cherokee, some wandering Germans, a couple of minor British Nobles from Cornwall, and a mad Scotsman (who else but a Fitzgerald would try to raise Hereford and Angus cattle in Montana?) and you’ve got me.
GNOF – Mad Scotsmen, it must be all that haggis we eat. So can you speak Swedish?
Ha! Could well be. I think haggis is the Scots version of Chitlins. I don’t speak Swedish. My grandpa was the last one that did. My Dad has a little, but not me. Now my younger brother married a woman from Stockholm, and he speaks it pretty well. His oldest daughter actually was born there and has dual citizenship.
GNOF – Could you give us a brief synopsis of your writing career?
Brief? Okay, I’ll keep it under a thousand words, promise. Ha! I think I’ve written as long as I could read. In high school I used to contribute to the school paper, but my first paid gig was in college. At Western Illinois University, I wrote for the Western Courier while I pursued my BA in History Education. After graduation, I wrote for a local newspaper, The Bureau County Republican. At the same time I freelanced and contributed to such magazines as American Hunter, Carousel Horse News and Trader, and SHOOT! Magazine. But I got bored with nonfiction and turned to fiction. I love creating worlds and people in them. In 2006, DarkefireUK published one of my short horror stories. That same year, I signed a contract with Quixote Press for a collection of ghost stories. Ghosts of Interstate 80 was released in 2007 and was followed the next year by Ghosts of the Illinois Canal System. Since then, I’ve been involved in the Monsters of the Alphabet anthology, and had other short stories published in such venues such as Tales of the Zombie War. Now, I’m part of the great team at Dark Continents Publishing. I guess I’m one of those twenty year overnight success stories.
No one else on the team wanted the job. Seriously, when I put the team together, I looked at their strengths, and offered them the position I thought would fit them best. I put it to them as a group if they were comfortable with that responsibility, and left my position open. They accepted the assignments, and voted me in as Publisher/President. So far, it’s worked.
GNOF – How did you all come together?
We’ve been trying to figure that one out ourselves. Sylvia and I have known each other for four years now. We’ve done events and signings together in that time, as well as paranormal investigations. There was an ongoing story line over on The Dark Fiction Underground website called Underground Rising. Great project in horror, where one writer would put together a chapter, and pass it off to the next one in line. We got to know one another that way, and learn one another’s styles. So when a book deal fell through for me last year, I was talking (okay, griping) to Tracie about the situation, and she asked if I’d ever considered a writer’s cooperative. The idea intrigued me. I’ve had experience with co-ops throughout my life, but I was on the way to my daughter’s soccer practice, so I didn’t have much time to think about it that day. But the idea stuck. I hashed it out for a few days, then sent an e-mail to folks with the idea of a cooperative. John Prescott, Tracie McBride, Sylvia Shults, Ade Chamberlin, Serenity Banks and myself are the core group who put this together. We’ve since added to the co-op with John and Mo Irvine, Simon Kurt Unsworth and Dave Jeffery.
GNOF – I see that The Board Members, so to speak are spread out across the globe, that must pose some difficulties with meetings and such.
It’s been interesting, to say the least. We shuffled around times and days for awhile. With Tracie in Australia, and Ade in the UK, someone loses a little sleep. We seem to have settled on one o’clock on Saturday afternoon US Central Time for meetings. That way, Tracie’s up a little early on a Sunday Morning, and Ade heads for bed when we’re done. Skype is a great invention in technology. We have live conference calls between people on three different continents over the International Dateline. It boggles my mind at times.
GNOF – How are things gearing up for the Grand Launch at World Horror Con?
It’s going to be a great launch. We’ll be there with a table in the vendor’s room the entire weekend. We officially launch with a Bat Cruise with Capitol City Tours down the Colorado River in Downtown Austin. We’ll have music, beer, wine and soda, and just generally looking forward to a good time. We’ll have a drawing at the launch for two lucky people to win a free new book each year from our lineup for life. All the copies of the eight books we’ll premier will be a limited edition with the WHC logo on the cover, and we’ll give away a copy of The Spectrum Collection to the 40 people who attend our Bat Cruise with the same WHC logo on the cover.
GNOF – That sounds like a fun time, I take it you’ve all had your rabies shots?
Ha! I’m going to the vet this week. My dog George and I will get them at the same time. It does promise to be a heck of a night though.
GNOF- It’s an interesting time for the publishing industry, how concerned are you
about launching a new publishing company in the current climate?
If I told you I wasn’t sweating blood when we started this venture, I’d be lying. Granted, we started with a sewing thread for a budget, but when you’re responsible for other people’s investments, that’s a worry. But, that said, we’ve worked on this from every angle we can think of. We have people involved in Dark Continents Publishing who have years of experience in this industry. We have people who look at this business realistically. We approach it as a business. Yes, the art and passion are in the writing, but the practicality of how to turn a profit also has to be in there. We’ve learned from the mistakes that are swamping the big boys. We will have our books printed by Lightning Source, one of the largest Print on Demand companies in the world. They are a subsidiary of Ingram’s Wholesale Books. Any book that Lightning Source prints, automatically goes onto Ingram’s listings. We don’t have to have huge runs of unsold books printed. Any book ordered, is pretty much a book sold. Lightning Source also has a printing plant in England, and in June will have a plant open in Melbourne. By sending our books to the plant on an electronic file, they can download those books onto their computers in-country, and print them there. This avoids shipping costs and import fees that eat publishers alive. It also keeps money in the local economies. We will also offer all of our books for e-readers. We’ve currently got contracts with Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook, as well as offering books for the other e-readers. We cut our overhead, and increase our profits.
GNOF – I always find it odd when I buy a book from the US and find it’s been printed in the UK, and then made the trip across the pond twice before arriving on my doorstep. The rise of e-readers has been staggering, when they first came out I was all “load of twaddle who would want one”. But after holding one I fell in love. Have you embraced the digital revolution as a reader?
On your first point, that’s exactly what we want to avoid. John P just sent a shipment of our Spectrum Collection to Tracie in Australia, and it cost $135 to send two dozen books. That’s an expense we want to avoid if we can. Also, the next market that Lightning Source will be moving into will be either Singapore or Hong Kong, which will open up the Asian market for us.
On the second point, my uncle has a first generation Kindle. He showed it to me when I was out to California for a visit a couple years ago. It was one of those “ah-ha!” moments. I met Joe Konrath a couple years ago as well, and he is a huge e-book convert. Between these two, and a few others, I became a convert early. While I still love my paper books, for practicality, you can’t beat an e-reader. I collect old books. I’ve got one of my ancestors prayer books printed in Germany in 1842. I’ve got some old, really old, American history books that I love. This and limited edition books are the strength of print books. But, for new purchases, the practicality lays with POD and e-books. That said, I’ve got Kindle on my Droid phone. It goes everywhere with me.
GNOF – You have a one hell of a line up of authors for the launch, how did DCP decide on the rostrum? Did you put out an open call, or was it invite only?
Well, a lot of it is connections through Face Book and other online sites. Basically what we did when the core group got together was to say “Okay, who’s got a book that could be ready for WHC?” That gave us less than a year from inception to launch to have six books ready. Everyone pitched in, everyone had a manuscript. Once we were rolling getting those books ready for print, Tracie approached us with the idea of inviting John and Mo Irving into the co-op. John Prescott invited Simon into the group, Ade introduced us to Dave Jeffery. Everyone coming in had to have a book that would be ready for print within a certain timeframe. We’ll launch eight books at WHC. Those are from the core group, plus John Irvine and Dave Jeffery’s print version of Necropolis Rising. In September at the British Fantasy Con, We’ll premier Simon’s and Dave’s ghost books. At the same time, Sylvia and myself will premier our two ghost story books at Dragon Con in Atlanta. Now, it’s not just the lineup of authors we have right now. I’m talking to a couple other authors about contracts and such. Dean Drinkel will also release a book of Phobias through us in November. It seems “Black Friday” launches are becoming a tradition with us.
GNOF – What exactly is Black Friday?
Ha! All the Brits and Kiwis want to know the same thing. Black Friday falls on November 25 this year. It’s the day after Thanksgiving. It has two meanings. The first meaning is what store managers give it. It’s the one day a year of shopping that can keep a store in t he black the rest of the year. Most folks have the day off from work, so they fall on the stores to blow a couple months worth of paycheck. The stores offer limited sales to draw people in the doors. Billions of dollars are spent in one day of shopping. The doors open at midnight, and the sales go on all day from there. I went out with my wife last year. Never again. This is where the second meaning comes from. Guys dragged along by their spouses on such excursions come away shaken and shell shocked. (I kid, but I refuse to stand on line with three thousand other people in single digit temps to get a good buy on electronics.)
GNOF – I see that the Board Members each have a book out through DCP, how critical were you of each others work. It must have been difficult, trying to be constructive without hurting each others feelings?
That’s one thing we discussed early on. Probably one of the biggest issues among writers is getting an honest critique, and living with an honest critique. I was one of the founding members of Green River Writer’s Group here in my home town, along with author Trey Barker. The guidelines we went by for the group were any critique had to be honest. It also had to be constructive, and it couldn’t be personal. It worked for us the five years we were together. I carried that over when we formed Dark Continents Publishing. I didn’t want anyone’s feelings crushed in this, and so far, it’s worked out well. At this point, we’re all reading each other’s work to gear up for WHC. One thing I’d like to mention is we have two professional editors on board. Tracie McBride and Serenity Banks are great editors, and they did a fantastic job on everyone’s manuscript. On that note, we sub-contracted Sharon Ring, who is a great writer and editor in England to edit their manuscripts, along with Ade’s. I want to retain the British voice of our UK writers, and I didn’t want a conflict of interest with our editors going over their own books.
GNOF- I’ve had the pleasure of reading Ade’s Book, and I must say it really does have a British voice to it, Was that something you initially were looking for, a wide spectrum of voices?
That was one of the goals. We get a good amount of homogenised literature over here for consumption. I remember reading as a kid some of the great British writers in everything from fantasy and horror, to the African safari tales. I wanted to give the fans that sense of something different. I wanted them to be able to take a trip, not only from the story, but from the voice of the writer as well. All of our non Americans have a great sound to their writing. It’s not something that people get to hear on a regular basis these days. Not to knock the four of us here in the US or course, but the American ear is tuned to the talking heads on CNN and MTV. We’re used to our own voice. I believe however, all of us have unique enough styles to catch folks’ attention, regardless of where they live.
GNOF – So why horror?
You know, a lot of writers try to sound trite by saying the genre chooses them. That’s not giving much thought to the question. My work, and the rest of the group’s work falls into the realm of what we call “Dark Speculative Fiction.” It may not be true horror. It may not have monsters or demons or the traditional style of horror to it, but it’s all dark. It seems that regardless of what I write, there’s a dark twist to it. Ade and I have talked about this, and I believe the events of your life truly determine what you write. Most of us in DCP are in their forties, except Serenity, she’s a bit younger yet. We all grew up at the tail end of the Cold War. We knew we would be obliterated in a nuclear holocaust if Ronnie Reagan were having a bad morning. Ade and I both grew up near military bases, so we knew we were in the crosshairs of ICBM’s if it ever went to Def Con 4. I’m convinced that does something to your psyche. Add into the mix, some truly nasty events that alter your life perception, and it comes out in your writing.
GNOF – Yeah, I’m just the right side of forty, but I remember those days well, Scary times indeed. I grew up 3 miles from an air force base, and still remember the feeling of what if.
Right. It really twists you up inside. I graduated High School in 1984. Great Orwellian book. Plus we were getting Marines blown up in Beirut because they were standing guard with unloaded rifles, and sending troops to Grenada, Nicaragua and Honduras. Not an easy time in history by any stretch.
GNOF – Who are your heroes of the genre?
Well, I’m a pretty omnivorous reader. I’m also a History Teacher by training, so I read a lot of nonfiction. So, writers I admire who write some pretty horrific stuff: Edgar Allen Poe would probably be the top of my list. He’s also probably the writer who’s had a lot of influence on my work. I came late to reading Stephen King. I don’t think I read hardly any of his work before I turned 40. In the last five years, I’ve covered a lot of his ground, but I believe his Dark Tower series is his greatest work. J.A. Konrath, while not a true horror writer, does some amazingly horrific stuff with his Jack Daniels series about a Chicago Police detective. He’s also set the bar for Urban Horror with his book Afraid written under the name Jack Kilborn. I also love Stoker’s Dracula. Very Victorian style, uniquely written, but truly creepy and you can see the first seeds of modern the horror novel in these pages. Another author who isn’t truly a horror writer is Piers Anthony. I loved his work as a teenager, and here in the last couple years, I’ve re-discovered the joys of his work. A lot of it is quite dark, and none is boring. Max Brooks I truly admire for breathing unlife into a dying splinter of the genre. Tales of World War Z was a brilliant stroke of writing.
GNOF – Which five books would you take to a desert island?
Well, I need to finish King’s Dark Tower series, so I’d take the last two books of that. I’ve got to see how it ends. I’d take Twain’s Connecticut Yankee in King Author’s Court. No offense, but no one takes the piss out of royalty and all the trappings like Twain. For a good laugh I’d take They Shoot Canoes Don’t They? By Patrick F. McManus. I read his books and I laugh until my ribs ache. The last one I’d throw in is Afraid by Jack Kilborn. Absolute unrelenting urban horror from beginning to end. More than once I had to put the book down and walk away to catch my breath.
GNOF – Your novel Snareville is due for publication. Can you tell us what it’s about?
It’s a zombie novel. Now before everyone rolls their eyes and stops reading, I put some new twists into it that I’ve not seen in the Genre before. First, I took it out of the big cities like Chicago, LA or London, and moved it into a small town like the one I live in. Secondly, I wanted to follow these people’s lives past the outbreak or the first couple weeks. The folks that survive use the skills they have to actually go on the defensive and survive. I’m up to the third year post apocalypse with the series now. In the first book, Danny Death, the main character of the series, has to put his life back together, and help restore life in his home town. He’s a shooter and hunter, and becomes an unwilling leader of one of the scavenging groups in town. Dan and the rest of the survivors in town manage to make the village secure. I explore the siege mentality that develops in this situation, as well as how do you rebuild society when ninety five percent of the population has become walking corpses?
GNOF – So what are your thoughts on shoehorning zombies into almost any and every public domain book?
It’s overkill. There is a place for zombies. If the story has something to do with the undead, so be it. If it’s a trick to sell a crappy book, or a crappy movie, skip it. Toss out the project, and start again. If you’re just jumping on the bandwagon to sell a manuscript or screenplay, again, skip it. Bad is bad, regardless of what you stuff into it. Have a purpose for the undead, don’t just toss them into the story.
GNOF – Pick one album that you think would make the perfect soundtrack to Snareville?
Wow, just one? That’s tough because I played so many as I wrote it. But, if I only had to choose one, it’s be Rock and Roll Jesus from Kid Rock. It covers the full spectrum of music, from the easy summertime ballads to the visceral sex, drugs and rock and roll. Great album, and it was probably in rotation the most as I wrote Snareville.
GNOF – Do you have any rituals that you go through when writing?
True rituals? No. My standard procedure is to get up at 4:30am, brew a pot of coffee, and sit down to work on my project at the time. I plug the earpohones into my skull, put some good music into the player, and work in the book until around 6:00am. Then I get the daughter up for school and the wife up for work. About 6:30, I pack my lunch and head for work at my day job. The music I listen to depends on the mood I want to set for the piece, or section of book I’m working on. I play everything from Kid Rock, to Hank Williams Jr, to Mozart. Depends on what I’m feeling and what I want to put into the book. When I finish a manuscript, if it’s a novel, I’ll have a Guiness that night, take my wife to dinner and take a day off from writing. Nothing spectacular. I don’t have a certain hat I wear or lock myself into a room or anything.
GNOF – Thanks David that was a great interview, David’s book will be launched it World Horror Con.
On a separate note I would like to thank David and his daughter from the bottom of my heart, they have both sent a load of books from the US for my book drive for schools campaign, thanks David it means a lot to me.
DCP have a few books available for purchase right now, find them
Thanks Jim, for the interview. I enjoyed the questions, and enjoyed the opportunity to get to know you a little better.. Hope you enjoy Snareville, and the rest of Dark Continents books.