An Interview With Dave Becker
Hello folks today we have Dave Becker over for an interview. Dave is the author of the young adult novel The Faustian Host.
Hi Dave, how are things with you?
Can you please give the readers a little bit of background information on yourself?
I’m an artist who’s worked in advertising for over twenty years, so lying is like a second language for me. I’ve been writing short stories, screenplays, and novels for several years, and finally decided to begin publishing them.
Why horror, what is it about the genre that holds your appeal?
While horror occupies the smallest shelves in most bookstores, it really offers the broadest stories in every aspect. The grandfathers of the genre (Irving, Poe, Stoker, etc.) gave us the building blocks for every major book category today, and in my opinion were the first truly modern storytellers.
And what is it about the genre that you dislike?
I’m not a big fan of gore for gore’s sake. Sometimes I think the reason horror has become relegated to such a small, seemingly less popular category is the tendency to push it beyond the limits of most readers’ tastes. The leaders in the genre may have gross scenes, but their main focus is always the emotional and psychological aspects of their characters. That’s why the few leading horror writers are some of the highest earning authors — they write what the majority of us like to read. Sorry if that’s too commercial of a view, but I’m a marketing guy.
Who would you say has been the biggest influence on you and your writing?
My writing style has been affected by dozens of writers I admire — too many to list. My writing career was influenced primarily by Brian Keene. He taught a class at a local college, where I met him and tapped his brain for everything he was willing to share. He was the most prolific author I had ever talked with, and I ended up following his advice in everything but one area. He advised against self-publishing, which I ended up doing, following instead the advice of people like JA Konrath and my wife.
If you could give any book to someone who doesn’t read horror, in an attempt to change their mind, what book would you choose, and why?
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. If they didn’t like that, maybe they could check out Twilight. If that doesn’t float their boat, I just finished a little trilogy entitled The Hunger Games. The fact is, just about every blockbuster series from the last few decades has included elements of horror, even books by Dan Brown and James Patterson. Horror appeals to everyone; it’s just a question of what other genres you like to package with it. My book, The Faustian Host, combines supernatural, religious, and scientific aspects. I labeled it a paranormal thriller, but you could call it any number of things.
Can you remember what first motivated you to start writing, and has your motivation changed over the years?
When I was in college, I took a writing class geared toward copywriting for advertising. The instructor was a local novelist. After two assignments, she approached me and told me I had the chops to make it as a novelist, and offered to help me navigate a career in writing. At the time, I was focused on developing a career in graphic design, which seemed to make more sense, but her comments always stuck with me. Over ten years later, I decided to make a serious effort at fiction writing.
And how would you describe your writing style?
My writing tends to be very visual because I’m an artist at heart. Periodically I’ll remind myself to insert how something smells, feels, sounds, or tastes, but for the most part, I write what I see in my head. It’s like ten movies are constantly playing in my brain, and I choose which scenes to write down.
Let’s talk a bit about the mechanics of your writing. How do you go about the writing process? Are you a plotter or do you go with the flow?
I like to plot out major events and mileposts, but I’ve learned to leave plenty of holes for surprises. I didn’t even know how my current book was going to end until I got to the last chapter, but at the same time, I already know some major details about the sequels.
How much research do you do? And have you ever had any nasty letters saying your research is flawed?
A ton. Too much. Way too much. I enjoy reading about all sorts of screwy things, and can imagine a million ways to work all kinds of ridiculous trivia into my writing. I’m sure I’m the only one who thinks it would be cool, so I have to force myself to stop at some point and just write the dumb book. I haven’t received any nasty letters yet. On the contrary, several prereaders of my next novel tried to look up more information on a new branch of neuropsychology, only to discover I fabricated the whole thing based on existing studies.
Pen and paper, or computer for the first draft?
For some reason, I like pen and paper for brainstorming, research, and guide notes. Once I begin the novel, it’s all on computer. I wrote half of my first attempt at a novel by hand, then edited as I transcribed it to the computer. It seemed like a good idea until I realized how counterproductive the system truly was.
Do you have any rituals that you go through when you write?
This is where the liar in me would love to regale you with bizarre tales of both neurosis and psychosis, but truthfully, I just pop open my laptop wherever I am and bang away with two fingers.
How do you edit, do you edit as you write, or do you edit after each draft is finished?
I write as much as I can, and edit when I need a break, get stuck, or think of something new that needs to fit in other places. After completing the manuscript, I’ll usually edit that at least three more times.
Your debut novel The Faustian Host is a young adult novel, what made you decide to write for young adults?
My kids are currently 17 and 19, and I wanted to try writing something they might enjoy. My wife is also a big fan of recent, young adult novels, so she was a big influence as well. Plus, it seemed like it would be fun, and have less restrictions than other stories I’ve written.
When writing a YA novel, what extra considerations does an author have to take?
My daughter kept reminding me that “high school kids don’t talk like that.” You can’t simply imagine smaller, less experienced adults when writing and expect to create realistic young adult characters.
What would you say is the most difficult thing about writing a YA novel.
Reining in the research information. I set the lead characters in a special school for gifted children for two reasons. I could give them more freedom to investigate strange occurrences, but I could also provide information that would never be covered in typical public schools. Together, those conditions gave the kids what they needed to follow the clues in the book. But it was really hard to keep it from getting too out of hand for a young adult reader, because as I said before, I’m insane when it comes to random facts.
So can you tell us what the novel is about?
Plymouth Rock is bleeding. Day has turned to night. Hundred-pound hailstones level buildings. The small town of Clement seems cursed, and the residents know who’s to blame: the new kid, Tony Marino. After losing his family and his home, 14-year-old Tony is forced to move from Florida to Massachusetts to attend Kalos Academy, an unconventional school for gifted children. Strange things begin to happen the day he arrives, and soon stories of plagues, monsters, and mystical objects surround him. Refusing to believe superstitions, Tony struggles to explain the occurrences logically, until he comes face to face with a satanic cult determined to bring about the end of the world.
Out of all the plagues which one would most hate to be stuck in the middle of?
Flies, by far. I abhor insects. They’re so gross.
Is there a message to the book, or is the main aim of the book to tell a thrilling and exciting story?
The main message of the book is that there’s more to this world than what we can see. Most people sense this; every religion is based on this; popular horror keeps coming back to this. The second message is that education — especially learning for learning’s sake — is key to a fulfilling life. Too many kids today bemoan having to learn things that they’ll never use. I try to demonstrate (albeit fantastically) that you never know what you might use, so why not learn everything you possibly can?
How did you create the characters that populate the novel, did you base them on anyone in particular?
I’ve been a youth leader for almost 20 years, so the characters are amalgams of a number of kids I’ve known over the years. Tony, the protagonist, is a blend of several kids that came from broken homes and struggled to fit in while never feeling “normal.” Adolescence isn’t easy for anyone. I tried to capture that while still celebrating the differences in all the kids.
Can you tell us about any future projects?
My next novel, Mindfront, is an adult, psychological thriller that will be released in November. After uncovering a universal code in the brain waves of all living things that could revolutionize psychology, Martin Keller wakes one morning to find himself covered in blood, surrounded by his butchered family. Convinced he’s being framed by a diabolical organization set on stealing or sabotaging his work, he dodges a multi-agency manhunt that pursues him from the seediest corners of DC to the highest offices of government. Struggling to stay alive and find his family’s killer, Marty soon finds himself lost in a maze of conspiracies and paranoia, and eventually begins to doubt his own sanity. How can he find the truth when he doesn’t know what’s real?
Thanks for popping over for a chat, do you have any final words for the readers?
In the immortal words of REM, “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine!”