I met Andrew through email. He asked if I'd like to review his book, and of course I said "yes" because it's a book. A horror book. For free. I'll never turn those down. Ever.
The book turned out to be really creepy, really scary and an all around good read. You can find my review of it over at See Spot Read. Go on, take a gander, I'll wait. *taps toe, whistles to self, fidgets nervously* Oh good! You're back.
Without further ado- I'm going to let Andrew answer some questions-
How long have you been writing?
More or less since I figured out how to hold a pencil and construct a sentence. Some of my earliest memories are of reading a story I wrote to whatever family member would listen, or having the teacher make me stand up and assault my classmates imagination with some silly thing I’d written for Creative Writing Week or whatever. This process continued more or less throughout college and beyond and tends to slow down only during times of great frustration or the occasional hand cramp.
Is this your first published novel?
Yes, but it’s not my first written novel. I don’t think anyone should ever see that atrocity. It lurks in a drawer like some ill born monster made of too many adverbs and swollen chapters, like some literary version of the little monster from the movie Basket Case.
Do you write full time or do you have a day job?
I’ve had so many different jobs I can hardly remember them all. I’ve worked for tech start ups, as a truck dispatcher, in retail stores, book stores, even for Apple and Google. For the past several years I’ve lived and taught abroad, a job I find great satisfaction and enjoyment in. Still, during all those jobs I maintained as close to a regular writing schedule as my finances, sanity, and social life allowed. Writing is just something I do, a part of my day, and I always try to end it with more words written than when it started.
What is your writing routine?
I wish I had something that resembled a routine, but really it’s all chaos, or at least it feels that way in my head. I have to be really sold on the idea, the plot, the characters, the whole package, and that takes a lot of time. Years in some cases. There’s a lot of self loathing and second guessing during that time, a lot of half empty pages, note cards, and journals on the path to breaking the story.
Once the idea’s solid, the plot’s laid out, and I’m committed to the characters I suppose it’s a matter of isolation and pressure. I prefer to write at night, when the world’s a little more quiet and distractions are limited. I tend to binge write, and am perhaps a rather cranky fellow during those times, but that’s also when I’m the most productive. I wish the image were more romantic, some cafe in Paris with a Moleskine and a sheet of paper and nothing but my genius spilling out. Instead it’s usually me in a comfy pair of pajama pants, my music blasting, my ass in a chair, and some vague grin on my face as I mash the keys and bite my tongue like a caveman.
What made you decide to go the indie route?
I suppose it’s because I don’t have to wait for the approval of others. If the paradigm were different, or the time frame faster, I would still be sending off query letters, but the truth is there are millions of readers with Kindles, iPads, computers that I can reach directly. I like that relationship. Plus, the number of eReaders are increasing, the price is decreasing, some countries are even going paperless with their school curriculums in the coming two years. Anyone with any foresight can see that members of the generation growing up will have a different relationship with books than most generations before. I love paper books, but a lot of people are indifferent or even happier with their Kindle or Nook or iPad. Being able to instantly reach even a fraction of that growing audience of early adopters is fascinating, and, frankly, a privilege. To pass it up would, to me, be silly.
Forsaken is very dark, very scary, with some delicious twists. How did you come up with the idea?
Haunted objects have always interested me, haunted art especially. And the story of how some objects became haunted is equally fascinating. A painting felt like a natural medium that could simultaneously evolve and visually change, while at the same time providing a back story for research. Paintings and their interpretations are subjective to the viewer and the information the viewer has about the artist, and that relationship offers some tremendous opportunity of psychological transference. Is the painting driving the viewer insane, or is the viewer bringing an underlying madness to his interpretation of the art? What if both are correct?
Have you always been a fan of the horror genre?
Ever since I read Pet Semetary and saw Re-Animator I got a double barrel blast of terror at a very early age. I was that kid at the video store who’d instantly go to the horror section. My sleepover contributions were movies like Evil Dead, Shocker, A Nightmare on Elm Street, or Dawn of the Dead.
I was lucky in that my parents never restricted my reading, not once, and let me read more or less anything I showed interest in, which was most often horror. I think far too many parents get worried about what their kids are reading when the truth of it is what’s on the news and what kids are discussing at schools are far darker than what’s in most books. I’m always amused when some family member proudly says they won’t let their child read Stephen King and I’m like: “Have you seen your kids Facebook page? Cause it’s not all PG stuff going on there.”
What scares you personally? Do you have any silly phobias?
Enough to write a book. I absolutely hate airplanes, which is ironic because I love traveling. I’ve been to close to thirty countries and every single time the airplane takes off I’m sure it’s going to be my last. My girlfriend says I look like a cat right before a bath. I’m not sure how airplanes stay up but I’m sure it involves some witchcraft.
I’m also endlessly fascinated and frightened by memory, the human mind, and how our reality is essentially a fragile soft circuit board of electrical impulses and hormones held behind a bit of bone. I’m absolutely terrified I’ll bump my head, scramble some synapses, and end out seeing flying meatballs in place of clouds.
Ultimately what truly scares me and keeps me up is generally reflected in my writing. I’m fascinated by the intersection between the psychological and the supernatural. I enjoy splatter horror and the occasional masked murderer chasing campers through the woods, but I prefer the lingering fear of the psychological married to the unexplainable. That dark place Lovecraft described as the Fear of the Unknown, where the real becomes the surreal, whether it’s due to madness or the paranormal or both.
What authors do you admire?
Oh so many. I admire J.K. Rowling not just as a storyteller but what her books did for literacy, encouraging a whole generation to read. Stephen King, of course, due mostly to his early works, his struggle, and how prolific he is. Bret Easton Ellis for his voice and utterly terrible characters that are fascinating to follow. Ambrose Bierce, John Bellairs, Clive Barker, George RR Martin, too many to count. But if I could choose only one it’d be early Stephen King. The Shining, Pet Semetary, ‘Salem’s Lot, It, those books gave me the fascination with fear that I carry today.
What advice do you have for newbies out there?
That's tough. I’m a newbie myself so my advice is simple: keep writing. It took quite a few failed first drafts to break a story I felt worthy of sharing. My other bit of advice would be: embrace technology and don’t be afraid that the printed word is changing. Books will always be around, but looking back at CDs vs MP3s of the late 90’s, I think we’re entering a similar shift for storytelling. There will always be people who prefer paper to digital, real ink to e-ink, just as there were people who prefered CDs better than MP3s and vinyl better than all of it, but the truth is you don’t see a lot of Walkman's and record players these days. Embrace change, don’t be afraid of it, and at the end of the day do your best to tell a damn good story however you can.
Andrew Van Wey was born in Palo Alto, California, spent part of his childhood among the ruins and woods of New England, and currently lives abroad where he doubts his sanity on a daily basis.
When he’s not writing he’s probably hiking, playing video games, or sleeping with the light on. He considers gelato and pizza to be a perfectly acceptable meal, and shorts to be business casual if paired with a scarf.
His girlfriend describes him as energetic and unfamiliar with brevity. He describes himself in the third person.
He can be found online at: Twitter: twitter.com/#!/andrewvanwey
Buy Forsaken at Amazon.com, Barnes &Noble or iBooks.com