Who is Andy Gavin?
I'm a lifelong creator and explorer of worlds. As far back as first grade I remember spending most of the school day in one day dream or another. I had a huge notebook stuffed with drawings, story bits, and concepts for an elaborate Sci-Fi/Fantasy world I cobbled together from bits of Star Wars, Narnia, and Battlestar Galactica. By fourth or fifth grade not only was I losing myself in every fantasy or Sci-Fi novel I could, but I was building Dungeons & Dragons castles and caverns on paper. Then from 1980 on the computer.
Over the following decades I wrote dozens of stories and created and published over a dozen video games all set in alternative universes. And as an avid reader (over 10,000 novels and who knows how many non-fiction volumes) it was no surprise that I eventually decided to write some books of my own.
Why did you take this big transaction from games to novels?
From at least high school on I always intended to write a bunch of novels. Work just got in the way.
And the thing about making games is that you can no longer do it mostly by yourself. These days, most games are big teams of over a hundred people, with budgets over 50 million dollars. All that means that it's not about your creative expression (most of the time), but about getting it done, well, on time, and on budget. And the roll of team lead is largely about fire fighting and resource (achem people) wrangling.
So, I really wanted to focus directly on the creative aspects. Dozens of story ideas have been bouncing around in my head for years, and I felt it was time to let a couple of them out.
Growing up, which novels were your favorite and did any of them influence your writing today?
The 1st real novel I ever read was Isaac Asimov's David Starr, Space Ranger. That started me off bright and early (seven or eight) with my long pattern of reading speculative fiction. I pretty much only read fantasy, science fiction, or supernatural novels. I probably read every fantasy or science fiction book in the kids section of the library - and the 1970s were a great era for this kind of stuff.
Is there on book in the world today that you wish you were the author of?
Harry Potter so I would be a billionaire! Actually, while I love those books, I would be more proud of writing something like Hyperion by Dan Simmons. This is an incredible novel with a huge scope.
Where did the idea for The Darkening Dream come from?
There are two answers to that, the visceral and the cerebral. With The Darkening Dream, the visceral part was this image I had - and some might consider me disturbed - of a dead tree silhouetted against an orange sky, a naked body bound to it, disemboweled, and bleeding out. The sound of a colossal horn or gong blares. The blood glistens black in the sunset light. Bats circle the sky and wolves bay in the distance. But sacrifice isn't just about killing. It's a contract. Someone is bargaining with the gods.
And on the cerebral side, I've always been a huge vampire fan and I've read and watched a large percentage of the oeuvre. But also as a history buff I wanted to write a supernatural story that was more grounded in real history and legend. I'm always thinking, "that could have been so much better if they didn't make up the historical back-story" so I started with the villains. What kind of ancient evil creatures might still be around? What do they want? And what legitimate human reason would they have to destroy the world (Buffy-style)? I don't exactly answer the question in The Darkening Dream, because the motives of 5,000-year-old baddies should be mysterious. But trust me, they have a plan, and the sheer audacity of it will literally shake the foundations of the heavens.
Why did you choose vampires and were you afraid or nervous of bringing them back to their original roots?
I've been obsessed with vampires for decades. Not because they are romantic, but because they are undead - and I really mean undead - and because older ones are creatures that have stretched across the centuries. But it always bugs me in stories full of supernatural where they touch on the historical roots of superstitions but don't bother to do the research. I always felt that, as they say, "truth is stranger than fiction" - if, like, you count myth as truth - and so I wanted to write a fast paced supernatural action story where the spooky stuff is all based on real spooky stuff. and truly, the real deal is much more creepy.
Where did the idea of adding Egyptian gods come from and did you at one point feel as if it wouldn't fit in with the story?
While the vampires were the 1st villains I added to the roster, they didn't really have the full motivation, the truly deep and ancient grievance, required to plot the destruction of the world. But the old gods? They're really pissed. I mean, if you were an ancient deity, and used to being, you know, King of Heaven or something, wouldn't you be angry that no one believes in you anymore? That no one offers sacrifice? That your cult statues have all been torn down? That your temples are all crumbling ruins? And who would you blame? Well, the "new" gods seem pretty good targets for jealousy.
What do you honestly think of your finished novel, The Darkening Dream?
Overall, I'm very pleased with how it turned out. I think it fundamentally does what I intended: to show a historical version of our world where all the cool creepy stuff that ought to be real, is. But there are things I would've done differently. It was my 1st novel and I learned a lot of lessons along the way. I certainly would've started the story with more of a hook. The book has a very gradual ramp up to the midpoint, after which the pace is lightning fast. But it's easier to sell a book that opens with a bang. I spent a lot of time in revision trying to restructure the beginning, and while it did change, I was never 100% satisfied with it. I probably also would've used a simpler POV structure. Early versions of the book were much longer with many more subplots. The loss of some of these renders the complex POV system a bit overkill.
With the amazing ending the novel had, are you going to write a sequel or leave it up to the reader's imagination?
The Darkening Dream began for me with a vision of the last scene, and the story is in many ways a kind of prequel. I have a detailed outline for the 2nd book, but I haven't started yet. After the enormous number of drafts I did on the book, I wanted to write something different. My 2nd novel is a totally difference universe. It's lighter, a young adult time travel adventure called Untimed.
We know that you are releasing a novel called Untimed later this year. Could you tell us a bit about it?
I do have a second finished novel (it's been through four major drafts and a full line edit). It's called Untimed and is a YA time travel novel that chronicles the crazy adventures of a boy no one remembers, who falls through a hole in time and finds himself lost in the past. It's very different with an extremely immediate first person present voice (in this book the only thing anyone can hold on to is the present). It rocks. Seriously rocks.
Aside from that novel, do you plan on writing anything else or are you leaving it at that?
I have a lot more novels in me. The Darkening Dream is at least a 3 or 4 book story, so is Untimed. I also have notes for a huge epic fantasy series and a couple sci-fi novels.
Would you ever go back to the world in The Darkening Dream and write another story with different characters and perhaps even a different creature? (Witches, Hags, Banshee, etc. etc.)
For sure. I have an outline for the story of Constantine and Isabella in the 1450s and I think al-Nasir's story would be great. And that is just the beginning. You can find supernatural in any time and place.
Do you have any words of wisdom and advice to people who are aspiring authors and to the readers of your books?
The simplest and the most time consuming advice for would-be-writers is to read. Read everything you can. In your genre, in other genres, non-fiction. Everything. Of course if you're one of those people who just never reads but somehow has the burning desire to be a writer ... perhaps you should think again. Next, take your craft seriously. Read books on writing and editing, on plot and structure. Editing, and I mean professional editing, is really very important. A surprising number of published books aren't even well edited. They're overwritten and redundant, like this sentence, Patience. It takes a long time to improve and you'll end up doing a lot of waiting on both of yourself and others.
Because you are already known outside of the book realm, I got some people to ask some questions for you.
How did the idea of Crash, along with Jak & Daxter come up?
You can find that on my blog here: http://all-things-andy-gavin.com/2011/02/02/making-crash-bandicoot-part-1/
(Mike: It really is an interesting read so check it out)
Who would you cast as Sarah, Anne, Emily, Sam and Alex if there were ever a movie version of The Darkening Dream?
I don't actually spend much time thinking about that as I see them as their own people. (Mike: Best answer I ever got for this question) But... The girl we cast for the cover nails Sarah's look. (Model Dana Melanie) A young Rachel Wiess would've been perfect. Failing the time warp, perhaps Nina Dobrev, but she's too tall and by the time it got made too old. Constantine: Christopher Lee for sure, but we can only hope he'll still be around =D. And while we're going for dream cast, I think George Clooney could actually carry al-Nasir. He has the intensity and Nasir sees himself as charming. Steve Buscemi might make a great Parris. Paul Giamatti as Joseph. Chloe Grace Moretz as Emily. And last, but not least, perhaps Anton Yelchin as Alex.
If you could be any character from a book and their story would be your life, who would it be?
Lazarus Long from Robert A. Heinlein's Time enough for love. The title says it all - if you read into the innuendo. Or maybe Dune's Paul Atreides. I have always had an affinity for messianic worms.
And with that the interview is concluded. I would like to thank Andy Gavin for taking his time away from writing and answering these questions. Even with a broken arm! And I'd advise you all to come back tomorrow to read the interview on his novel The Darkening Dream.
If you want to look up more information on Andy, you can visit him at his site All-Things-Andy-Gavin.com
Check out more information on his debut novel, The Darkening Dream.
But don't forget to look up his upcoming novel, Untimed.