Friday, October 19, 2012

Feature Friday: Daniel Marks

Daniel Marks writes young adult horror and fantasy, spends way too much time glued to the internet and collects books obsessively (occasionally reading them). He’s been a psychotherapist for children and adolescents, a group home counselor for the chronically mentally ill (none of that rubbed off...at. all.), and a Halloween store manager. He's survived earthquakes, volcanoes and typhoons to get where he is today, which is to say, in his messy office surrounded by half empty coffee cups. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife, Caroline, and three furry monsters with no regard for quality carpeting. No, seriously. None.

Interview: 
A.L.:
What piece of advice would you give to a budding author?

Daniel:
Learn to take criticism early. In fact, seek it out. A common mistake aspiring writers make is not revising their work enough or depending on first readers that are not critical enough or are overly invested in not hurting feelings. Even the best writers produce terrible first, second, even third drafts. Get some feedback. Incorporate it. When you look at the same words for so long, you become blind to how they can suck.

A.L.:
What's your favorite book and why?

Daniel:
The Stand. Period. I love the scale and scope of it and King’s mastery of the multiple POV. It’s simply brilliant. I need to give it a reread soon.

A.L.:
Where did you get the idea for Velveteen?

Daniel:
Back when I first started writing, I put together a novella-length treatment for a longer story. It was called THE TROUBLE WITH THE LIVING and featured Luisa (who appears in Velveteen as a secondary character), a 12-year old girl who idolizes her detective grandfather and turns that into a basis for an ill-fated search for a local killer. The story ended up being too dark (which would become a primary descriptor for all may work, as it turns out) for the age group and so I set it aside. Years later, when I was looking for a new project, pulled out the story and decided to revisit that character after her death, all the way to purgatory.

A.L.:
Did you hit any snags while writing Velveteen?  What were they and how did you fix them?

Daniel:
Definitely. I think a writer always missteps in the drafting stage, and that’s why we revise. The biggest mistake I made with the manuscript was one of alternative perspective. We sold the book on the strength of the opening chapter, of Velvet’s revenge story. But there was another thread that’s not in the final book. Nick, Velvet’s romantic interest, had a major POV. That was nixed in the first revision letter. Now, mind you, the book was considered risky when it was acquired. Thirteen editors turned it down, deeming it too disturbing. But after the deletion of Nick’s POV, it became even darker, more gruesome. The purgatory storyline had to be expanded to offset this. I’ve seen some reviews suggesting disappointment that the story wasn’t simply about the haunting of Velvet’s serial killer. I could NEVER have sold that book. Ever. The moments between Velveteen and Bonesaw are too intense. There’s zero levity. If the book was too disturbing for acquisition before, imagine trying to get a book full of torture and forced suicide attempts past them.

A.L.:
Which one of the characters in Velveteen is your favorite and why?

Daniel:
Velvet is, of course, the closest to the way I think, but Logan is my favorite. A 12-year old gas-huffing, card shark with a short fuse carrying a bear trap on the end of a chain all wrapped up in a Grover costume? Come on!

A.L.:
Can you tell us a little bit about your journey as an author?

Daniel:
I started writing about eight years ago, six months before I landed my first publishing contract (for an adult urban fantasy series). Those books, while very close to my heart, did not do well. That’s actually an understatement. They were virtually invisible, which warranted a pseudonym for further work (there were other reasons for the name-switch, but let’s just go with that reasoning, because one look at sales of that series would be reason enough to pass on future work). I struggled with Velveteen for two years before my agent took it to the market. The entire process is frustrating for aspiring writers and “established” authors alike. So Velveteen sold and I was, frankly, shocked that I was given a lifeline on this career. In eight years, it’s been a constant financial struggle. I think most people think writing is a viable career choice, but It’s not easy to make money this way and only a very few writers ever become “comfortable.” But I just keep plotting away.

A.L.:
So, according to Goodreads, we know Velveteen is going to be a trilogy, are you working on anything else?

Daniel:
Actually. We don’t know that. The next book in my contract is not a Velveteen sequel. As I mentioned before, Delacorte needs to see what kind of sales reaction we get to the book before they commit to the other two. My suspicion is, and the reason I wrapped up the majority of the storylines in Velveteen, is that this could be the only book set in that world. I had to look at it that way to move on to the next book, which is still being decided.

A.L.:
So, you’ve been a psychoanalyst for children…How did that play into writing a dead girl who wants revenge on her killer?

Daniel:
The twelve years I spent counseling definitely factored into writing some pretty authentic dialogue, but at the same time, the kids I worked with were not anywhere near average. These were some seriously tough kids. Which is my thing, I love people who have a rougher edge. I love them in real life and in fiction. Prickly heroines? Sign me up.

A.L.:
I have to ask…Has anyone called Velveteen the Anti-Lovely Bones yet? …Cause that little tickle in the back of my head is all like, “Yes!  Finally, a dead girl with straight priorities!”

Daniel:
I have seen some comparisons, but they’re quickly put aside when people read the book. Velveteen has very little in common with the dead girl in Lovely Bones. In fact, she has more in common with her own killer than she does with that girl.

A.L.:
Why the name Velveteen?

Daniel:
Three things. Velveteen is obviously a reference to The Velveteen Rabbit. The Departurists, the revolutionaries that are tearing purgatory apart, want nothing more to be “real” again, which is the metaphorical connection between the two books. Velveteen is likewise a fabric that covers movie theater seats. My protagonist’s love of film and her relationship with her mother and others in the book centers around the cinema, so that was a no-brainer. The fabric itself tends to go ruddy overtime, threadbare like the bunny and this is recreated in the look of souls in the book, their ashen skin.

The Giveaway: 
Danny is giving away a signed copy of his debut YA novel, VELVETEEN.

VELVETEEN: Velveteen Monroe is dead. At 16, she was kidnapped and murdered by a madman named Bonesaw. But that’s not the problem.

The problem is she landed in purgatory. And while it’s not a fiery inferno, it’s certainly no heaven. It’s gray, ashen, and crumbling more and more by the day, and everyone has a job to do. Which doesn’t leave Velveteen much time to do anything about what’s really on her mind.

Bonesaw.

Velveteen aches to deliver the bloody punishment her killer deserves. And she’s figured out just how to do it. She’ll haunt him for the rest of his days.

It’ll be brutal... and awesome.

But crossing the divide between the living and the dead has devastating consequences. Velveteen’s obsessive haunting cracks the foundations of purgatory and jeopardizes her very soul. A risk she’s willing to take—except fate has just given her reason to stick around: an unreasonably hot and completely off-limits coworker.

Velveteen can’t help herself when it comes to breaking rules... or getting revenge. And she just might be angry enough to take everyone down with her


Read Goodreads reviews.
Buy on Barnes and Noble.
Buy on Amazon.

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