Monday, March 24, 2014

An Interview with Horror Author, Gary Lee Vincent

I've ran into author, Gary Lee Vincent at several horror conventions over the years. Last year as I was taking a break from being at my table and walking around to see what everybody had, I finally picked up a copy of Vincent's "Darkened Hills" (which so far I very highly recommend if you're looking to not be able to sleep for a few days) and even got a cool little wooden coffin box out of the deal. He was also gracious enough to answer a few questions after a busy weekend at Horror Hound. The interview below talks of his published works along with where you can pick them up and his experiences as an author published on an indie publishing press. 





TA: First off, thanks for taking the time to do this after such a busy weekend. Can you tell us about the first story you've ever written and/or that moment when you knew you wanted to write for a living?

GLV: In 1991, I started writing music and had originally thought I might enjoy pursuing a career in music. In that decade, in addition to songs, I had several short stories and poems published.  In college I wrote a short story called "Bridge of Hope" as part of an English assignment that I eventually adapted in to a song (which appeared on my "Passion, Pleasure, & Pain" album.)


TA: Now, I've just started your Darkened Hills series (and I must say I'm pretty creeped out so far). Tell us about how it came into fruition.

GLV: In 2009, I released my last (latest) musical album called "Somewhere Down The Road." We shot a music video near Boston and I was in the process of setting up this elaborate musical comeback when three things happened within a short time of each other: my wife gave birth to our first child, my dog died, and my mom was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer.
I can honestly say that I fell into a depression of sorts. I spent A LOT of time traveling back and forth to Chicago to take my mom for treatment at the Cancer Treatment Centers of American in Zion, IL. During these visits, I would spend hours in the hospital waiting room and and to help cope with the dark mood and emotions I was feeling, I began to write.
The original tale of "Darkened Hills" (at least with the first book) was my way of dealing with depression. At the time, I really never thought it to be anything more than setting up a vampire tale in Salem, West Virginia (called Melas in the book) and basing it around a couple core things: the characters of Bram Stoker's "Dracula", scene buildups akin to King's "'salem's Lot", the topography (landscape) of Salem, West Virginia, the lead character (Victor Rothenstein) modeled after Vincent Price in The House on Haunted Hill, and real-life, dark, news stories that were occurring almost daily in and around my home area.
I viewed the writing process for this book as a way to channel negativity into this fantasy setting and decided that for this book (and those that would follow that bear the DARKENED brand, that I would take of the filter and let the pure emotion build the story. As this was a theraputic vehicle for me, I knew if I watered it down or made it more mainstream, happy-go-lucky, I wouldn't be allowing myself to properly vent my negativity into the book, the characters would come off weak, and in the end, it would be just like any other 'normalized' tale. 
What emerged was something chilling and pure evil. After Book I, I began to see DARKENED take on a life of its own. Although I never rally planned a sequal, "Darkened Hills" was awarded "Book of the Year" by ForeWord Reviews Magazine as the top Horror Novel of 2010 and it seemed logical to continue the story and play around in that universe.  The more I dabbled in the 'darkness', I saw the books began to take on a life of their own and larger universal battles are playing out.
This year (2014), "Darkened Souls" was released as the fourth installment in the series.

 TA: Many argue the pros and cons of independent and traditional publishing. What are your views on the subject based on your experience as an independently published author?

GLV: The publishing industry is changing in a way that is moving from traditional publishers and more towards independents.  It has become easier for a person to self publish their works through venues like the Kindle Digital Platform and Smashwords and writers are starting to gravitate toward the idea of using their energy to write versus pitching the story to countless traditional publishers. 
What this model lacks (and sometimes traditional publishers assist with) is the ability to have your book physically appear in stores throughout the country.
What many do not realize is that traditional publishers are more skittish than ever to invest in an unknown author when it is far easier to sell an established name.  This is compounded by the fact that many self published authors soil the market with poorly written or poorly edited works that quite frankly are unfit for public consumption.
When comparing both things, I am an advocate for a small press model - like Burning Bulb Publishing - and I see a rise in the small press and a future dominance of the market.  A small press is a middle ground that takes the good things of independent publishing: eBooks, Print-on-Demand, etc. and combines it with some of the things of traditional publishing: editing, peer review, constructive criticism, while at the same time keeping freedom of speech open and more liberal with content.


TA: Stemming from the last question, what would you say has been the biggest challenge in your career as a writer?

GLV: I truly cannot speak for the industry as a whole (or the population as a whole, for that matter), but I am seeing a 'dumbing down' of groups who should be reading, and are instead turning to other forms of entertainment (movies, toys, autograph collecting, games the Internet, etc.) to distract them.
Let me explain a bit more: literary festivals are starting to disappear.  The West Virginia Book Festival, for example just stopped happening after a decade of successful shows. Several authors such as myself used this festival as a spring board for new titles and on average we sold approximately 50-60 titles over a two day weekend.
Lets explore this further... with dwindling lit fests, a writer may then consider going to conventions (cons) in his or her particular genre to promote his or her works.
For myself as a horror writer, I attend several horror cons each year. Typically the biggest horror con for me has been HorrorHound Weekend.
In 2011, at HorrorHound, I sold 58 books over a three day period and in 2012, sold 53.  I just returned from the 2014 HorrorHound and although it was one of the biggest crowds in the show's history, I only sold 9 books personally with our publishing house's table only selling 22 books for all our our author titles combined!
Understand that if this was the BEST show, how have the other ones been doing? Not very good.  In 2013, there were four shows that generated less than 10 sales combined, with some not selling at all.
As a writer, it is financially challenging to produce books, pay hundreds of dollars in con fees, hotels, gas, etc., setup for two or three days, watch people spend thousands at the plastic doll booth next to you and in the end, you didn't even sell enough to even pay for your meals to sustain you at the con, let alone the basic book printing costs.  And now, you gloomly must load up all you books and store the inventory until the next con. Unload, setup, and repeat.
This works on you in a different psychological way than standard depression. It is both exhaustive and demoralizing.  It is not that your work isn't any good, it's just that literary festivals are declining and conventions are drawing readers who BUY everything BUT books.  In other words, the greatest challenge is to find people who read and want to consume your content, and not want to just 'wait for the movie to come out.'
Tiffany Adds: Because many books/short stories (both traditionally and independently published) will never have a 'based on' movie about them come out. So you're really missing out on alot if you don't partake in the book, be it print, ebook, or audio.


TA: Now, I see you also do music. Tell us a little about it.

GLV: In high school I was an all-state male vocalist (bass).  I started out writing country western music in the early 90s and recorded my first country album, titled "100 Percent" in 1994. A few years later, I released a classic rock album titled "Passion, Pleasure, and Pain" in 1997.  In both of these projects, I wrote all of the songs.  In 2009, I released a contemporary Christian album called "Somewhere Down The Road", in which I wrote seven of the twelve songs. 
In 2005, I won Song of the Year for best Christian song 'Where Would I Be' in the VH1 Song of the Year competition, a program that supports the VH1 Save The Music charity. Said song appears on my 'Somewhere Down The Road' release.


TA: Do you have a specific writing process?

GLV: My writing technique has matured over the years. For short stories, I simply write in stream of conscious and go back and polish. For novels, however, I start by writing the plot, and than storyboarding each chapter - core things that need to happen in each chapter to accomplish the plot's objectives.  Then, I go back and write in the chapters.
For the DARKENED series, this has taken on a higher and more professional meaning, because as a book grows beyond one volume, you must always look back and try to be consistent with the storyline and characters.  You can't simply 'wing it' and expect the series to stay tight.  A lot of work and reach back must be done. 
I am finding that with DARKENED books specifically (now that we are up to book four), I am starting to become as much of a 'producer' as an 'author.' I even have a team of content editors and copy editors to help me make sure nothing is overlooked and that a larger 'series' view of things are considered. It is my opinion that as DARKENED matures, each subsequent book is better than its predicessor and, consequently, more work is needed to preserve the feel and fright that I am trying to bring to the table with this franchise.


TA: What's next for you and where can you, your books and music be found?

GLV: I am currently working on a crime/underworld novel called St. Albans Fire, which is set in the Charleston area of West Virginia.  I don't have an exact date for release, but it is still a few months out.
I also have a comic book coming out called "The Tailsman" (that is not a typo), which is based on my short story called "The Tailsman" that appears in the anthology "Westward Hoes."  The story was adapted for comic by horror/bizarro author Rich Bottles Jr. and drawn by famous comic book illustrator Stuart Brown in England. We are all very excited about this and hopefully it will allow us to reach new audiences with this highly-entertaining Western-themed comic.
I am also working with John Russo (famous for writing the screenplay and novel of "Night of the Living Dead') to help publish and promote his latest historical thriller "Dealey Plaza."
My personal website is: www.GaryLeeVincent.com.  The series blog for DARKENED is www.DarkenedHills.com.  My publisher website is www.BurningBulbPublishing.com.  My books are available on amazon.com and my music is available on iTunes, amazon.com, CDBaby.com, and most streaming services.




You can also shop for Gary's books at your favorite local independent bookstore:
Gary Lee Vincent's "Darkened Hills" on IndieBound

Gary Lee Vincents' "Passageway" on IndieBound



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My short story, "The Cemetery by the Lake" is now available at Smashwords as a FREE download. More retailers will follow, but Smashwords is pretty compatible with most e-reader and PC formats.
Tiffany Apan at Smashwords
The Cemetery by the Lake at Smashwords
and Barnes and Noble NOOK

My music is also available at CDBaby
Tiffany on IMDb
Official Website
The Birthrite Series Website

Support your local bookstores: Search Indiebound to see what may be in your area. 

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