David McAfee, author of books such as 33AD, talks about his approach to writing and his plans for the future.
Why do you write? Is it something you’ve always done, or always wanted to do? Or is it something that you started fairly recently?
Why do I write? You know, I’ve never really thought about why I write. I just write. I get all these ideas in my head and sometimes they don’t leave me alone until I jot them down. I don’t always use them, of course (in fact, most of them get thrown away), but sometimes an idea hits me so hard I can’t think about anything else. In that sense, I guess you could say I write to keep myself sane.
What’s the first thing you remember writing?
I wrote my first story at age six. It was a kids story titled Tigger Meets Lady Tigger. Of course, since it was written by a six year old, it read that way. I’ve learned a lot since then. I think.
Are there any authors who inspire you?
Plenty! I could never name them all here, but a few of the authors who inspire me on an almost daily basis are Amanda Hocking, David Dalglish, Daniel Arenson, Michale Crane, Jason Letts, Sean Sweeney, Robert Duperre, Daniel Pyle, Scott Nicholson, Jeremy Robinson, Zoe Winters, K.C. May, H.P. Mallory, Jon F. Merz, and so many others I can’t even begin to remember them. Most of these guys are indies, like me. They fought through a system that didn’t appreciate them until finally the “ebook revolution” changed the way many people read, and suddenly world opened up to folks like us. Now these guys are doing great at something they love and proving themselves in the only place that really matters: the readers’ minds. A publishing contract with a major house is nice, but in the end it’s just a piece of paper. What really matters to me, and to those people I have listed above, are the readers. And to me, that’s the most inspiring thought of all. After all, readers are the meat and bones of the industry. Without readers, there would be no books.
I really liked 33AD. It doesn’t seem to fit into any single genre. Did you set out to write a genre-buster, or is that just how the story evolved?
I set out to write something that had never been done before. I didn’t necessarily set out to write something that crossed so many genres, it just kinda happened that way. When I first came up with the idea, I was still writing for agents and publishers (who all turned the book down, of course.) and I thought it was so unique that people would feel compelled to take a look at it. Well, that proved incorrect in the publishing world, as few agents or editors expressed any interest. But as you know, the reading world is differeent. I can’t tell you how many people have emailed me or left comments on my blog stating they’d never heard of me, but the decription won them over and they just had to buy the book. I like that. It means I had a strong concept. Nothing makes me happier than getting an email from someone who has read and enjoyed my books.
There are a lot of vampires books about at the moment, but a lot of them seem to be more about fantasy than true horror. I thought 33AD made vampires refreshingly horrific again. Was that a conscious decision on your part?
Yes. Yes yes yes and yes again. I’m so tired of the whiny, angst-ridden “vampires” that are more interested in your feelings than in your warm, tasty blood. When I was a kid, vampires terrified me. I curled up under my blankets and wrapped my body up so tight it’s a wonder I didn’t suffocate. These days no one is afraid of a vampire. Most vampire characters these days would be more likely to ask about your day or tell you about their horrible lives as the Walking Dead. The heck with that! I wanted my vampires to scare people. I wanted them to be characters you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley. I wanted them to be more like the vampires of old: ruthless, intelligent, evil, and always looking for a body to drain. That is why I made them so brutal, because in my mind, that’s how they are supposed to be. They ARE classified as monsters, after all.
There are some religious elements to 33AD. Did you get any kind of backlash over those? Did anyone shout ‘Blasphemy!’ at you?
You know, I really thought I would, but not so much. I figured that the ultra-conservatives were going to eat me alive for mixing vampires in with the New Testament. I’d never even read the Bible before I started writing, and I just knew I was going to screw things up. So I bought a Bible, did some research, and came up with the story in a way that I felt fit nicely into the gray areas of what the New Testament did and did not cover. I released it, and braced for the backlash from Christians. But as it turns out, very few Christians have disliked the book. Believe it or not, most of the flak I get concerning the religious aspects of the book has come from Atheists and non-Christians, who tend to think I’m trying to push Christianity on them. It’s funny, in a way, because that was never a goal of mine. I’m not religious at all. I just used the established doctrine of Christianity as a basis for the story. Much like other writers use the ancient Greek and Roman mythologies as a basis for their work. I think, in the end, I simply stayed too close to the events described in the New Testament for some people’s tastes, and they let me know about it. (Boy, did they!) But that’s the story I liked, so that’s the one I told.
What is your approach to writing? Do you sit down and force yourself to write a certain number of words every day?
I used to demand 2,000 words a day from myself. But my son was born in January of 2011 and I quit my day job to stay home with him. Since then my production has dropped off because, quite frankly, he requires a lot of attention. Luckily, my wife’s job has recently changed, and in about two weeks I will have much more time to devote to writing. I hope to be able to get back to my 2,000 or more words per day then.
What about the editing process? Do you do that yourself, or do you have someone else to make suggestions?
I have edited all of my books myself, and I really shouldn’t. I always end up missing something. A typo, or a plot hole, or the wrong name used. To date, only one book I have released has been completely error-free at the time of publication, and that should tell me everything I need to know, right? But, I’m also pretty dang stubborn, and it irks me that I need someone else to proofread my books. But readers never lie, and when they notify me of typos or formatting errors I always have to shake my head and say “Dave, you shoulda hired an editor.” So I have been poking around and looking for a good one lately. The closer I get to finishing my next book, the more I want to have that extra pair of eyes look over it just to make sure I’m releasing a quality product. As I said before, readers are everything in this business, and it doesn’t take too many poorly written books before they stop believing in you.
You recently ran a competition in which the prize was every David McAfee book for life, including ones that haven’t been written, which I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone doing before. Do you enjoy the marketing side of being an author?
I would like it more if I was any good at it. I stink at marketing. I really do. The contest, which I thought up one night while thinking about the setting for my next vampire novel, was a promotional idea I had to (hopefully) increase my visibility to new readers. And while most of my marketing is pretty low-key, this one worked pretty darn well. Ereader News Today reported the contest on their blog, and since that day I have been swamped with emails. So much so that I had to stay up until the wee hours of the morning catching up on them. I make sure I answer every single email I get because I want my readers to know that I appreciate every single one of them, and when they take the time to let me know how they feel about my book, I owe them a thank you at the very least.
What’s next? Do you have anything else coming out in 2012?
Three books for sure that I will release in 2012: 79 A.D. (the next Bachiyr story), The Gallows Tree (a ghost story), and an unnamed collection of short horror stories to go along with my other two. There may be another book or two, depending on how much Cole lets me get done, but those three will be out for certain.