Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Author Interview - DC Petterson

Today I welcome fellow Lyrical Press author, DC Petterson.  He very graciously granted me an interview about writing and his latest novel, A Melancholy Humour.  A book about werewolves, it had me up late one night frantically turning the pages.

Q. How long have you been writing?

I started writing soon after I learned to read.  I think it’s a genetic disorder. I’m one of those pitiable souls who can’t not-write. It’s rather like trying not to blink your eyes -- the effort can only last so long.

I tried getting a few short stories published when I was a teenager. Once out of high school, I got a good job, and started making decent money. That’s a bit of a trap -- it removed any economic incentive to publish. I couldn’t stop writing, though, so I wound up with stacks of unseen manuscripts. The more recent ones are all on computer, with hard disks stuffed so full that bytes keep falling out the side. But I do still have an amazing amount of ancient and yellowing paper in various closets.

Q.  Who are some authors who have influenced your writing and why?

As a kid, my favorite authors were Arthur Conan Doyle and a handful of Golden-Age SF writers -- Clarke, Asimov, Bradbury, Wells, Verne. I discovered Tolkien while in the sixth grade. This was back when it was still hard to find his books. I also read a lot of Lovecraft and Edgar Rice Burroughs. These guys all taught me that the world is far bigger and stranger than anyone can imagine, and if you can imagine it, a story can be woven out of it.

All that is old stuff. More recently, I caught on to Anne Rice with her very first books. I loved Randall Garrett’s “Lord Darcy” series. From them, I learned how to integrate fantasy into a modern setting, though I confess some of my writing still bears a Lovecraftian darkness.

A nonfiction writer who had a profound influence on me is Joseph Campbell. No one is better at explaining the meaning and uses of myth. Creating fiction is an act of mythmaking. I urge all aspiring writers to read everything of his you can get your hands on.

Q. Do you have any authorly quirks you’d like to share? (Like you only write by candlelight or something unusual like that?)

Candlelight? What a great idea! I love writing at night. I’ll turn off the lights and work by the glow of the computer screen and my backlit keyboard. A handy glass of good scotch is always a plus. Finding music that evokes the mood of what I’m writing is almost essential. (Try reading “A Melancholy Humour” with Linkin Park’s “Somewhere I Belong” in your headphones.)

But I suppose my most useful quirk is that I find myself having long conversations with the people I’m writing about. Stories are about people, and it’s my job as a writer to act as a go-between. My readers can’t possibly get to meet these folks if I don’t know them well.

Q. In your novel, Melancholy Humour, you have a man in his late 40s falling in love with a girl of 18. Can you explain your choice to make the age difference so vast?

Well, first, the plot demanded it. A great deal of the story deals with Vincent’s struggles in handling issues of childhood abuse. He has to separate his own past from the realities in front of him. Stories about ethical and moral dilemmas are far more interesting than clear black and white choices.

It’s also about renewal and a recovery of youthful enthusiasm. Vincent has given up on life. Celia offers a kind of rescue. There’s a contrast too of time and eternity -- the ancient and preternatural realities they both have to deal with stand in stark silhouette against her youth. It gives me a chance to explore the interplay of violent death and vibrant life, truly ancient fears and springtime vigor. I like extremes.

Q. You have one of the best werewolf “hooks” I’ve ever read. Can you explain the legare in more detail without giving spoilers to those who haven’t read the novel yet?

Legare” is the Italian for a tie or a knot. In the Middle Ages, “legare” was a word for a love spell.
I use it to describe a link between a human and a wolf.

Even between a dog and a human, a very special bond can form, something deeper than friendship but very different from romantic love. As one of the people in my story says, “a dog is just a wolf you feed.” Wolves were domesticated tens of thousands of years go. The legare between humans and wolves has been around a very long time. We have hunted together for as long as we’ve been human.

In the world of my stories, wolves were bred to form these ties, to need them almost like food. Some humans are particularly open to them. It makes for a symbiotic relationship, one that neither can deny, a loyalty that transcends death, but something that has been ignored and pushed aside for so long that none now clearly remember.

There are dark aspects of it too, things that can be misused. It’s something I’m going to explore many different ways in future stories.

Q. Was your journey to publication an easy or difficult one? How did you find Lyrical Press?

As I said, I started submitting stories as a teenager in high school. I’ve got a collection of professional rejections slips of which I’m very proud. A few years back, I stumbled upon a publisher who was just starting out, and was looking for new talent. I submitted a short science fiction novel I’d been particularly pleased with (“Still Life”). They bought it, giving me bragging rights to being a published novelist.

As for Lyrical, I met my editor, Nerine Dorman, though an email list we both had joined. She announced that Lyrical was looking into publishing some darker fantasy. I had just completed “A Melancholy Humour,” so I sent it her way. It apparently fit with what they wanted to do.

I guess the moral of that story is twofold. First, never stop trying. Second, keep your eyes and ears open, and actively look for openings in the areas you want to write.

Q. Any advice to aspiring writers out there? What are a few tips and tools you use in your writing?

There’s the usual advice -- learn how to spell, use proper grammar, learn punctuation. Boring but necessary. Beyond that, here’s what I have to say to beginning writers. Once you’re established, you’re on your own.

Know your audience, which is only secondarily the readers. When you’re just starting out, your audience is the publishers whom you want to buy your stories. Get familiar with what they like to see, in subject matter, tone, and style. If you don’t like the kinds of things they publish, don’t submit your stuff to them -- they won’t like your books any more than you like theirs.

Be unique. Follow a publisher’s offerings as a guideline, but do something original and remarkable with the plot or the characters or the situations. Do something that stands out.

Write what you love. That’s different from the usual advice to write what you know. Writing what you love means writing with passion and conviction. Readers love passion. Besides, if you love it, you’ll have learned about it, and writing what you know will come as a natural side-effect.

Q. Where can we find your book to buy it?

You can get it from the publisher, Lyrical Press

Or from Amazon

or Barnes & Nobel

9.) Where can we contact you?

I can be emailed at

I occasionally tweet @dcpetterson but my life is boring enough that I seldom have anything interesting to say. I play guitar and keyboards -- but doesn’t everyone? I’m deeply in love, but being incredibly happy doesn’t make good publicity copy. No one wants to hear about my kids or my dogs or my day job writing software or the gnomes and faeries who live in my basement.

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