Interview with Audrey Driscoll

What is the story behind your books?
Quite literally, it's "Herbert West, Reanimator," an early short story by H.P. Lovecraft. Herbert West, Lovecraft's corpse-reanimating doctor, has more personality than most of HPL's protagonists, whose main function is to experience horror. I began wondering about Herbert -- what lay behind his bizarre interests? Opening that door led me on a journey of several years, during which Herbert travels from Arkham, Massachusetts to an island called Bellefleur on the west coast of North America, and then to Providence, Rhode Island and ultimately back to Arkham. In the course of these transitions, he undergoes a series of transformations, from amoral, rational scientist to wounded healer, psychopomp and magus.
What genre do your books belong to?
That's an excellent question (which is what interviewees say when the obvious answer is "I don't know"). The Lovecraft story on which The Friendship of Mortals, the first book of the series, is based is a combination of science fiction and horror. I retained some of the elements of these genres, but I would call this book, and the others of the series, "psychological fiction." I wasn't as interested in the process of corpse revivification, or what the corpses did, as I was in Herbert West and his librarian friend, Charles Milburn. I wanted to explore why they made the choices they did, and how they dealt with the consequences of those choices. The second through fourth books of the series depart almost entirely from anything that looks like horror, which I suspect some readers find disappointing. If I had to assign a genre label to the series, I would go with "literary supernatural/psychological." Yes, it is rather lumpy.
When did you first start writing?
Aside from juvenilia and poetry, and essays required in school and university, I began writing seriously in November 2000.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes -- it was some sort of adventure set in ancient Egypt, inspired by one of Joan Grant's "far memory" books (that purported to be based on her past lives). I was about 14 when I wrote it. And now I'm planning to write another novel that is an adventure set in Egypt. Life is full of circles and spirals.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
You know that saying -- "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different outcome." That's how I came to regard the submissions process. After many rejections and -- worse, in my opinion -- non-responses, in March 2010 I heard two life-changing words -- Smashwords and Wordpress. I reasoned that publishing on Smashwords and using a blog to establish an Internet presence was a more optimistic plan than to give up and stash my manuscripts in the basement or continue the send-out-and-wait submissions process.
What is your writing process?
It's best when I'm obsessed with the story I want to tell. The writing then is inevitable, like giving birth. I don't have to find time for it; everything else in my life has to be fitted in around writing time. The obsession also makes it easier to slog through the tough parts -- connecting the scenes that come to me complete, needing only to be transcribed. So far, I've written my first drafts in longhand. Coming back to the spot where I left off -- rather than the beginning of a document on a computer -- makes it easier to continue with the story rather than fiddling with the beginning. It also helps that reading my scribble isn't as easy as a Word document, where the words jump out at you in stark clarity. Once that first draft is done, I transcribe it into Word, and endless revision begins.
Describe your desk
Either a pile of paper with a computer to the side or a computer with a pile of paper to the side, depending on whether I'm writing a first draft or something else. Also lots of small scraps of paper with ideas, notes to self and other random scribbles, weighted down with rocks.
Was there anything about the writing process that surprised you?
Two things: first, the extent to which my characters seemed to come alive and influence the plot in ways I didn't expect. Second, the fact that music I listened to as I was writing sometimes found its way into my novels, becoming part of the plot in some cases and in others influencing the outcome. The ultimate example is my as yet unpublished novel Winter Journeys, which is actually about Franz Schubert's song cycle Winterreise.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
No, but I remember the effect of my favourite book when I was a kid of 8 or 10 -- Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. I was totally captivated by Mowgli's life in the jungle with the wolf pack and devastated by the ending when he goes away to live with humans. I made my friends act out scenes from the book, drew pictures of them and read it again and again for years.
What do you read for pleasure?
Almost anything. Lately I find myself turning to nonfiction, possibly because reading it I avoid comparisons with my novels. (Haha). I don't deliberately seek out "best-sellers" or the latest prizewinners. If such books catch my attention it's for other reasons. I've been thinking lately about the process involved in selecting books to read and have decided it's both complex and somewhat irrational.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Well, here are five books I have re-read many times:
1. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.
2. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.
3. Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake.
4. Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge.
5. The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris.
I can feel a lot of other titles jostling around, trying to get on the list. Also, these are just fiction; I have another whole list of nonfiction books and poetry.
As to why these books, the only thing I can say is that I found the characters real and the stories compelling.
Who are your favorite authors?
Over the years, I have loved the writing of these authors: Kenneth Grahame, Rudyard Kipling, Robinson Jeffers, Stephen King, Peter Straub, Elizabeth Goudge, Henry Mitchell, J.R.R. Tolkien, Mary Renault, Mary Stewart, H.P. Lovecraft and many others.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Random chance. If I see a cover image or book description that sounds interesting, I give it a closer look.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Ironically, giving away books for free. I suspect a lot of people make that their primary search criterion, so "free" equals findable. That's not really encouraging for anyone who wants to recoup their investment in self-publishing or to make a living from writing, but for authors who do not depend on book sales for income, it is an option. Being allergic to advertising, I am not keen to inflict it on others, so writing excellent books and furnishing them with excellent covers and metadata has to suffice.
How do you approach cover design?
My original cover images were all homemade and did not meet Smashwords' current standards for size. Lacking the tools and talent for improving them, I decided to commission professionally designed images. I am very pleased with them, and the process of working with a designer to realize the essence of my novels graphically was exhilarating. When I published the four books of the Herbert West Series in print, I already had quality covers that needed only to be upgraded to printed book form. Quite apart from the marketing aspects, cover images should be beautiful so as to complement the books they represent. Professionally designed covers are expensive, however, so indie authors who are in it for the long haul may want to develop some graphic design skills or find a designer willing to do a services swap of some sort. I may have explore one or both of these options, depending on how many books I want to publish.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Creating characters and situations that come alive in my imagination and embodying them in prose for others to discover.
What are you working on next?
I'm preparing to write (aren't we all?) a sequel to the Herbert West Series, set in an archaeological excavation in Egypt in the 1960s. I hope to have a first draft completed by early 2017. After that it's a matter of how much rewriting is needed. And I'm still wrestling with whether I'm ready to publish Winter Journeys, a novel I wrote several years ago, about Romanticism in art and life.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Aside from hungry cats, the possibility that something wonderful might happen.
Published 2016-07-21.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Herbert West Series Complete
Price: $9.99 USD. Words: 611,250. Language: English. Published: November 7, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Psychological thriller, Fiction » Literature » Literary
All four novels of the Herbert West Series. Herbert West, a scientist obsessed with reversing death, is transformed into a physician of last resort. From ancient Arkham to the islands of the West Coast, a brilliant but amoral physician is subjected to travails and entanglements, to become a source of healing -- and of peril. Bonus: Chapter 1 of the sequel to the series.
Hunting the Phoenix
Series: Herbert West, Book 4. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 169,520. Language: English. Published: June 25, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » General, Fiction » Literature » Literary
Journalist Alma Halsey chases the story of a lifetime to Providence, Rhode Island and finds more than she expected – an old lover, Charles Milburn, and an old adversary, renegade physician Herbert West, living under the name Francis Dexter. Fire throws her into proximity with them both, rekindling romance and completing a great transformation. Age 14+
Islands of the Gulf Volume 2, The Treasure
Series: Herbert West, Book 3. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 125,380. Language: English. Published: May 28, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » General, Fiction » Literature » Literary
Abandoned and abused, young Herbert West resorts to drastic measures to survive. At Miskatonic University, he becomes a scientist who commits crimes and creates monstrosities. Decades later, haunted by his past, he finds safety as Dr. Francis Dexter of Bellefleur Island, but his divided nature threatens those he loves and forces him to face the truth about his healing powers.
Islands of the Gulf Volume 1, The Journey
Series: Herbert West, Book 2. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 163,830. Language: English. Published: January 18, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » General, Fiction » Literature » Literary
To Andre Boudreau, Herbert West is the Doctor, who saved his life in the Great War. Andre will follow him into Hell if necessary. Margaret Bellgarde knows him as Dr. Francis Dexter, attractive but mysterious. One day she will be shocked by what she is willing to do for his sake. But who is he really? She doesn’t know – and the possibilities are disturbing.
The Friendship of Mortals
Series: Herbert West, Book 1. Price: Free! Words: 157,970. Language: English. Published: May 22, 2010. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » Action, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Psychological thriller
Herbert West can revivify the dead – after a fashion. Miskatonic University librarian Charles Milburn agrees to help him, compromising his principles and his romance with Alma Halsey, daughter of the Dean of Medicine. West’s experiments become increasingly risky, but when he prepares to cross the ultimate border, only Charles can save his life – if his conscience lets him.