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 simply 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, 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.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up on the West Coast, mainly in British Columbia. The city of Victoria, where I have lived for the past 20 years, is a hotbed of writers, so it's easy to find critiquers and beta readers. More or less wild places are not far away, and this awareness of the natural world certainly appears in my writing.
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.
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." Well, 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 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.
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.
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. I always write 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.
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.
What are you working on next?
I have to admit that since I self-published and started my blog, I haven't managed to write much original fiction. I have another manuscript (written in the winter of 2007-2008) that I'm considering publishing through Smashwords, as well as several ideas for novels that need to be brought into written existence.
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 are your five favorite books, and why?
Well, this list could be completely different next week, but for what it's worth...
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.
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. Working with library catalogue descriptions of books in my job, I am exposed to a lot of metadata, and if something there looks interesting, I often follow it up.
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, H.P. Lovecraft and many others. That's an incomplete list, and is not in order.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I admit I mostly look for free ebooks on Smashwords, or just take a look at any that randomly catch my attention.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have a Sony e-reader, so that's what I use for the ebooks I acquire, but I have no problem reading long pieces of text on a computer and do that a lot in critiquing works in progress by other writers.
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. If I decide to bring out my books in print I will already have quality covers that need 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, .
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.
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.
What's the story behind your latest book?
I'm not sure what my latest book is as yet, so can't answer this question. It may be a low-key philosophical fantasy or even a spin-off from the Herbert West Trilogy. Or something else altogether.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Aside from having to make a living, the possibility that something wonderful might happen.
Published 2014-08-10.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Hunting the Phoenix
Series: Herbert West, Book 4. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 169,830. 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: 125,420. 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. Age 14+
Islands of the Gulf Volume 1, The Journey
Series: Herbert West, Book 2. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 163,950. 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? He 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 » General, 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.