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? Why did his friend help and support him? To answer those questions I wrote the four novels of the Herbert West Series, which take Herbert on a long journey and transform him from an amoral, rational scientist to a wounded healer, psychopomp and magus.
What genre do your books belong to?
That's an excellent question (which is what interviewees say instead of "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 elements of these genres, but I would call this book, and the others of the series, "psychological fiction." Instead of the process of corpse revivification, or what the corpses do once they come back to life, I focus on Herbert West and his librarian friend, Charles Milburn. I explore their friendship, the choices they make, and how they deal with the consequences of those choices. The second through fourth books of the series depart almost entirely from horror, apart from the plain old human kind. Readers who come to the series because of its origin in HPL's story may be disappointed, but I think my characters and their situations are sufficiently interesting to keep them engaged. If I had to create a genre label for the series, I would go with "literary supernatural/psychological." Lumpy but accurate.
What are you working on next?
I'm preparing to publish She Who Comes Forth, a sequel to the Herbert West Series. It's set in Luxor, Egypt and the Valley of the Kings in 1962, and involves archaeology, geology, ancient magic and secrets. Once it's launched, I plan to write three more short "supplements" to round out the Herbert West Series, which I will publish as a collection with the four existing supplements. At some point I may also publish Winter Journeys, a novel I wrote several years ago, about Romanticism in art and life.
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 writing 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. Fire From Heaven by Mary Renault.
5. The Throat by Peter Straub.
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've recently used a free service called Canva to design cover images for some short stories I published in ebook form only. I'm quite happy with the results, but for novels, especially in print form, the professional approach is best.
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 inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The possibility that on any day something wonderful might happen.
Published 2018-09-06.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

She Who Comes Forth
Pre-release—available November 7, 2018. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 100,290. Language: English. Categories: Fiction » Women's fiction » General, Fiction » Adventure » General
Recently turned 21, France Leighton travels to Luxor, Egypt, taking with her two legacies—an antique cello and an emerald ring. Instead of the archaeological adventure she expects, she gets a lecherous dig director, hidden agendas, a risky balloon ride, and an enigmatic nuclear physicist. In the mysteries of the ancient tombs, France realizes she and her gifts may imperil the world—or save it.
One of the Fourteen
Price: Free! Words: 7,940. Language: English. Published: December 31, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » Action, Fiction » Literature » Literary
Dr. Francis Dexter arrives in London intending to atone for wrongs committed by his former self, Herbert West. A chance meeting in a pub leads to disturbing revelations by a veteran of the Great War, and forces Dexter to relive a terrible journey in the black region between death and life. (Herbert West Series supplement 4)
A Visit to Luxor
Price: Free! Words: 7,560. Language: English. Published: December 31, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » Action, Fiction » Literature » Literary
Reformed necromancer Francis Dexter (formerly known as Herbert West) and his servant Andre Boudreau visit Luxor, Egypt in the year 1935. A climb up el-Qurn, the sacred mountain behind the Valley of the Kings, leads to an encounter with bandits, and with one who "was of the old native blood and looked like a Pharaoh." (Herbert West Series supplement 3)
From the Annexe: An Untold Tale
Price: Free! Words: 6,150. Language: English. Published: December 31, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Gay & lesbian fiction » Gay, Fiction » Literature » Literary
Miskatonic University librarian Charles Milburn was Herbert West's assistant and closest friend. He has already revealed much about their association in The Friendship of Mortals. But not everything. This is the part he left out. (Herbert West Series supplement 2)
The Nexus: A Portal to the Herbert West Series
Price: Free! Words: 5,610. Language: English. Published: December 31, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » General, Fiction » Literature » Literary
Nearing the end of his long life, Miskatonic University professor Augustus Quarrington retraces the path to his entanglement with one of his most interesting – and dangerous – students: Herbert West. (Herbert West Series supplement 1)
The Herbert West Series Complete
Price: $7.99 USD. Words: 611,240. Language: English. Published: November 7, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » General, Fiction » Literature » Literary
Includes 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: 171,900. 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.
Islands of the Gulf Volume 2, The Treasure
Series: Herbert West, Book 3. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 125,830. Language: English. Published: May 28, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » General, Fiction » Literature » Literary
(4.50 from 2 reviews)
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: $2.99 USD. Words: 164,290. Language: English. Published: January 18, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » General, Fiction » Literature » Literary
(4.00 from 3 reviews)
Once, he was Herbert West, superlative surgeon and revivifier of the dead. Now he's lost his reputation, his country and his name. Rebuilding his life as a country doctor on Bellefleur Island, he struggles with doubts, emotional entanglements and terrible memories of the Great War. Above all, he must forge a new relationship with his old adversary – death – and negotiate with a new one – love.
The Friendship of Mortals
Series: Herbert West, Book 1. Price: Free! Words: 158,250. Language: English. Published: May 22, 2010. Categories: Fiction » Adventure » Action, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Psychological thriller
(4.50 from 4 reviews)
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.