Interview with Douglas Clegg
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in New England and in the South, a bit in Hawaii and ultimately, on the West Coast before the age of 26. How it influenced my writing is simply that I have a sense for these regions in particular and I have strong emotional bonds within those areas, some of them sentimental and generous and others, stormy and unresolved. I think this all adds into the reasons why I've written novels in various places, most of which I've lived in, around, among.
When did you first start writing?
When I could first communicate at all I was telling stories, but I was eight years old when my mother gave me a typewriter and asked me to write a story about a pet mockingbird that had recently died. So I did -- I typed the story out and I've never really stopped typing and writing stories since.
What's the story behind your latest book?
I've written a lot of books over the years; at the moment, I'm editorially going over a novel I wrote called Neverland. The story behind it involves simply a confluence of memory and culture -- when I was a boy, I traveled in various capacities in the southern U.S. and later, spent a brief but eventful time on an island off the coast of Georgia, but the influences of this book were several -- from the stories that stayed with me of children who ignored, avoided or had no parents, J.M. Barrie, Saki, John Collier, others, too, and the horrors of Nathaniel Hawthorne's short fiction and Arthur Machen's and even H.P. Lovecraft's, all of which I could relate to as a boy -- the isolation and misunderstanding of how the adult world operated versus being a child, the sense of something terrifying in mysterious and isolated spots, the idea that there were unseen forces in the world. From all this -- life, fiction, imagination -- the idea of the cousins, Sumter and Beau, and the shack in the woods came to be. When I was a kid, there was always some mysterious and potentially horrific shack in the woods, a place you were warned against entering upon your life.
So somewhere in my psychological make-up, the culture of stories from which I sensed a kindred thought, the characters of these two cousins and their families, came to me and I longed for this one island I knew of off Georgia, which had begun to represent something important to me when I wrote the novel. It all came together But there were other influences -- there was a little islet within a lagoon in Los Angeles where I'd lived, and on it, rabbits and ducks that had been dumped by families after Easter, and the sense of innocence and protectiveness i felt whenever I saw those animals on the little island (which the city maintained), as well as friends who talked about their grandparents. I barely knew my grandparents since I was young when they died, so I was fascinated by other peoples' stories.
But ultimately, the Jackson family, their matriarch with her punishing attitude, the parents with their own messed-up lives, and these two boys, seemingly opposites of each other, but in some respects two halves of the same coin. Long answer to this brief question!
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The relief of having the story down on the page, of excavating it from within my mind, of revising it so that what I imagined can come alive.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Coffee or tea. The sense that I'll never get everything done that needs doing. The idea that if I don't get up, I'll just live inside my head all morning long.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I feel as if I'm always writing even when I'm biking, walking, running errands, swimming, reading…pretty much always writing or thinking about the writing and the story or wondering why I'm not writing...
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I discover them mostly by browsing at random, through bookstores and online, and after that, based on what friends suggest or what my favorite writers are putting out at the moment.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes, it was called Sammy the Snail and Jimmy the Moth, and I wrote it when I was five. I illustrated it also. It ended sadly when Jimmy was eaten by a bird and Sammy was lonely. Even then, there was an edge of psychological darkness to what I wrote.
What is your writing process?
I wake up, avoiding writing as long as I can and then force myself to sit down and start. Then, I feel resistance to starting so I make a phone call or make another cup of tea, and then eventually, somehow, the writing goes and work gets done and I feel much much better than I'd have felt if the day had gone the other way. Somedays go better than that -- I get up, feel all chipper, head to my office, open the computer or turn on the Selectric or pull out the pad, and just start in and suddenly it's 3 or 4 in the afternoon and it feels effortless.
But most days, I avoid it as long as I can and then make more tea.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I suspect this was a Dr. Seuss story, and yes, his stories had immediate impacts. They were subversive (the children in The Cat and the Hat don't intend to inform their parents about their wild day), they had a dark edge (who actually LIKES green eggs on a plate? The ham may be fine, but green eggs?), they rhymed (good for remembering and feeling like smiling when there's a fox in a box or a cat in a hat), they had wonderful illustrations that took you into an alternate universe, and of course, they were hard to put down. Additionally, many of them described the illogic of the adult world and the sense that another world was about to open up for adventure.
I can't say enough good about Dr. Seuss.
How do you approach cover design?
With trepidation. I've had terrible covers on past novels and great ones, too. At this point, I mostly just trust good cover designers to know what will invite a reader to want to pick up a book.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I own several and play no favorites. I even own the first ebook reading device ever made -- called the Rocket Ebook Reader. Mine, the 40th one off the line, still works and I love it and wish it were still around. I used to get on the subway and grab the strap to hang from while I stood and read from the Rocket with one hand. That ebook reader made reading Victor Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame seem like a breeze.
But i own every kind of ebook reading device known to humans. And I have not found one I disliked yet.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
My long-running email newsletter, which has been going since 1999 when I launched it with cyberspace's first email serial novel, Naomi, which I wrote week-to-week for the thousands of readers who subscribed. I invite everyone to subscribe now at http://DouglasClegg.com/newsletter
Describe your desk
I have four desks. One is a long panel with a raised, slanted lectern-kind of platform. It goes across my office chair, the one I can lean back in. I prop my laptop on it. I have a more traditional table-desk for my desktop computer and my typewriter. But I also have a writing shelf on my exercise bike and another one on my office treadmill. Sometimes I feel like I need to exercise while writing and researching, so I put the laptop on the treadmill or bike and I start going for an hour or so. With the treadmill desk, I've got to walk very slowly but I understand it's better for your health and thinking than just sitting all day long. I find it productive -- and switching between writing tools seems to free up some creativity when I'm a bit stiff.
Who are your favorite authors?
Truman Capote, Patrick McGrath, Ian McEwan,William Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf, Christopher Marlowe, Carson McCullers, Flannery O'Connor, Haruki Murakami, Roald Dahl, Homer, Euripedes, Aristotle, Anne Rice, E.M. Forster, Thomas Hardy, Henry James, Ford Madox Ford, Jack Kerouac, Stephen Crane, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Stephen King, Peter Straub, Donna Tartt, Joe Hill, Joan Didion, Dean Koontz, John Connolly, Marcus Aurelius, Anthony Trollope, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Sigrid Undset, and then I could name a thousand more, most dead, many living. I've intentionally left off close friends who are wonderful writers because if I forget even one of them, they may not feel so close anymore. But I don't have a friend as a writer whose work I don't adore.
What do you read for pleasure?
I read only for pleasure. Even my research reading is for pleasure. Even when I read Melville's Moby Dick and Tolstoy's Anna Karenina and Proust's A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, it was pleasure and nothing more. I believe if you read fiction for anything other than pleasure -- even as a student -- you've missed the point.
What are you working on next?
This will always be a secret until I'm ready to divulge.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author or publisher.
Latest books by This Author
Haunts: Eight Novels
by Douglas Clegg
8 times the haunting! This crazy huge box set of select books from horror maestro Douglas Clegg deals with haunted people, haunted places. Included are the first four novels of the Harrow series. In ebook only,
by Douglas Clegg
The Face of Nightmare....
In this suspenseful novella of horror from bestselling and award-winning author Douglas Clegg, a man discovers a mask that begins to change his life in disturbing and terrifying ways. Genre: Horror, Psychological Suspense. Magical Realism.
The Poisoner's Garden and Others: Selected Poems
by Douglas Clegg
A Poisonous Flower, an Evil Doll, a Well of Memory and Dream
Award-winning author of supernatural and gothic fiction, Douglas Clegg gathers 22 of his poems for the first time ever into The Poisoner’s Garden & Others, ranging from those with a dark gothic edge to rhymes of whimsy with strange twists. Plus a Foreword and Afterword by the author.
Mordred, Bastard Son
by Douglas Clegg
From New York Times bestselling author Douglas Clegg comes a spellbinding novel of Arthurian fantasy. Conceived in violence, born of royalty, and raised in exile, Mordred grows to manhood torn between his powerful mother’s desire for revenge, his own conflicted feelings toward the father who betrayed him, and his passionate coming of age into first love with one of the greatest knights of Camelot.
Dark of the Eye
by Douglas Clegg
A girl named Hope becomes the prey in a monstrous hunt in this chilling supernatural thriller from New York Times bestselling author Douglas Clegg. A tragic accident leaves young Hope Stewart with an extraordinary power that is both blessing and curse.
by Douglas Clegg
A box set bundle collecting three of his classic supernatural novels together: The Hour Before Dark, Breeder, and Afterlife. Nearly 1,000 pages of fiction between these three novels of suspense and horror – and at a price 25% off the individual books’ prices.
by Douglas Clegg
If you lost someone you loved, what price would you pay to bring them back from the dead? From New York Times bestselling author Douglas Clegg comes a classic dark gothic novella of quiet horror, "...as chilling and dark as the shadows on an October night," said NY Times bestselling author Christine Feehan.
View their profile to see all of their books
by Douglas Clegg
From New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Douglas Clegg comes a dark novelette of a village caught on the edge of fear.