Firstly: What is it that you mean when you call the Webb Pages saga an "American Gothic" odyssey?
Well, when I say American Gothic I also mean Southern Gothic, meaning the entire story takes place in the south (or lower), but my books meet the standards for a typical American Gothic book. There are certain elements, or requirements, a book has to meet in order to be American Gothic:
1) Night journeys are a common element seen throughout Gothic literature. They can occur in almost any setting, but in American literature they are more commonly seen in the wilderness, forest or any other area that is devoid of people.
2) Evil characters are also seen in Gothic literature and especially American Gothic. Depending on the time period that the work is written about, the evil characters could be characters like Native Americans, trappers, gold miners etc .
3) American Gothic novels also tend to deal with a madness in one or more of the characters and carry that theme throughout the novel.
4) Miraculous survivals are elements within American Gothic literature in which a character or characters will somehow mangage to survive some feat that should have led to their demise.
5) In American Gothic novels it is also typical that one or more of the characters will have some sort of supernatural powers.
6) An element of fear is another characteristic of American Gothic literature. This is typically connected to the unknown and is generally seen throughout the course of the entire novel. This can also be connected to the feeling of despair that characters within the novel are overcome by.
7) Psychological overlay is an element that is connected to how characters within an American Gothic novel are affected by things like the night and their surroundings.
Why did you choose to write about the south?
I grew up in the south, for one, but I mainly decided to write a southern narrative because every book I read nowadays sounds the same. There are no "voices" in novels anymore, or rather, every novel sounds like they were written in the same voice, by the same author. I wanted a voice that would stand out in people's minds, even if they hated the books.
In Webb Pages, the young protagonist is said to be a genius, yet sometimes, while he is narrating his stories, Elijah sounds like a backwoods hick. Why is that?
Well, he is a hick, isn't he? I'm a hick, yet no one seems to question my intelligence (don't answer that). This is a boy growing up in a secluded Appalachian valley, in a town called "Podunk." This, in no way, makes him stupid. It just makes him a product of his environment. I think most of my readers are sophisticated enough to get that.
Why "Southern Gothic?" Specifically: What inspired you to write a fantasy novel set in the middle of the Smoky Mountains?
The Smoky Mountains are my family's legacy to me, or rather: I have a long genealogical history in southwestern North Carolina, especially around the southern Nantahala region. My father was actually born in a small town (the town Podunk is fashioned after) right next to the real Tusquitee Valley. I grew up reading, and listening to, scary stories from that region, stories about bearded trolls livin in, under, or around trees, and underground faerie folk kidnapping children. And there were stories about witches...lots of witches. Lots of hainted (haunted) woods, and cabins, and lakes, and churches too.
Explain why you chose to write a somewhat religious sounding book for kids? Are you trying to send a message?
Actually, no. First of all, the story takes place in Bible-belt America. I wanted to write something that wasn't like any fantasy novel ever written. They are all the same, aren't they? Aren't you bored with how fantasy novels, and horror novels, and science fiction novels these days are all the same? It was a tough choice. I knew I would be ridiculed, and I would be labeled as a "Christian" author. Truth is: I am a Christian, and I am an author, but I am not out to preach to anyone. I am simply taking Biblical principals and utilizing them as weapons and armor to fight and defend against evil. You can't do that, and maintain any authenticity, without using some canon, which was my specialty of study in college.
So were your religious studies your inspiration for the Nephilim?
Yes. Indeed they were. In 1998, while I was attending Bible college, I ran across scriptures pertaining to giants that lived in the land of Canaan, and how these giants were actually the offspring of the angels. Exciting stuff. These scriptures also called these angel hybrids the "heroes of old" and the "renown." Well I immediately thought of my mythological studies in high school, began to put two and two together and, before long, I had explained where dragons, and unicorns, and flying horses, and three headed dogs...I knew where these legends had come from. The angels. So much of our human ancestry is still a mystery. Cave paintings and carvings dating back thousands of years speak of these creatures...as if they once existed. Coincidence? Well, you decide for yourself. As for me, I will continue to write these great stories.
And why Hollow Earth?
While I was writing the first book, I knew I wanted this "magic," if you will, for lack of a better term, to be leaking out into our world from a world below-ground. But so many stories already have these Brigadoon type worlds, even the musical "Brigadoon," lol! I knew I wanted this world to be the refuge for the remnants of the Nephilim race, but I also wanted to do something no one had done yet, at least, not blatantly. I remembered a story about a pilot who had flown over a vast hole at the North Pole and found the lost world of Shangri-la. I researched this story until I had discovered this was no mere fantasy, but one pilot's eyewitness account, a true story! And it was no crater that he'd flown over, but a gigantic hole leading straight to the center of the earth, a place teaming with prehistoric wildlife! He flew his plane inside and documented everything he saw, on paper and on film! In his incredible story, he met an advanced race of people living in total peace and harmony, he even went as far as to describe them as being almost "angelic." Well I immediately thought of the "sons of God," and there you have it. The Webb Pages mythology was born.
Where did it all start?
Webb Pages began in 2000 as an adventure comic strip idea I had for possible newspaper syndication. It was really under developed in those days, though. The premise was a small Appalachian town being invaded by an army of giant genetically altered spiders, then other genetically altered things, over and over, etc., etc., with Doctor Inimicus, then called Doctor Nemesis, as the villain. The comic strip was simply called "Webb Pages," which I thought was a great comic strip title. I couldn't find any takers in the newspaper business, thus the whole thing was dead and stayed dead for three years until I was inspired to write the Webb Pages books. Elijah's blonde "spikes" came from the original cartoon version of Elijah and just sort of stuck.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in the west Atlanta region of Georgia. I never thought of myself as becoming a writer, per se, while growing up. My family and I always thought I'd be an artist, or illustrator of some kind, and I did do some of that in later years. But I was always drawing pictures when I should've been doing my schoolwork. I had always had a love for cinema, though, and as a child I would play with my action figures as if they were in a movie. I would make up these really elaborate stories and imaginary landscapes (utilizing furniture as mountains, or cliffs, and shag carpet as oceans or swamps, etc.). I didn't really entertain the idea of becoming a writer until I was a teenager. I used to draw these comics that I would sell to the other students. They were terrible stories, full of blood and gore, and were dubbed "Morbid Comics" by one of my teachers, but the other kids loved them. What's really funny is how I used to make home claymation movies and have family and friends over to watch them, complete with sodas and popcorn. They were silent films, however, so I would have to sit in the back and make sound effects and add dialog. Too funny!
When did you first start writing?
Well, like I said, I began entertaining the idea in high school, but I never did any writing until late adult years, actually. I began writing my first book in 2003 after becoming too ill to work. I had Ulcerative Colitis from the age of eighteen and in 2003 I lost my job because I had called in sick too much. My eight year old son, at the time, had just come to live with me, too. But I managed to make some money as an illustrator, and my father was a huge help. Those were tough years, but my son inspired me to begin this lifelong dream of becoming a writer, so I guess it wasn't all bad.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
While I was shopping my first book around for publishing interest with a traditional publisher, I managed to catch the eye of one Paul Mikos, who was, in those days, the executive editor over children's fiction at B&H Publishing Group out of Nashville, TN. He liked the fact that I was an illustrator/author combo and envisioned my book as a graphic novel. I wasn't so keen on the idea, but he asked me to script out and illustrate the first chapter, so I did. After working on it for six weeks (I had no clue at all what I was doing) I finally turned in a draft. Mr. Mikos liked it a lot, but when he presented it to his publishing board my illustration style got shot down for not being enough like Marvel Comics, or Darkhorse Comics. Mr. Mikos was the one who first told me about how the publishing industry had changed, and how traditional publishers now look to Indie publishers for new authors. Rummaging through the works of self-published authors, traditional publishers can get a pretty good idea of how a book will sell. It's all about the numbers. I began to correspond with some successful Indie writers to learn more, and eventually I felt really good about publishing my first book myself.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I get these ideas in my head (I do not work from outlines) and they stick and grow and blossom into the stories that I can't get rid of until I write them all out. It can keep me up nights and sometimes drive me absolutely crazy! So I would have to say, next to getting that great feedback from readers, just getting the story out of my head is the greatest joy I receive from writing.
Describe your desk
Who are your favorite authors?
I would say Jules Vern, H. G. Wells, Mark Twain, Harper Lee, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Piers Anthony and J. K. Rowling...to name a few.
Have you written anymore books, and where might they be found?
There is a prequel to The Brigadoon Doom entitled "Webb Pages: The Riddle of the Cherub Blade" that tells Elijah's story from the very beginning. In it you learn how Elijah came by Warbucks and Rhema Logos, and how he met Doctor Watkins. You learn more about his three best friends, as well as his high school bully, Jay Polk. You also learn about Bath Sheba, the mother of the four cubs, and the part she played in liberating the Tusquitee Valley; and you meet Jedidiah for the very first time. It is really an enlightening read and well worth the price for anyone who enjoys The Brigadoon Doom and its characters. It's available at the WinchesterWonders website in Kindle, Paperback, and Hardcover editions.
What are you working on next?
I am currently working on two projects. I am working on a third Webb Pages book, but I am also writing my first stand-alone fantasy for adults. It's sort of a paranormal romance. That's about all I will say about it. I have ideas for another stand-alone book, and an entirely new series for kids as well.
How do you approach cover design?
I do my own covers. Being novella for children, my illustration style fits perfectly. I simply choose an interesting point in the book from which I believe I could create an interesting image and go from there. I use a combination of illustration on paper (I will always be a paper baby) and Adobe Photoshop enhancements. But I am behind the times. I still use Adobe Photoshop 6.0, which is my absolute favorite, and have been since 1999.
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