I shall tell you of Derek Neville.

He’s what you might call a writer. Of words on pages, even. You know, for those readin’ things that man Gutenberg done made readily available for us.

No, not Steve.

 

Derek Neville is quite possibly one of the most intriguing new independent authors to put words to page. His debut novella, a spooky tale entitled ‘Ghost Box’ has created quite the buzz and garnered Derek a burgeoning following. Derek’s tastes run the gamut, but in Ghost Box, he forces you, as the reader, to realize the creepiness within the world, for all the ghosts and monsters you can conjure, lies within your mind. Ghost Box is nothing short of a mental gut-punch that grips you and refuses to release you until you reach the end of the journey.

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I had the pleasure of sitting down with Mr. Neville for a conversation about his smash-hit novella and all things writing.

Tell us a little bit about who Derek Neville is:  Well, I am a tall drink of water. A long-time writer, pretty much been making up stories since I was a kid, probably about the 4th or 5th grade when I wrote this zombie story about these two friends who stumble across this haunted house and randomly there were zombies. I remember I was writing on this old Apple 2E computer we had; I would print it out on that old-fashioned, or at least old-fashioned today, printer page where you had to tear off the sides. My brother and I would also do these stories using our action figures that would always end on cliff-hangers. We’d start playing and when we had to go to bed, we’d pick up the next day from where we left off, kind of like the old 1960s Batman TV show.

When did you decide that writing was something you wanted to pursue as a profession? I don’t think there was a conscious moment where I said ‘Hey, I want to be a writer’. In high school, I got into film and this was the first time I was aware that someone was writing these movies. At first, I wanted to be a writer-director. So, I’d go research films like what Scorcese had done, what Tarantino had done; these people who’d write and shoot their own stories, so they’re not only telling their stories on paper, but visually as well.

What is it about film that peaks your interest?  Is it how the narratives are married in both the written and the visual? That’s a really great question. I’ve an over-active imagination, so I tend to see things cinematically. When I watch movies, those kinds of things really suck me in. So, when I see other people’s imaginations come to life, either on my TV, computer, or going to the movies, I think that created the spark in me. You don’t know why, but it’s a calling that made me want to dive into it in a big way.

That cinematic style translates into your novella Ghost Box. Why don’t you tell us about it?  Ghost Box is about this guy named Boyd Dwyer, who has made a series of bad decisions and has kind of spiraled down in his life. He was a homicide detective before his step-daughter, whom he considered to be his biological daughter, died. His inability to cope with it led him on the path to self-destruction and now the only thing he can really handle for work is freelance security. The job he ends up taking is the job no one wants: to guard the renovation of a former high school that is now being turned into an upscale hotel. Once he gets there, things are not quite what he anticipated them to be.

When you are thinking of characters, do you center on a singular emotion that you want either the piece of the characters to convey?

I think this is something that comes naturally to whatever story I’m trying to tell. I’ve heard other interviews with writers where they say that they have niche themes that they always come back to, like Spielberg is the absentee father theme. I’ve also heard that you don’t really get to choose it, per se, as you are always exploring themes as your create a piece. Every time I’m writing, my characters always seem to be dealing with a type of trauma and I’m always exploring how they are dealing with said trauma, either good or bad. With a character like Boyd, and not to get too metaphysical, I tried to let him tell the story, to put him out there with all his scars and let the reader determine if he was a good guy, and if he was worth redemption.

Another character in Ghost Box is the renovated building itself.  It never felt as just a location or a plot device, but fleshed out as a living, breathing character. What was your process in creating the character of the building? I wanted to make the environment as volatile as the emotions, of not just Boyd, but some of the other characters in the story. I tried to ground it in as much reality as possible, so when the more extreme, supernatural things happen, it doesn’t feel like it is coming out of left field. I think what makes for a good scary story is that realism.

Who are some of your influences? I’m a huge fan of Dennis Lehane. Every few months I’ll break open my copy of Shutter Island or Mystic River just because I enjoy the way he lays characters out on the page and how he does subtext. Especially with Shutter Island. Neil Gaiman and Richard Matheson are some of my other influences on what and how I write.

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When you are considering writing supernatural stories, do you do research into reported instances of such occurrences, or do you prefer to be in charge and create your own rules of the supernatural? I like to do a bit of both. I won’t say that I did much research for Ghost Box, but I have a general interest in hauntings and places that have been touched by beings or spirits, if you will. So, in a way, I’ve been indirectly been doing research on it for my entire life.

Why should someone purchase Ghost Box?  I think someone should purchase Ghost Box if they like a good, scary story, one that has a more human element to it, more substance than say horror with gratuitous violence, teenagers hanging on meat hooks kind of thing. If someone likes something more in the vein of The Exorcist, then I feel they’d appreciate Ghost Box. Horror fans that like more cerebral horror would enjoy checking it out.

Ghost Box was self-published through Amazon. As an independent author, could you tell us about your experience with this process?

Sure. It was something that I’d been on the fence about doing and kind of swayed in both directions. I met an author during a book signing who is a self-published author and he explained the benefits of being a self-published author. To use a musical reference, I grew up being into punk rock, that DIY culture. In a way, self-publishing is like a musician trying to get people to check our their band. I love the idea of being completely in control of the project, to choose the book cover and the story layout, all of the things that a publishing house would do for you. To continue with the band analogy, you’ve got to hustle: put up flyers, hand out stickers, etc. With a book, it’s the same principle. You have to go on the indie blogs and threads; Amazon has a great New Author’s forum and I’ve also used Reddit to get Ghost Box out there. It’s a lot more work and adds a lot more stress, but I like that, at the end of the day, I can sit back and say this is 100% my vision.

So far (knock on wood), I’ve not run into any negatives. Amazon has a great program called KDP Select which allows you to have certain incentives. You can do free promos, discount your book for a certain amount of time. If you are involved with KDP Select, you have a rolling 90-day contract, so if you decide to take it out, you can do so and start to distribute through other venues. I’ve also teamed up with CreateSpace (owned by Amazon) to do some print copies of Ghost Box, which is sold through Amazon and can be sold in various bookstores.

If you’re just starting out and trying to build an audience, I think self-publishing is great for that as you go right into the market with it. Also, putting a book out on Amazon, specifically the digital service, means that books exists forever.

The cover for Ghost Box is spectacular. Who is the artist and how was the process of the creation?  The cover was done by an artist named M.S. Corley. He’s done some really awesome book covers for some great authors, like Hugh Howey. I actually found him through Hugh Howey’s website and contacted him. He was awesome to work with. I showed him some samples of what I was thinking about for the impact I wanted to make with the cover and we were right on the same page. He sent me several designs to review before we narrowed it down to the one we used.

GhostBoxCover

What’s next for Derek Neville?  I’m thinking about getting into interpretive dance (laughs). In terms of writing, I am working on a new project now, which I hope to have out soon, possibly March of 2015. It’s probably going to be longer than a novella based on how it’s formulating right now. I’ve another project that is on the back burner, kind of crying out for attention.

 

Ghost Box is available now at Amazon.com

You can follow Derek Neville at http://derekneville.blogspot.com/

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