Meghan: Hi, D.W. Welcome welcome. It’s a pleasure having you here today. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
D.W. Gillespie: Well, I’ve been writing for about eighteen years now, which is crazy to say out loud. I’m not exactly sure when you’re allowed to consider yourself a professional writer, but I did get paid for a story way back in college, so we’ll go with that. If only I knew how long it would take to actually get novels published, I might have started a Youtube channel instead.
Over those years, I have realized some things about myself, mainly that I am a writer through and through. There’s not a lot in this world that I feel like I’m qualified to do, but writing is one of those things I feel like I’ve earned, if not with actual talent, than at least with blood, sweat, and tears.
Beyond that, I’m a family man. I’m, admittedly, pretty boring. I spend most of my time with my wife and kids, or playing video games. Being boring is actually pretty great for the nuts and bolts of writing (planning, sticking to schedules, stuff like that), but it’s not as helpful for writing bios and interviews. I wish I could tell you some crazy interesting story about myself, but no, I’m just a writer.
Meghan: What are five things most people don’t know about you?
D.W. Gillespie: For starters, I’d say most people don’t know anything about me, because I kind of hate social media. I do it, but I don’t think I do it particularly well.
Second thing, which goes along with the first, is that I’m pretty introverted. I genuinely like people, but I need some alone time to recharge at least a little bit everyday.
Third thing… ever since my kids were born, I’ve had less and less time to write at home, so my last four or five books have been written during my lunch break from my day job. That’s why writing full time is a huge dream of mine, not because I have delusions of wealth and fame, but because I’d just love to have the time to write and edit at a deeper level.
Four, now that I have two more widespread books coming out, I think most people don’t realize how long I’ve been writing. I’m certainly new to them, but along with the four books I have available, there are another seven or so that haven’t seen the light of day. Some were (in hindsight) just practice, and I’ve already reused certain parts in other books, but a few are waiting for the right time.
And the last thing is, along with horror, which I’m known for, I’ve also written a sci-fi novel, and even a middle-grade novel. The sci-fi one is on the shelf for now, but it might see the light of day once I spend some more time with it. The middle-grade novel is being read by publishers by the time you read this, so fingers crossed.
Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?
D.W. Gillespie: I’ve thought about this a lot recently, just because I was trying to remember the answer myself. I know for a fact that the first horror novel I ever read was Dracula, which in hindsight, was a pretty dense read for a kid. I do remember really enjoying it, and I wanted to immediately read some Stephen King after that.
But, I think the first novel I read was Call of the Wild by Jack London. I don’t remember a ton about it, but I did really enjoy it. There are some passages there that still stick with me even if I can’t remember the entire plot.
Meghan: What are you reading now?
D.W. Gillespie: Been slowly working my way through Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon. What a book. I’ve seen it described as a horror book, but it’s more than I was expecting. I recently read through IT by King as well, and it’s a fun comparison, looking at the two of those books, both about childhood in a lost time.
Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?
D.W. Gillespie: I always list The Hobbit as one of my favorite books. It’s getting to the point now were I feel like people are beginning to turn on classics like that, maybe because they’re too old fashioned, but I love things that are earnest.
Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?
D.W. Gillespie: I’ve told the story before, but I was always the creative type. When I was right out of high school, I was convinced I would be making movies at some point. Then I realized how hard it is to make movies, especially without the right people around you, so I started to just drift towards something I could do all by myself. I took a creative writing class, and got some great feedback from my teacher. That was around 2002, and it’s been pretty steady ever since.
Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?
D.W. Gillespie: I always laugh, because the answer to this question is always the same. In my car, during my lunchbreak, in some abandoned parking lot somewhere. Not very glamorous, but it gets the job done. One of these days, I’d like to have an actual stuffy office with books on the wall and a big desk, but for now, I’ll just make due.
Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?
D.W. Gillespie: Not so much quirks, but I have written enough books to have a very solid process. Sometimes I change up whether or not I plan too much ahead of time, but I always have a set schedule for drafts. I’m not one of those people who write every single day. I’m more a sprinter, and when I’m working on a draft, I try very hard to hit ten thousand words a week until the draft is finished. That’s a pace that I couldn’t keep up for more than a few months at a time, but it works well in short bursts.
Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?
D.W. Gillespie: For me, it’s just the time. I love draft writing, but I’ve learned to love editing too. When I’m working on a manuscript, I feel like I’m doing exactly what I’m on this planet to do, so when I have to spend 8 hours in an office doing something that, to be honest, anyone could do, it’s a bummer.
Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?
D.W. Gillespie: That’s a tough one to say. I’m very proud of both The Toy Thief and One by One, but my last unpublished book is still probably the one I’m most satisfied with. It’s a bit more sprawling, going back hundreds of years into the history of this town, and I think it has something like 70 characters in it. It was very ambitious, but it just wasn’t the right book for the time. I might try to revisit it someday.
Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?
D.W. Gillespie: The Road by Cormac McCarthy is one of my favorite books. I love his style, and I’ll go back and read through passages over and over again. Hemmingway is another one, even though I don’t love his books, I just love the ability to get as much meaning and feeling as possible with just a few words.
Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?
D.W. Gillespie: Well, it’s that push and pull between characters and plot. Character, rightfully, gets most of the praise in books, but for me, the stories that really live on are the ones that hit that balance perfectly.
Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?
D.W. Gillespie: I’ve thought a lot about this since my last book, The Toy Thief. I really didn’t see any reviews that thought it was poorly written, but I saw a lot of criticism of the main character, saying she was unlikable. It might just be a preference thing, but I’ve always liked broken, vulnerable characters, people that have reasons to give up, but find a way to keep going.
I try very hard to see the duality of everyone. That’s one of my favorite aspects of a good character. It’s a villain, a monster even, who still has something human and relatable about them. It’s a protagonist who you’re genuinely rooting for who suddenly does something despicable. Its not about shock or cheap tricks, it’s about recognizing the fact that every single one of us has done things we’re not proud of. That’s what makes a character work for me.
Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?
D.W. Gillespie: I don’t think I can even pick one. This is one of the funniest things about being a writer, is having everyone who reads your book saying, “Oh, I know who that character is.” The truth is, there are bits of me in every character I’ve ever written.
Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?
D.W. Gillespie: Bad covers can be disappointing. It’s the first impression, and you just know that some great books just won’t get an audience with the wrong cover.
I’ve had some basic feedback on most of my covers, but not complete control. I’m happy with most of them though.
Meghan: What have you learned creating your books?
D.W. Gillespie: I’ve learned a lot of basic life lessons from writing. Perseverance. Goal setting and keeping. Time management. I’ve gotten more of this from writing than I ever did from school or any other job.
Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?
D.W. Gillespie: It’s hard to pick out one, but there have been several scenes that played out a certain way in my mind and totally different when I sat down to write them. One by One in particular deals with issues of child abuse, and I knew pretty quickly that I was going to handle those things in a very vague, “offscreen” sort of way. I just can’t dive into the details of things like that.
Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?
D.W. Gillespie: I’ve seen the phrase “quiet horror” in several of my reviews, and I’ve kind of learned to embrace it. I’ve written gorier or more extreme stories before, but I’ll admit that’s not my main focus. I think of my books as mood-building, and I like the feeling of standing in the calm before a storm. Hopefully, my books put you on edge and keep you there while you wait for the bad thing to finally happen.
Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?
D.W. Gillespie: I used to try really hard to nail down the title before starting, but I gave up on that years ago. I almost always start with a placeholder title now, and I just pick the title out of a line in the book. It usually happens organically though.
Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?
D.W. Gillespie: I spent several years straight trying to get short stories published, which is something that has completely fallen off for the past 3 years or so. My focus is completely on novels now, and that’s led to some great success. I still love writing shorts, and I hope to get back to them next year.
Overall, I don’t think there’s anything as satisfying as completing a novel, just because of the time commitment. You basically life with a novel over the course of months, or even years. I’m amazed that books I thought were “finished” years before still come back for edits. Once you finally see that book in your hand, it’s almost surreal.
Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.
D.W. Gillespie: I’m in this to make the reader feel something. Probably the worst review for me would be someone saying they didn’t feel anything reading my books. Whether you like it or not, if you leave the book with something to think about, then I’ve done my job.
My target audience would be anyone who loves monsters. They might be literal monsters, or just figurative ones, but they’ve all got a human side to them.
Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?
D.W. Gillespie: I got two big projects on the horizon. One is the middle grade book I mentioned earlier, which I can’t say too much about just yet. I will give you a preview of the name, The Unseen Team… I’ll let you guess what that means.
The other project is a new horror novel titled The Mill. I’m getting ambitious with this one. The draft is longer than any book I’ve ever written. There’s a lot of work to be done, but hopefully it will be out to publishers in the next few months.
Meghan: Where can we find you?
Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview?
D.W. Gillespie: I just want to say that, the past year has been a big boost for me as a writer. I’ve gotten more reviews and eyes on my work in the past twelve months than I have in the previous twelve years. I can’t thank you all enough.
For anyone who has enjoyed my work, stay tuned. There is much more on the way.
Born and raised in Middle Tennessee, D.W. Gillespie has been daydreaming for as long as he can remember. His first short story was in second grade, and it involved (unsurprisingly) monsters wreaking havoc on some unsuspecting victim. Some things never change, and now D.W. writes a healthy mixture of horror, sci-fi, and supernatural fiction.
He began writing seriously in 2002, and he’s since been published many times in print and online. His body of work includes eleven novels and dozens of short stories.
D.W. still lives in Tennessee with his wife and two children.
The Easton family has just moved into their new fixer-upper, a beautiful old house that they bought at a steal, and Alice, the youngest of the family, is excited to explore the strange, new place. Her excitement turns to growing dread as she discovers a picture hidden under the old wallpaper, a child’s drawing of a family just like hers. Soon after, members of the family begin to disappear, each victim marked on the child’s drawing with a dark black X. It’s up to her to unlock the grim mystery of the house before she becomes the next victim.