Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Robert J. Duperre

Meghan: Hi, Robert. Welcome to Meghan’s House of Books. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Robert J. Duperre: Okay, some background info.

I live in rural Connecticut (the northern part) with my wife Jessica Torrant, a wonderful artist and my favorite person ever. I have three children who’re all grown and out on their own. Oh, and I also love dogs.

I’m a writer of horror, science fiction, and fantasy, and my work tends to blur the line between all three. Currently, I’ve published thirteen full-length novels, twelve of which are broken down into three separate series: The Rift, The Breaking World (written with David Dalglish), my current series, The Infinity Trials, and a future series, The Knights Eternal, the first book of which will be re-released this year.

I also have a one-off novel titled Silas, a novella called Death Devours All Lovely Things, and I edited and contributed to a pair of short story collections – The Gate: 13 Dark and Odd Tales and The Gate 2: 13 Tales of Isolation and Despair. I’m currently putting the finishing touches on the last Infinity Trials novel while working on the 2nd installment in The Knights Eternal.

Meghan: What are five things most people don’t know about you?

Robert J. Duperre: Hmm… This one’s a toughie.

  • I’m originally from Plymouth, Mass, the land of Pilgrims. Much of my extended family still lives there.
  • I listen to Katy Perry when no one’s around.
  • I’m partially deaf in my right ear, which makes it hard to carry on a conversation while driving.
  • I sang and played keyboards for a number for a number of local progressive rock and death metal bands in my younger days.
  • I’ve always struggled with self-esteem issues.

Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?

Robert J. Duperre: Charlotte’s Web. What a harrowing experience that was!

Meghan: What are you reading now?

Robert J. Duperre: Deacon, the 2nd book in Kit Rocha’s Gideon’s Riders series. Sexy dystopian sci-fi fun. Who could ask for more?

Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?

Robert J. Duperre: I’m not sure if anyone’d be really surprised, per say, but I love romance novels. I’m a sucker for love stories and expertly written sex scenes. So yeah, I guess I didn’t single out a specific book, but I think you get the point nevertheless.

Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?

Robert J. Duperre: I’ve always written. It’s what I’m good at, and is something I need to do to stay sane. When I was in high school, I decided that I’d go to college to teach English, and during my summers, I’d pen the great American novel. Of course, since I ended up dropping out of school after the birth of my first child, that didn’t happen. But after a seven-year period during which I didn’t write at all, which brought about a long bout of depression, I found my way back to the craft as a way to deal with said depression. Everything kinda took off from there.

Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?

Robert J. Duperre: Not particularly. As long as I have a comfy chair and a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, I can write just about anywhere.

Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?

Robert J. Duperre: The one that sticks out to me is my tendency to speak dialogue out loud as I’m writing it down. It’s something I’m not even aware of when it’s happening, so if there’s people around, I get plenty of odd looks.

Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?

Robert J. Duperre: Without a doubt, coming back into the craft after taking some time off after my mother-in-law passed away last summer has been the most challenging writing experience of my life. My work tends to dive into dark themes, and I just didn’t have it in me for about a half-year. When I started back up again, I had to force myself to work. The original plot for the last book of my Infinity Trials series was depressing, and I just couldn’t get myself to linger in something that’d make me sadder than I already was. Which led to me completely changing how I wrapped up that series. Let’s just say I’m not upset that happened.

Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?

Robert J. Duperre: After some thought, I’m gonna have to go with Silas, a story of a depressed man and his dog and their unexpected adventure into a parallel universe. Mainly because I wrote that book in less than a month, took another full month to edit, and it ended up being exactly what I wanted it to be, which is a dedication to Leo, my dearly departed yellow Lab, and a self-examination of my own failings. So, in a nutshell, because it came so easily and was personal as hell, it’s EXTREMELY satisfying.

Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

Robert J. Duperre: Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, and the Skipp/Spector team were my inspirations growing up, along with idea-creators like Lovecraft and Philip K. Dick. I read everything they wrote, and my early attempts at writing were basically me mimicking their styles and themes. It took me quite a few years—and many literary failures—to break myself of that copycat tendency and come up with a voice of my own.

The kind of writing that inspires me today is the type that makes me examine my work to see if I’m making the most of the stories I want to tell. Authors like N.K. Jemisin, Mercedes Yardley, S.M. Reine, Brandon Sanderson, and Gillian Flynn are who I now turn to, devouring every word they write and letting those words push me into being better, myself.

Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?

Robert J. Duperre: Oh man. I really can’t give you a singular answer for that one. Sometimes it’s the setting and ideas, like with any of Sanderson’s work. Sometimes it’s the emotion themes, like in N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth series. But then again, there’s the personal connection I feel, which is what dragged me into S.M. Reine’s Descent series and kept me devouring every book until there weren’t any more to read.

But really, now that I’m actually thinking about it, the question’s not really as complex as it first seemed. Because if the characters I’m reading about don’t captivate me, then I won’t enjoy my experience. Even Sanderson, as obsessed with magic systems and world building as he is, creates interesting people to populate his books. And no one – NO ONE – writes better characters than S.M. Reine, who very well might be my favorite author who’s active right now.

So yeah, I think that’s the answer. Characters first, with creative worlds and original stakes a distant second.

Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

Robert J. Duperre: I need to relate, first and foremost. Does this character feel fleshed-out? Are their motivations realistic? Do their lives fit logically into the world the writer’s created, and do their reaction and emotional make-up feel consistent when viewed against the backdrop of that fictional setting? Do they resonate with me? Does the author make me feel what they’re feeling, experience what they’re experiencing? Do they bring something new to the table, or at least bring a certain clarity if they’re on the more rote end? Can I learn anything from them? Are they, in their own way, “real?”

Those are all the most important things I look for in characters. It’s a long list. But those two aspects I wrote there at the end – whether I can learn anything from them and if they feel real – are what I carry with me into my own creative endeavors. I want my characters to exist firmly in the world I’ve created, while at the same time teaching me about life. Because that’s really what creating is – an author’s way of learning. How to deal with the past, with trauma; how to exist within the world; or simply to understand and cope with the innerworkings of said world. Luckily for the readers, they get to experience this learning along with us. Which is, in a lot of ways, totally awesome.

Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?

Robert J. Duperre: As I wrote earlier, Ken from Silas is basically a version of myself with all my faults magnified. So yeah, that’d be the one.

Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?

Robert J. Duperre: Not necessarily. I’ve read some great books with bad covers, and some complete trash with covers that blew me away. Because of that, I try not to let the presentation dissuade me, using sample chapters to help make my decisions. I’d be lying if I said I’m always consistent on that front, however. Because it does take time to read samples, and as someone who has to work and write full-time, I really don’t HAVE that much time. Which means I’m usually purchasing my next reads based on the trusted recommendations from others.

As for my own covers, since a lot of my books have been self-published, I’ve of course had complete control of what I put out there for everyone to see. And paid for it out of my own pocket. But oddly enough, I was intimately involved in the cover-creation process of my professionally published novels too. The publishers sought out my input, I gave it, and they (mostly) listened. Which I’m entirely grateful for.

Meghan: What have you learned creating your books?

Robert J. Duperre: More than anything? Patience. It takes time to write and edit, sometimes more than I want it to. Early on, I dove full-in on the first part of that, half-assed the second. Which ended up with me having put out a less-than-stellar product when I first published The Fall. Early criticism made me pull that book down soon after publication to rework it. That fact alone could’ve ruined my career before it began. Thankfully, it didn’t.

But patience also matters with the, how can I describe it, lifespan of a book. It can get frustrating when you put something out there that you know is good, but doesn’t sell. Completely disheartening. It can stifle your creative process, maybe even make you give up. But I’ve learned, especially in the last couple years, that I need to give the whole process time. Sure, The Infinity Trials hasn’t sold as much as I would’ve liked. But it’s my favorite series, my best books. I need to be patient with them, allow the audience to come. Which they will.

Hopefully. 😊

Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?

Robert J. Duperre: Oh, an easy one! For sure, it was a bit from the 2nd Infinity Trials book, Lost in the Shadows. There’s a scene in there were one of the main characters, Hannah, confronts her despicable father. It was an emotional scene, the conclusion of a storyline that included some rather charged sexual deviancy. I hated writing it. Felt dirty. Didn’t want to keep it. I almost threw it out, until I gave it to my daughter Lily to read. She told me I needed to keep it, that what happens, and the way it happens, was important.

So I did.

Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?

Robert J. Duperre: First and foremost, they’re written by me. I’ve yet to read another book by Robert J. Duperre that wasn’t by me.

(Just picture me smiling right now at my own horrible joke. Got it? Excellent.)

But seriously, I think my books do offer something different. Mainly because I’m a little ADD, and like I said, can’t settle on one specific genre. Which means what I create tends to be a hodgepodge of what I enjoy in horror, sci-fi, fantasy, romance, etc. And I can’t stay consistent with a target audience! The Rift and The Breaking World are completely aimed at adults, The Knights Eternal is aimed at the fantasy crowd, while The Infinity Trials was originally written for a very specific teen audience – my daughter, who’s now a decidedly not-teen. Sigh, so goes the passage of time. Others in the biz have told me that if I stuck to one thing and one thing only, I’d be more successful. But I can’t. If I stopped being me, my books wouldn’t be, well, mine.

More than that, however, I think it’s my personal point of view. My early works were all super-personal, tearing tidbits from my life and autopsying them on the page. But as the years have gone on, I’ve shifted my viewpoint. I’ve lived with me for forty-four years. I don’t interest me anymore. It’s other people’s stories, other people’s viewpoints, that infatuate and inspire me. It’s them that I want to get to know. Intimately. And I want my readers to get to know them too.

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)?

Robert J. Duperre: I hate coming up with titles. It might not be the hardest part of writing, but it can certainly be frustrating. For short stories, I end up using either song titles or sections from poems that fit the themes, because what a short is called is probably the least important part of the finished product. Novels are different. What you call a book has to draw a reader into spending a good chunk of their time with you, so it has to convey the feel, genre, and tone of what you’re selling. Which can be tough. Sometimes you have a great idea right away and it sticks, while other times you go through so many iterations that by the time you settle on something, you get the feeling you’re doing just that. Settling.

For the first few books I published, the titles nearly wrote themselves. For The Rift series, I wanted season-themed titles, and they just appeared in my head (The Fall, Dead of Winter, Death Springs Eternal, The Summer Son). Then came Silas, which is named after the dog. Easy enough. But after that… gyah.

The Breaking World books I wrote for Dave Dalglish were irritating. We went through so many different names, using so many different fantasy conventions (The ing ___, ___ and the ___, A ___ in ___, The ___ of , etc) until finally settling on Dawn of Swords, which was actually suggested by our agent. The other two in that series (Wrath of Lions and Blood of Gods) kinda fell in line after that.

As for The Infinity Trials books, those were actually published originally under not only different individual volume names, but a different series title too. I initially called the series Covenant, and the first two books were The Mirror of Souls and The Chalice of Sorrow. I wasn’t really a big fan of them at the time, but I’d gone through so many names that I said screw it and settled on the ones that a writer friend of mine liked. But then, after putting the books out there, I realized that those titles didn’t relay the tone and themes of a young adult-skewed story. So I rebranded, using typical YA conventions, and put them out again. I’m much happier with the titles—in fact, I think they’re perfect—and though The Infinity Trials sounds a bit cheesy and ten years too late, genre-wise, they’ve been out too long to change it again.

Then again, all this complaining I just did is completely moot when I consider the “Knights Eternal” books. Every title came to me immediately, from the series name on down, and I love each of them. “Soultaker,” “Vowbreaker,” and “Warmaker” might be the best titles I’ve ever come up with. So what the hell do I know?

Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?

Robert J. Duperre: Oh, without a doubt it’s novels. There’s so much time, effort, thought, and even more effort put into the creation of a book-length work that I can’t look at one of them after I’m finished and NOT feel like it’s a worthy accomplishment. I mean, while coming up with a crafty short story is a great feeling—for example, I think “39 Days,” which I wrote for Dan Pyle’s Unnatural Disasters anthology, is so clever that I like to say, “Look, see, I did that!”—but for me, it simply doesn’t compare. My books are my babies, while my short stories are akin to passing friendships. They didn’t take as much effort to cultivate, and if they go away or end up not mattering any longer, that’s really okay.

Meghan: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.

Robert J. Duperre: As I said earlier, my writing can be a little all over the place in terms of audience. I guess I’ll just say that if you like a good story, with detailed worlds and wacky occurrences, that’s full of heart and all about growing up and discovery, with a smidge of romance, gore, and scariness thrown in, then I’m the writer for you.

Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?

Robert J. Duperre: Hmmm… There’s so much that gets deleted from every manuscript that it’s hard to point out just one thing. If you want to know just how much I’m talking about here, let’s use the last Infinity Trials installment, God in the Girl, as an example. The first draft of that manuscript was 175,000 words (roughly 650 pages). It now stands at about 129,000 words (roughly 440 pages) as I send it out to beta readers.

My problem is, I tend to practice “word vomit” when I’m writing. Everything that enters my head gets put down on the page, no matter what. Which means my first drafts contain a lot of over-explaining and side tangents that need to get trimmed out. I’ll use Boy in the Mirror, the first Infinity Trials book, to illustrate that point. In the original version of that story, I had the five teen leads make a bowl out of an empty orange soda can. Initially, that section ran four paragraphs, as I went into aggravating detail about how one goes about creating a makeshift pot-smoking apparatus. When my daughter read it, she was like, “Dad, do I really need to know that? Can’t you just say, ‘They found a can of Fanta in the trash and used a steak knife to turn it into a bowl?’”

She was, of course, right. So all those unnecessary words got thrown in the garbage. Almost all of my deleted material is like that. Getting rid of the draggy, useless bits. I don’t think there’s ever been a scene that I’ve deleted that I’ve regretted afterward.

Meghan: What is in your “trunk”?

Robert J. Duperre: I don’t have anything actually in my “trunk,” per se, except for a novella I’d been asked to write for a shared-world anthology. The publisher went under before the book ever came out, so now I have this very detailed, 50-page story that I don’t know what to do with.

I do have a TON of stories in my “mental trunk,” though. Books that I really, really, REALLY wanna write, if I ever get the time to. One of them is a tricky series of ultra-violent, ultra-feminist books about two ladies who traipse around a post-apocalyptic fantasy world murdering toxic male stereotypes. I’ve created my own genre for those – Splatterfantasy. They’re going to be short novels and be an ongoing series that could potentially be ten to fifteen books long. A kinda warped play on the “Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser” series by Fritz Leiber. And something that I’ve wanted to write for YEARS now. It’s on the docket after I finish Knights Eternal. Maybe. It depends. See how certain I am?

Of course, I do have others that I want to dive into, but since those ideas are SO ORIGINAL and SO REVOLUTIONARY, I think I’m gonna have to keep them to myself. 😛

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

Robert J. Duperre: Well, right off the bat, I’m finishing up the last of the Infinity Trials books. “God in the Girl” should be out in December, so depending on when this interview’s published, they’ll either be already pubbed, or soon to be.

After that, I have the re-release of Soultaker through Outland Entertainment in December. I still owe them the last two books in that series, and am working on the 2nd installment now, but Outland is going with a once-a-year pub schedule, so it won’t be until next year at this time until the next book is released. But hopefully, if things go well, I’ll have some tie-in comics and maybe even an RPG based on that IP rolling out some time in the near future.

So my releases are gonna be a little sporadic over the next couple years, I think. But that’s okay. What I already have out there, and have coming, is good stuff. I think people would really enjoy them, if they get a chance.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Robert J. Duperre: I’m on Twitter and my Facebook author page. I’m also on Instagram, though I’ve yet to even post anything. And I have a blog, Journal of Always, that I hardly ever use any longer. You know what? My entire social media game is supremely lacking. I’ll try to change that. In the meantime, if readers REALLY wanna reach me, they can shoot me an email. I promise I’ll get back to you if you do. Eventually. Ask Meghan, our gracious host. She can attest to that.

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?

Robert J. Duperre: Not really, other than to ask everyone to be kind to one another. That’s something this world can lack, especially nowadays. We all have so much love to give. We should just give it, already.

Oh, and buy my books. That’s good too. ☺

Thank you all so much for having me, and giving me your time. I hope it was worthwhile. It certainly was for me.

Robert Duperre writes a combination of horror, science fiction, and fantasy, and is the author of several novels, including The Rift series, The Breaking World series, which he co-authored with David Dalglish, and his epic urban fantasy series The Infinity Trials. He is also a contributor and editor of two short story collections, The Gate and The Gate 2.

Robert lives in rural Connecticut with his wife, artist Jessica Torrant, and their new pup Rosie, a hyper-lovey mutt.

Bibliography:
The Rift Series
The Rift 1: The Fall
The Rift 2: Dead of Winter
The Rift 3: Death Springs Eternal
The Rift 4: The Summer Son

The Breaking World Series
(with David Dalglish)
The Breaking World 1: Dawn of Swords
The Breaking World 2: Wrath of Lions
The Breaking World 3: Blood of Gods

Standalone Novel
Silas: A Supernatural Thriller

Short Story Collections
The Gate: 13 Dark & Odd Tales
The Gate 2: 13 Tales of Isolation & Despair

The Infinity Trials Series
The Infinity Trials 1: Boy in the Mirror
The Infinity Trials 2: Wolves at the Door
The Infinity Trials 3: Lost in the Shadows
The Infinity Trials 4: Queen of the Dead
The Infinity Trials 5: God in the Girl (Available Dec 22, 2019)

Shock Totem 4.5: Holiday Tales of the Macabre & Twisted

Shock Totem presents the first in an ongoing series of special holiday issues. This issue, covering the Christmas season, features an eclectic mix of holiday-inspired horror from New York Times bestseller Kevin J. Anderson, K. Allen Wood, Mercedes M. Yardley, Robert J. Duperre, and more. Also anecdotal holiday recollections from Jack Ketchum, Jennifer Pelland, Mark Allan Gunnells, Nick Cato, and a host of others. Celebrate the holidays with Shock Totem!

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