Halloween Extravaganza: INTERVIEW: Dean H. Wild

Meghan: Hi, Dean. Welcome back to my annual Halloween Extravaganza. It’s been awhile since we sat down together. What’s been going on since we last spoke?

Dean H. Wild: On the writing front, I will have a short story published in CrashCode, an anthology of technology-based horror tales to be released by the end of 2019. My story is called “The God Finger.” I’ve also been working with The Horror Zine on an anthology of ghost stories and I have started another novel.

Meghan: Who are you outside of writing?

Dean H. Wild: Some people call me “organized.” Some call me “thorough.” I recently had someone refer to me as “gentle.” I suppose you need to have most of your marbles in the can to do what I do, and I have quite the soft spot in my heart when it comes to the animals of the world. A lost and lonely kitten can nearly break my heart in two. But I’m mostly your typical introvert with a tenacious commitment to the comfort of guests in my home and a gentleman’s appreciation of a fine whiskey.

Meghan: How do you feel about friends and close relatives reading your work?

Dean H. Wild: I have no trouble with it. They already know about my dark and twisted core, so if some of that leaks into my work (and it always does) I have no shame or concern. They are aware of what they’re getting into.

Meghan: Is being a writer a gift or a curse?

Dean H. Wild: The answer is Yes. Ha-ha. I love the organic feel the flow of ideas brings when I’m in writing mode. It is an experience that defies words. And to have someone read the work later and relate to it is an author-reader connection that is rewarding and precious. However, the drive to put words to paper, especially when those words are coming hard, spurred on by the need to move forward with a piece and bring it to fruition can be brutal. It consumes all thought, making the rest of your life a state of distraction. Performing any other task, however menial and/or necessary, becomes a source of guilt. And there is no escape from the misery, because once the manuscript-at-hand is complete, there is utter helplessness against taking up the pen and starting another.

Meghan: How has your environment and upbringing colored your writing?

Dean H. Wild: I grew up in a very colorful blue collar environment populated by some very hard-smoking, hard-drinking adults. This was offset by the honest, peaceful, almost idyllic lives of some kind and nurturing relatives. Therefore I was exposed to two very contrasting lifestyles, and being the quiet, introverted and nearly “invisible” child that I was, I often observed how these two groups interacted with their chums and, more interestingly, how they intermingled. I feel this gave me a very up-close view of how people interpret, judge and play off of one another. How they speak differently when in the company of their cohorts vs. in mixed company. It gave me a good sense of character, I feel.

Meghan: What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research for your books?

Dean H. Wild: Aside from the usual weird stuff (how to pick a lock, various homemade explosive devices, other things that have, no doubt, landed me on some sort of watch list or other) I would have to say it would be the decay and anaerobic gases produced by our garbage as it breaks down in the depths of our landfills. Pretty savory stuff, right?

Meghan: Which do you find the hardest to write: the beginning, the middle, or the end?

Dean H. Wild: Most often, for me, it is the end. I know far in advance where the book is headed, so “what” is going to happen isn’t too much of a challenge, but I find it critically important “how” the ending falls into place. I require the ending to be satisfying in relation to the story and in regard to the characters as well. It needs to be more than a finish. It must be to be significant, and the prose needs to be just right. I often struggle with endings to get them fine-tuned to suit my needs.

Meghan: Do you outline? Do you start with characters or plot? Do you just sit down and start writing? What works best for you?

Dean H. Wild: I’m a pantser through and through. No outlines here ever. I will make notes as I go along to make sure I hit a desired plot point or include an incident that has popped into my head while working on the story, but that’s about all the preplanning I do. At the very, microbial level, when I’m first hatching a book idea, my main character is typically the starting point. Certainly not every minute fact about them, but basic characteristics that make them relevant as a protagonist. Plot follows closely, to be sure that character’s relevance applies. Day to day, it is a butt in chair/pen in hand method.

Meghan: What do you do when characters don’t follow the outline/plan?

Dean H. Wild: Sit back, shake my head and figure out how to write myself (and them) out of the predicament. Or sometimes I follow them down that new path. It’s scary when a character’s intuition is stronger than mine, but I love it.

Meghan: What do you do to motivate yourself to sit down and write?

Dean H. Wild: Sometimes the story calls out to me. Sometimes I need to seek it out. But it all comes down to the fact I think about the current work-in-progress all the time. No matter where I am, no matter what I’m doing at the moment. The story/novel/whatever is always working in the back of my mind like a perpetually running machine. It makes me ready, at a moment’s notice, to sit down and get to work on it, whenever those precious moments are available. I guess, with me, it’s not motivation as much as it is staying in an “always ready” state.

Meghan: Are you an avid reader?

Dean H. Wild: I read as much as I can. Not sure that makes me “avid.” But I’ve always got two books going at once, sometimes three. I still can’t keep up with my TBR pile, however!!

Meghan: What kind of books do you absolutely love to read?

Dean H. Wild: I prefer fiction over nonfiction, and I like to invest for the long haul, so I prefer novels over story collections or anthologies when I read. Horror makes up the bulk of my reading choices, but any novel with striking, memorable characters faced with obstacles and challenges hold my interest. Especially novels with good pacing.

Meghan: How do you feel about movies based on books?

Dean H. Wild: For me, the two mediums are vastly different, with their own unique methods of storytelling. I do not compare book to movie since what works for one might fall flat for the other. I consider each on its own merit and don’t trouble myself with picking nits over why the book’s blonde protagonist is a redhead in the film or why the dragon was fought on a rickety bridge instead of on a mountain spire.

Meghan: Have you ever killed a main character?

Dean H. Wild: In a novel, no. In short stories, yes.

Meghan: Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?

Dean H. Wild: I do not. I do, however, understand this is an element of storytelling which must remain present. Often, my characters come with a lot of built-in anguish so a lot of their suffering comes from within. That being said, a character who remains unchallenged can be a largely uninteresting character, so I have learned how to make the going rough to enrich the story.

Meghan: What’s the weirdest character concept that you’ve ever come up with?

Dean H. Wild: An ancient, soul-hungry entity that takes the form of a huge, rolling, wooden wheel. It’s in a novel I’m shopping around right now, something I wrote back in 2012. Watch for it one day!!

Meghan: What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve ever received? What’s the worst?

Dean H. Wild: I will relay the best in the form of an anecdote. I submitted a manuscript to be professionally edited, and the editor was very helpful and very knowledgeable. One thing she pointed out (and I realize now that deep down I was aware of this but never gave it any real thought) was my overuse of the letter “C” when it came to character names, place names, etc. Almost every character had a “C” either in their first name or last. Restaurants, street names, towns, contained “C’s” without number. One character even drove a Camry, for crying out loud. It was a bit jarring for me to rename most of my beloved characters after spending so much time with themand knowing them so well as Cora, Cassidy, Clark, Charlene, etc. But the editor was right. And I came to realize in the piece I was currently working on, the same thing was occurring again, this time with the letter “T”!!! I’m not sure why my brain works that way, but it is something I am cognizant of now and avoid without fail.

As for the worst feedback, I was advised by an editor to get rid of a secondary character because he didn’t like her. Well, she may have been secondary but some of her actions and predicaments were pivotal to the plot any my main character would have zero motivations to learn or to act upon his intuitions without her presence (she was his ex-wife) so I’m not sure if the editor actually read the whole book and was aware this or not. To excise her would mean monumental rewrites and a huge change to the entire storyline. I didn’t do it. (I did, however, change her name so it didn’t have a “C” in it)

Meghan: What do your fans mean to you?

Dean H. Wild: To those who’ve read something of mine, said “this was pretty good” and look for more work with my name on it, I say a thousand thank you’s. The need to write is the throbbing heart and the driving conscience of an author’s craft, but the constant reader is the surging blood. Would I continue to write even if no one read my creations? Of course. But knowing there is someone out there experiencing the tale I created and realizing at least a little enjoyment from it is a reward all its own. I write for that unseen audience (readers, fans, whatever name you want to give them) as much as I write for myself, and in the act hope I am creating a connection. “Here is my story, stuff I like to read. I hope you like it, too.”

Meghan: If you could steal one character from another author and make them yours, who would it be and why?

Dean H. Wild: That would be Ben Mears from Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. He is everything I find intriguing in a main character. He’s troubled, yet sincere. Levelheaded yet unsure. He’s an every-man philosopher, impassioned and humble. I think you’ll find snips of him in most of my main characters.

Meghan: If you could write the next book in a series, which one would it be, and what would you make the book about?

Dean H. Wild: To be honest, I don’t often read many books that are part of a series. I’m a fan of the stand-alone novel so I’m not sure how to answer. Most of the series I have read are such broad-scope endeavors I would not presume to step in and attempt an installment of my own. It would feel like trespassing.

Meghan: If you could write a collaboration with another author, who would it be and what would you write about?

Dean H. Wild: I’m usually entrenched up to my eyeballs in my own work—I’m in it all or nothing—so it’s difficult for me to imagine collaborating. What I have thought about is a sort of “tag-team” story collection, perhaps something with a theme, where two authors, or perhaps three, take turns weaving their tales; one by me, one by author #2, then one by author #3, then back to me again, round and round. As to with whom I might collaborate—the list is endless. There are so many talented folks out there. I would like to see some dark humor threaded into this fantasy tag-team. Jeff Strand or Larry Hinkle come to mind.

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

Dean H. Wild: Now that The Crymost is on the shelves and selling, I have begun to work on a new novel. I also have a nearly-completed novella which I need to finish, but since I’ve been away from that tale for a while, it will be a challenge to get back into the groove with that one. And I have notes on two other novels which I would like to tackle after the current one is done. Lots of irons in the fire or ready to be consigned to flame. We’ll see what comes of it.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Dean H. Wild: My website is the cleanest, clearest path.

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 or the last?

Dean H. Wild: Only that I appreciate every reader who picks up a book, however briefly, and finds enjoyment within its pages. To write is a fulfillment of a striving energy greater than the soul. To be read is a validation beyond words.

Dean H. Wild grew up in east central Wisconsin and has lived in the area, primarily in small towns surrounding the city of Fond du Lac, all his life. He wrote his first short horror story at the tender age of seven and continued to write dark fiction while he pursued careers in retail, the newspaper industry, and retail pharmacy. His short stories have seen publication in various magazines and anthologies including Bell, Book & Beyond, A Feast of Frights, Night Terrors II, and Horror Library 6. His novel, The Crymost, is an exploration of tradition, superstition, and encroaching horrir in a small Wisconsin town. He and his wife, Julia, currently reside in the village of Brownsville.

The Crymost

There is a place just outside of town where the people of Knoll, Wisconsin take their sorrows and their worries. They don’t talk much about it, and they don’t discuss the small tokens they bring as offerings to the place known as the Crymost. After all, this is Knoll, where certain things are best left unsaid. The Crymost, however, will not remain quiet for much longer. Something ancient has awakened in that remote, sorrowful place, and time is running out for its inhabitants. Long-kept secrets will need to be unearthed before the entire town succumbs to the will of a powerful, dark stranger who works hand in hand with a hungry entity crossing Knoll’s borders, invading its homes and executing a soul-draining grip on its citizens.