Trick-or-Treat Thrillers is very pleased and honored to present our interview with Kerry Alan Denney, aka The Reality Bender!
Kerry is the author of the popular books Jagannath and Soulsnatcher as well as the highly anticipated novel Dreamweavers which was just released this week.
What gave you the idea for your book Dreamweavers?
Great question, thank you for asking. Hope you don’t mind the long answer, lol.
I’ve always been fascinated with dreams and their meanings and origins. At the time I was writing Dreamweavers, I was a heavy proponent of lucid dreaming, and I still am. I was working diligently at practicing and improving my technique—which is a requirement for successful lucid dreaming. For those unfamiliar with the concept, lucid dreaming is any dream in which you are aware that you are dreaming. In a lucid dream, the dreamer has a greater chance to exert some degree of control over their participation within the dream, and even manipulate their imaginary experiences in the dream environment, or dreamscape. This is caused by a consciousness crossover in which your conscious (waking) mind becomes aware of the events and imaginings of your subconscious (dreaming) mind. Who wouldn’t find that fascinating?
I was at Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina, a beautiful white sand beach, with my favorite cousin in July of 2007. I have a great love of just watching the endless waves roll in, hearing the smooth rush of the never-ceasing tide that reminds us how meaningless our worries and fears are in the grand scheme of things, and how quickly time passes by. We were watching those waves roll in when my cousin Jimi Ann said, “What is that?”
I was writing my third novel at the time (Dreamweavers was my fourth of eight now). I had a clipboard full of blank paper and a blue pen in hand (laptops don’t do well on the beach, lol), and looked up from my indecipherable scribbling. What appeared to be a trio of dorsal fins were popping up over the incoming waves, and we both knew they weren’t sharks. The sleek, shiny bodies beneath those fins were too graceful and elegant to be vicious predators of the deep. Then several of the creatures started leaping over the surface, and we were entranced. People started shouting and pointing at the figures, and children squealed with delight. More fins appeared, a dozen, then two dozen.
We watched a large pod of dolphins swim and cavort southward just beyond the incoming waves, about fifty feet out. Standing at the edge of the incoming surf, we were enchanted by the mesmerizing spectacle…
…and my muse struck me, nearly knocking me on my ass. My legs trembled, and I thought, “What if a lucid dreamer, having an out-of-body experience, could enter the bodies of animals, and control their actions?”
And the idea for Dreamweavers was born. It wouldn’t let me go, had me lured completely in its spell. I spent the rest of my week-long vacation working on the beginnings of my fourth novel, inspired by my fascination with dreams and a pod of dolphins swimming parallel to shore. Imagine our amazement when we saw them again every day for the next four days. We called them “The Dolphin Show.” To this day, we still do.
Tell us about your writing background. Any other published works? Contests?
I was bitten by the writing bug early in life: I won First Place in a short story contest when I was fourteen. Shortly after that, I started playing guitar, and writing songs. I was a professional performing musician for 30+ years. During that time, I wrote, performed, recorded, engineered, and produced three CDs full of my music: Melodic rock-n-roll with plenty of guitar shreddage. They can be seen and purchased on my author’s website here: http://www.kerrydenney.com/music.html
In 2004, I had to get back to writing stories. They were going to make my head explode if I didn’t release the Kraken… uhh, I mean let them out. Since then I’ve written eight novels and published three of them, and written numerous short stories and poems.
My first published work was “A Clatter of Hooves,” a Christmas short story. It has now been published—to critical acclaim—three times. On August 6, 2012, Silver Boomer Books published it in an anthology entitled A QUILT OF HOLIDAYS. On December 20, 2013, Page & Spine published it online. On November 27, 2014, Gilbert Street Press published it in the anthology A CUP OF CHRISTMAS.
My second published work was OLD COOT, published online by Page & Spine on November 1, 2013. It’s a short story about a remarkable professional Therapy Dog. Yeah, my Golden retriever Holly Jolly, also a professional Therapy Dog, inspired it. The numerous rave responses were overwhelming… and inspirational.
My freaky short story “Something in the Air” was awarded Honorable Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest in July of 2013. Yeah, the framed certificate is hanging on my “Award Wall.” In December of 2013, it was published online in SNM Horror Magazine’s December Diseases issue.
My short story “In the Night She Comes” won First Place in the Atlanta Writers Club Fall 2013 Contest. It’s only being shopped to a select list of publishers, and hasn’t been published… yet.
In mid-December 2013, I received some of the best news a writer could ever hope for. Within one week, I got two different publication offers with contracts for two different novels. After some negotiations and revisions, I signed both contracts.
My first published novel—my fifth written novel—was SOULSNATCHER, a paranormal thriller. Lazy Day Publishing published the ebook edition on April 29, 2014. They granted me publication rights for the paperback edition, which I self-published on the same date. In April of 2015, Lazy Day reverted all publication rights back to me per my request, and I self-published SOULSNATCHER in ebook and paperback editions with a brand new kickass cover on May 10, 2015. On March 31, 2015, SOULSNATCHER won 2nd Place as 2014 Book of the Year in The Drunken Druid’s International Book Award competition. Yeah, I’m still pretty damn happy about that.
My second published novel—my sixth written novel—was JAGANNATH, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi/ horror thriller, published by Permuted Press on February 3, 2015. On July 26, JAGANNATH became a #1 Amazon Bestseller in two categories: Kindle Store – Science Fiction – Post-Apocalyptic and Books – Science Fiction – Post-Apocalyptic.
New York Times bestselling author James Rollins wrote rave reviews for both SOULSNATCHER and JAGANNATH, which can be seen in the Editorial Reviews sections of both sales product pages. Yeah, I’m pretty damn happy about that too.
My creepy Halloween short story “October’s Children” was published in Dark Moon Digest Issue #16 on July 1, 2014. My short story “From Darkness We Come” was published in the popular anthology series AT HELL’S GATES 3: BOUND BY BLOOD on July 31, 2015—coincidentally my birthday. It’s an honor to be in such good company with so many talented authors and colleagues, but it’s especially an honor and a privilege to be published in this anthology because 100% of proceeds goes to The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, a charity that provides financial support for the dependents of United States military personnel lost in performance of their duties. God bless our troops!
And now my paranormal thriller DREAMWEAVERS is published, and you know the rest of the story.
Wait, did you want the short answer, lol?
What is the writing process like for you? What is your writing day like?
Good question. I stick to a pretty rigid schedule, but it does vary at times. If my muse is upon me, I write no matter what time it is or what’s going on in my life at the moment. I’m generally up by 7:30 or 8 each morning, and after a play break outside with my Golden retriever Holly Jolly, I’m at the writing desk and letting my imagination flow.
Nearly every writer’s bane—except for the rare lucky ones—is the necessary evil of self-promotion. I usually spend a few hours each morning working on various promo ideas and posts for my existing novels, and learning new tools I can use and new methods I can utilize to promote my work more productively and with better results. It’s a never-ending learning process, but until I get signed on with a big publisher, it’s all up to me. And even after that happens, I’ll still be promoting my work myself.
After a lunch break, I usually either write new material for a current work-in-progress or edit one of my finished novels in preparation for eventual publication. And yes, I absolutely LOVE doing both! Creating stories for readers to enjoy and share with the world is the most rewarding experience in my life.
I generally spend eight to twelve hours a day on weekdays writing, promoting, and editing, and six or more hours on Saturdays and Sundays. And if that seems too rigorous and demanding, I wouldn’t have it any other way! Writing and breathing life into the stories swimming around in my mind is magical to me. The best moments of all are when I’m deep into writing a new novel or story, and time ceases to exist. I love looking up at the clock from my writing, and being amazed that four to six hours or more have gone by without even being aware of the passage of time. In a way, it’s the best form of real time travel.
Sometimes I mix it up and write in the morning and promote in the afternoon. And sometimes I work on writing outrageously long answers to interview questions. 😉
What got you into writing horror?
Another great question, but a better question for me would be “What didn’t get me into writing horror?” There’s a good reason that readers and colleagues call me The Reality Bender. I mix a number of related genres in my work: sci-fi, horror, fantasy, supernatural, paranormal, suspense, action/ adventure, and thriller. Numerous readers and reviewers have said I do an excellent job of it, seamlessly blending those various genres. I consider that high praise, which honors me and makes me proud.
How did it all start? Probably with my creature feature fascination. As cheesy as they were, I grew up on old Godzilla, Dracula, Werewolf, and related monster movies. Sci-fi and fantasy movies and novels were my favorite from the get-go. I was a huge Star Trek fan, and still am to this day despite its obvious cheesiness. The stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs captivated me as a child: Tarzan of the Apes, John Carter of Mars, Carson of Venus, and the Pellucidar series, among many others. I loved traveling to all those amazing worlds in my mind, and they inspired me to create my own.
I was also a huge fan of The Shadow, including the comics, radio show, and the excellent pulp fiction novels by Maxwell Grant. Kenneth Robeson’s Doc Savage series held me in thrall, along with his The Avenger series. Ray Bradbury’s fascinating and timeless stories unleashed my creative imagination. H.G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds, The Island of Dr. Moreau, and The Time Machine were spectacular adventures into endless worlds of imagination, along with Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and the greatest revenge adventure of all time, Alexandre Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo. Go ahead and throw in The Three Musketeers and Treasure Island, along with an endless list of other great classics.
With all those amazing adventures in other worlds that seemed so real to me, what young boy with a vivid creative imagination such as myself wouldn’t be lured into the joy of creating his own? I was bitten by the sci-fi/ horror/ fantasy bug as a child, and can happily say I will never again return to normal. 🙂
Did you self-publish or go through a traditional publisher? Which do you think is better and why?
My first two published novels, as mentioned previously, were published by traditional small press publishers. DREAMWEAVERS is my first attempt at successfully self-publishing a novel, and I have high hopes for it.
There are pros and cons to each method. Traditional publication gives you the official “name brand recognition,” but unless you sign up with that very rare publisher that goes to great lengths in promoting your work along with their brand, that’s all you’re getting. Lazy Day Publishing did absolutely nothing to promote my first published novel SOULSNATCHER. On the other hand, Permuted Press arranged a 4-day BookBub 99 cents promo for my second published novel JAGANNATH that vaulted it into a #1 Amazon Bestseller in two categories.
A lot depends on what you’re looking and hoping for regarding overall results, and what you’re capable of accomplishing with your own promotional endeavors. If you’re especially talented and knowledgeable with self-promotion and go with a traditional publisher, you’re probably doing the lion’s share of the hard work while your publisher sits comfortably collecting the lion’s share of the rewards. If you know how to properly and successfully self-publish—including handling all the ebook and paperback formatting, as I do, so you don’t have to hire someone else and pay them outrageous fees to do it for you—then that may be a better route for you to pursue.
My advice to any writer sitting on the fence about this conundrum is to do what I did: Learn absolutely everything you can about both methods, and decide how you want to publish based on an informed decision instead of just jumping in unaware and maybe regretting your decision after it’s too late to change your mind. More importantly, learn how to professionally edit your work, as I did. It’s worth the time and effort. Acquire honest beta readers who will supply constructive criticism to improve your writing. Make friends and long-term colleagues with other writers, especially those within your genre(s), and find out what worked best for them, and the various reasons why.
Bottom line: It’s the difference between being an amateur and a professional. Make sure you’re the one holding all the cards, so to speak… and if and when you do get an offer from a traditional publisher, don’t just sign that contract without looking it over carefully! Don’t be afraid to renegotiate some of the terms and clauses; I arranged several contract re-negotiations, and they worked out in my favor—and the publisher cooperatively and eagerly worked with me on them.
I hope this helps any aspiring writers who are unsure which route to pursue. I still haven’t figured out which is best, and only time (and lots of hard work) will tell.
What obstacles if any did you encounter or have to overcome while writing your book(s) (i.e. research, finding your voice ) etc.?
I guess I’m one of the lucky ones. My writing just seems to pour out of me, and my muse loves hanging around and filling me with endless story ideas. I have yet to suffer from that dreaded “writer’s block,” but I’m prepared for it if it ever strikes me: I have plenty of work that can always stand an extra edit or forty! I’m constantly learning how to improve my writing skills and craft, and love applying what I learn.
As for voice and style, I think I found mine pretty easily. Perhaps they were always there, waiting to be honed into precision (although certainly not perfection, which is something no writer can ever achieve). And what’s the best way to constantly improve your writing skills? Simple: write, write, write, and then write some more. The more you write, the better a writer you become.
As for research, a vitally important factor in good writing, I have fortunately fallen in love with it, so it’s not too tedious—although it can be time consuming. But look at the knowledge you gain with fastidious research! I apply it in my writing when necessary, but I also make sure not to use it in such a way that it distracts the reader from the story. And I never use it simply to show off my accrued knowledge. An important concept I noted in more than one of my novels is that knowledge without wisdom is useless, and even potentially dangerous.
What are you doing next?
Going to live on a tropical beach somewhere! Okay, no. At least not just yet. Seriously… I’m writing a new sci-fi/ horror/ paranormal thriller, whose title I’m withholding at this time because it’s just too cool. I’m also constantly busy editing and re-editing my previous works, preparing them for future publication. I have five other finished and unpublished novels, after all, and love much about each of them. In fact, I can’t decide which one I want to publish next.
I’m also shopping for a literary agent to represent my eighth novel, a high-concept afterlife fantasy/ adventure entitled BEYOND THE VALE. My writers’ critique group and dedicated beta readers have told me it’s my best effort yet, so I have high hopes for it too. The work never ends, but the rewards are priceless. Making readers happy makes me happy.
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
That depends greatly on their level of aspiration. Do they want to become famous without having to put in all the endless hours of hard work it takes to make it happen? Or are they willing to eat cheese sandwiches and crackers and drink cheap beer or boxed wine while they spend years—yes, years—honing their writing craft?
One of the most foolish popular misconceptions is that many people who are famous have become celebrities overnight. With very few rare exceptions, most of the “overnight successes” you’ve heard about have worked tirelessly for years trying to achieve their goals with little to no recognition—and suffered and prevailed through constant severe setbacks.
So my short answer (finally, lol) is this: Learn the craft of writing inside out, including everything about how the literary industry functions. Learn everything about writing and publishing that you possibly can. It’s highly unlikely that your first effort—your child, your baby!—will get published or be successful. You must hone your craft and writing skills, and the best way to do that is to write, write, write. Set a rigorous writing schedule and stick to it. Set realistic goals in a practical time frame, and revise them as you learn more about the craft of writing and publication. Join a reliable and brutally honest but fair writers’ critique group, and supply them with your own honest feedback on their work. And then write some more, and keep on writing.
I endorse what I call my “Triple P Philosophy”: Patience, Persistence, and Perseverance. Without them, you will inevitably flounder and possibly fail. With them, you’re prepared to survive and even overcome that nastiest word of all in the literary industry: rejection.
Okay, that wasn’t so short, was it?
My special thanks to Roma Gray for inviting me to participate in this interview. I had a blast with it! Also a very special thanks to my readers—past, present, and future. You are the magical power source that keeps my Big Dream Machine soaring through this universe, the next, and all the worlds in between. Happy reading to you all!
Some upcoming events and links to share with my readers:
My brand new paranormal thriller DREAMWEAVERS was published on August 4, 2015 by Juju Mojo Publications. Ebook (only $2.99!) and paperback ($13.99) editions available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads. Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Dreamweavers-Kerry-Alan-Denney-ebook/dp/B013C9QH66
Come join me and award-winning online party hostess Leslie Whitaker at Facebook online for the DREAMWEAVERS Book Release Party on Sunday August 9, 2015 from 3 to 6 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (2–5 p.m. CST, 1–4 p.m. MST, 12 noon–3 p.m. PST). Lots of fun contests with prizes awarded! Six Amazon Gift Cards and several different e-books will be won by someone… maybe you. Plus plenty of other wacky fun and overall general madness.
Link to the party on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/1437317096589748
For more information on all my novel and short story publications—along with lots more great links including my blog and various awards and rave reviews—please visit my author’s website Kerry Alan Denney is The Reality Bender at http://www.kerrydenney.com/.
Post-apocalyptic sci-fi/ horror thriller JAGANNATH (#1 bestseller!) on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Jagannath-Kerry-Alan-Denney-ebook/dp/B00SSGAHBK
Paranormal thriller SOULSNATCHER on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00XINW892
Available for FREE in Kindle Unlimited!
Kerry Alan Denney aka The Reality Bender author/ fan page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KerryAlanDenneyTheRealityBender
Kerry’s Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Kerry-Alan-Denney/e/B00K378HHS
Kerry’s Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8187822.Kerry_Alan_Denney
Follow Kerry on Twitter (@KerryDenney): https://twitter.com/KerryDenney
Thanks so much to Roma Gray and Trick or Treat Thrillers for this fun interview! I had a blast with it. Happy reading to all! 🙂