Interview with Greg Wilkey(Author of the Mortimer Drake Series)
1. Let’s start with the conventional (rather overtired) question, What spawned the idea for this book?
The idea for this book came from a dream. I was teaching middle school Spanish and I was reading tons of Young Adult literature at the time. Of course, vampires and the supernatural have always been my favorites. I do not remember the actual dream I had, but when I woke up, I had the title GROWING UP DEAD in my head. I kept thinking that would make a great title for a book. I wrote the title down in my journal and promptly forgot about it until several weeks later. I started thinking of stories that would fit that title and after a while, Mortimer Drake, a half human/half vampire teenager was born.
2.Why did you choose to self-publish all three books? What are the advantages to self-publishing?
I have been writing and creating stories since I was a young boy. I have dreamed of landing that big book deal for many, many years. I am constantly sending out query letters and proposals to agents and editors. I have actually gotten a few nibbles, but nothing definite. I began researching self-publishing and was interested in the digital book revolution. Since my target audience was young adults, I thought that going the digital route made since. And since I own all the rights to my work as an indie author, I can set my own price. Digital books cost very little to produce, so I went with the lowest price possible, .99 cents. I am not writing to make money. I just want to get my work and my name out there. I hoped that people would take a chance on an unknown writer if the book was affordable.
3.Growing Up Dead is very unconventional because it departs from that romantic scheme and brings vampire somewhat back to their horror origins. Is your story a response to this romantic obsession with vampire fiction? Or, was your vision of this story always something purely unaffected by what’s popular in vampire fiction?
Good questions! The answer is yes, to both. I have read almost every vampire book there is ranging from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, to Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, to Stephenie Meyers’ Twilight Saga. I loved them all for different reasons. But as a professional educator, I noticed that the young adult vampire-themed books were heavy in the romance. I felt that they appealed to females more than males. So many young boys that I taught were not reading and I wanted to create a series that would attract them. I wanted to write the kind of vampire book that I would have wanted to read as a teenager. I combined elements of horror, myths and legends, and adventure – I drew inspiration from the comic book super heroes I read as a boy for a lot of that. I wanted Mortimer’s world to be a dark and fantastic place filled with high energy, gore, and suspense.
4. Knowing your frequent activity on Anne Rice’s Facebook page, you are obviously a huge fan of Anne Rice’s works. I definitely saw the parallels between your works, but you also consciously created your own vision. How did your love of Anne Rice’s novels shape the construction of this series
I have been a fan of Anne Rice since I was 17 years old. I read Interview with the Vampire in high school and was hooked immediately. I loved her take on the vampire’s world. I loved how she broke from some of the traditional vampire rules to create her own creatures. I remember reading Queen of the Damned and being mesmerized by her origin of the vampire. I was truly in awe of how she created an entire mythology and history for her undead. When I started writing Growing Up Dead, I did not want to rewrite what was already out there. I wanted to invent my own universe populated with my own characters. Anne and I have discussed many times about how there are no rules in vampire fiction. The genre is open to interpretation and experimentation. She is a wonderful person and I have truly been blessed by her encouragement and support. I have learned so much from her and my fellow People of the Page. It’s a unique network of writers and readers that I truly admire.
5.Who would you cast in a potential film of Growing Up Dead? Would you even want a film adaptation of your books made-knowing how terrible some book adaptation can be?
I would love to see Growing Up Dead as a film. That would be just great. In fact, that’s how I see the book as I write. It’s like a running movie in my head and I am right in the middle of it. I just sit back and write everything I see happening. It’s funny because when I am not writing, I have this “paused” mental picture of where I last left my characters. It’s like they’re frozen in my head until I get back to my keyboard. I really haven’t thought much about who I’d cast in the roles. I modeled most of the characters after people I know in my life. Mortimer is actually me as a teenager. His physical description is how I looked when I was in the 8th grade. His two best friends in the book, Tofer and William, are my friends from childhood. I used all three of use as the models when I wrote the book.
6. Do you have any future novels in the works?
There are currently three books in The Life and Undeath of Mortimer Drake series: Growing Up Dead, Out of the Underworld, and Hope Against Hope. I am working on the 4th book, Star Blood, and hope to have it ready for publication by the end of spring 2013. I am developing a new young adult series about ghosts and the paranormal that I plan to start writing when I have completed Star Blood. This series will star a new young hero and his adventures with the dearly departed.
Book’s Hypothetical Theme Song:
“If books had soundtracks like films…”
” Incidentally, Within Temptation, one of my favorite Dutch metal/rock bands, designed an entire album based around an original comic book that the band created. Fitting with the comic-book style of Growing Up Dead, I thought this recent Within Temptation song really suited the book’s own action-packed, frenetic pace. ”
While reading the novel, I could not help but nostalgically dwell on memories of this fantastic animated series ” For the longest time, I put off reading this book, mostly because I was very skeptical about the vampire genre as a whole. Greg has posted about it numerous times on Anne Rice’s Facebook page. Astonishingly, Anne Rice has posted several times, calling this book to attention. Unfortunately, when you’ve read far too many YA vampire books, you start to grow very tired of the same paranormal-romance plot conventions that are employed in YA vampire fiction. Then again, most of the paranormal books in the YA market have romance attached.Ever since Stephanie Meyer’s own vampire books allowed these seemingly dissimilar genre labels to be wedded for their overall lucrative quality.
Fortunately, Greg Wilkey’s self-published vampire series, the Mortimer Drake series, is aimed more for Middle-Grade readers, which lessens the focus on romantic elements. This is much more of an action-packed story with very well-constructed characters and an appropriately suspenseful plot. The prose is very clean and not too superfluous; Greg expertly writes scenes with a succinctness that some of his professionally-published peers have not been able to quite master.
Towards the end, the story did seem to transform into a X-men inspired plot. This is fine by me, of course, because the old, nineties X-Men cartoon was awesome, and it was neat to see this story pay homage to that series in a respectful way(not in a plagiarizing way). In the end, the main reason that I really loved this book was that it adeptly translates the unrelenting pace of a good comic book, while filling in the gaps between action sequences with excellent character development.
Remember, that this book is geared for middle-grade readers, so don’t expect something as intricate as say Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. It is a novel that is attuned to what keeps readers tearing through the pages. Above all, it is extremely entertaining, and is definitely one of the best escapist reads that you can buy for less than a cup of Starbucks coffee. For the comic book nerd in all of us, this is definitely the series to read! “
What’s your verdict?Have you read this already? What prejudices do you have about the quality of self-published works? Have you read any other self-published works; what did you think of the quality?
Leave a comment with your feeling about any of the above questions!
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5 Comments Add yours
I think self-publishing is like going to the local independently owned coffee house instead of going to Starbucks: the big chains offer a uniform standard and you always have a general idea of what to expect, but a trip into the local cafe is like a bohemian adventure out of a Kerouac story – and if you go in there you never know if you are going to see the best noise band ever, or if you are going to find you're in a dive with roaches on the counter. But it's risk – it's fun – it's unexpected. It involves taking a chance. That is what I think about self-publishing – it has a lot of DIY, indie cred from a long history of people who sold cassette tapes out of their car trunk and Xerox copied punk fan zines. I love self-publishing.
I think you've pretty much nailed it with your review. It's a great book, regardless of the reader's age. It was awesome of you to interview Greg and his answers to your spot-on questions were a pleasant surprise. Good job! 🙂
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Wow, comments! @Sumiko Yes, I do think that your comparison with independently-owned coffee shops makes a lot of sense. Really, any independently-owned bookstore or coffee shop is comparable to self-publishing in that you are guaranteed to get much more passion and enthusiasm than an impersonally owned chain that grinds out the same store across a huge swath of landAlso, corporations are really vulnerable to following fads like larger publishers. As much as I love some paranormal romance, there's just too much of the same type of story. With self-publishing, you get more variety and much more creativity. The editing is not always as polished, but the ideas are fresher and the stories are sometimes much more raw. I really love some of the self-published stuff that I've read. Good stories pretty much exist everywhere.
@PutiPato Thanks for the encouraging response! I'm more than happy to feature Greg's book here. I really did enjoy it, and it has piqued my interest in the indie world of self-publishing.