All month long we have been bringing you news on bestselling horror author Douglas Clegg’s (“NAOMI”, “THE MACHINERY OF NIGHT”) newest story titled “NEVERLAND” that was released today. The author has been called many things in his career, from the future of horror literature, to the Godfather of the ‘e-book’ movement. And all of that might be nice, but most importantly Doug is a very talented writer. “NEVERLAND” has been nothing but huge success among critics everywhere, and it is already being compared to such classics as “TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD”. Last month we were able to catch up with Doug and talk to him one on one about the title. If you make the jump beyond the break you can read what he has to say about the book, the ‘e-reader’ movement, and more.
THEoDEAD:”First of all thank you very much for doing this interview with us. Before we dive into the deep end here why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself to the readers who might not have familiarized themselves with your work?”
DOUGLAS CLEGG:”I’m Douglas Clegg, and I’ve written several novels, including this current trade paperback of Neverland, and a book that came out not long ago called Isis. I live on the coast of New England, I’m married, and have a house full of creatures — from a dog and cat to rabbits and a mouse, all of them rescues. I tend to always mention the rescue aspect because I believe the best pets can be found at shelters, pounds, and animal rescue groups. ”
THEoDEAD:”What do you think it was that got you into the genre of horror? What influences brought you to being the type of writer you have become?”
DOUGLAS CLEGG:”I write what I love to write. I fell in love with world mythologies as a kid, and my parents got me out around the world at times so I was exposed to archaeological sites and the histories of various countries fairly early. It was mythology — the imaginative history of humankind, basically — that drew me toward the supernatural as a subject matter.
And then, when I was also a kid, horror fiction revived with the explosions of Rosemary’s Baby, The Other and The Exorcist — a triumvirate of horror fiction which established a late 20th century horror genre. And I loved them, too. But I think my love of horror began somewhere between early exposure to ancient mythology and to Edgar Allan Poe and Lovecraft and Hawthorne and many others.
I think I’ve been generally drawn to horror and supernatural fiction because it deals with the realm of dreams and nightmares, the irrational and the limitlessness of the imagination. And it’s fun. ”
THEoDEAD:”Before we go into ‘NEVERLAND’ I have to ask you about the e-book phenomena that is getting more coverage by the day. You have been called one of the biggest pioneers of internet fiction, and in fact one could make the case that your story, ‘NAOMI’, was the first original piece of internet fiction to get major exposure. With the Ipad on the horizon, and the newfound interest in having ones library on the go, where do you see the future of e-books going?”
DOUGLAS CLEGG:”I think, for better or worse, e-books will eclipse mass market paperbacks within 3-5 years. Maybe sooner, once e-book readers drop in price — or, like the iPhone and iPad, where a multi-use device is convenient and excellent for e-book reading.
Hardcovers and trade paperbacks will probably exist for a long time to come, partly because people who love books — like me — love the experience of the beautiful hardbound book in the hands. But I think e-books are going to cut deeply into mass market paperbacks once those e-reading devices are cheap.
It’s hard to predict anything very well because technology and consumer habits change fast. I use my iPhone for a dozen different things, including reading. If you asked me three years ago, I would never have imagined that I’d want to read on a phone — yet, my novella Purity was launched for the cell phone in early 2001 by a company called Beaker.net. They called it an m-book — “m” standing for “mobile.”
I didn’t think anything would develop from that. I could not have predicted that less than a decade later, I’d be reading more fiction on my phone than I do in print. ”
THEoDEAD:”’NEVERLAND’ has gotten some amazing early press, and some critics are even comparing it to such literary masterpieces as ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. Where did the idea for ‘NEVERLAND’ come from?”
DOUGLAS CLEGG:”I can never write a novel unless I find the view of it from my life itself, yet it’s a hyper-exaggerated view, a jumping off point from my life and observation into the fiction itself.
I imagined Sumter and the shack before I wrote a word of it. Then I began thinking about Grammy Weenie herself, and the two sisters with their husbands and then Beau presented himself to me one day as I wrote out a scene.
Setting is crucial for me when I write. With Neverland, its setting is based on a specific island off the Georgia coast (although it’s not called Gull Island at all) and there really is a Rabbit Lake, but at the time I discovered it, it was in California. I draw settings for novels from places I’ve either been to — or dreamed of having visited. In the case of Neverland, I’ve been there. ”
THEoDEAD:”One of the things that struck me the most about the story was how accurately and unflinchingly you portrayed the emotions of a child, particularly with Beau. How did you go about bringing the world of a child to life in such a realistic way? Did you draw a lot from your own experiences as a young man to add to the characters?”
DOUGLAS CLEGG:”First, thank you for the compliment. Memory can be a curse — and yet it’s a perfect curse for a writer. I can remember many experiences, particularly my emotions from the age of about 3 onward. I remember the day I had to completely give up the bottle and drink from a glass. In fact, I think that was just before I was three. So I remember the intense feelings and what I consider my crossroads moments as a very young child.
So I went with that, and it’s not necessarily drawn from me, but from what I also remember about other kids. Childhood is a savage world, but it’s also beautiful and a time of constant revelation. Family is one of the biggest mysteries — even now, it can be, but as a child it’s a nearly supernatural mystery to deal with the power struggles within families. I wanted to bring that into the novel as I wrote it. ”
THEoDEAD:”Beau has a very difficult life even outside of the more ‘out of the ordinary’ events going on around him. His relationships with his different family members all feel a bit strained at times and in fact he seems to hate them at certain points. Did these emotions act as a balance or a counter-balance to the emotions and intentions of other characters?”
DOUGLAS CLEGG:”I went with the authenticity of Beau and his observations. He is the viewpoint of the story, and I wanted to recapture that sense of mystery and horror that is part of childhood itself.
He’s writing the story from an older vantage point. I get a sense that he recognizes the horror of this time of his childhood but also he loves these people, no matter what. It’s possible to love people who are terrible. It’s one of the strange contradictions of love itself, I think: reconciling the love for a person even when that person might want to negate who you are.
When I write, I see the characters as real people, and in some ways, I feel Beau exists somewhere and that Sumter and the others do, too. I suppose it’s part of the madness of writing fiction — I felt as if I were just recording on paper what actually happened in someone else’s life. ”
THEoDEAD:”Though you are no stranger to it, tension seems to build itself at a record pace for you in this story. Everything is a slow build to the inevitable ending of the book. How do you go about building tension? Is it something that over the course of your career you have sort of built a formula for, or does the story sort of dictate its own pace as you’re writing it?”
DOUGLAS CLEGG:”Tension can only be built through the actions of the characters. If the characters aren’t themselves the creators of the tension, then I think it probably would seem very formulaic — as if they’re being shoved by the writer through an obstacle course of plot.
The tension that exists in Neverland exists solely because Sumter and Beau decide that the shack will be called Neverland — because it’s where they’ve been told Never to go. And the secret of that shack — and what those boys do inside it — builds the tensions because of who each of them is.
I think if a story doesn’t come from character, it’s very hard for it to get under a reader’s skin. Tension is a symptom of having a dynamic character in opposition to another dynamic character within a narrative. Sumter and Beau are both opposites and are deeply the same — and it’s this conflict, at their core, that creates the narrative tension.
Neverland is a novel about family secrets and the place in childhood where innocence crosses into the shadow of evil. Beau and Sumter — the cousins — are at a crossroads in their lives. The crossroads is manifested in the shack itself — it’s the place where the magic and the horror happen. ”
THEoDEAD:”’Lucy’ is a messiah to the children. A false idol of sorts. Are you actively trying to say something about religion or even the dangers of taking religion to far with the story?”
DOUGLAS CLEGG:”I don’t want to spoil anything for readers who haven’t picked up the book, but perhaps she is a messiah and perhaps she’s something else. Or maybe Sumter just made her up. Again, I don’t want to give away one of the secrets of the novel itself here.
I think it’s less a statement about religion than about how children perceive power and its source — and then, of course, there’s the mystery of who this Lucy might be. ”
THEoDEAD:”The shack the Sumters go to in order to escape the tensions of their home is named ‘Neverland’. Is this name in some way a metaphor? It feels as if the shack is named in such a way that it doubles as a physical manifestation of the imagination of children trying to mentally and emotionally escape their home lives. Similarly the goings on within the cabin become gradually more twisted. Is this too a metaphor for the mental toll that harsh conditions growing up can cause?”
DOUGLAS CLEGG:”It’s called Neverland both because they’re told “never” to enter it, and because of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, with its Neverland where boys never grow up. And yet those same boys face death all the time in Peter Pan.
In my novel, it’s a place of a wild, limitless imagination that’s contained in the shack — and then, of course, what happens when that container is removed? Where does a dangerous imagination go? ”
THEoDEAD:”In the end, what do you hope readers take away from ‘NEVERLAND’? Is there a distinct message you hope to convey with the story?”
DOUGLAS CLEGG:”I can only hope the reader picks Neverland up and enters it — and enjoys the experience.”
Everyone here at Bloody-Disgusting.com would like to thank Doug (And Elena) for all their cooperation with us and for taking the time to do this interview. For those of you who woould like to purchase a copy of “NEVERLAND” head on over to Doug’s Official Website.