I met my friend and fellow author Daven Anderson when I was first signed to a publishing contract with PDMI Publishing. Daven was already among the stable of PDMI’s authors, and, since he’s a personable guy and we both write in the same general areas of science fiction and horror, he and I hit it off quickly. His “Vampire Syndrome”, first in the saga of the same name, is a masterful and innovative variation on the ageless idea of vampires, featuring a protagonist named Jack Wendell, who I can just about guarantee is the only vampire with Down’s Syndrome you’ve ever encountered. I’ve had some good conversations with Daven at book signings and particularly at the Birmingham Local Author Expo and Book Fair in Birmingham, Alabama, home to the historic Tutwiler Hotel, which Daven and I both share a fondness for. But enough small talk—Daven’s here.
CG: It’s been a little while since we sat down for a chat, and while I wish this was the Tutwiler Hotel, we’ll have to settle for a blog. So, tell me a little bit about what’s been going on for you in the past year?
DA: I left the day job I held for 26 years, and started a new one. I embarked on a major upgrade and restoration project for my 1960 Plymouth station wagon. I helped transition my 92 year old grandmother to assisted living. Each of these three events constitute more transition in and of themselves, than I’ve had to deal with for many years.
CG: What projects are you currently working on, writing-wise?
DA: “Vampire Invasion”, the concluding volume of the Vampire Syndrome trilogy. From there, I can build on the Vampire Syndrome universe as I please. For instance, the main trilogy never touches on the existence of werewolves, and I have that outlined as a self-contained story. I’m also outlining a story about a young man who lives on a planet where the population is 92% female.
CG: As authors, we are always influenced by things that go on in our lives. We touched on part of this in the first question. Have you done anything really fun, or learned anything new and interesting in the past year?
DA: I finally solved a decades-old mystery this year. When I was little, my great-grandmother said “If the world’s ending, head for Shamballa.” In this case, “Shamballa” being the small mountain town southwest of Sedalia, Colorado.
Adult me, when driving through Shamballa, had always thought it odd that my great-grandma thought this nondescript mountain town would survive the end of the world.
It turns out that the town was founded in 1953 as the Shamballa Ashrama ‘survivalist’ compound, by metaphysicist/occultist Dr. Maurice Doreal. The compound’s underground cave complex is, of course, not visible from a casual ‘drive-by’ inspection.
It was intended that the residents of the hundred-odd homes in the compound could take quick refuge in the (naturally lead-lined) cave in the event of a nuclear attack sometime around “the year of the Avatar, 1956.”
In the October 1946 issue of “Amazing Stories” sci-fi magazine, Dr. Doreal stated in a published letter that he was moving from central Denver to rural Colorado to wait out the coming nuclear holocaust. That same year, he told the Rocky Mountain News that he had foreseen the advent of harnessed atomic energy, years before it became public knowledge, during a visit with the (predecessor of the current) Dalai Lama in Tibet.
The compound complex remains closed to outsiders today. It is rumored that Maurice and Sonya Doreal’s vast library of science fiction books (over 30,000 books as of the early 1950’s) remains intact in the complex.
CG: What’s the latest book you’ve read? Movie you’ve seen? Do you still find yourself challenged or inspired by things you see , read or hear in the arts? How, if at all, has this changed since you first thought, “I could write a vampire novel”?
“Auto Biography” by Richard Harris, a masterful fictional recounting of the 57-year life of a 1957 Chevy station wagon, through the eyes of its owners. With its present (2014) owner, outlaw felon Tommy Arney, attempting to finish restoring the car and tracing its owner lineage before the FBI closes in on him. The car’s ‘descent’ from the sunny optimism of 1957 to its current dark, decrepit world is an obvious but very enjoyable metaphor.
CG: I know that you’ve been involved in writing groups in your local area, and I’ve done a bit of this myself, in Knoxville and online. How do you feel writing groups help beginning writers, or even established ones? In what way can they be a hindrance?
DA: The goal of critique groups is to get to “the level”. Almost no one is at “the level” right out of the gate, so you benefit from the sage observations of those who are, or are close to, “the level”. Once you get to “the level”, their input can become detrimental, the work will become over-analyzed, and that’s when you have to move on.
CG: I personally feel like I grow as an author with each new book I write. I hope my readers feel Annah’s Exile is a step forward from Annah. How do you feel Vampire Conspiracy reflects a growth in your ability and craft as an author?
DA: Sex, specifically the depictions thereof. Jack doesn’t hook up with his girlfriend in Book One (although the relationship is gradually building during the course of events), because I didn’t want the “love story” to be the main focus. Yet, I also wanted to show that a person with Down Syndrome can have a romantic relationship with a “regular” person. So, Book Two, we have the “hookup” and Jack losing his virginity.
In my universe, the first Human Vampires were created 25,000 years ago, after an exploration vessel from planet Sek’Met crashed on Earth. Since vampirism is transmitted via semen or vaginal fluid, this means the first humans who became Human Vampires had sexual intercourse with said aliens. And when those aliens are super-lethal carnivores who resemble the Nosferatu appearance archetype, one might wonder how a human could possibly find one of the aliens attractive, let alone have sex with them. The best way to answer this was, of course, to have one of my characters have a sex scene with an alien, and the character’s inner monologue during the intercourse makes it clear the experience was as erotic for this character as it was terrifying.
CG: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our Portals and Pathways readers?
DA: Our books (your “Annah: Children of Evohe”, and my “Vampire Syndrome”) are recent additions to Wal-Mart’s inventory.
Of course I am overjoyed at this turn of events, but it does also highlight another thing I never would have expected.
I think I can speak for you, me, and every other PDMI author when I state that one of the most important reasons why I chose to sign with PDMI, versus self-publishing my work, was to have print versions of my work be available for purchase.
In my case, I always dreamed of having my book carried in a certain ‘mom-and-pop’ bookstore in Denver (known for their large selection of vintage books). When I inquired about consignment as a local author, the owner informed me she was shutting down the store’s local author section.
The only new books that store now carries are all titles from the “Big Five” major New York publishing houses.
This was hardly the outcome I envisioned years ago when I first signed with PDMI, that my once-favorite “hole-in-the-wall” store would not carry my novel, but Books-A-Million and Wal-Mart do.
No matter how big PDMI’s distribution may get, or however many books of mine sell, it’s still bittersweet that my initial dream (to be stocked in my once-favorite small bookstore) never came to fruition. A metaphor for how books matter more than money.
CG: Thanks for chatting, Daven! It’s always a pleasure, my friend.
DA: You’re welcome, Clay.