I interviewed award-winning author, Patrick Delaney, this week. Patrick is the author of The Infinity Killer Trilogy, and upcoming novel The House that Fell from the Sky.
Patrick Delaney grew up in Santa Clarita, California, where he attended Canyon High School. After leaving Southern California, he relocated in Redding, a small city in Northern California. It was here Patrick began his literary career, slowly writing his first novel at eighteen years old. After receiving an AS in Social Sciences at Shasta College, he continued his higher education at Simpson University, where he received a BA in Psychology. Throughout his undergraduate career, he gradually polished his debut novel Dante’s Town of Terror, which would win the gold medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY) in the horror category for 2018. He subsequently released the sequel, Dante’s Wicked World, and plans to release his third novel in September 2020.
Patrick’s newest upcoming novel is The House that Fell from the Sky. When a mysterious mansion appears overnight in the heart of an impoverished city, three friends must face their fears when one of their own risks her life to find out if the house is for real, or merely an illusion.
1. What inspired your upcoming novel The House that Fell from the Sky? A couple of years back around October, I picked up a couple different haunted house novels to celebrate the upcoming holiday. The Nightmare Room by Chris Sorensen, and The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson were the two I remember offhand. Chris did a fantastic book about an audiobook narrator, which I thought was a genius idea. And The Haunting of Hill House is legendary in the literary community. So, as I was reading them, I started to think about what I would do should I try my own take on the haunted house genre.
Of course, these days it’s not easy coming up with an original idea, especially when it pertains to some incredible works. One common thing about novels set in haunted places is that often enough, they’re very isolated. I’m talking about these places that are way out in the middle of nowhere. And the majority of the time, the characters are trapped so far away from help, nobody has a freaking clue what’s going on. While this makes sense and obviously creates tension, I wanted to try another route, so I wondered, what if there was a house that was right in the middle of the city? A place the world did know about, and knew was extraordinarily dangerous, yet couldn’t do anything about? It’s just sort of there, like a natural disaster, and you can’t really prevent it from happening, but have to accept its presence and somehow manage the damage. What would people do with a place like that? Who would own it? How would the military handle something like that? These are the questions that got me excited about putting together my own story, and not long after, I had this massive 530 page tome! I won’t say I’m the first person who ever thought of it, I’m sure there’s a book out there that has a similar scenario, but as far as I’m concerned, I haven’t read it yet.
2. I understand you love haunted house stories, what do you think draws you to them? While I wouldn’t say I only enjoy haunted houses persay, I do love haunted places. Whether a haunted hotel room (I’m looking at you 1408) or a campground, there’s something inherently creepy when you try and imagine what sort of twisted things might have happened there. I also love the vulnerability when a protagonist is thrown into a situation and doesn’t quite know what to expect, and you sort of have to figure out just how much danger there is. Is it a psychological danger? Is it physical? That stands from a reader standpoint as well. Defying those expectations and trying to come up with something new, well, unraveling those layers is half the fun!
3. Other than horror and suspense, is there another genre you’d like to dip your toes in one day? Funny you should ask, but I’ve actually been working on a psychological thriller called Silvers Hollow while I finished HOUSE. All of my books so far were written in third person, so I’ve gone completely out of my comfort zone and switched it up to first person. It’s easy to see why readers are able to identify with first person so effortlessly, it has a completely different feel and somehow seems much more personal. That being said, Silvers Hollow shies away from elements very prominent in horror and leans more toward the mystery/thriller elements. I’d noticed with HOUSE that process had sort of begun to happen inadvertently, which I thought was interesting. It’s true when they say you’re always discovering more about yourself when you write. As where my first two novels were largely creature features, HOUSE focuses a great deal on the main characters and their lives. And while it is a “horror” novel in every sense of the word, I used the horror aspect very conservatively because I wanted to ensure that it wasn’t just horror for the sake of being a horror novel. I wanted it to serve these characters and the story I wanted to tell without being overly gratuitous, or needless.
4. How do you approach writing? What tactics do you use? I’m a fan of outlines. And when I say outlines, I mean very, very vague outlines. I think that for certain types of stories—things like mysteries, and thrillers—you have to have some sense of where the plot is going. If you don’t, the payoff at the end will either be awful or the book itself will be a mess. I employ outlines that are usually a page or two. Mainly a sentence or two about each chapter and a very broad statement about what the idea is and what I’m trying to get across to the reader. From there, I can either add in additional story elements to improve what I’ve got, or cut things out if they’re not working. I also sometimes get random bits of dialogue at weird times. Sometimes it’ll be laying in bed when I’m thinking of a story, or maybe even something that I can use later for a different book. I think some of my best lines come from my girlfriend. Some of the one-liners she’s said to me have been hilarious, and oftentimes I’ll end up using them in my books. Word count is a love/hate thing with me. I absolutely love the days I’ll hit a couple thousand words, but hate myself if I can’t reach my goal. Like many other writers, I also read quite a bit, so I try to be mindful about writing styles and how dialogue comes across most naturally. Like I said before, a lot of the dialogue in HOUSE were things that I’ve actually heard, so I try to use that to my advantage to present coherent and realistic characters.
5. Do you have any advice for aspiring horror writers? I would urge all new writers to do your homework and learn the basics. Being a victim myself of poor planning, it’s fairly obvious when you’re a new writer if you’re not careful about making your work seem professional. Things like having others proofread your novel, getting a professional cover made, and editing, goes a long way. Thankfully, a compelling story can often overshadow any technical shortcomings. My first novel was a disaster when it came to editing. I had so many typos and errors that I had to have to the entire thing redone. Even now when I look at it, I can see that there was a lot of excess that should have been cut. Despite these things, I somehow managed to win two awards for it and maintain a reasonably high rating on Goodreads. I firmly believe that although it had its issues, people loved the story enough to grant the poor technical issues some leniency, which is incredible! The point is, if your story is something people want to read, they’ll be forgiving as long as you’ve done your due diligence.
6. What comes first for you, plot or characters? When I was younger, everything was about plot. The setting. The monsters. Everything except the characters were at the forefront. Thankfully, after a couple brutal reviews I finally realized just what they were talking about. Initially, I had used my characters almost like plot devices, plugging them in where I thought the plot needed them. But eventually, I figured out that a great story is about its characters, not about the setting. I think that just was my process, though, as a writer. Sometimes we get caught up in the details of description so much that we forget we’re supposed to be making the reader connect with the stars of the story. I sought to rectify this in HOUSE, and was largely inspired by Stephen King’s IT to use as much time as I wanted to make these people that readers cared about. Originally the novel was even longer, and while I would have loved to keep every single chapter I spent building this world, I found that a couple just weren’t driving the story. I had to find that balance of developing these characters, but also in a way that it was relevant to what was happening in the grand scheme of things. One thing that’s quite a bit different about my novel is that a large majority of it takes place outside of the house. This was done intentionally, because in nearly every haunted house story I’ve read, readers get very little time with these characters before they’re thrown into danger. And to me, that makes very little sense. I think that some readers just flat out don’t have the patience. They want the action to start instantly, want the blood and guts in the first chapter. But that’s not the type of story I wanted to tell. I suspect these types of readers may end up hating my book, and I’m okay with that, because there are those who do want to spend time with these characters, who do want to see why we should give a shit about them. Otherwise, why would we go with them on this journey at all? I wanted a story where the haunted house isn’t the focal point, but rather the people. The house just serves as a means to tell their story.
7. What early experience taught you writing had power? When I was younger, my mom and dad had divorced, and my mom used to send my sister and I letters in the mail. She knew how hard it was not seeing us, and she was right. But the days that I’d get those letters and little cards she’d send, it was incredible how much of a difference they made. Even if she couldn’t be there, she still was able to connect with me through these letters. They were never really anything profound. Just little messages, checking on us both. She’d draw a little smiley face at the bottom and write “Love Mom.” She probably didn’t know at the time how much of a difference a seemingly small gesture like that can really affect someone.
8. Is there a theme you carry throughout your work, or does each book have a specific intent? I think the themes that I write about are more or less topics that are always on my mind to some extent. Things like loss, and grief. Isolation and success. Love and friendship. While most people experience all of these factors, I think that authors tend to put more thought into them simply because we put it into words.
9. What’s your favorite and least favorite part of the publishing journey? I recently had an experience with a publishing company that really turned out awful. I won’t say names, but I had heard a lot of bad things about this company before I went that route, but I’m not the type to pass judgement without experiencing it myself as a lot of this type of thing usually turns out to be gossip and nothing more.
Well, after experiencing it firsthand, I can without a doubt say it was just as bad as people had claimed. The single and ONLY redeeming thing I can think of that came out of that experience was that I met some amazing new friends and authors. That being said, I know others have had tremendous success there and I have several friends still involved with them. I hold no ill will, and of course wish them all the success they can get! It just wasn’t the path for me.
10. What other project(s) do you have in the works? I’m currently working on the final book of The Infinity Killer Trilogy, which will end with Dante’s Medley of Madness. Other than that, I hope to start submitting Silvers Hollow to agents soon.
Thank you for being willing to “sit down” for an interview, Patrick! I appreciate your time and the wonderful answers you’ve provided. I’d love to tell my readers where they can find your work!
If you’d like to read more of Patrick’s work, check him out on Goodreads. Remember to check out Dante’s Town of Terror, Dante’s Wicked World, and add The House that Fell from the Sky, when available! Follow Patrick on Twitter to get the latest on his upcoming projects.