Audrey Driscoll lives in Victoria, British Columbia, where she practices the alchemies of writing and gardening.
An Interview With Audrey Driscoll
Q: What is the story behind your books?
A: Quite literally, it's "Herbert West, Reanimator," an early short story by H.P. Lovecraft. Herbert West, Lovecraft's corpse-reanimating doctor, has more personality than many of HPL's protagonists, whose main function is simply to experience horror. I began wondering about Herbert -- what lay behind his bizarre interests? Why did his friend help and support him? To answer those questions I wrote the four novels of the Herbert West Series, which take Herbert on a long journey and transform him from an amoral, rational scientist into a wounded healer, psychopomp and magus.
Q: What genre do your books belong to?
A: That's an excellent question (which is what interviewees say instead of "I don't know"). The Lovecraft story on which The Friendship of Mortals, the first book of the series, is based, is a combination of science fiction and horror. I retained elements of these genres, but I would call this book, and the others of the series, "psychological fiction." Instead of the process of corpse revivification, or what the corpses do once they come back to life, I focus on Herbert West and his librarian friend, Charles Milburn. I explore their friendship, the choices they make, and how they deal with the consequences of those choices. The second through fourth books of the series depart almost entirely from horror, apart from the ordinary human kind. Readers who come to the series because of its origin in HPL's story may be disappointed, but I think my characters and their situations are sufficiently interesting to keep them engaged. If I had to create a genre label for the series, I would go with "literary supernatural/psychological." Lumpy but accurate.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I'm at the halfway point (the dreaded "mushy middle") of a novel that is a sequel to the Herbert West Series. It's set in Luxor, Egypt and the Valley of the Kings in 1962, and involves archaeology, geology, ancient magic, and secrets. I hope to have the first draft completed early in 2018. While that draft is waiting to be edited, I plan to write three more short "supplements" to round out the Herbert West Series, which I will publish as a collection with the four existing supplements. At some point I may also publish Winter Journeys, a novel I wrote several years ago, about Romanticism in art and life.
Q: Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
A: I've lived most of my life in western Canada, primarily Vancouver Island. The city of Victoria, where I have lived for more than 20 years, is full of authors, artists and other creative types. When I started writing, I did not have to look far for support.
Q: When did you first start writing?
A: Aside from juvenilia and poetry, and essays required in school and university, I began writing seriously in November 2000.
Q: What motivated you to become an indie author?
A: You know that saying -- "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different outcome." Well, that's how I came to regard the submissions process. When self-publishing on the internet became possible, I reasoned that was a more optimistic plan than to give up and stash my manuscripts in the basement or continue the send-out-and-wait submissions process.
Q: What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
A: Creating characters and situations that come alive in my imagination and embodying them in prose for others to discover.
Q: Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
A: Yes -- it was an adventure set in ancient Egypt, inspired by one of Joan Grant's "far memory" books (that purported to be based on her past lives). I was about 14 when I wrote it. And now I'm writing another novel that is an adventure set in Egypt. Life is full of circles and spirals.
Q: What is your writing process?
A: It's best when I'm obsessed with the story I want to tell. The writing then is inevitable, like giving birth. I don't have to find time for it; everything else in my life has to be fitted in around writing time. The obsession also helps to carry me through the tough parts of connecting the scenes that come to me in their entirety, needing only to be transcribed. I always write my first drafts in longhand. Coming back to the spot where I left off -- rather than the beginning of a document on a computer -- makes it easier to continue with the story rather than fiddling with the beginning. It also helps that reading my scribble isn't as easy as a Word document, where the words jump out in stark clarity. Once that first draft is done, I transcribe it into Word, and endless revision begins.
Q: Was there anything about the writing process that surprised you?
A: Two things: first, the extent to which my characters seemed to come alive and influence the plot in ways I didn't expect. Second, the fact that music I listened to as I was writing sometimes found its way into my novels, becoming part of the plot in some cases and in others influencing the outcome. The ultimate example is my as yet unpublished novel Winter Journeys, which is actually about Franz Schubert's song cycle Winterreise.
Q: Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
A: No, but I remember the effect of my favourite book when I was a kid of 8 or 10 -- Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. I was totally captivated by Mowgli's life in the jungle with the wolf pack and devastated by the ending when he goes away to live with humans. I made my friends act out scenes from the book, drew pictures of them and read it again and again for years.
Q: What are your five favorite books, and why?
A: I have re-read these books many times, which I suppose makes them favorites.
1. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.
2. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.
3. Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake.
4. The Throat by Peter Straub.
5. The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris.
I can feel a lot of other titles jostling around, trying to get on the list. Also, these are just fiction; I have another whole list of nonfiction books and poetry.
As to why these books, the only thing I can say is that I found the characters real and the stories compelling.
Q: What do you read for pleasure?
A: Almost anything. Lately I find myself turning to nonfiction, possibly because reading it I avoid comparisons with my novels. (Haha). I don't deliberately seek out "best-sellers" or the latest prizewinners. If such books catch my attention it's for other reasons. The process involved in selecting books to read and is both complex and somewhat irrational.
Q: Who are your favorite authors?
A: Over the years, I have loved the writing of these authors: Kenneth Grahame, Rudyard Kipling, Robinson Jeffers, Stephen King, Peter Straub, Elizabeth Goudge, Henry Mitchell, J.R.R. Tolkien, Mary Renault, Mary Stewart, H.P. Lovecraft and many others. That's an incomplete list, and is not in order.
Q: How do you approach cover design?
A: My original cover images were all homemade and looked it. Lacking the tools and talent for improving them, I decided to commission professionally designed images. I am very pleased with them, and the process of working with a designer to realize the essence of my novels graphically was exhilarating. When I published my books in print, I already had quality covers that needed only to be upgraded to printed book form. Quite apart from the marketing aspects, cover images should be beautiful so as to complement the books they represent.
Q: Describe your desk
A: Either a pile of paper with a computer to the side or a computer with a pile of paper to the side, depending on whether I'm writing a first draft or something else. Also lots of small scraps of paper with ideas, notes to self and other random scribbles, weighted down with rocks.
Q: What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
A: The possibility that any day something wonderful might happen.