Monday, October 8, 2012

Apocalypse Now: Interview with Daniel Marks, Author of VELVETEEN

Velveteen Monroe is dead. At 16, she was kidnapped and murdered by a madman named Bonesaw. But that’s not the problem. 

The problem is she landed in purgatory. And while it’s not a fiery inferno, it’s certainly no heaven. It’s gray, ashen, and crumbling more and more by the day, and everyone has a job to do. Which doesn’t leave Velveteen much time to do anything about what’s really on her mind. 


Velveteen aches to deliver the bloody punishment her killer deserves. And she’s figured out just how to do it. She’ll haunt him for the rest of his days. 

It’ll be brutal... and awesome. 

But crossing the divide between the living and the dead has devastating consequences. Velveteen’s obsessive haunting cracks the foundations of purgatory and jeopardizes her very soul. A risk she’s willing to take—except fate has just given her reason to stick around: an unreasonably hot and completely off-limits coworker. 

Velveteen can’t help herself when it comes to breaking rules... or getting revenge. And she just might be angry enough to take everyone down with her.

Hi Danny! Thank you so much for joining us. As you can imagine, we're all very excited for VELVETEEN! In your acknowledgements, you mention that Velveteen started as a middle grade book, I think this is amazing, now that I’ve experienced Velveteen’s world. Can you share a couple of lines of Velvet-before-she-was-Velvet?

Velvet didn’t actually exist in the MG version. Luisa was the protagonist of that early draft. Back then, it was called THE TROUBLE WITH THE LIVING and despite the clear Tim Burton reference, was pretty damn morbid and unforgiving. It focused on a very much living Luisa (without her twin, Logan, sadly) who, taking her grandfather—a sharp and witty detective—strikes out to solve a streak of child murders in her town. Unfortunately for her, she succeeds. I had my goddaughter read the draft. At the time she was the same age as Luisa and very much my intended reader. Her critique: Godfather, you have no business writing middle grade. Too dark. The odd thing is, even with the revamping as a YA, thirteen out of fourteen editors claimed the same thing about the manuscript my agent took out on submission. And the final product is MUCH darker than that draft. As for what Luisa was like, here’s the first paragraph:

“On the occasion of her twelfth and final birthday, Luisa Albuquerque, granddaughter of the famous yet recently deceased private detective, X. Bernard Wainwright, came across the bodies of two children, crammed into a concrete crawling tube on the playfield of the Old Wittleston Primary School.  The playground was shrouded by a late afternoon gloom, cast by a thick crescent of towering pines; it was seemingly void of life, bar Luisa’s small form.  She stood in rigid self-control on a small mound of trampled grass, surveying the scene, her light cotton skirt whipping around her legs like a candle’s flame, in danger of blowing out.  Her long brown hair, the color of hot chocolate, caught in the breeze and obscured her vision momentarily before her finger shot up, connected, gave a quick twirl and tucked it behind her ear.  Luisa was in her element.”

I found Velvet to be both tough and vulnerable and her moods authentic. How did you get into that headspace to write so well from a teenaged girl’s point of view?

It’s because I’ve spent about twelve years digging through teenage girls’ heads. Wait. Not in a serial-killery way. I was a child and adolescent psychotherapist before I started writing—mostly at-risk youth and lots of crisis counseling—so the drama is something I’m quite familiar with, almost a shorthand. Authentic characterization comes from vulnerability. If the author is open to putting themselves on display a bit and injecting themselves into the character—their emotional selves—the more the characters seem to come alive. That’s my belief anyway and that’s what I try to do. When writing types say, “Write what you know”, I’m certain they’re true advice is to dig deep in this way, rather than writing about the stuff you do everyday or your skill set. I think that’s a common misread of the statement.

You’ve drawn up a great cast of supporting characters. If you have to pick one for a spinoff to tell their own series, who would it be and why?

Logan. Luisa’s twin brother is infinitely crazier than the rest of the team, a gas-huffing, card shark with violent tendencies and a Grover costume. He also has a way with a bear-trap on a chain, so…there’s that.

The images of Purgatory are dark, gothic, and quite vivid. Did you draw inspiration from anything in particular when you were creating Velvet’s world? Movies, books, music, art?

As a matter of fact, back in 2007, I’d gone to visit the publisher of my adult books and my agent and took in a tour of museums. MOMA was hosting an exhibit of Georges Seurat’s charcoals (or rather conté crayon) and I became obsessed. Seurat’s well-known work of pointillism Le Grande Jatte is vibrant and idyllic, while his charcoals have a grim depth that very much influenced the early stages of Velveteen’s worldbuilding. Charcoal became ash and the edges all blurred together into an evernight. There’s chiaroscuro at play in the descriptions, shadow becoming much more important than the clearly defined. It was definitely a labor of love and the writing drew largely from my art history education (which was my minor; psychology was my major and the focus of my graduate work).

How did you find the publication process for Velveteen? What’s a typical writing day for you?

I’d been published in the adult market for a few years by the time we sold Velveteen to Delacorte, but over that course of time, I’d never experienced the level of editorial scrutiny on my words. It’s definitely tightened up my wording, my construction. I’m happy with their attention to my grim little nightmare, I’d be a lot happier if it were a lead title, but that’s another book. One day.

I start the day by clearing out my email and sorting through all the social networking stuff. Then I do that a few more times before I’ll film a vlog for my Youtube channel ( or for the YA Rebels ( I usually try to exercise and that helps get the creative juices going, I usually start writing while I’m out on a hike, emailing myself paragraphs from my phone. In the afternoon, I’m usually at it. Writing a bit, editing, plotting. It’s a mess really.

Any teasers for what’s in store for Velveteen for the next book?

The truth is, she’s not in it. I’d originally planned a trilogy for Velveteen, but that’s not what we sold. Random House wanted to play it by ear, they seemed to think my dead girl was risky. There aren’t a lot comparables out there, so it was difficult for them to get a feel for how Velveteen would sell. So in the end, we sold it as a standalone with a second book in the contract TBD. To Be Determined. Ominous words, but as it turns out, a pretty cool place to be. I’ve pitched a few standalone horror novels and we’re in the process of determining which one is my next book. I’m excited! AND…if Velveteen does well, there’s a distinct possibility that we haven’t seen the last of her!

And since we’re the Lucky 13s, I have to ask if you have any favourite superstitions!

I tend not to be overly superstitious until I find myself doing something unconsciously, like throwing spilled salt over my shoulder or knocking on wood. I’ve been known to not step on cracks, also. So there are those.

Thank you so much, Danny, and congratulations again on VELVETEEN! Release date: October 9th, 2012. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound

Daniel Marks writes young adult horror and fantasy, spends way too much time glued to the internets and collects books obsessively (occasionally reading them). He’s been a psychotherapist for children and adolescents, a Halloween store manager, a cafeteria janitor (gag) and has survived earthquakes, volcanoes and typhoons to get where he is today, which is to say, in his messy office surrounded by half empty coffee cups. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his wife, Caroline, and three furry monsters with no regard for quality carpeting. Visit Danny at his blog or twitter.


This interview was conducted by Lucky13s member Elsie Chapman, whose debut YA novel, DUALED, will be published by Random House Children's Books in February, 2013. The interview is part of an ongoing series of interviews with The Apocalypsies—YA, MG, and children's book authors debuting in 2012.

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