What is your genre? Why did you choose it?
Thanks for having me! I’m in the supernatural/vampire genre. I choose it because I’ve loved vampires for over 20 years, I think they are a fascinating legend and there’s so much you can do with them. Vampires are well known to readers and they are common with their usual attributes (drinking blood, eternal youth, great strength and so on) but the fun part comes with making the creature your own.
Do you work on more than one manuscript at a time?
I can’t say I’ve ever done that. I like to focus one thing at a time. For example right now I’m taking a break from writing “The Newfoundland Vampire” book 4 (not sure of the title yet) to finish editing on book 1. While anything’s possible in the future, for now I’ll say no.
Do you work with a writing/critique group?
In a way yes, the publisher I’m with now, Distinguished Press, is very group oriented. I am in a group with other authors and we do on occasion bounce ideas of each other and get feedback. I have a great editor (two actually) so primarily I get feedback from them.
Can you remember your first reading book?
Yes I think so, I believe it was “Gilipin’s Space” by Reginald Brentor (which I could not find any link for, it’s too long out of print I imagine). It was about a submarine that could travel in time and had an important mission given to it by the military. The science in it was really interesting and it was a good book, I still have it. I’m not sure how old I was, maybe 10 or 11. Before that was just Archie comics and I’m sure children’s books (which I can’t remember).
Do you nibble on snacks while writing? If so, what is your chosen treat?
Interesting question! I love to snack, well right in front of me is oranges (only clementine or tangerine) so they would be my first pick. Otherwise it would be chips or popcorn. I’m a huge lover or chips and popcorn, so they can help keep the creative juices flowing.
Tidy desk or a bombsite? Describe your writing area with us.
I’m a little unusual, I actually write at the kitchen table. It’s the only place in the house that has enough room for me to spread out and still look outside. So it’s mostly tidy, there’s a glass bowl of oranges, some napkins, my first two books for inspiration, four placemats and usually a cat or two up there with me.
Are you published in the traditional manner or self published? Share your journey.
As I shared above I’m with a publisher, Distinguished Press, so I guess I’m traditional in that sense. I don’1t think I’m cut out to go the self-published route, I’m too terrible at editing and I really think getting feedback from an editor (and lots of help in the promotion department) is essential. My story is a long one, but I’ll share the important parts. Like lots of people who enjoy literature (I did a BA in English at Memorial) I tried to write several times. I attempted a Star Trek book, then a Star Wars, the a vampire one. All three (ok technically two) never amount to more than a few chapters. A book just seemed to big, too daunting.
I started my vampire tale back in 2002 but it got put aside. Then some 8 years later I found myself at a very boring job, my mind wandered all the time and I began to think of that book I started. I had kept the file and going back to it I found that I still liked the idea of a vampire based on myself. It was a chance to explore fantasies I knew would never come true and it was a way to imagine how my life could have turned out differently if I had made other choices (and if vampires were real). After 4 months I had a rough draft and then began the process of submitting it. I learned some hard lessons (like the first 3-4 drafts are always terrible) but after about 9 months of editing and submitting my perseverance paid off, I had found a publisher (Penumbra Publishing).
Things went well there for a while. My first book did okay (was released in April 2012) and I soon completed book II “Killer on the Road” and it came on in September of 2013. About a year later is when things took a wrong turn. My sales were shabby and no matter what I did I couldn’t improve them (I spend a lot on promotion, getting a website, getting a cover done and other things) and my profit was very small. I eventually became dissatisfied with my Penumbra, I won’t get into all the details as I don’t like to say negative things about a person. My old editor was honest with me and had taught me a a lot about writing, editing and being an author but I knew by October of 2014 that it was time to move on. It was slightly ironic that the day I told Pat I was done with Penumbra my first short story “Robots” was published by them. I am proud of that story and I hope to see it re-released as part of a collection someday. I’ve written some other short stories the past few years and I’d love to have them published someday too.
Through Twitter I got to know the friendly, helpful (and talented) Karyn Pearson. She mentioned my work to Jen Leigh and in early November of last year I signed a contract with DP (there is some truth in the saying it’s not what you know but who you know). I am thrilled to be with DP, everyone has been really friendly. There are lots of interaction with authors (it’s one big happy family!), lots of promotional activities we help each other out on and Catrina has lots of great ideas for the future.
I was happy to go back and look at the first book in “The Newfoundland Vampire”. Jen pointed out some things that I hadn’t considered and that will make it a better book (and I’m sure she has other notes for me as well). As writers can attest your characters become your friends and going back to visit them is always great, it’s like re-watching a movie you love or a TV show, just on a much more personal level. Book I will be re-issued on March 27th and book II “Killer on the Road” sometime later this year.
Who would you say have been the three most influential authors in your reading/writing life?
I would say Anne Rice, Stephen King and Ernest Hemingway. Anne Rice is (or rather was) a great vampire writer, the early books for “The Vampire Chronicles” are masterful and I think characters like Lestat and Louis are great examples of distinct and complex vampires. Stephen King is undoubtedly the master of modern horror, while I hated the ending I think “The Dark Tower” is one of the best horror series ever written. Ernest Hemingway, while not a horror or vampire writer, had an incredible understanding of the human condition and sadly it’s depressive nature (he later committed suicide), I think he is what got me fascinated with darker characters and the exploration of evil in human behaviour.
What advice would you like to share with other writers/authors with regard to preparing a manuscript?
I would tell them to take their time, do an outline and plan ahead. Set realistic goals, most people don’t have time (or the interest) to write a chapter a day. I think If you can do 1-2 pages a day you’re in good shape. Once you’ve got a rough draft done then comes the hard part, while you can edit some yourself it is critical to get other input. I would tell any new writer to find an editor they like and pay for a complete read through with comments on your book. While friends/family/spouse have good intentions they often may give you feedback that isn’t honest and thus not the kind you need. Develop a thick skin, the first 2-3 drafts (or more) of a story suck, you need to hear that and be able to move past it. Only once you get to draft 5-6 are you ready to submit a manuscript to publishers and then be patient again. A good publisher should get back to you in a month or two, some can take years (I heard from one over 4 years later!) and many you’ll never hear back from at all. It’s a labour of love (or at least it should be), feel proud when it’s done but not rest on your laurels, as with anything if it’s worth doing, it’s worth putting an effort in.
If the movie rights to your novels are purchased, who would you like to play your main characters?
Another great question! I’ve thought about this before, while I’d love to play Joseph (who is about 90% me) I know I’m not an actor and I’m a little too long in the tooth to do it (he’s 23). So after some thought I’d pick Dane DeHaan to play Joseph (he has intensity that I really like and he was good in movies like “Chronicle” and “The Place Beyond The Pines” and I liked him in a show called “In Treatment”) He’s 29 but I think is youthful looking enough to pull it off.
As for Cassandra, I think Deborah Ann Woll (from “True Blood”) would be excellent. She’s already played a vampire, showed she can do a strong role, is a redhead (which is important for the role) and is sexy as hell (also important). She’s 30 now and would be perfect to play her in a few years.
I was on my way to the supermarket, when … Do you have a tale to tell relating to an everyday, boring event?
Hmm, interesting question. I guess I have one, and it’s a little interesting. So I’m from a small island (only in population, geographically it’s huge) in Canada called Newfoundland. The joke is always there are more Newfoundlanders outside of the province as there are in it (which has some basis in reality as we went through a lot of years with tough economic times). Also the fact that we have terrible winters and lots of Newfoundlanders love to travel to warm places makes it likely to find us somewhere else. Getting to the story, so my wife and I were in the Bahamas, we were at a deserted beach (we were the only ones on it for about 3 hours) and finally another couple showed up. I was getting hungry so we got out and started to walk back to our rented house. The other couple heard us talking and the woman spoke up, “are you from Newfoundland?” she asked. I replied yes, she said she could tell from our accents. Then her husband spoke up and said he was from Corner Brook (a small city on the west coast of Newfoundland)! It was funny because I was surprised and I thought the chances of another person from Newfoundland showing up while we there had to be small but it happened.
Thanks so much for the interview, great questions!
Here’s a link to my website:
About Charles O’Keefe:
Charles O’Keefe lives in the beautiful province of Newfoundland, Canada, with his wife and two feline ‘children,’ Jude and Eleanor. He is a co-owner of a Beauty Wholesale Business and enjoys many hobbies and activities that include writing, reading, watching fantasy/science-fiction movies and television shows, gaming, poker, walking, Pilates, martial arts and of course fantasizing about vampires. He is also a vegetarian, animal activist, environmentalist and Agnostic.
He currently is currently with Distinguished Press and will have books 1 and 2 of “The Newfoundland Vampire” series re-released in 2015.