Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our local author spotlight on Dave Zeltserman. Dave was just at ABSW a few weeks ago with the launch of his latest novel, a YA horror called The Boy Who Killed Demons.
Thanks for joining us, Dave! Can you please tell us briefly a little about yourself and your writing? How would you like us to introduce you?
I’m a local Boston area guy and a diehard Sox and Patriots fan. After spending over 25 years writing software, I’m now writing fiction—crime noir, horror, allegorical fables, and even some lighthearted and charming mysteries. My crime noir and horror novels have made best of the year lists from NPR, Washington Post, ALA, Booklist, and WBUR, and my mysteries have won a Shamus, Derringer, and Ellery Readers Choice (twice) awards. With some luck a couple of movies based on my books will be out next year.
For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from The Boy Who Killed Demons?
All my books are very different from one another, but what they have in common is the writing tends to be spare, most have a good amount of black humor, and they’re very quick to read with no filler to bog you down. They also all have a good amount of twists and surprises. Ironically my crime noir novels are more horrific than my horror novels as they’re darker and more brutal, while my horror novels have more likeable protagonists. The Boy Who Killed Demons is lighter and has a more sarcastic edge than my other books. And my Julius Katz mysteries (narrated by his assistant Archie—a marvel of computer technology that Julius wears as a tie clip) are very different than my novels.
What kind of research went into writing this book? What is your favorite research story? What cool facts and findings didn’t make it into the book, but you loved discovering?
My previous book, Monster, required 9 months of research. The Boy Who Killed Demons needed little, although a lot of life experience went into the book, including having my hero, Henry Dudlow, live in the same neighborhood where I grew up, and go to the same high school I went to.
For Monster, I think every cool fact that I discovered made its way into the book, including a London street gang in the 1800s who collected the noses from the poor unfortunates they came across.
The initial idea for Demons came when my agent at the time suggested that I rewrite The Caretaker of Lorne Field as a YA novel—in other words, have the Caretaker be one of Joe’s sons. I wasn’t going to do that—I thought Caretaker worked well as it was, and so since it has been published so have others with many readers telling me it’s one of their favorite novels, ALA shortlisting it as one of the best horror novels of the year, Library Journal listing it as one of their horror gems, and Memento Films optioning it—but it did get me thinking of writing I should write a YA novel where my teenage protagonist believes he needs to save the world. What I ended up coming up with was a fifteen year-old who believes he’s seeing some people as demons, and later believes he has uncovered a demonic plot to open up the gates of hell. Once I came up with the idea of writing the book as series of journal entries, the rest of it all worked itself out.
What character did you love or hate the most while writing? And why?
The 15-year-old protagonist, Henry Dudlow, is an easy character to like. He’s got the weight of the world on his shoulders, is ultimately very heroic, and shows great ingenuity in solving the near impossible problems he comes across.
The high school bully Ralph Malfi is based on a high school bully that I had to deal with back in the day, so he was an easy character to hate.
What is your favorite part of being a writer? Of the whole writing and publishing process? What do you think has been your greatest lesson in the journey thus far?
This is an easy question. My favorite part is the writing. When I’m deep into the writing, I disappear into my characters’ world, and it’s why I do this.
Most of the lessons I’ve learned have been on the publishing side, and they’ve been harsh—namely, if you write outside the formulaic restrictions that publishing imposes, you’re going to have a tough time selling your works to a publisher. But on the other hand, I’ve been doing that since my first book, and I’ve been finding readers who love that my books are original and very different from the norm, and I’ve been also finding movie producers who feel the same, and could see three or more books made into movies in the near future, which will allow me to make it financially, and not just artistically. So I guess my lesson would be to be true to yourself and write the best books you can without chasing after what you think publishers want.
Where can people find your work? (Besides ABSW ;)–though they should totally check here first!)
The usual place: bookstores, libraries, online. My mystery stories are frequently published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine.
How can we follow your work, share your awesomeness, or otherwise stalk you in a totally non-creepy way?
Thank you, again, Dave, for joining us at our 65 James Street store with The Boy Who Killed Demons, and thank you for sharing even more on our blog!