Please welcome, author Patrick Dilloway. He's written a novel entitled, Where You Belong. As you get to know Mr. Dilloway and read about his book and excerpt, ask yourself are you where you belong?
Tell us about your book?
Where You Belong is the story of Frost Devereaux, orphaned early in life when his mother is killed in a car accident. After this, Frost begins a search for love that leads him to a set of twins—Frankie and her brother Frank. Ultimately Frost’s quest leads him to find his place in the world—where he belongs.
When/how did you know you wanted to write?
I’ve been writing stories since about third grade. Around seventh grade was when I really started writing novel-length stories. But what I think made me a better writer was in reading good books. It’s so important if you want to be the best to read the best. If you read garbage, well, then garbage in, garbage out as they say.
How long did it take you to become published?
It’s taken a long time. If my rejection notices were on paper instead of mostly by E-mail I’d have enough to wallpaper my house by now.
What keeps me going, though, is that I legitimately enjoy writing. It’s what I do. Given my lack of talent in just about anything else—music, singing, dancing, painting, drawing, sports, sewing, etc.—it’s pretty much all I can do. There have been a couple of times where I got in a funk and stopped writing for a little while, but I always come back to it because I love it even if agents and publishers don’t love me.
Who do you count as your literary influences?
My overall favorite has to be the aforementioned John Irving. I’ve read all of his novels, his book of short stories, and even his dull autobiography. I’ve already mentioned my love of “The Cider House Rules,” which is followed closely by “The World According to Garp.” Some of my other favorites are Michael Chabon, whose vocabulary I would kill for; Richard Russo because of his great depictions of small town life; John Updike, whose descriptions could make even the worst story into poetry; Kurt Vonnegut, who could tackle horrible subjects while still making you laugh; and Terry Pratchett, who is just a great storyteller.
How long does it take for you to write books?
Working about 20 hours a week or so, it took me about three months to write each draft for Where You Belong. There were two drafts, so about six months total.
Is there any character in your books that you can really relate to?
I think I can relate to all of my characters on some level. I like to say there’s a bit of me in every character. But in this book, I think I do relate to Frost most of all. I’ve always felt like an outsider and so that’s where I think that character came from most of all.
Do you see yourself writing in the same genre in 10 years? If not then in what genre?
I have no idea what I’ll be doing 10 weeks from now let alone 10 years from now.
What do you most like about the genre you write?
I think what I like about writing stories like Where You Belong is that they’re far more involved with the character than with a plot. You really have the freedom to get inside the character and get to know him or her because you aren’t worrying so much about action and explosions and so forth.
What advice do you give to those who are just starting out or trying to become published?
I think there are three important things if you really want to write books. The first is to study your grammar and basic mechanics. If you go to a critique group and don’t know how to use a semicolon you’re going to really look like an amateur. Second is to read—a lot. Preferably when you’re starting you should read in your genre. So if you’re writing romance you should read other romance authors. Not so much to steal their secret moves, but I think it’s helpful so you can see what they’re doing right and—more importantly—what you think they’re doing wrong. The most important advice though is not to give up. If you really want to write books, then don’t let other people take that away from you. Heed good advice when it’s given, but don’t surrender, even when people try to bring you down. Because if you really love to write, then that’s what you should do. Maybe you won’t get paid for it, but some things are more important than money.
What do you do when preparing to write a story?
After I’ve thought of an idea, usually I write a very rough summary of the plot. This is usually only a page or two long and it’s never exactly what becomes the finished product. The idea though is to refine the basic concept and give me an idea of what I need in terms of characters and settings, which is also helpful for research and such.
Where do your story ideas come from? Do you use people you know as characters sometimes or even sometimes a certain event from real life happenings?
I don’t think anything that happens in Where You Belong happened to me in real life. I think Frost’s aunt who spends most of her time talking on the phone about soap operas was a compilation of the worst habits of my mom and her sisters, but I don’t think any of the characters are really pulled from real life either. That’s what makes this fiction.
What is your favorite part of writing?
I think the best part of writing is when you’re finished and you look back and can say, “Hey, I did this.” The second-favorite thing for me is coming up with the ideas and fitting all the jigsaw pieces together. The actual writing part is often less fun, because often you have to fill in the boring details of getting people from Point A to Point B and then to Point C. But when you’re done it’s all worth it because you’ve done something a lot of other people haven’t done.
Do you have any projects you are currently working on?
Right now I’m working on an old-school sci-fi invasion story called “Liberation Front.” It’s about an invasion from Mars, only in this case the “Martians” are human colonists returning to reclaim their birth world. The main character, one of the Martians, begins to question what her people are doing. The story was largely inspired by the war in Iraq, but I don’t think it’s going to be very political, at least not overtly.
You just recently were published. How does it make you feel?
Awesome. There’s no better feeling than seeing your book for sale on Amazon, except maybe to see it sitting in the bookstore or better yet, in someone’s hands. Though I suppose winning a prestigious award like a Pulitzer might top that, not that I have to worry about that!
When and where can we purchase your books?
You can go to Amazon.com or visit the official Where You Belong website at http://www.whoisfrostdevereaux.com/. To read my older works, you can visit my D.E-press site and download my older works as e-books for free. Just go to http://roguemutt.bravehost.com/.
What will the role of the Internet play in the future of publishing?
I’m not sure that e-books and such will ever overtake print books entirely, but the Internet is certainly making it easier for authors like me to reach out to the public and market their books. I can sit in my bedroom at my computer and type this in my jammies and someone thousands of miles away in China or Argentina can read it. As more authors get savvy about this stuff, it will become even more effective for selling books.
How do you create your characters? What determines their characteristics and names?
The names I try to have fun with. For instance, the main characters in Where You Belong all have names starting with the letter ‘F.’ In the story before that the characters had names starting with ‘E.’ Other times I’ve borrowed the names of athletes, authors, or just people I know, taking a last name or first name here and there. The personality traits are a little more difficult. Sometimes you have to get into the story itself to see what happens organically. With Where You Belong, I thought it really helped early in the story when Frost and the twins meet in kindergarten, because it established their relationships to each other and the sort of hierarchy that would follow for the next thirty years.
If you could choose one thing to be remembered by, what would it be?
I’d like to be remembered as a writer of great stories.
Some authors start out with a plot in mind, others with characters whom they’ll follow to reveal the theme. What works best for you and why?
Anything can inspire my ideas. A name, a title, a character, or a basic premise. From there it’s all about filling in the details. For Where You Belong it occurred to me one day: what if there was a guy so terrible at marriage that he couldn’t make it work with either sex? That’s how it all started. From there I just expanded on this idea that some marriages are just not going to work not because of the genitals of those involved, but because they aren’t compatible for each other spiritually. To me, that’s what’s most important in any marriage.
What advice would you give aspiring writers on developing dynamic and memorable characters?
I think if you want to have good characters, you need to let them be free to be real people. Real people have flaws and aren’t always perfect, so make your characters reflect that. And try to avoid the cliché, cutouts, the been there-done that archetypes. Seriously, if I have to read about another angst-ridden teenage vampire I’ll scream.
How long does it take you to complete a book, from the time the idea for the book is conceived, to when you submit it to your editor?
For Where You Belong it took about three months for each draft, working about twenty hours a week on it. There were two drafts so it took about six months for the writing. For the editing I read it about four times and then went back to make changes, which took another two or three months. In between I let a couple of months go by so that I could be fresh when I started the editing. So overall it was about a year.
What do you do to unwind in your free time?
When I’m not writing, I usually hang out, reading or watching a movie or sports event on TV. When I can I like to walk outside and sometimes take some nature pictures. I have a bunch of pictures on my wall from trips to Maine, New Mexico, and the Grand Canyon.
BLURB: Orphaned at an early age, the closest people in Frost Devereaux's life are the free-spirited Frankie Maguire and her conniving twin brother Frank. Over the years Frost's life takes him from the lush fields of the Mideast to the burning heat of the desert to the sparkling promise of Manhattan. His heart, though, never strays far from the two people who have meant the most to him. Ultimately, Frost must decide where—and with whom—he belongs.
I wake up again and the hand is gone, but I’m not alone. I sense a figure lurking in the shadows, hovering there like a ghost. I think at first it’s my mother; unable to speak I revert back to babyhood and whimper in what I hope is a reassuring fashion. The figure, caught, shuffles forward and I see it’s not my mother—it’s my father.
“Hey, kid,” he says. “How you feeling?”
This is a stupid question as I’m in a hospital bed, surrounded by machines with my face wrapped in bandages. He hesitates before taking the seat next to my bed. For what could be a minute or an hour he sits there, staring at me as he searches for something to say.
“It’s too bad about your mother,” he says.
Though not quite four, I understand this means something terrible has happened. I whimper again, this time mournfully. This rattles my father; he twitches uncomfortably in the chair. He doesn’t want to be there and I don’t want him there; I want Mommy. My father was only the man who lived in our barn.
His hand reaches out to touch my forehead, but his skin is sweaty and warm, not the cool, soothing presence of my other visitor’s. I try to move my head to shake it away only to find I can’t. “I’m not going to hurt you, kid,” he says. His hand moves across my forehead to the bandages. He peels these back gently and then leans close to me so that he can see what lies underneath. Whatever it is causes him to quickly pull his hand back, letting the bandages fall into place again.
“Oh shit,” he whispers into the darkness. I’m too young to know the meaning of this expression. Still, from his tone of voice I gather something’s wrong and whimper again. “It’s all right, kid,” he says, trying to sound cheerful. I know he’s lying. I know things aren’t going to be all right. Not ever again.
My father pats my left hand with his. “Hang in there, kid,” he says. He backs away until the shadows swallow him again. He pauses for a moment before making a decision. The door clicks shut. I wait a moment for him to come back, but he doesn’t. Not ever again.
I hope you enjoyed learning about Mr. Dilloway and his new novel, Where You Belong, as much as I did. And I hope everyone has a wicked weekend! :D