About Derek Vasconi:
I guess the important thing to know about me is that I have always wanted to write, but only recently, felt like I could actually do it for a living. Prior to this revelation of sorts, I had done many, many things. The highlights of these things would definitely be that I was in a band called FROM A SECOND STORY WINDOW, which was a somewhat popular underground, hardcore/metal band. I did that for almost ten years, then went and got a degree in Psychology from Penn State. Then I moved to Japan for a long time, and somewhere in that time frame, I wrote my first novel, a Japanese horror fiction novel called KAI. I’m currently working on my second novel, which is a story about cryptids and the end of the world.
As for other particulars, I’m a die hard, obsessive fan of JPOP music, particularly of the Hiroshima group, Perfume. I consider myself to be an otaku of the highest order too. I love horror movies, horror books, my favorite author isn’t a horror writer but is still incredible. His name is Haruki Murakami. I live in Los Angeles but my heart is in Pittsburgh, where I’m originally from, and I definitely, definitely, definitely am a proud father of a beautiful, 1 year old little girl. Oh, and when I say, “proud,” I mean I am proud of myself for enduring nearly a year of my wife being pregnant and this past year of a cranky, eternally teething baby. I think that’s something to smile about, eh?
What inspires you to write?
I think, for me, it’s recalling things from my past and mixing them with the things I love now. What I mean is that I grew up loving horror films. I was a child of the 80’s, so horror icons like Freddy Krueger and Jason were huge influences on me, in terms of horror. I was that kid who went to school with the halloween Freddy Krueger knife glove in my backpack and pulled it out at lunch to demand other kids give me their chocolate milks. Yet when I moved to Japan, I discovered a whole other realm of horror that was REALLY horrific, in terms of movies I watched. Films like RINGU, JU-ON, and SUICIDE CLUB completely reversed my idea of what I thought was horrific, and implanted in my brain a whole new concept of what it means to be scared and to scare others.
So when I write, I like to channel that kind of giddy feeling I had as a young kid, that feeling which allowed me to embrace horror as a genre I could live comfortably inside, and then I combine this feeling with the things I’ve seen in Japanese horror films and in Japanese horror books I’ve read. And somewhere in all of that is my inspiration, for sure.
Tell us about your writing process.
Ugh, my writing process is absolutely terrible. I sometimes can only write a single sentence, sometimes a few paragraphs, but rarely more than that, at any given time. I’ve gone weeks with just one sentence written to show for all my efforts, which is terrible, I know. I think it’s because of my process, which I suppose it’s kind of good, but mostly I sometimes think it’s an excuse for me to just procrastinate with getting my writing done. Let me explain.
See, when I write about stuff, I am a meticulous researcher who needs to make sure everything I write about has truth or proof behind it. Some things I write about can’t have that, simply because I’ve literally created something that doesn’t exist in our world, or maybe it’s too beyond the realms of what we know as reality to have anything factual to support it, but mostly where I get caught up is when I’m trying to write about characters who I have no actual experience that I can share with their own. For example, one of the characters in my new book I’m working on is a billionaire who owns a science and research foundation. In order to even begin to understand what a person like this would think like, feel like, or what his everyday experience would be, I must have spent three months looking up just stuff on youtube and google anything I could find about billionaires living in the world today. I feel I got enough great information to write my character and sound like I know what I’m talking about, but all that time I spent researching gets to the point of obsessive with me, and sometimes it’s all so I can write one sentence that has integrity. I’m that crazy about writing something that sounds realistic, but at the same time, maybe it’s just me procrastinating? I’ll never know.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
What an absolutely GREAT question!
Yes, yes, and yes. They live with me every single day. I see them in my dreams, when I’m showering, and when I’m sitting on the toilet. I will talk out their narratives driving in my car, but when I do that, I usually try to put a phone up to my ear so it looks like I’m talking to somebody else and not myself. And many times, I’ve had these conversations lead to revelations about where I want these characters to go with their trajectories in my books. It’s how I flush out a lot of quandaries in my writing, of which there always seems to be many because I’m always asking questions about what happens to my characters that I would ask myself if I were reading my own book. Usually, my characters have the answers for me to these questions, but sometimes I really have to talk to these characters, woo them, coax them, even bribe them, to tell me what I need to know to keep moving forward with my writing.
What advice would you give other writers?
Hmmm, well, not sure I am qualified to really give any advice since I’m so new to the writing world myself. I am definitely somebody who enjoys being pedantic when I know something inside and out though, but when it comes to writing, I am learning something new every single day. My mind melts just thinking about how much I simply don’t know when it comes to being a real author. It’s almost scary how much there is to getting your thoughts down on digital paper, so to speak.
However, if I were to offer any advice, it might be two things. First, write what you love, not what you know. I mean, sure, if what you love you also know very well, that’s ideal, but I think if you really love something, you’ll give that something the best kind of attention. So it’s easier to really work your butt off at 4 am in the morning writing about that thing you love, as opposed to just taking the easy route and writing about only what you know because you can fill up space in your book quicker.
The second thing is to make sure you wait until you have a physical copy of your book in your hands before you think you’ve caught every mistake in your book. Even if you are just an ebook writer, there are enough book companies out there that offer cheap book printing services and this is an invaluable step to any author, I would think, to be able to see their actual book in print. There’s nothing like having your book in your hand and reading it under different lights and in different places to point out flaws you didn’t even know existed in your book. I’ve learned this the hard way, but I am grateful for when I find these mistakes in this fashion. It really helps me realize how writing a book is never truly something an author can feel complete about.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
Well, I actually am the founder of Sakura Publishing, a traditional, indie publisher. I started out with Sakura Publishing as a vanity press, but not the kind of vanity press that doesn’t care about what it puts out. I actually rejected a LOT of authors who wanted to pay me a ton of money to put their books out. Still, I made people pay at first, so I can’t escape the fact that my company would fall under the category of a vanity press. I switched over to being a traditional publisher recently, as that was always the go, but when I first started publishing the works of other individuals, I didn’t know the first thing about the publishing industry, only that I enjoyed reading books put out by publishers. I didn’t even there were such distinctions like being called a vanity press and so on.
I actually submitted KAI to every single literary agent I could, as well as indy presses that allowed direct submissions, but I got rejected by nearly all of them. Two did show interest and one offered me a contract, but upon further investigation of that company, I read so many nightmare stories from authors who they had published in the past that I decided to pass on them. It seemed too much of a risk for me.
So I decided to self-publish because, well, why not? I have put out over 40 book titles in the past 7 years for other authors, so I know the publishing world well enough to realize that the best marketer for your book is yourself. And I think that is what I would want to share with anyone wanting to put their book out. You have three choices, and all of them are pretty viable choices. It just depends on what your end goal is with publication.
First, you could publish with a vanity press. I would suggest only doing this if you have like a memoir or something you want for your family to read only, or for a project or something that isn’t meant to be shared with the public. I think maybe the exception to this would be if you are using a vanity press for their services because you like what they offer, but ultimately, you publish the book yourself. Having your book associated with a vanity press is, unfortunately, a scarlet letter for your book. It’s unfortunate it’s this way, because contrary to popular belief, there ARE some vanity presses out there that have good intentions and aren’t out to just take your money, but they are rare, rare, rare indeed. So be careful going this route.
Second, you could try the traditional publishing route, but don’t let this consume your time. Write a perfect query letter, start seeking out literary agents that represent your book’s genre, and then move on. I would suggest giving yourself between 3- 6 months of querying agents and the indie presses that allow you to directly query them. If you either get rejected by them all or haven’t heard back from any of them, consider self-publishing. Don’t expect a miracle with querying unless you know in your heart you’ve written something the world truly needs or thinks it needs. You have to be honest and realize that writing is kind of self-serving more than anything else, so if you have written a book that only you would probably read, or only a select few people on this planet would enjoy, then it’s probably a safe assumption that most literary agents and presses out there might not care about your book enough to represent it, simply because they are out to make money and pay bills before anything else, and put out a good book second. Now, again, this isn’t always the case, as there are some really great publishing houses out there and smart literary agents who know something special when they see it, but that’s the exception, not the norm.
Your third option would be to self-publish, which allows you to be in control of your destiny. There are too many pros and cons to this option to put inside my answer here, but if you go this route, you would be wise to really explore what it means to be an expert marketer, because you will be the only one really putting your book out there. And this requires a lot of reading and work on your part to make sure you are pushing your book constantly so that anyone in the world has a chance to know about it and read it.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think publishing, as an industry, has survived the whole ebook revolution so far, but I still think the way the industry does things is very outdated. The problem is that it seems publishing as an industry is comparable to an exclusive club with members who only pay attention to each other and nobody else. That’s one way of looking at it. Publishing as an industry also is an industry in every sense of the word, in that it’s main goal is to churn out titles that keep the doors open on all the publishing houses out there. It seems that publishers have lost what it means to give a chance to something different that an author submits to them. I see way too many books available at bookstores that all seem like they were written by the same author using different names.
However, that’s not entirely the fault of these publishers. I think now, more than any other time in the world, there has been a huge surge of new writers who want to get represented professionally by a publishing house. So the publishers simply get overwhelmed, and that probably is what keeps them all behind very tightly locked doors and only peeking out into the wilderness to see what’s out there, in terms of stories to publish.
Because of this, I think publishers are probably going to continue to put out only books that make sense for them to put out, but at the same time, I think the more that bookstores like Borders close their doors, publishers will have to redefine the medium of how they deliver their books more than anything else, and also consider that to survive, they may have to find a way to publish the works of more authors out there, instead of being more exclusive. But I’m probably kidding myself to think that day will come anytime soon.
What genres do you write?: Fiction, horror, Japanese horror
What formats are your books in?: Both eBook and Print
Derek Vasconi Home Page Link
All information in this post is presented “as is” supplied by the author. We don’t edit, to allow you, the reader, to hear the author in their own voice.