Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Interview with the Amazing C. David Belt!!!!!


C. David Belt was born in Evanston, WY. As a child, he lived and traveled extensively around the Far East. He served as an LDS missionary in South Korea and southern California (Korean-speaking). He graduated from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and a minor in Aerospace Studies. He served as a B-52 pilot in the US Air Force and as an Air Weapons Controller in the Washington Air National Guard. When he is not writing, he sings in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and works as a software engineer. He collects swords (mostly Scottish), axes, spears, and other medieval weapons and armor. He and his wife have six children and live in Utah with an eclectus parrot named Mork (who likes to jump on the keyboard when David is writing). 






The Unwilling: 

In all the 6,000 years that the Children of Lilith have walked among us, there has never been an unwilling vampire...until now.

Carl Morgan has lost everything. His wife and children were killed in a senseless accident. Then he witnesses the murder of his sister at the hands of a beautiful and mysterious woman named Rebecca. When the police cannot locate the killer, Carl takes matters into his own hands. But his search for justice costs him everything he holds dear.

Carl is unknowingly transformed into the world's first and only unwilling vampire. He is cut off from the light, damned to an eternity of darkness, barred from heaven and any hope of a reunion with his family.

Moira MacDonald, a repentant vampire, has roamed the earth alone for centuries seeking redemption. The very existence of an unwilling vampire, something she thought impossible, changes everything. Has she finally found a path to redemption . . . and an end to her loneliness?

Carl and Moira discover that Rebecca's vampire Master, Michael, plans to unleash a plague of vampires on the city. Can Carl and Moira stop the slaughter of countless innocents?




The Penitent:

In 6,000 years, no vampire has ever defied Lilith, Queen of the vampires...until now.

Moira and Carl Morgan have saved the city from the horror of Michael and his evil wives, but victory has come at terrible cost.  And there are consequences to every choice, every victory.  Word has spread that someone has broken Lilith's power, that someone has defied the ancient Queen of the vampires.   And she's not happy about it.

The Prophecy:
For 6,000 years, Lilith and her Children have walked the earth, hunting, preying, seducing, corrupting, ruling from the shadows...until now.

An ancient prophecy, spoken by Adam, Lilith's grandfather, foretells her doom. She will do anything, corrupt any innocent, murder countless mortals to save herself.  To survive, she knows she must destroy Carl and Moira Morgan.  The war has begun.  And Carl and Moira know, win or lose, it all ends here.







Deirdra:  What is your writing and educational background?
Dave: I’ve been writing stories, poetry, and songs since I was a child.  I wrote a few short stories in high school and college, but I only started to write my first novel, The Unwilling, in December of 2009.  I was forty-nine years old.  I never took a creative writing course in college.  I have a degree in Computer Science from BYU with a minor in Aerospace Studies (i.e., AFROTC).

Deirdra: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?
Dave: Lots and lots of submission packets, lots of rejections, and lots of research.  I think most times, a publisher would read my query letter, get to the words “LDS” and “vampire” in the same sentence, and stop reading.  My publisher, Parables, actually rejected the manuscript originally.  They sent it back with edits (so they DID read it), but said, “I want more imagery.  The storytelling is too sparse.”  I said, “If I were to expand the imagery, would you take another look?”  They said they would.  So I expanded the first four chapters, added about 5K words, and sent it back.  The response I got back was, “I love, love, love your book!”  So it went to the next level, the next approver, and the next, and soon I was offered a contract.  Parables publishes only about three books each year and they had already hit their limit for that year, so they asked, “Would you be willing to have it published as an e-book first and a paperback a year later?”  My response was, “Was that a trick question?  Absofraggin’lutely!”

Deirdra: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?
Dave:  Of course.  Frequently.  I considered self-publishing, though I didn’t know how to go about it, but I really needed the validation that somebody other than friends and family thought my work was good enough to publish.  So even though I was discouraged, I just kept plugging away.  I don’t think I’m capable of giving up on something I love, so I just kept on fighting. 


Deirdra: What books have most influenced your life?
Dave:  Some people might say, “The scriptures,” or something like that.  Don’t get me wrong: the scriptures have affected my life profoundly, and I don’t want to belittle that.  But when I read the scriptures, I’m always looking for motivation: why did Moses or Nephi or Moroni say or do that?  How can I relate that to me?  What would I have done in that situation?  That said, as far as literary influences go: Dracula, by Bram Stoker, Shakespeare’s MacBeth, King Lear, and Hamlet, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, A Christmas Carol, and Oliver Twist, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein, Mary Stewart’s The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, The Last Enchantment, and The Wicked Day, J. R. R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Robert Heinlein’s The Green Hills of Earth, J. Michael Straczynski’s Babylon 5 (OK, that’s not a book, but it could have been and it has been a profound influence), about one half or one third of a few of Stephen King’s books (wishing I could throw the rest of it away), Stephen R. Donaldson’s Daughter of Regals, and just about anything by Neil Gaiman, particularly, The Sandman, American Gods, Anansi Boys, and The Graveyard Book. 

Deirdra: What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing?
Dave: I told the story that possessed me.  The story simply would not let me go until it was told.  When it was finished, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.  Then I realized how much I was going to miss the characters!


Deirdra:  What is your writing schedule like?
Dave: I write whenever I can get a few moments.  Mostly, it’s late at night.


Deirdra: What do you do to relax and unwind?
Dave: This going to sound weird, but hear me out:  I lie down on the couch and turn on Family Guy.  The show is so vile, that I turn the volume very low, close my eyes, and just tune it out.  I’m sleepy and ready for bed in five minutes or less.  I would never actually WATCH the show, but it puts me to sleep. 


Deirdra:  Where do your ideas come from?  How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?
Dave: Usually, I get an image in my head.  If it simply won’t go away until I tell the story, then I know it’s a good one.  For The Children of Lilith, I had an image of a circle of vampires “ordaining” a man who did not consent to become a vampire.  In my head, I KNEW he was unwilling and that vampirism (like eternal damnation) could not be forced on anyone, but SOMEHOW it was being forced on him.  I knew he was the first and only unwilling vampire.  That image stayed in my head for more than a decade until I simply had to tell the story.  (It took me a decade to figure out how he could be forced to be a vampire if it MUST be voluntary.)


Deirdra:  Can you tell us a little about your book, The Children of Lilith: The Unwilling, The Penitent, and The Prophecy?
Dave:  The Unwilling is the story of Carl Morgan, a decent LDS man who loses his wife and children in an automobile accident.  Then he witnesses the murder of his wayward sister at the hands of the beautiful and mysterious Rebecca.  When the police can’t find the killer, he goes searching for her.  He finds her, but she takes away everything.  She transforms him into the world’s FIRST and ONLY unwilling vampire.  Vampirism is a choice, and you’re choosing to become a serial killer, because you can only survive on HUMAN blood, not animal blood.  Carl is unwilling to murder to survive and he really doesn’t understand what’s happened to him.  He’s found and mentored by Moira MacDonald, a two-hundred and seventy year-old Penitent (repentant vampire).  She teaches him how to survive without killing, how to stay true to his temple covenants (in spite of his condition), and how to get justice for his murdered sister.  But to Moira?  Carl’s very existence as an unwilling vampire turns her world upside-down, because Carl is an impossibility.  In the 6,000 years that the Children of Lilith have walked the earth, there has never been an unwilling vampire, because eternal damnation cannot be forced on someone: they must choose it, just as Moira did.  And yet, there’s Carl.  If he can exist somehow, there must be something about Moira’s condition that she doesn’t know.  Is it possible that, after two and half centuries of searching for redemption and repentance with no hope, perhaps there might be a way back?  Meanwhile, Rebecca’s vampire Master, Michael, plans to unleash a wave of new vampires on the city.  Carl and Moira must stop him before countless innocents are slaughtered. 


Deirdra:  How many beta readers review your manuscript before you send it to your editor?
Dave:  Four of my adult children, my wife, my mother, and two or three friends (among them, fellow authors).  One of my sons is my harshest and best critic.  My youngest daughter provides me with unique insights.   


Deirdra:  What do you hope readers will get from your books? 
 Dave:  There are themes and morals to any good story, and if I can help someone understand agency and the atonement of Christ (the themes of The Children of Lilith), so much the better.  Mostly, I just want to tell a good story. 


Deirdra: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline first?
Dave:  I NEVER outline.  I sit down and write out character sketches, settings, rules (such as how vampirism works in my story), and plot points (not all of which will make it into the story).  I know how I want the story to end (in the broad strokes).  Then I stew for a long time on how to start the story (a process that is repeated at the beginning of each chapter), how to bait the hook.  Once I have the beginning, I plunge in and let the characters tell the story to me.  Occasionally, one of the characters will speak up in my head and say something like, “I would nae ever say such a thing, laddie!  Here’s what I’d do.”  That’s when I know that the character has really come alive for me.  That’s also the point when the story may go in a direction that I never anticipated, but will ultimately lead me to the where the story needs to go.  The most important thing, for me, is to know who the characters are before I can begin. 


Deirdra: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's block? If so, how do you deal with it?
Dave:  From time to time, I find that the story has taken an unexpected turn.  Perhaps it has become more violent than I intended.  Perhaps I’ve learned something about a character that disturbs me.  Then I have to stop and puzzle out what to do about it.  Sometimes I’ll brainstorm with someone else, but mostly I simply work it out in my head.  Things have to make sense and they have to be honest.  If not, the story isn’t worth telling.  So I have to listen and determine how the story should proceed.  The answers come with prayer sometimes.  Other times, I just lie awake in bed at night, working it over in my head.  Often, the answer will come while I’m sitting in the Choir loft in the Tabernacle or the Conference Center gazing at the vaulted ceiling during rehearsal. 


Deirdra: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing?
Dave:  If I did need absolute quiet, I’d never get anything written!  I can tune out everything around me if the words are flowing.  If I can, I will listen to music: Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Celtic music (particularly Loreena McKinnett).  I’m particularly fond of Irish and Scottish drinking songs.  I have no idea why, because I don’t drink (obviously) and I’ve never been in an Irish pub.  (Although, I can tell you that I have recorded a couple of songs with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir that are folk hymns and were originally Irish or Scottish drinking songs!  One of my favorites is actually in our hymnbook… with different words, of course.)


Deirdra: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?
Dave:  Swords, axes, spears, war hammers, shields, toy spaceships, a replica of George Washington’s pistol, and my parrot.  And people, with all their glorious imperfections, quirks, and divine potential. 


Deirdra: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?
Dave: My wife, who listens and lets me bounce ideas off her, my mother, because I never want to tell a story that she wouldn’t be willing to read, and Captain America (before Marvel messed him up), George Washington, Neil Gaiman, and J. Michael Straczynski.. 


Deirdra:  What’s your secret to making the character’s in your books come to life?
Dave: Give them a good backstory, know their physical appearance, and above all, listen to them.


Deirdra:  What authors do you admire, and why?
Dave:  Neil Gaiman, because he is able to breathe new life into the mundane and make the extraordinary and uncanny sound commonplace and credible.  J. Michael Straczynski, because he gave the world Londo Molari. 


Deirdra:  What is your favorite snack to have while you are writing?
Dave:  Snack?  Who has time to eat when the words are flowing?


Deirdra:  Besides writing what other talents or hobbies do you have?
Dave:  I sing in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  I love to act on the stage, especially in musical theatre.  My dream was to play Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, and I’ve done that.  I collect swords, axes, spears, and other medieval weapons and armor.  I’m fascinated with history.  I love Celtic music, especially Irish drinking songs. 


Deirdra:  What are you working on now?
Dave:  I’m currently working on a standalone science fiction novel with LDS themes and a main character who is LDS. Time’s Plague borrows themes for Shakespeare’s “King Lear” and is set roughly a century or so in the future. It starts out on a penal colony on Callisto (one of the moons of Jupiter). The story centers on Edgar Cordell, an innocent man, who has been sentenced for life (there can be no parole and no escape from the Hades penal colony) for a murder he did not commit. He was framed by his ex-wife and his best friend. The prison has no warden and is ruled by the prisoners, all of whom are male. It is literally a hellish place populated by murderers and rapists, the worst of the worst. New prisoners and supplies are dropped from orbit and no ship ever lands on Callisto… that is, until a shuttle crash-lands. There is only one survivor—Edgar’s ex-wife, the one person in the universe he hates more than any other. No woman can survive on Callisto. Edgar has to figure out a way to get her off-world and protect her from the other inmates.


Deirdra:  Are you planning on self-publishing, finding and agent, going with a small press or other? And why?
Dave:  I would LOVE to find an agent!  At present, I plan to give Parables first right of refusal on Times Plague.  Otherwise, I have no plans to self-publish.  I need the validation that somebody other than close friends and family find value in my work. 


Deirdra:  Where is your favorite place to write?
Dave:  In my office at home, surrounded by my swords.


Deirdra:  How do you come up with your character’s names?
Dave:  Names have power (which, coincidentally, is one of the themes in Time’s Plague), so I choose them carefully.  Sometimes, they are literary references and sometimes they are scriptural.  Often they are ironic: the vampire Master in The Unwilling is named Michael, which means, “like unto God”, something that Michael definitely is NOT. 


Deirdra: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?
Dave:  First and foremost: tell the story YOU want to tell.  Be honest: don’t force a story to work the way you want it to go.  If it can’t go there honestly, it’s not worth telling. 


Deirdra:  What is the best complement you could receive from a reader?
Dave:  A very tall member of the Choir came up to me one morning, grasped me by the shoulders, shook me, and said, “Your book made me weep!”  (I didn’t even know he had read it.) 

Deirdra: What are all the different ways you have promoted your book. 
 Dave:  I have a website that I engineered myself: www.unwillingchild.com.  I do book-signings and author interviews.  If I’m at a book-signing, and things are going slowly, I sing Celtic songs.  My voice carries to the ends of the mall.  People stop by.  They may or may not buy the book, but they’ll stop and listen and talk.


Deirdra: Where can readers go to find your books and order them?
Dave:  www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com, and of course, www.unwillingchild.com, which has direct links to those sites.  The publisher’s website, www.parablespub.com, also has links to those sites.

Deirdra: Any final words you would like to share?
Dave:  Thank you so much for this opportunity. 

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