Devlin Blake is a writing coach, former ghost writer and author of more than 200 books (some of which are even in her name). You can sign up for her free book of writing tips at devlinblake.com.
Let’s talk about tools. Do you have a word processor that you would tell us to use? Is there a certain computer that has become your favorite? What do you look for in a keyboard? What would you absolutely have to have if you were to sit down and write your next book?
Well, I use a standard desktop PC computer and MS Word. But there are some tools I’d love to talk about; talk to text software. I used Dragon for years. Recently, I made the switch to MS talk to text that’s even better for some things. Namely, you don’t have to train it for as long, but Dragon is better if you need more customizable options. (like if you’re writing fantasy, sci-fi or a medical thriller.)
For my phone, I use an app called speech notes. It’s talk to text for phone. Simply talk to it, and then you can email the scene to yourself. You can then copy and paste the words into your story. This is great for lunch breaks or time alone in the car.
How do you police your production? Do you have a word quota, or a page goal, maybe you work for a set amount of time?
Actually, I don’t. I love writing. I write until I’m out of scene and then I stop. It doesn’t matter if I write 200 words or 2000. But I do write every day. And if I’m not working on my current story, I have three more waiting in the wings to work on.
Do you place demands on yourself when you’re working? How do you meet those demands?
The most important thing I think is never to worry about editing or if it makes sense during the first draft. That’s for the later drafts.
What is it about your genre that speaks to you?
I love horror, paranormal thriller type stories. I read about three books a week, mostly indie books because I’m an indie author myself and also a book coach. I love that genre because it’s one of the only genres where the ending isn’t pre-determined. In romance, you know things end happily. But with those genres, it could go either way. But when I need a lighthearted thing I read paranormal romance. (I never read romance without the paranormal.) I just love the idea of other worlds.
Brother’s Keeper sounds like a unique and modern ghost story. When researching, were there any other ghost stories that you used as a touchstone to create your version of the ghost?
I love all ghost stories. I love Alfred Hitchcock, Twilight Zone and Tales From The Crypt. And of course Turn of the Screw. I think you have to love that one. I’m also fascinated by how traumas in our lives keep showing up even as adults. There’s not much I can say about Brother’s Keeper without giving away too much. Lester is a man haunted by his guilt; guilt that he lived and his brother died. This is why his life is ruined so drastically when his dead brother returned from the grave.
Touch takes place in a carnival freak show. I find carnival life extremely interesting and would like to know more. What kind of acts can we expect to find in the novel?
Well, it’s more about the people than the acts, but I’ll be happy to talk about them.
There’s Cade’s act of course, which is the Immortal. Basically, he let’s someone kill him on stage and doesn’t die. It’s a men’s only show because it’s violent and back then, shows were separated into ‘men’s’ and ‘women’s’ shows. Men’s shows were more violent or sexual in nature. Of course, Cade’s real power is being able to heal with a touch, but he didn’t want do a faith healer act. Too much could go wrong because his touch can also kill.
Then of course there’s Harry, who runs the curiosity exhibit. It’s one of those tents where you see the dead things in jars. Harry loves his exhibit, but no one else in the show really does. It makes a lot of money though, so getting rid of it’s not an option.
Then, there’s Kit, the fortune teller. She actually has real powers, which makes her a bad fortune teller. She tells people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear. She’s also not very dramatic because her powers work by touch alone. That’s another bad trait for a fortune teller.
Malcom runs the carousel. Most freak shows didn’t have one, but this particular one just bought a carnival, and the carousel came with it. They were new at time this book was set and they were very popular. Malcom even mentions how his carousel features the new up and down movement and organ type music. Again, both those things were very new in the late 1800’s.
And of course there’s Leo, a man from Cade’s past, who wants revenge, but Cade doesn’t recognize him. Leo is one of the human oddities the show has. He’s covered with leopard spots. Cade knows they’re actually tattoos, not something Leo was born with, but he doesn’t realize Leo got them so he could move in Cade’s circles unobserved.
Without too many spoilers, tell us a little about the different personalities of the afflicted character in the book Duplicity.
Kendall is a sensitive man, who is a little shy and unsure of himself. Not violent by any means. When he was little, something violent happened to him, which he still hates to talk about. The story starts with him coming to in the kitchen and realizing that his other side, the one he calls Byn, violently murdered his own sister. In a rare act of bravery, he turns himself in and confesses. The rest of the story takes place at the asylum where Kendall is trying very hard to get better. However, Byn has other ideas. Kendall doesn’t realize that Byn knows secrets about the asylum and is blackmailing key members of the staff to make sure Byn always wins. Everything from substituting his medications to figuring out how to escape without anyone noticing are all things Byn does. Byn knows everything about Kendall, well everything after the time of his creation. He doesn’t know much before it, such as what happened to him as a child. However, Kendall never knows what Byn is up to or has done.
What piece of art, that is not writing, moves you?
Well, I’m a trained sculptor, so I’m going to say it’s the Four Crowned Saints in Italy. I’ve never seen it in person. I’ve just seen pictures. It was built on the side of a church in the 1400’s. Michelangelo said that it was sculpture that inspired him. Someday, I’d love to see it for real, and see the statue that inspired him.
What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?
Wild horses on the beach. They’re not only stunning, but I also feel they’re a metaphor for freedom.
How did you find the time to write this book with your busy life? What ideas do you have on how others can make time in their lives?
Well, everyone has the time to write a book. What they don’t have is the energy. One of the most important things a writer can do is pay attention to the other parts of their lives, like their diet, their sleep, how much TV they watch, and their happiness levels. I’ve found that once your mind is well rested, happy, and well nourished, you can get a lot more done in a lot less time. Trying to write on caffeine and adrenaline doesn’t make it. That’s one of the things I coach my clients on.
If you could change any one thing about the writing industry, what would it be?
Respect. I don’t feel like authors get enough of it, not even from other authors. I also feel like authors do most of the work and get the smallest slice of the pie. That’s a question of respect too.
Of course, the biggest thing I’d like to change has already been changed by Amazon. And that’s to bring a lot more stories to market so everyone can tell theirs. And that’s why I believe it’s the best time to be an author.
If you could choose any other writer, living or dead, to be your mentor, whom would you choose and why?
Oscar Wilde. Not because he’s a great writer, but because he’s a great marketer.
In his day, he made sure to be seen at all the right places even though he didn’t have the money, connections or job to be there. He had an ordinary day job when he started, with ordinary pay. But he still made sure that people knew who he was and he was everywhere. It got to the point where you were no one unless you knew him. And that’s when he became a writer and sold his works and got offers effortlessly. I feel modern writers, including myself, could learn a lot from him. He would love the world of opportunity available today.
If we wanted a good story—book, show or movie—one that you didn’t write, where would you send us?
Depends on what you wanted.
My favorite modern horror author right now is Amy Cross. She doesn’t write series, but she has close to a hundred books out. Her stories are pretty crazy, and a little gory, so be aware of that.
For paranormal romance it’s Kristian Painter’s Nocturne Falls series. There’s just something about it I love. I think it’s the characters. She has a real talent for them.
And for when I’m feeling nostalgic, I read Point Horror stories that I grew up with in the 1990’s, when teen horror was just becoming a thing.
My favorite movie is A Simple Plan. I love how it all goes so wrong, so fast.
And I’m a big fan of the suspense radio drama from the 1940’s. You can hear that one on old time radio.