Today we have author Devon McCormack over to have a chat about his books and to take a deeper look his YA story Hideous, a story I read recently and was captivated by.
Give him a warm welcome and here goes!
Welcome to the blog, Devon. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what made you start writing?
Oh, God. I’ve been writing since I was very little. I used to play a lot of imaginative games with the neighborhood kids. We were always running off into the woods to battle dragons or aliens. Writing was really just a way of keeping those games going when my friends had to go home. But I didn’t want to be a writer. My dad used to suggest I should be one, but I was pretty much offended whenever he would because that sounded awfully boring. I didn’t want to sit at a computer all day (which was all I assumed writers did). Gross. No, no. I wanted to go on adventures and explore magical worlds. Once I realized that writing was pretty much the only way I could experience “magical worlds” the way I wanted to, it became a part of my everyday routine.
I found you through your book Hideous – a YA book published with Harmony Ink – so I’d like to focus a bit on that story. What inspired you to write Hideous?
“The Handless Maiden” has always been my favorite Grimm Fairy Tale. I can’t say what exactly about that story resonated with me. I think it had something to do with the fact that it was very different. I wasn’t used to main characters running around without any hands. They didn’t really show that in movies and TV shows. Main characters usually had all their limbs — not always, but usually. Also, there was something wildly disturbing about the beginning, when the demon coerces the maiden’s father into cutting off her hands. That seems like a terribly horrifying event…to have your own father doing that to you.
So one day, in the distant future from when I first read that story, I was thinking I wanted to write a new project, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted it to be about. “The Handless Maiden” came to mind, and I thought it would be interesting to write a story about a guy who, when he was very little, had a hand and eye removed by his demon-possessed father. Years later, the demon returns to possess him. It’s not an exact modernization. I just took the parts I liked. But I gave my main character, Luke, a hand (rather than taking both), and I took an eye to make up for giving him that. In truth, the reason I needed an eye was because I wanted him to have a disfigurement that he couldn’t hide. I didn’t think it would be enough of a disfigurement if he could just tuck his stumps in his pocket when he walked down the street so no one would notice. I wanted him to repulse people, not because he’s unattractive, but because he has something that signifies to everyone, “There’s something wrong with you.” And I think that’s more often than not the natural response to disfigurement. Not necessarily because people are awful, but because it’s not the norm–it’s almost like we don’t know how to deal with it.
Some parts of Hideous are quite gruesome. What made you decide to focus on YA?
It just sort of wrote itself that way. A lot of readers have noted the cursing and the violence because it’s usually not that explicit in mainstream young adult novels. But when I was a teen, I watched horror movies and I said all those words. So did all my friends, so I didn’t think that any of those elements would be all that foreign to my readers.
Were you afraid the title was maybe to violent for the YA crowd?
I thought no one would publish it as YA because of the violence and the cursing, and honestly, if I’d been asked to tame it down even more, I would have done so. I really liked the story, and I was willing to work around those graphic elements. I didn’t intend for them to exist just to shock people. They were just how I envisioned actual teenagers thinking and reacting. As for the gore, I did intentionally tone it down somewhat in my revisions.
There is a bit of a love-triangle in the story, between Luke and two other characters – that are quite different from each other. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Oh, Tom and Zack. Of course.
Tom has it all. He’s the hot guy at the school. He’s charming, funny, clever. But he’s also got a dark secret that he can’t share with anyone. And no. It’s not being gay. In this story, the characters’ problems are so big that homosexuality is almost the last thing on their minds. One night, Luke finds Tom drunk in the bushes outside the dorms and he rescues Tom from being caught by the night guard. A friendship develops between them, and Luke starts to think it could lead to something more.
Zack doesn’t have it all. In the world of Hideous, those who have been attacked by demons (aka “curseds”) are supposed to register and work for the state. Some, like Zack, resist this. They go underground and live in hiding. And because Zack has to hide from the world, he has to deal in some shady businesses. They meet one day when Luke is getting the crap beat out of him by a gang. Zack rescues him and they form a friendship, bonding over their cursed status. And they, too, start to get really close.
I adore these guys. Both of them. Some people think that there’s a clear winner, but I think that the “loser” of this triangle has very good reasons for behaving the way he does, so I don’t judge him for it.
Will Hideous be a series or a stand-alone?
Hideous is part of a series. I have the other books outlined, but God knows when I’ll get around to writing the next one. I have another series I’m working on, and I have a few other projects on the docket before I’ll get around to the sequel, which is tentatively titled Repulsive. I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say when Luke and Zack get to a place they think will be totally different from the rest of the country, it’s not all that different at all. And if people thought I was mean to Luke in the Hideous, they’re gonna think I’m a sadist in this one.
You have another YA book When Ryan Came Back that will be released in October. What is it about?
The story opens with the main character Steven attending the viewing of his friend, Ryan. Ryan committed suicide days earlier, but Steven doesn’t understand why. Ryan had everything–a beautiful girlfriend, a scholarship to a prestigious college, all the popularity one could hope for. It’s driving Steven crazy trying to figure out what could have led him to killing himself. He remembers those last days when they talked, and he’s trying to remember a cry for help, a moment where he could have said something different, done something different. But there’s nothing. Even worse, Ryan wasn’t just his friend, he was his lifelong crush. And even though he knows Ryan could never love him, there’s a part of him that wishes that he would’ve shared his feelings with him.
One night, Steven discovers Ryan standing in his room. But Ryan’s dead, so this can’t be right. Steven thinks he must be going insane. He can’t believe that he’s really being visited by the ghost of his dead friend. It’s really him, though, and Ryan tells Steven that he didn’t commit suicide. He was murdered, but he needs Steven to help him find out by whom…if only so that his widowed mother won’t think that he abandoned her…
Can you tell us what your book writing plans are for the future?
I have a New Adult vampire novel coming out in October called The Pining of Kevin Harding. It’ll be released by Wilde City Press. So it’ll be Ryan and Kevin duking it out for attention.
Other than that, lots of writing. Lots and lots of it. So much writing that thinking about it makes my head hurt. I have a series I’m working on right now, and at some point, I’m gonna get around to working on my Hideous series, but I’m still trying to schedule all that out. I can’t complain, though. This is what I love doing, and I’m so fortunate to have these wonderful companies that are willing to publish my work.
Can you give us a fun fact/tid bit about one of your books?
Early on, during the initial drafting of the manuscript for Hideous, I was having a very difficult time understanding the demon. Not just that demon, but the demons in general. What was their motivation? Why were they doing this? I couldn’t make sense of it. And as I was writing the story, it drove me crazy, because I outline thoroughly, and this piece seemed like something I needed to understand in order for the book to work. One day, I was dwelling on this gap, and I sat down at the computer and typed, “Why are you doing this?” Presumably, this was to the demon in the novel…and without giving anything in the story away, I’ll just say, he told me. Now, that sounds weirder than it really was. I’m not a superstitious person or particularly religious, and I certainly wasn’t out of control when I wrote that. If anything, it was a creative process that enabled me to relax and piece together something I’d been dwelling on for a while, but it was strange, because I don’t operate that way. I usually don’t drill characters outside the context of whatever story I’m working on. But after that, everything just clicked right into place. I understood why I’d written certain story elements the way I had…because those things had to work out that way for this element to work. It was just a very interesting moment. One of those where I feel like the story is kind of writing itself.
That’s it for now folks, but keep tuned. Devon might be back soon!
Want to know more?
Devon’s website: http://www.devonmccormack.com/