Kerry Allen Denney - Drop and Give Me 20! 20 Hard Questions for Hard Writers
I first "met" Kerry Allen Denny when I was with another press at the same time as he. We may have chatted a couple of times on Facebook, but I had the chance to read Soulsnatcher and have been a fan ever since
Pre Question - So, who are you?
I am, at heart, an adventurer, on the greatest journey ever undertaken. I commenced that journey from the moment I popped out of my mother’s womb. And I’m certain it won’t end when I crumple and gasp out my last breath. After fifty-five years of surviving on this wildly-spinning watery space rock, I still believe in magic, and I still believe in love as a vital and tangible force that can change the world for the better. I believe in good and evil, and foster and nurture the former while I combat the latter. I believe that the easiest way for evil to win is for good men to do nothing, and that there are far greater things in Heaven and on Earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies. There is more to this world than we see with our eyes or touch with our hands, and I spend much of my time and effort trying to see and touch those things. I often come close to it when I’m “in the writing zone” and my muse is upon me. Come join me on this grand adventure!
1. Are you “An Author” -or- “A Writer”? What’s the difference?
I’m a little bit of both—and laughing at myself as I write that. All authors are writers—of a sort—but not all authors are good writers, as they inevitably mistakenly believe themselves to be (there, see? Two “-ly” adverbs in a row—so spank me twice and call me Charlie).
I prefer to be thought of as a writer, because it’s what I am. I write; I do not “author”. One is a verb and the other is not... at least principally. Although I am by definition a “published author”—five novels now, and numerous short stories, some award-winners—I still consider myself a writer because it’s what I do when I sit down at my word processor and create people, worlds, and stories.
Why not an “author”? Because to me, an Author is that pompous ass you sometimes run across at conventions, festivals, parties, gatherings, and sometimes on the Internet who looks down their nose at everyone around them, mistakenly believing him- or herself to be better than their peers, for whatever absurd reason. And I damn sure don’t want anyone to think of me that way, because I am, always have been, and always will be a “people person,” respectful of the thoughts, opinions, and differences of others, however radical or “out there” they may seem.
Authors are inevitably shallow and self-absorbed; writers are deep and absorbed by the world and events surrounding them. So yeah, I’m a writer.
2. What is your biggest failure?
Such a tough question! I’ve had so many, how do I choose? (Laughing at myself again.) I guess I’d have to say “the one that got away,” although she didn’t really—I actually lost her. I was an immature, selfish young man, not worthy of the wonder and joy she brought into my life... although I certainly didn’t think so at the time. She was, and still is to this day, the best thing (and woman, all woman, 100% plus) that ever happened to me, and I foolishly squandered her love and devotion because I was a stupid kid. Lori, I still think of you, and well and fondly. Whoever finally won your heart is the luckiest man alive. If I got just ONE “do-over,” she would be my choice, hands down.
3. What is the worst lie you ever told?
Probably “I love you, baby,” because no other simple phrase has ever gotten me in such deep shit from which I can barely extricate myself. Yeah, I’ve told a few whoppers that I’ve ended up regretting, but the process of learning to be brutally honest without capitulation has helped me mature and become the man I’m proud to be today—as well as helped me learn who my true friends really are, and little else in this world is as important to me as that.
4. Do you Google yourself?
Hell yeah! And it’s genuinely not an ego thing. I’m a writer, remember? These days, writers must promote themselves and their work (unless they’re J.K. Rowling, James Patterson, or Stephen King and the like). I use the results of Googling myself as a guideline to help determine which of my promotional and marketing strategies and tactics are working most successfully. Sure, it’s a kick and an ego boost to see your name all over search engine results, but it’s also a great method for a writer to learn which of their monumental efforts, outside of actually writing, are yielding the best results and “hits” on the ’net, and which are doing the most to help them reach their target audience.
5. How would your friends describe you? And what about your worst enemy?
The one word friends have used most often to describe me is “clever.” Maybe not my best choice, but I wear it like a badge, with pride. I might have preferred “sex god” (one woman actually said that!), but upon reflection, “clever” works well for me. I’ve also often been told that I’m a good listener, and that means a lot to me. And it works exceptionally well for being a writer, too. One of the greatest skills a writer can develop is learning how to watch people, listen to them and observe their phraseology, demeanor, and use of colloquialisms, their mannerisms i.e. facial expressions, posture, gestures, and body language, and incorporate those mannerisms into our characters in order to achieve believable realism as well as sympathetic and empathetic characters—including developing devious, shrewd, and despicable villains that readers love to hate, one of my favorite accomplishments when writing.
Worst enemy? I haven’t met him or her yet that I know of, but I’ve certainly been called some choice names: asshole, jerk, narcissist, and the ubiquitous “fuckhead,” which always makes me laugh no matter from whom it came.
A great friend of mine once told me, “Kerry, if you were rich, you’d be eccentric, but since you’re not rich, you’re just fucking crazy.”
Works for me!
6. What is your creative Kryptonite?
Finally, an easy question. The fucking Internet, dammit. When I’m “in the writing zone” and my muse is upon me, I must avoid that omnipresent devil at all costs. It is the Eater of Souls, the Grim Reaper of Valuable Time and Creativity.
Second biggest creative barrier? The intrusion of reality. Writers don’t need that when they’re writing.
7. What popular movie/book/music, which others adore, do you secretly despise?
Well if I tell you, it won’t be a secret anymore, will it? I can’t stand rap “music” (it’s not music), never could and never will. Death metal bores me to tears (nihilists are the biggest losers on the planet). I don’t get the fascination with The Hunger Games; the movie was lame, although admittedly I didn’t read the book/series, so I have no idea of the level of writing skill of Ms. Collins, and absolutely do NOT begrudge her the success she’s achieved—nor do I begrudge anyone their success, big or small. An old girlfriend desperately tried to persuade me to read 50 Shades of Gray, and I mired through one chapter before my gag reflex took over—because of the abysmally poor amateurish writing, not the content. Star Wars (all of them) makes me yawn so much my jaw hurts, and I’m a huge sci-fi fan. I avoid vampires like cottage cheese flavored yogurt, especially the sparkly ones (temporarily leaves interview to hurl). I’m overzombified, even though that’s not a word... although it should be. I prefer clever and shrewd antagonists, and zombies don’t think. I could go on, but I don’t want to alienate my target audience, now do I? ;)
8. What is the worst criticism you ever received? How did it make you feel?
Some kid on the playground in elementary school once said “You’re a doody-head,” and I remember that one stuck with me for a while. I was inconsolable for days. However, lest I fail to mention it, I cleverly countered that outrageous insult with the unparalleled ultimately insulting reply, “YOU’RE the doody-head,” which certainly put that poor boy in his place, by God.
I’ve had fortunately very few negative reviews on my books, but they’re radically overwhelmed by the positive ones. Nowadays, that stuff rolls off me like water beading on a good wax job. My skin is thicker than titanium and Kryptonite blended together, and besides, I’m happy for everyone to have and share their own opinions... however wrong they may be. (Yes, I snickered at that one.)
9. If you could have one “do-over” in your life, what would it be?
Oops, see Question #2 re: the one that got away. However... if I were so fortunate to be blessed with two more “do-overs,” they would be 1) to stop my mother from going for a drive that sorrowful day in 1988 when she had her fatal car accident, and 2) to stop my little brother from going for his drive that equally sorrowful day in 1984 when he had his fatal car accident. I would have strapped them both to chairs with rope, duct tape, and chains. Kolan & Mother, I miss you both so much. I try to live my life in a way that will honor you both.
10. How long/how many rejections did you get before someone gave you your shot?
I don’t believe I can count that high. Let me get my calculator out. For the record, I wrote seven complete novels before I got my first publication offer, over a time span of nine years—and learned a priceless wealth of information about the craft of writing and honed my writing skills in the process. Both SOULSNATCHER (my first-published novel and fifth-written one) and JAGANNATH (my second-published novel and sixth-written one) each received upwards of 200 (yep, count ’em) rejections before two different publishers made offers. An interesting side-note: Both novels received offers during THE SAME WEEK in early December of 2013, which made for one hell of a pair of kickass Christmas presents.
I have a motto and creed that I live by, which I call my “Triple-P Philosophy”: Patience, Persistence, and Perseverance. All writers wishing to achieve eventual publication must ultimately adopt these three traits. And when you finally score that incomparable winning goal, yes, by all means throw a blowout week-long party to celebrate, but more importantly, KEEP WRITING!
11. What was the last movie/book which made you cry?
That’s a tough question, mainly because I’m a man who’s not the least bit ashamed or hesitant to admit that I wear my heart on my sleeve, and express my emotions (joy as well as sorrow) freely.
The last movie that made me cry was the recent remake of POLTERGEIST. It was a repulsive insult to the classic original, and should be forever lost and never shown or seen again upon penalty of eternal torture. That’s not a joke / gag response. It was worse than inexcusably sad. Some movies just SHOULD NOT be remade, and that’s one of them. As for the movie that chokes me up every time I see it, one of my all-time favorites which I’ve seen at least ten times and still enjoy, that would be THE ULTIMATE GIFT. Sad as can be imagined, but also full of victorious redemption. I highly recommend it.
As for the last book that made me cry, I would have to say Dean Koontz’s WATCHERS, an all-time favorite, upon my fifth re-reading. But the good part is they were, as they always are, tears of joy. What a magnificent story. Also highly recommended to all horror / fantasy / sci-fi readers. I’m sure I’ll be reading it again, and again.
12. Which writer’s trope are you the most sick of...and possibly caught yourself doing?
So many to choose from! I abhor clichés, and avoid them like the Black Plague (lol). How about this one, bet you’ve not heard it before: I avoid clichés like giant mutant maggots with razor-sharp fangs squirming on the festering wounds of a bloated three-week-old zombie corpse. ;)
If I must pick one trope, it’s that whole “lucky bitch/bastard” presumption so often made by ignorant folks who don’t know all the endless work and effort that goes into successfully creating, soliciting, publishing, and marketing a book. I want to smack those people upside the head with a nail-studded two-by-four like Negan on steroids and hallucinogenic amphetamines. In all but about 0.0001% of the population of people who have achieved success in one endeavor or another, they worked their asses off to get there. Luck didn’t have anything to do with it, although that may often seem the case on the superficial surface.
So I can hardly wait to hear the first person call me a lucky bastard. It will mean that I have arrived at that lofty goal called “supreme success.”
13. On a scale of 1 to 10, what is your writer’s ego?
Eleventy-one, methinks. Seriously, about 8.69. A writer without a good healthy dose of cocky self-confidence is likely doomed to obscurity. And in my mind, a great writer’s skill is learning to temper that cockiness in the creation of our characters, radically varying their own levels of self-confidence in a way that is believable to readers and doesn’t require a great amount of suspension of disbelief. Achieving this in writing is vitally necessary; we mustn’t infuse ALL our characters with our own personal characteristics and traits, because that not only gets boring, but it also quickly becomes annoying. My favorite writers are the ones who can successfully achieve this, regardless of the vastness of their egos. We all have flaws—a curse of being human—and we must endow our characters with flaws as well as strengths to make them realistic and believable.
For the record, two of the most often repeated compliments I receive on my writing is that I create likeable and believable (sympathetic) characters, and that I write realistic and natural dialogue. A big part of the reason for this is that my characters develop a life of their own inside my head while I’m writing them, regardless of what type of person they may be or represent—hero, villain, or somewhere in between the two—and more often than not they end up dictating to ME how they behave, respond to certain situations, and even what they say and how they speak. Yes, my characters speak to me.
And yeah, compliments like that are a massive ego boost, a real head-blower-upper.
14. Do you have any scars (mental or physical)? Which one(s) is/are your most memorable?
Physical: a minor few. Fortunately nothing memorable that reminds me of a stupid mistake I’ve made that I have to live with the rest of my life.
Mental: also relatively few. The worst are the ones I wear inside for the times I made my mother and father angry with me. They deserved better, and fortunately I grew out of that type of inexcusable immature behavior (by the time I turned about 35 or 40, lol). The fact that they stoically put up with all my shit is a testament to their being the greatest parents a mischievous and recalcitrant boy could ever ask or hope for. I miss them both so much, and gleefully dedicated my most recent published novel, A MIGHTY ROLLING THUNDER (December 3, 2016), in loving memory to them. I wish they could see that.
15. Have you ever been in a fight/punched in the face? How did/would you react?
A few minor scraps, hardly worth mentioning, and all in my youth. I reacted by fighting back, and giving as well as I got. One of my proudest memories regarding fights and physical intimidation is knowing that I stood up to bullies. They always back down, because—adolescent or fully grown—they never want to tussle with anyone willing to fight back and take a few injuries in order to put them in their place.
Nowadays, if someone fucks with me, I’ll just shoot them—but only in self-defense. If some deadly criminal invades my home, I’ll shoot their ass and have a sandwich while I watch them bleed out. I have guns. Good ones, and lots of them. Thank God and the determined stalwart voters of this great country for the Second Amendment and the Castle Doctrine.
16. What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters with sexual identity different from your own?
I’ve only indulged in this aspect of writing a couple of times, but don’t really consider it that challenging, because in my mind people are just people regardless of their sexual orientation. Bigots, racists, elitists, and homophobes piss me off, and are actually THE most insecure—sexually as well as mentally, emotionally, and physically—and pathetic people on this great planet. If we’re lucky, one momentous day they’ll all do us a priceless favor and die the fuck out. Good riddance to human rubbish.
As an example, here’s a quote from A MIGHTY ROLLING THUNDER about a beloved lesbian character I wrote:
So where was Callista now? Was she, as Conor suspected, Victor’s prisoner? Was she here, somewhere in this mountain fortress? Or did Victor snuff out that beautiful life when he discovered he could never possess her in the way he possessed the capstone of her life’s work? Had she laughed at him when he tried, and told him she didn’t even swing that way? Livi had never been intimidated or uncomfortable with Callista being a lesbian; she had accepted her friend as the wonderful person she always was, and always would be in Livi’s heart. Love didn’t choose sides, gender, class, race, culture, religion, or sexual preference. But Victor would never accept or understand that.
17. Which of your characters do you most empathize with? Which character do you least empathize with? Why?
Another toughie, because I’ve written so many that still live on in my heart and mind. I suppose if I must choose, I pick Nick Buchanan, my villain from DREAMWEAVERS, as the character I empathize with most. Although he was always arrogant, and eventually became bitter and despicable, the mildly disfiguring burn scars he received that sent him plunging into a downward spiral of spite and resentment were acquired from a tragic incident in which he tried (unsuccessfully) to save his stepmother’s life when she was trapped in her burning car.
The character I least empathize with (and possibly enjoyed creating the most!) is Victor van Danz, the villain from A MIGHTY ROLLING THUNDER. Why? Because the more I wrote him, the more I despised him—and yet, inexplicably, the more I simultaneously loved and loved to hate (and write) him. He was perhaps one of the most fun characters to develop that I’ve ever created... and he definitely took on a life of his own the more I wrote him. He was a hoot and a half, and I look forward to hearing and seeing readers’ responses to him in their reviews.
I highly recommend everyone read all of my works and choose the characters you empathize with most and least for yourself! Share your thoughts in Customer Reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, the greatest reward you can give a writer other than buying their books and spreading the word about them. I’m confident you’ll enjoy and treasure the journeys.
18. Some authors write to share stories. Others write to mask pain. Why do you write? And no “because I want to tell stories” answer. Why do YOU write?
I write for the same reason that one of my favorite and most beloved characters paints—Livi DeSilva, my female protagonist from A MIGHTY ROLLING THUNDER: She didn’t paint to make money; she painted because she couldn’t not paint.
Likewise, I write because I can’t not write. Were I to attempt to stop writing, my head would likely explode from all the story ideas, worlds, and characters screaming in my mind to be let out and live on the written page.
Plus, as mentioned in my bio on my website, Amazon Author Page, and Goodreads Author Page, I write reality-bending thrillers because the voices in my head compel me to... and even when they don’t.
19. In the dead of night, you hear a scream from outside your home. Waking, you go to your bedroom window and in your yard you see a person, naked and bleeding, crying for help. You run downstairs and rush to their aid. The person reaches out for you to help them as they collapse in your arms. As they touch you, you hear them say “I’m sorry, but it’s your turn.” Suddenly, the person vanishes and all their wounds transfer to you. You scream in pain and look up to see a pack of hellhounds pulling a demonic chariot coming at you. A great winged demon stands upon the chariot and they are coming at you. You can have one weapon of your choice, three books, and one luxury item...what do you do?
That’s an easy question, because it happens to me every day, lol.
Weapon of choice: the same superpower that my protagonist David Flint has in my supernatural thriller MARIONETTES: the ability to “jump” into other peoples’ minds and control their thoughts and actions, literally turning others into my personal human puppets.
3 books: The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers, Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, and The Onion Girl by Charles de Lint—because all three are essentially about overcoming the most daunting and debilitating adversity as well as adversaries. Not to mention they’re all three kickass stories.
Luxury Item: an ice-cold beer... or a cooler full of them if that can be considered “one item.” (Hey, if we’re going to dream, we should dream big, right?)
What do I do? I “jump” into the winged demon’s mind, thus controlling him/it, make him return to the hellhole from which he was spawned, and make him utterly destroy all his fellow demons. Then I have an ice cold brew and read a good book.
20. What would you like fans and potential fans to know about you as a person?
I want them to know that I fervently believe in the strength, dauntless courage, and resilience of the human spirit, the vital importance of being willing to sacrifice self for others, and the ultimate triumph of redemption.
If they know these things about me, they are sure to love all my works—novels as well as short stories—because that’s exactly what I write about.
Thanks so much Michael for allowing me to share the dementia of my bodaciously imaginative mind, and happy reading to everyone!
~No, thank you! This was a great interview and you gave so much. I wish you nothing but success brother! If you want to know more about Kerry Allen Denney AKA The Reality Bender, please check out his info!
@Kerry Denney https://twitter.com/KerryDenney
New post-apocalyptic / urban fantasy A Mighty Rolling Thunder from Burning Willow Press December 3, 2016: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N3JL331
“Kerry Alan Denney has created the perfect blend of King’s The Stand and Koontz’s famous dogs. A Mighty Rolling Thunder is a well-written thrill ride of a story that you won’t want to miss. A must-read for all post-apocalyptic genre fans!” – Monique Lewis Happy, critically acclaimed Managing/ Acquisitions Editor at Winlock Press and Owner/ Managing Editor at Monique Happy Editorial Services