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Debut Author Interview: Derrick Chow and Ravenous Things Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Derrick Chow here to share about his MG contemporary fantasy Ravenous Things. Lately, I’ve been enjoying reading contemporary fantasies, so I’m excited to read Derrick’s book.

Here’s a blurb Derrick provided to me:

Twelve-year-old Reggie Wong has a quick temper that’s always getting him into trouble at school, while at home his mom struggles to get out of bed--let alone leave their apartment. That’s why Reggie desperately needs his dad back. One problem: His dad is dead.

Enter the Conductor, a peculiar man who promises to make Reggie’s wish to see his father just one more time come true. All he must do is climb aboard the man’s subway train, which leaves St. Patrick Station promptly at midnight. Desperate to have his dad and happy family back, Reggie takes him up on the offer, only to discover the train is filled with other children who have lost a loved one, just like him. As he speeds through the wild, uncharted tunnels beneath the city, Reggie meets Chantal, an annoyingly peppy girl obsessed with lists and psychiatry, and Gareth, his arch-nemesis and bully since the fourth grade. As each kid steps off the train and into the arms of their lost family member, Reggie can’t believe his impossible wish is about to come true.

But when Reggie comes to the end of the line and sees his father waiting for him, he soon discovers all is not as it seems. He and his unlikely new friends have been ensnared in a deadly trap. Together, the three must find a way to foil the Conductor’s diabolical plot and find their way out of the underground subway where horrors worse than they have ever imagined lurk around every corner. The rats of St. Patrick Station have taken over and they’re absolutely ravenous.

Hi Derrick! Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

Since I was a little kid, storytelling has been an obsession of mine. From drawing and painting, to making comics, to acting in school plays, to writing prose stories. It has always felt like powerful magic to me – the act of crafting a story and making an audience believe in it, making them feel invested in a wholly invented world. There’s nothing more mind-blowingly awesome than that.

That’s why my artistic career has involved various forms of storytelling. As an illustrator, I augment stories by creating artwork to accompany articles in newspapers and magazines.

The short comics I wrote and illustrated for various anthologies was a very satisfying combination of two storytelling tool sets: writing and art.

And although my debut horror novel, Ravenous Things, is a prose novel, it also includes some of my artwork, as I created the chapter illustrations.

2. That’s so cool that you’ve been drawing and writing since you were a kid. Where did you get the idea for Ravenous Things?

My father’s death was very hard on me. Even though I was a fully-grown adult, that loss knocked me down a few pegs, making me feel like a little kid again. My grieving process included a lot of fantasizing about impossible scenarios in which I could see him again. Then one day, I was struck by a very vivid image of myself as a young boy in an underground cavern, walking towards a sunlit recreation of my childhood home where my dad was waiting for me. My entire novel sprung up from that one image. And it’s why my book isn’t just a fantastical horror, it’s also very much an exploration of grief and the different ways we process it.

3. Yes, big losses in our lives can have a huge impact on us. I know from my own experiences too. What made you decide to set your story in modern times rather than a new fantasy world?

Most of the fantasy and horror stories I enjoyed as a child were those with one foot rooted firmly in the real world. This reminds me of a piece of advice my favorite art professor gave me in university. Although she was talking about conceptual art, I think it pertains to writing as well. She said that art tends to create an emotional response in an audience when there is friction, and the thing that causes friction is the push and pull that results when contradictory elements are placed together.

In stories like mine, I think a lot of that friction, that ‘push and pull’, comes about from placing the fantastical in close proximity to the familiar and prosaic.

4. Even though Ravenous Things is set in current times, you have definitely created the world the story is set in, including changling-rats and a subway labyrinth. What was your world-building process like?

I wanted to take the real-world city of Toronto and add various fantastical outgrowths that seem entire plausible. And by that, I mean that I wanted the reader to feel as if they are discovering fantastical parts of the city that have always been there, located just beyond the edges of any reliable transit map. So even though a lot of my locations are entirely fictional, and perhaps even architecturally unfeasible, they have a look and feel that scream ‘Toronto’. For example, in the opening chapter of my book, my protagonist is in a small gothic cemetery squeezed in between a highway overpass and a cookie factory. No such cemetery exists, but I would not bat an eye if I discovered one just like it on one of my rambling night walks in the city.  

5. I’m looking forward to seeing how you created your world in Toronto. What was your plotting process like for this story? Did it work for you or are you changing how you plot out your stories in the future?

I’d say mine is a tale as old as time, in that I started off as a pantser but became a plotter. When I began writing Ravenous Things, I had a few particular scenes fixed clearly in my mind. I also knew how I wanted the story to begin and what my protagonist’s character arc would be.

But my first draft was pure pantsing –  akin to running headlong into the fog with a flickering flashlight. This meant I had to do several rounds of edits and rewrites before it was presentable. I think a lot of the plot inconsistencies and pacing problems I encountered would’ve been solved more quickly had I plotted things out. That’s why I’m firmly in the plotting camp now.

6. I’ve heard a lot of authors say they switched from pantser to plotter for the same reasons. What was a challenge you faced in writing Ravenous Things and how did you overcome it?

I rewrote the climax several times over several drafts. My book is a horror, but there are also a lot of thrilling action sequences and a mystery-solving element. I felt that the first version of my climax didn’t quite live up to the creepy, magic-infused scenes that populated most of the book. It was more like the wrap-up of a whodunnit, complete with the villain speechifying about his motivations. I tinkered with that ending quite lot, and it was quite frustrating for a while there.

The thing that knocked the cork free, so to speak, was going back to the beginning. I honed-in on a magical event that happens earlier in my book and found a way to amplify it in the climax. I feel it works because I’m giving the audience something thrilling and heightened, but something that also feels earned because it piggybacks off of earlier elements.

7. Your agent is Theo Le. How did she become your agent and what was your road to publication like?

Thao was in the first batch of agents I sent Ravenous Things out to when I started querying. She had requested the full manuscript and eventually asked for a revise and resubmit. The thing that really impressed me about her was her very insightful feedback. She not only shared her wholistic opinion of the book, she also essentially gave the manuscript an edit pass with very finely-tuned notes. That was the moment she flew to the very top of my agent list. A good while later, she ended up signing me for a completely other project I submitted to her.

While this other book was on submission to editors, she asked about Ravenous Things. She gave it another read and decided it was ready to give that a go, too. Suddenly I had two manuscripts on submission at the same time. There was multiple publisher interest in both manuscripts, so within the space of a month, I was nail-biting my way through two auctions for two different books.

8. What are you doing to market your book?

I’ve been doing my best to be active and engaged on social media – tweeting and making videos that share insights about my writing process and the origins of my book. I also joined a wonderful debut author group which has really given me a great sense of community. Marketing aside, this group has really been a highlight of my publishing process, as I’ve gotten to know a lot of people I count as friends.

9. What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on a graphic novel project I’ll be able to talk more about in coming months.

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Derrick. You can find Derrick at @DerrickChow2 on Twitter and @derrickchow.official on Instagram. Go to ravenousthings.com to learn more about the pre-order campaign.

Giveaway Details

Derrick has generously offered an ARC of Ravenous Things for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by August 6th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is international.

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is hosted by Greg Pattridge. You can find the participating blogs on his blog. 

Upcoming Interviews and Guest Posts

Monday, August 1st, I'm participating in the Apple a Day Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, August 3rd, I have an agent/author guest post with Kari Sutherland and debut author Rimma Onoseta and a giveaway of Rimma's contemporary YA How You Grow Wings and a query critique by Kari and my IWSG post

Monday, August 8th, I have an agent spotlight interview with Monica Rodriguez and a query critique giveaway

Monday, August 15th, I have an agent/author guest post with Marlo Berliner and debut author Refe Tuma with a giveaway of Refe’s MG contemporary fantasy Frances and the Monster and a query critique by Marlo

Tuesday, August 16th, I’m participating in the Old School Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, August 17th, I have an agent spotlight interview with Lynnette Novak and a query critique giveaway

Monday, August 22nd, I have a guest post by debut author Christyne Morrell with a giveaway of her MG science fiction Rex

Hope to see you on Monday!


Computer Tutor said...

What an interesting book! I bet there'll be a good market for it. I can see it teaching kids about the danger of talking to strangers.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Love the idea of a modern-day fantasy for children. :)

Valinora Troy said...

Great interview, and Ravenous Things sounds great, my kind of book, and I'd love to read it!! Fingers crossed I win a copy :)

tetewa said...

I'd get on the train to be able to see my dad again, sounds like a good one! tWarner419@aol.com

Brenda said...

Ravenous Things sounds absolutely fabulous, loving the premise of changeling rats and a labyrinth!! Have a lovely week Natalie.

Kate Larkindale said...

Sounds like a fun, scary read!

Danielle H. said...

I enjoyed this interview and getting to know this author and how he developed his book idea. I follow Natalie on Twitter and shared on tumblr: https://www.tumblr.com/blog/view/yesreaderwriterpoetmusician/690773243497463808?source=share

Patricia T. said...

What an engaging story that didn't "smell quite right" when I read the plot about Reggie being offered an opportunity to see his father ONE more time! Knew there was something sinister going on! Haven't read many contemporary fantasy novels, so I'm intrigued. And I loved in depth interview with the Derek! He really gives so much insight into his process. Wishing him the best, but know teens will like this book!

Tonja Drecker said...

Oh—this one sounds good! I'm putting it on my radar and wish him tons of success!

Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction said...

This sounds like a great read! Love the idea of changeling rats and a subway labyrinth. Thanks for sharing this interview so we could learn about the author's process (I'm another one of those writers who switched from pantser to plotter).

Liz A. said...

Two books on submission at the same time? Wow.

Greg Pattridge said...

Great insights into this new title and Derrick's road to getting it published. The plot and MC sound fantastic. Thanks for featuring your interview on MMGM.

carol baldwin said...

I'm not a huge horror/fantasy person but this sounds great. Please enter me!

Rosi Hollinbeck said...

This sounds like a really, really dark book. Maybe too much for me. But it certainly sounds unique. I think a lot of kids will like it. Thanks for telling me about it. I will pass on the giveaway.

Anonymous said...

Ooh, this sounds like a fascinating read.
'Lo, Natalie.
Sandra. sandracox.blogspot.com

J.Q. Rose said...

I am hooked on this story. What a wild ride. Best wishes for success with this first book, Derrick!

Aziza Evans said...

this book looks good I hope I win azizaevans@ymail.com

Nancy P said...

Great cover. Sounds fantastic. Following. positive.ideas.4youATgmail.com

Leela said...

I'm an email subscriber.

Donna K. Weaver said...

What a great premise!