Eileen Cook Author, Writing Consultant, Editor

The Internet is a funny place…

I had the opportunity to meet Derek Gentry on-line while he was still in the process of writing his first novel, Here Comes Your Man. I’m going to go on record saying I’m glad I met him then because I’m going to have the ability to say I knew him when. How can you not like a guy who when asked to describe himself as a teen says: I was a hardcore band geek with massive George Michael-esque hair. I don’t think I realized how much my ‘do resembled George’s back then, but Facebook has forced me to come to terms with it. I knew with a sense of humor like that, we were destined to be friends.

Derek’s book is now out! And you can click here to order yourself a copy. I asked Derek to come by and tell us about the book and his writing journey.

>I love a behind the scenes story, what was the inspiration for Here Comes Your Man?
It was inspired by a few different things that came together on a trip to visit a friend in Seattle—a song lyric I had stuck in my head, a conversation I had with a woman who sat beside me on the plane, and my own peculiar affection for O’Hare International Airport.
I started writing it on the second leg of my flight out, and ended up carrying this new character around in my head the whole time I was in Seattle. I felt very much at home in the city, and setting the book there seemed like a fun and challenging way to put some authorial distance between myself and Garrett. It also gave me a great excuse to return to Seattle for research (by which I mean French Toast at Macrina Bakery).

>What do you like best about being a writer? What do you like least?
I love the process of developing characters. It still seems kind of miraculous to me, how they begin as these blurry, shape-shifting figures, but eventually snap into focus and take on lives of their own.
Related to that, it kills me to cut characters that I’ve become attached to. I’m still mourning the loss of a character named Liz from Here Comes Your Man—I know that removing her scenes was the best thing for the book, but…it was still hard to say goodbye. I’m actually thinking about polishing Liz’s sections into some kind of bonus “deleted scenes” document that I can offer as a download to anyone who’s interested…even if it’s only me.

>What is your writing process like? Do you outline? Write a certain time every day?
I write whenever I get the chance, but I’ve always had the most success late at night. I just find it easiest to focus then, when everyone else is in bed and the world narrows down to me and my computer screen. At that point, staying awake can be difficult, but our dog Hugo has a habit of nosing anyone who sits still for too long.
I usually start with notes—a big rambling document where I collect all my thoughts in whatever order they arrive. Once I get a sense of the story’s shape, I start pasting that material into a loose outline. I don’t undertake any serious writing until I can see the whole thing though—even if I end up changing course, I feel that having the framework helps me maximize whatever writing time I can scrape together.

>You made the decision to self publish your book, what led to that decision? How do you think publishing has changed?
I pursued traditional publishing for several years, first with an earlier novel and then through a few drafts of this one. I learned a lot from that process, but as I watched publishers becoming more cautious, shifting even more of the promotional burden to authors themselves, and fumbling a bit with new technologies, I started to wonder if that was really the best route for my little book.
No matter which path you choose, the challenge is the same: making your book stand out in a crowded market. Admittedly, this is a much bigger challenge as a self-publisher, but I was willing to accept that in exchange for some flexibility and control—to be able to design the book myself, to decide where and how it gets marketed, and ultimately how long it stays in print.
Also, as someone who came from a musical background—I started my long and winding college career playing the saxophone at Berklee—I’ve always admired artists like Ani DiFranco who release their own recordings independently, and I’m excited that this approach is finally becoming feasible for writers. In that respect, I like to think of Here Comes Your Man as my self-released debut album…except of course it’s a book, and the music is just in my head.

>I write for teens so I always like to know- how would you have described yourself as a teen?
I was a hardcore band geek with massive George Michael-esque hair. I don’t think I realized how much my ‘do resembled George’s back then, but Facebook has forced me to come to terms with it.
A high-school friend of mine also nicknamed me “Generic Derek” because my wardrobe never varied—I wore blue jeans and a t-shirt to school every single day, regardless of the weather. I just didn’t like thinking about what to wear in the morning, which is actually something about me that hasn’t changed at all.

Thanks for coming by Derek and good luck with your first book!!

2 Responses to “The Internet is a funny place…”

  1. Derek Gentry said:

    Thanks for having me, Eileen–it was fun!

  2. Tweets that mention Eileen Cook » Blog Archive » The Internet is a funny place… -- Topsy.com said:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Genevieve, Melissa. Melissa said: RT @Genevieve: Interview with my cousin @derekgentry about his book. Can't wait to read it! http://www.eileencook.com/?p=2241 […]