The Dark at the Top of the Page: An Interview with Devyn Quinn


Devyn Quinn’s actual home view may be across the high plains of the New Mexico-Texas border, but her inner vision is sparked by a more eerie realm: dark gothic erotic romance. She is a recent Romantic Times Award Nominee and a Cupid And Psyche Award (CAPA) winner. On the eve of the publication of her next novella, “Personal Possession,” in the BDSM-themed anthology Dangerous Ties, I had the privilege to metaphorically sit down with her to talk about all things goth, romantic, sexy, and even the mundane chores of laundry and ferret policing.

ERWA: Goth culture—and all it implies—has kind of built-in dynamics: life and death struggles, victims, intensified emotions, and the potential for after-life passions. How do you, as an author, keep pushing those standards for your own personal enjoyment in writing a new work?

Devyn Quinn (DQ): I have an ironclad rule that I will only write what I want to read. That sometimes means that what the market is producing for sale and what I am writing are two different things. However, I have to remain true to the vision and muse that inspires my books. I am a naturally “dark” minded person and I tend to think the worst about the world. My writing reflects that point of view. Readers will find the characters in my books are struggling with the bad things in this world: self-doubt, alcoholism, drug addiction, etc. My characters are as “real” as they can possibly be in the situations they find themselves placed in. Fortunately I have finally found the perfect place within the Aphrodisia imprint for my style of storytelling, and I have an editor who allows me the absolute freedom to create what inspires me.

ERWA: Most people seem to agree that monsters are still based in their human
responses, hungers, and needs amplified by supernatural means. Obviously, you feel that mortals and “other beings” are still drawn to each other, but what are, say, the five strongest appeals that an average human, male or female, have that draws in a supernatural being? What goes deeper than just the lust and the physical attributes that pulls them?

DQ: My two cents says that humans have a strong and undeniable curiosity about the existence of other unseen realms. Another would be that certain people seem to have an inborn, dare I say psychic?, sense that there is indeed more to heaven and earth than is dreamt of by people who believe that heaven and earth, God and Satan, are absolute. They don’t believe that way and are more willing to think openly about the possibilities of other intelligences, other powers, other dimensions beyond life and death as we presently know it. Such inquisitive minds question, poke, prod and explore to the fullest of their abilities—even if instinct warns them what they might find will be dangerous and devouring.

ERWA: Some geographic places—like New Orleans with its voodoo heritage or Romania with its vampire castles—are naturally set up for a goth atmosphere, but generally we don’t think of the plains of Texas as particularly spooky or eerie in that dark way. Are there places nearby where you live that inspire you for settings or local lore that can spark your thinking for a story?

DQ: I have the grave misfortune of living in the high desert farmland of Texas and New Mexico—I can say two states as I live on the border between both. It is a whole lot of nothing going nowhere for miles on end. Two of my books have been placed in New Mexico: Sins of the Night (March 08) and the novella “Personal Possessions”, which will appear in the Dangerous Ties anthology in April 09. The first because the location is so ordinary that it had to be the logical setting for the book (and is a region I know personally), and the second because the Bisti Badlands bordering the Navajo Nation in New Mexico was the perfect and only setting the novella could take place and make sense. As for local lore… If I write a western and need Billy The Kid as a character, well, I am all set.

ERWA: As a kid I used to love watching the classic old black and white horror movies on late night television. Do you think dark goth romances could be effectively translated to the big screen or is part of their appeal the fact that reading is done alone and the reader is transported, partly by their own imaginings, into the worlds and lives you create?

DQ: I believe that any of these could translate beautifully to the big and small screens (and already have!) and have done the dream casting in my head for many years for my own books, LOL. So my answer is a nice happy “Yes” to that question.

ERWA: Considering the super intensified and hotly passionate “lifestyles” of your characters, how do you keep from being completely bored with the day-to-day and mundane things of having to live in the real world like doing laundry, meeting up with social friends, cooking, and so forth?

DQ: Ah, you captured my thoughts exactly! My day-to-day life is super-duper boring and there are days when I’m sure I’m going to pull my hair out if I have to scoop another cat box or pull another ferret out of the sock drawer.

The rule here is that I don’t own a television. I do all my watching on my DVD player. After the writing is done I can go and rent new movies or a season of my favorite show, like Lost or Dexter. That’s my reward for getting through, a movie and a wine cooler. Another is that I must have music that defines the theme of the book or novella I am working on. Once I get the music set up, I turn it on and get going with the new book. I can’t write without music in the background, even if it is the same song over and over.

ERWA: In the relatively few decades that goth has gelled into a series of choices, lifestyle and fashion among them, we’ve seen it transformed a bit or expanded. There are now major goth belly dancing events, for example, and large scale gatherings like conventions. We also are as likely to see goths working at our local bookstore chain or restaurant. Do you think society as a whole is more accepting just because “time has passed” or because they just don’t seem as strange anymore to the average non-goth?

DQ: I know that a lot of people (read: hardcore conservatives) still do not approve of the alternative lifestyle, be it goth, gay or what have you. It’s mostly that Goths are here, are carving a niche and proving to people that even though they might look a bit odd, they hold jobs, pay taxes and, yes, even have an education and are every bit as intelligent as the clean cut fellow in the conservative suit and haircut. Times have changed and, slowly, values are changing, too.

ERWA: What do you personally think are some of the milestones of dark goth romance? Who are the major writers influencing others and what has made their work stand out so strongly?

DQ: To me the first and most important milestones are almost too many to mention, but I will try to lay out my own in a coherent manner. In the late 60’s and early 70’s there was an abundance of gothic themed print titles released on to the market, not to mention comic books. Tomb of Dracula, Vampirella, Morbius, etc….

On television Dark Shadows and The Night Stalker. Back then the gothic genre was alive, well and thriving. In the 80’s, it kind of rolled up with the shadows and went away—but those of us who grew up on such things and loved them dearly never forgot them. As we grew and came into our own, I believe we tried to recreate the genre.

Bigger, better, faster and stronger. Anne Rice and Stephen King then blasted through, paving the way for those who would come next. And not only did we get the blood and the gore (King), and conscience and suffering (Rice) we were handed the freedom to add a whole new element to the old tried and true formulas: sex. The gothic genre kicks into an entirely new level when the physical element is added in. And with the gothic genre, few things are forbidden or entirely taboo. It is the freedom to explore the darker side of the psyche, and adding in the supernatural or demonic elements only makes it that much more alluring.

ERWA: Do you work primarily chronologically? That is do you start a project and
then work at it until it’s completed or do you have several ideas gelling at the same time and work on one while the others wait on the shelf, so to speak?

DQ: Back twenty some odd years ago when I began to write my first series, I worked methodically one book at a time, finished it, then went to the next.

Nowadays I am thinking on the next book as I am writing the current. I have post-it notes all over my desk and bulletin boards with random notes about one book or another. When I think of something that will fit one book, I jot it on the post-it and slap it onto the current layer for that book idea.

When it’s time to write it, I go through the post-its and use what I can, discard what didn’t work. It also helps to have ideas brewing in case the chance to pitch to my editor happens. If she has an empty antho slot to fill, having something on the back burner that I can show her can lead to a sale—and has, many times over. “Thunderstruck” was a novella I originally pitched to the now defunct Venus Press years ago. It went unwritten for many years until a slot in a mythos anthology (Eros Island, now on sale) came open in 2007. When my editor needed something, I had something ready to pitch and made the sale. Same with most of the antho sales I’ve made. I had something going in the back of my mind that I knew I could write.

ERWA: Finally, I know you have “Personal Possessions” (in the anthology Dangerous Ties) coming out very soon. Are you taking a bit of a break after it or are you already working on the next story? What should we be looking for from you in the near future?

DQ: When I finish a novella or book, I take a little time away from the computer. I need a break from the screen and the pressure to write something that will wow my editor and future readers. I don’t finish one book and start the next day on the new one. Can’t do that. I need time to shake off the characters and their foibles and follies, to stop living in their world and come back to plain old reality (boring, indeed).

As for what is coming next, readers will see Sins of the Night (Kith & Kynn Book 2) out at the end of March. Then another anthology, Trio, which will feature my contemporary novella, “No Strings Attached.” Then back to the goth-erotic theme with Embracing Midnight (title tentative, Nov 08), which introduces an entirely new species of alien vampire called the Niviane Idesha—and a very conflicted heroine with a cutting and pain fetish. Dangerous Ties is scheduled for a late March 9th release. I’m also contracted for a sequel to “Flesh and the Devil,” a shape shifter story for the Sexy Beast anthos, a single title spin off of the Sexy Beast story and, finally, an entirely new goth-erotic series, Delomelanicon.

Visit Devyns website for more:

William S. Dean
April 2008

“Getting Graphic” © 2008 by William S. Dean. All rights reserved.

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