The Toy Thief: Kendall Reviews talks to author D.W. Gillespie.

D.W. Gillespie hails from parts unknown in the dark woods of Tennessee. Supported by his wife and two feral children, he spends most days hunkered over a vintage typewriter he found in a smoking crater deep within the forest primeval. Bearded and muttering, he writes tales to terrify by the light of a kerosene lamp.

He is represented by the Brower Literary Agency, and his work has been featured in many publications, both online and in print. His books include the novels Still Dark and The Toy Thief, and the short story collection titled Handmade Monsters.

KR: Coffee?

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KR: Could you tell me a little about yourself please?

If being on social media has taught me anything, it’s that I’m pretty boring. I’m married with two kids, a dog and a few cats, and I’ve been writing for about 16 years now. I will say though, the normal façade of my life is just a cover for the horrific things I like to write about. I’ve had so many people come up to me after reading my work and say, “But you seem so normal.” I’m still not sure what they were expecting, but I always take it as a compliment. Surprising people is always good for a laugh.

KR: What do you like to do when not writing?

Like I mentioned, with two young kids, we spend a lot of time doing family stuff. Picking up hitchhikers, sleeping in murder houses, summoning demons, stuff like that.

Seriously though, I’ve been a gamer since the Atari days. That’s almost always my unwinding time whenever I get a chance. I used to be a bigger movie buff, but now it’s more family friendly stuff. I do still try to catch up on whatever weird, esoteric horror movie is floating around whenever the opportunity pops up.

KR: What is your favourite childhood book?

Questions like this usually change by the day, but I’ll go with The Hobbit. It’s a book I loved to go back to multiple times, and it hit me at a time when I was very impressionable. Definitely one of the books that taught me what was possible with fiction and world building.

KR: What is your favourite album, and does music play any role in your writing?

Honestly, of all the big entertainment media, music is my weak point. If I had to pick one, it would probably be Aquemini by Outkast. It was one of the few albums that I ever just let play as I cruised around in high school. I hate to say that I’m pretty lacking in my musical knowledge. Any given day, I might listen to some 90’s rap, some Johnny Cash, and then just a sprinkling of videogame soundtracks.

I will say, even if music isn’t my strong point, it’s very big in my writing process. I don’t usually listen to music when I write, but I like for each of my books to have a single song that represents the feel of the entire story. Whenever I’m driving to or from work, I’ll listen to that song over and over again, letting my mind sort of wander. It’s almost like one of those 3D eye things where I just stop focusing and let the music drag me along. I’ve come up with so many cool scenes this way.

KR: Do you have a favourite horror movie/director? 

Now this is a very tough thing to narrow down, just because there’s so many to pick. I mean, John Carpenter has to be the top, right? Considering that The Thing is officially the horror movie I’ve watched the most, I can’t think of a better king at the top of the hill. But anytime this discussion comes up, there’s so many others that are just amazing talents.

How about a top five? Carpenter, Cronenberg, Raimi, Del Toro, and Craven.

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I’d also say, I love where horror movies have gone the past few years. I’ve seen a few names for it (some of them very annoying and pretentious), but I love this new wave of horror. It Follows, The VVitch, Get Out, and even the more mainstream stuff like IT and A Quiet Place. Just so many talented people making horror now. I think, when the dust settles, we’ll be seeing this new wave of directors showing up on some of those all time lists.

KR: What are you reading now?

I’ve been going through a lot of Jack Ketchum’s work recently. I’d read a few of his short stories over the years, but I just recently made it through some of his novels, including The Girl Next Door, which is just brutal and heartbreaking.

I’ve had an Arthur Machen collection sitting on my coffee table for years now, and I think I’m ready to start digging into that as well. There’s always something waiting for me…too many people out there are writing kickass books!

KR: Who were the authors that inspired you to write?

Hmm…can I answer all of them? Seriously though, this list would almost need to be comprehensive. Everything I’ve read, even the bad stuff, has inspired me in one way or another. Here’s a (very short) list of some of my favorites:

Stephen King, Cormac MacCarthy, Tolkien, Ursula K. Le Guin, Phillip K. Dick, J.K. Rowling, William Faulkner, Richard Matheson, Shirley Jackson, Clive Barker.

This is literally scratching the surface, and I already feel bad about people that just aren’t jumping to mind at the moment. Again, there’s almost too many to count.

KR: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?

I’ve done a bit of both over the years. Even though I’ve released or signed contracts for four books, I’ve written around eleven. Over the course of all those novels, I’ve continually played around with the process. A few times, I’ve thoroughly outlined, most notably on an unreleased novel titled Weep. It is a sprawling book with dozens of characters that spans hundreds of years. Doing something like that, I don’t know if it’s possible not to thoroughly plan.

Most of the time, I like to let the story take me where it wants to, especially in regards to characters. Once you get to really know them, it’s fun to drop them into a situation and see how they would choose to get out of it.

KR: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Again, depends on the book. I rarely spend large amounts of time before I start writing, mainly because I don’t usually know what kind of research I might need. For my books, it’s usually more in the moment. I hate to check my phone when I’m writing, but occasionally, you just have to. A quick search on “How long does it take for lime to dissolve a body” or “Has anyone ever been murdered by a corkscrew” can go a long way. I’m pretty sure that most horror writers are on some secret government watch lists.

KR: Describe your usual writing day?

Ahh, the charmed life of a writer with kids and a full-time job. I know there are plenty of people in the same boat as me, so I won’t gripe about it too much, but let’s just say that writing is something that happens on the fly. The VAST majority of my last five or so books has happened in my car during my lunch break. It’s a running joke at work for people to not ask me to go to lunch.

Sorry guys, I’d love to split a quesadilla, but I’m trying to answer to keep my creative soul from withering and dying over the course of an eight hour day spent in a cube…maybe next time!”

Bits and pieces of writing happen at home at night, but that seems to get harder by the day as the kids get older. My distant, on the horizon goal would be to write full time, but I know that’s going to be a tough thing to pull off. As long as I keep my lunch breaks, I should be fine.

KR: Do you have a favourite story/short that you’ve written (published or not)?

One of my personal favorites is titled “Old Man Grimm.” It’s featured in my short story collection, Handmade Monsters. I like it because it almost feels like a prequel for an awesomely gruesome horror movie about the titular character. I don’t go deep into details about him, but I’d love to explore the idea more in the future.

KR: Do you read your book reviews?

I do, but I’m still getting started out, so I haven’t gotten beat up too badly yet. I think criticism, good and bad, is a vital part of the process, but I can imagine a world where it would get to be very overwhelming for larger authors.

KR: Any advice for a fledgling author?

I’d say being successful for new authors is a mixture of tenacity and self-awareness. You need to be tenacious to deal with all the rejection. Just understand that up front, that people will tell you “no” a lot. You have to learn to fight through it, to keep writing, to not give up when it gets tough.

But, that tenacity has to be tempered with self-awareness. If a single short story gets rejected twenty times, are you asking yourself why? Are you considering that maybe, this thing you love simply isn’t good enough? I’ve shelved four novels over the years, most of them early works that will never see the light of day. I realize now that they just aren’t good enough. But I also have the self-awareness to know when to push back, when to keep trying after a specific work gets rejected over and over. That balance, in my opinion, is the key.

KR: What scares you?

It’s funny, I’ve written across multiple genres over the years, but I usually come back to horror. After working on something lighter, I almost always have this moment where I say to myself, “I need to write something really fricking scary!”

When I hit that point, I always do the same thing. I lay down in bed at night, close my eyes and say, “Alright brain…what do you got?” I’ll do that over and over again, night after night, basically trying to terrify myself. Usually, it works, but it takes some effort to get there, and I don’t know what will happen until it happens. I leave those “sessions” with seeds of ideas that grow, and over time, become books.

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So, to answer the question, I can’t really say what scares me definitively. It has changed so dramatically over the years from more physical things like bugs and nature to much more existential things. I’m sure it will continue to evolve.

KR: E-Book, Paperback or Hardback?

Not much of an E-Book fan. One of these days, I’ll get a dedicated device…I imagine that will make a difference.

KR: Can you tell me about your latest release please?

The Toy Thief is my first release with Flame Tree Press, which is super exciting…I’m finally getting into bookstores!

The story is all about Jack, a young woman who’s recounting the series of events that happened to her as a child. It all starts when her best friend’s toy doll comes up missing, and Jack happens to catch the event on video. She sees a figure, tall, gaunt, inhuman sneaking into the house to steal toys. She eventually comes to call him The Toy Thief, and her and her older brother Andy have to deal with the strange creature.

It’s a creepy tale, but it’s ultimately about family, about the moments that echo throughout the rest of our lives. I’m very proud of how scary it is, but I’m even prouder of how well the characters came out. I hope my readers feel the same.

KR: What are you working on now?

My next novel is also with Flame Tree. It’s titled One by One.

After Alice and her family move into a strange new house, she finds a child’s hand-drawn picture hidden under some old wallpaper. To her surprise, the picture is remarkably similar to her family, and after a series of strange events, it becomes clear that the dream house wasn’t what any of them thought it would be.

I probably can’t say more than that, but I’m well into the edits on it. Keep an eye out for it in 2019.

KR: You find yourself on a desert island, which three people would you wish to be deserted with you and why?

You can choose…

a) One fictional character from your writing.

b) One fictional character from any other book.

c) One real life person that is not a family member or friend.

I’m terrible at stuff like this, so I’ll just throw something out there. Let’s say The Toy Thief, Pennywise, and Stephen King.

The rationale? Well, it’s a deserted island, so I’ll probably die of starvation. Good to die quickly, and what better way then to die with one of my heroes, both of us devoured by our own creations. Maybe, just before Pennywise rips his face off, I’ll be lucky enough to have Mr. King look at The Toy Thief chewing on my severed hand and say, “You made that? Nice!”

KR: Thank you very much DW.

You can find out more about D.W. Gillespie by visiting his official website www.dwgillespie.com

Visit D.W. Gillespie’s author page here

Find D.W. Gillespie on Facebook here

Please follow D.W. Gillespie on Twitter @dw_gillespie

Jack didn’t know what to call the nameless, skeletal creature that slunk into her house in the dead of night, stealing the very things she loved the most. So she named him The Toy Thief… There’s something in Jack’s past that she doesn’t want to face, an evil presence that forever changed the trajectory of her family. It all began when The Toy Thief appeared, a being drawn by goodness and innocence, eager to feed on everything Jack holds dear. What began as a mystery spirals out of control when her brother, Andy, is taken away in the night, and Jack must venture into the dark place where the toys go to get him back. But even if she finds him, will he ever be the same?

You can buy The Toy Thief from Amazon UK & Amazon US

Monsters are everywhere, if you know where to look… 

A lonely housewife finds one hiding in a hole in her closet. A family finds one inside the burned out husk of an old tree. A young girl finds yet another in the form of a baby unlike any she’s ever seen. But the worst of all are the monsters hiding inside us, always there, waiting to be set free.

Collected from over five years of writing, D.W. Gillespie’s collection of 13 dark tales features a mix of previously published and never before seen stories. From the gruesome to the surreal, HANDMADE MONSTERS is for anyone who might have their own monster hiding away inside.

You can buy Handmade Monsters from Amazon UK & Amazon US

When a thunderous explosion rocks an idyllic cabin resort in the Great Smoky Mountains, animals and humans alike begin to act strange. Jim, along with his wife Laura and son, Sam, are cut off from the outside world, but they soon realize the true nightmare is just beginning… Deep in the snow-covered woods, something is waiting. The creature calls itself Apex, and it’s a traveler. Reading the minds of those around it, Apex brings the terrifying fears hidden in the human psyche to life with a singular purpose: to kill any that stand in its way. Locked in a fight for their lives, Jim and his family must uncover the truth behind Apex, and stop the creature from wreaking a horrifying fate upon the rest of the world!

You can buy Still Dark from Amazon UK & Amazon US

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