This holiday season, I’ve decided to promote some of my writer friends and ask some of the questions that folks ask me. Today’s guest/victim is:
First, a little something about Derrick in his own words.
My name is Derrick Ferguson and I’m from Brooklyn, New York where I have lived for most of my still young life. Been married for 28 years to the wonderful Patricia Cabbagestalk-Ferguson who lets me get away with far more than is good for me.
My interests include radio/audio drama, Classic Pulp from the 30’s/40’s/50’s and New Pulp being written today, Marvel/DC fan fiction, Star Trek in particular and all Science Fiction in general, animation, television, movies, cooking, loooooong road trips and casual gaming on the Xbox 360.
Running a close second with writing as an obsession is my love of movies. I’m currently the co-host of the BETTER IN THE DARK podcast where my partner Thomas Deja and I rant and rave about movies on a bi-weekly basis.
I’m also a rotating co-host of the PULPED! podcast along with Tommy Hancock, Ron Fortier and Barry Reese where we interview writers of the New Pulp Movement as well as discuss the various themes, topics, ebb and flow of what New Pulp is and why you should be reading it.
And now we come to the part where I blurb and brag about the books I’ve written:
DILLON AND THE VOICE OF ODIN and DILLON AND THE LEGEND OF THE GOLDEN BELL are the first two books featuring my signature character, a charismatic, daring and highly skilled black adventurer/mercenary named Dillon. Check out the DILLON blog http://dillon-dlferguson.blogspot.com/ for more info.
DERRICK FERGUSON’S MOVIE REVIEW NOTEBOOK and THE RETURN OF DERRICK FERGUSON’S MOVIE REVIEW NOTEBOOK are two volumes of my movie reviews. For current reviews feel free to check out THE FERGUSON THEATER https://derricklferguson.wordpress.com/
That’s it for now. Anything else you wanna know, just ask!
Let’s get started:
At what age did you start writing or know that you wanted to write?
I started writing when I was in elementary school. I would write these Edgar Rice Burroughs inspired stories using my classmates as the characters. I’d write a “chapter” on both sides of a piece of loose leaf paper and it would get passed around the classroom. When I got it back I’d write another ‘chapter” and so it would go until the story was finished.
I also was infatuated with Mad Magazine’s “Spy vs. Spy” for some bizarre reason and wrote story after story about them. I made up some weird convoluted backstory for them that they were twins separated at birth. One was raised in a ‘good’ country and the other one in an ‘evil’ country. I also wrote what is now called superhero fan fiction. I’d make up my own stories with my favorite superheroes. I did that well into my teen-age years. I had five or six spiral notebooks in my book bag but only one of them was for my schoolwork. The rest was for me to write down my stories.
I don’t think I actually ‘decided’ to be a writer until my mid-teens. I kept on bugging my father for a typewriter and that’s when I felt like I really wanted to be a writer.
Where do your ideas come from?
Who the hell knows? So many things inspire me. Italian musclemen/sword-and-sandal movies. Westerns in print and on TV and movies. Robert E. Howard. Marvel and DC comic books. 1970s/1980s grindhouse. Blaxploitation. Detective fiction (my father turned me onto Shell Scott, Boysie Oakes and Matt Helm) Ian Fleming. Doc Savage. Ray Harryhausen movies. Virtually everything I’ve ever read or seen goes into the boiling pit that is my subconscious and comes out in my fiction.
Do you base your characters on people you know or know of? Family or celebrities?
I don’t do it consciously but I think that it’s impossible for any writer not to cherry pick traits and mannerisms and character bits from people we know or our favorite actors. After all, a large part of being a writer is observing people so it’s inevitable that the people we know personally or see in TV and movies find their way into our fiction. I’ve gotten used to having friends or family who have read a book of mine call me up to ask me; “You based this character on me, didn’t you?” I let ‘em think so. It makes ‘em happy.
Do you plot out your stories or just make it up as you go?
I make it up as I go usually. I actually have a lot of admiration and respect for those writers who plot our every last single detail of their stories on 3×5 cards and have diagrams of their plot breakdowns on charts. I can’t do that because if I did all that exhaustive preparation then I’d have no desire to write the story. I don’t even like to talk about a current WIP because I need that pressure at the keyboard. I really don’t like to know all the details of a story I’m writing because I like to surprise myself. And I figure that if I can surprise myself then I damn sure can surprise a reader.
I usually start out with a beginning and an end and four or five scenes that somewhere go in the middle. But how I get to those scenes I trust to my subconscious and years of experience. That and the fact that I just plain flat out enjoy making this stuff up.
Do you listen to music while you write and if so, what do you listen to?
I never listen to music while I’m writing my first drafts. That’s because I have to give my undivided attention to the film that’s playing on my Mental Movie Screen and listen to the dialog, the background sounds and study the scenery and special effects in detail. Once I finish the first draft then I can relax and listen to music while I’m doing the second and third drafts.
What kind of music do I listen to then? It all depends on what I’m writing. If it’s a Sebastian Red story I’m listening to Ennio Morricone and Gangstagrass. If I’m writing a Dillon novel its 1970s/1980s music and Motown with a healthy mix of whatever is currently popular. Movie soundtracks are always great to listen to while writing.
Which of your characters would you most like to meet in person? Which character of another author would you want to meet?
Oh, Dillon, of course. I’ve lived with him in my head for so long it’s like he’s a family member. Meeting him for dinner would be an event, I’m sure.
Which character of another author would I want to meet? Probably Sherlock Holmes. How can I pass up a chance to meet The Great Detective himself? And meeting Holmes would be relatively safe, I think. Too many other characters I like get themselves into horrifically violent situations I might get caught up in. I don’t wanna meet them that bad
Which of your stories/books/works do you consider the best?
Of my novels I’d have to say that THE VRIL AGENDA which I co-wrote with Joshua Reynolds is the one story where it actually turned out much better than I thought it would be. I drop kick humility out the window when it comes to that book. Josh and I knocked that sucker clean out of the park. I’m proud of all my Dillon novels but that one has so much in it that has Dillon as the link of Classic Pulp Heroes to the Age of New Pulp Heroes. And working with Josh was nothing less than spectacular. He’s not only one of the most imaginative and talented writers I know, he’s also one of the most generous. Anytime I asked him if I could this or that with Jim Anthony he said; “Sure, go ahead.” And he never tried to micromanage what I was doing with his characters. I appreciated that kind of trust.
Of my short stories, I think that my first Sebastian Red story; “Of All The Sins A Lover Bears” is the best. When I’m asked to describe my Sebastian Red stories I always say that they’re my idea of what might have occurred if Sergio Leone and Michael Moorcock had ever collaborated on a western. “Of All The Sins A Lover Bears” nails that concept perfectly. And it’s got a love story in there at the heart of it and I rarely write a love story so I’m proud of that.
How much do you write each day/week?
That’s difficult to say because I have good days/weeks and I have bad days/weeks. On a good day I can turn out between 3 to 5K. On a bad day it’s more around 2K.
Can you tell about your experiences working with publishers? Any juicy or painful experiences?
There are actually only three publishers I’ve had experience with. Tommy Hancock of Pro Se Productions I’ve known for so long that you’d think I was lying if I told you exactly how long. He’s infuriating and exasperating at times but that’s because he’s so excited about what he’s doing and he wants to share that excitement with the world. We fuss and bicker like an old married couple when discussing projects but I’ll tell you this; if more people involved in New Pulp had Tommy dedication and commitment to what he’s doing, we’d have a lot more better written New Pulp.
Captain Ron Fortier of Airship 27 has probably spoiled me and indulged me way too much. Anytime I come to him with a project he says; “Fine! Terrific! Go write it up and send it to me!” I don’t think he’s ever said no to anything I’ve pitched to him. What more can a writer ask of a publisher?
A publisher I’ve recently started working with is David Edwards of Imperiad Entertainment. David’s a writer and filmmaker who has created this outrageously outré Lovecraftian universe of characters and concepts. He’s written a couple of novels and written/directed a movie; “Nightscape.” He asked me if I would be interested in playing in his sandbox and I said sure. I’ve written one novel so far for him: “The Thousand-Eyed Fear” a World War I pulp adventure and there’s more to come. I’ll be doing a weird western for him as well as a sequel to “The Thousand-Eyed Fear” And like Tommy and Ron, he trusts me to just go off and do my thing, knowing that I’ll deliver. That kind of trust you can’t buy. It has to be earned.
Who were your inspirations?
Sit back and make yourself comfortable. Here we go:
Piers Anthony. Steven Barnes. Leigh Brackett. Ray Bradbury. Edgar Rice Burroughs. Stephen J. Cannell. George C. Chesbro. Clive Cussler. Samuel R. Delany. Lester Dent. Alexandre Dumas. Will Eisner. Harlan Ellison. Ian Fleming. Dashiell Hammett. Chester Himes. Robert E. Howard. Langston Hughes. Joel Jenkins. Joe R. Lansdale. Stan Lee. Robert R. McCammon. Walter Mosley. Larry McMurtry. Michael Moorcock. John Ostrander. Ishmael Reed. Mike Resnick. Joshua Reynolds. Charles Saunders. Jim Steranko. Andrew Vachss. Jules Verne. Cornell Woolrich. Roger Zelazny.
What book do you read over and over the most?
If we’re talking about non-fiction: “Techniques of The Selling Writer” by Dwight V. Swain. I’ve owned a copy of this book ever since I first read it in the 1970s. The best book about writing I’ve ever read. It’s safe to say that I re-read it every two or three months.
As for fiction…that’s a tough one. I can’t really single out any one fiction book I’ve read more than another.
Do you have a dream project that you want to write in the future?
Oh, tons of ‘em. But the main one I really want to do? For years I’ve had the plot for an Expendables/League of Extraordinary Gentlemen type of story but with Blaxploitation characters. But I have no idea who owns the rights to the characters I want to use or how I would even go about getting permission to use them.
People keep telling me to make up pastiches and go ahead and do it but I don’t wanna. It just wouldn’t be the same.
If you could live the life of one of your characters, who would it be?
Fortune McCall, without a doubt. He’s insanely wealthy, travels around the world on a luxurious gambling ship, has a crew of loyal friends he has amazing adventures with and if that ain’t enough, he’s an African prince. Wherever he goes he’s always the smartest and coolest cat in the room. Yeah, living the life of Fortune McCall would be awfully sweet, I should think.
What genre do you prefer to write? To read?
My genre of choice now and has been for the past 15, 20 years has been pulp action/adventure. I used to write science fiction but for some reason I drifted away from that. Writing Pulp just seems to get the fuses in my brain firing the same way when I was a kid reading Doc Savage, The Shadow and John Carter of Mars.
I read everything. Really. I’m a big believer that writers shouldn’t turn up their noses at anything except for badly written prose. I’m really into biographies now. But for pure pleasure I go with Robert E. Howard, Michael Moorcock or Mike Resnick.
Do you prefer writing short stories or novels? And why?
Novels. Because I tend to write long anyway. Tell me to write you a 10K word story and the first draft will end up being 20K. Tell me to write you a 50K word novel and the first draft will end up being 70 or 80K. Writing a novel it’s easier for for me to trim away the fat in the second or third draft than doing that with a short story. Despite that, I am pretty pleased with the short stories I’ve done.
What are you working on now?
I’m co-writing a Dillon story with a friend of mine, Erik Fromme: “Dillon and The City of Stone.” He came up with the idea and wrote a couple of thousand words. That’s when I brutally bullied my way into and insisted that I co-write it with him. Erik will tell you a different story but that pretty much what happened.
I’m also doing research on the World War I flying ace Eugene Bullard, known as ‘The Black Swallow of Death’ with the intention of writing a novel inspired by his real life adventures.
Is Writer’s Block ever a problem for you? If so, how do you deal with it?
I don’t believe in Writer’s Block so no, it’s not a problem for me.
How do you use social media in regards to your writing?
I’m still trying to figure that out. I have three blogs and between them I think I do a fairly good job of connecting with people who have read and enjoyed my books and connecting with my fellow writers, all of which is important to me. I’m fairly active on Facebook but still don’t have a single clue as to how to use Twitter. I’ve read articles and such that insist that I need to spend a certain amount of time each day on a dozen different social media platforms to sell books but if I did that, when would I have time to write?
I think that the one thing a lot of writers ignore about social media is the ‘social’ part. It’s not enough to just keep posting links on Facebook and Twitter to your Amazon page and saying over and over again; “Please buy my book!” because there are 1,021 other writers that are doing the exact same thing. Not that I’m saying don’t do it. Hey, it’s free and not costing you anything but time. And hey, you’re on Facebook and Twitter most of the day anyway, right?
What I am saying is that in order to sell your books I firmly believe that you have to sell you. Tell a funny story about something that happened to your family over the weekend. Give your opinion about the current political climate. Talk about your favorite movies (hey, don’t knock it. You know how many readers I’ve picked up thanks to my movie review blog?) and TV shows. Talk about how you feel about anything and everything that comes to your mind and for Odin’s sake don’t be afraid of offending somebody. You’re going to offend somebody anyway, trust me. I think you’ll be surprised at the response that you get.
“But I don’t like to do promotion or connect with people or hang out on Facebook and Twitter. I don’t want to do any of that stuff. I just want people to buy my books!” Well, I can’t help you there. I can only suggest what works for me. If you don’t like to do your own promotion, ask or hire somebody else to do it, then. You don’t wanna connect with people, fine. There have been plenty of reclusive writers who have gone on to be famous and rich. Maybe you’ll be one of ‘em.
Do you read reviews of your books? If so, have you ever engaged a reviewer over comments they’ve made?
I read all reviews of my books. And I’ve always thanked a reviewer for their review, good or bad.
This is the way I see it and have always seen it: when somebody reads something I’ve written they are paying for it in coin more valuable than money. They have given up valuable time out of their life that they will never get back to read my book or story. As far as I’m concerned, that gives them the right to say anything they like about my book or story in any language they see fit.
I do not subscribe to the babyish whining of some writers that reviewers should “be nice” or that they should only write reviews if they’re positive ones. If you put your work out there in the world for people to see then you have to take the good with the bad. Not everybody out there is going to love your darling the way you do and it’s best to grow a thick skin or develop some other way of dealing with bad reviews. I know quite a few writers who don’t read reviews at all, good or bad.
I see that we’ve come to the end of the questions so now is the perfect time for me to thank you for this opportunity, Alan. It was most thoughtful and generous of you to allow me this time to run my mouth for a bit. If anybody is interested in my work or further discussion on anything I’ve said here, you can find me on Facebook. And I’ve got three blogs where you can find out more about what I write:
Thanks Derrick. To find out more about him, click the links below:
BLOOD & INK http://dlferguson-bloodandink.blogspot.com/
THE FERGUSON THEATER https://derricklferguson.wordpress.com/