A couple weeks ago I read and reviewed Dan Newman’s book, The Clearing and I loved it! I also had the pleasure of interviewing him and here it is:
Hello Dan. I know that’s it’s been a bit of a struggle to get to this point and I want to congratulate you on The Clearing being published. You are an incredible story teller and I am so glad for you to have reached your goal of being published. I have a few questions for you and they are:
Q:When and why did you begin writing?
A: Hi Elizabeth, and thanks for saying such kind things!
I think I’ve been writing in some capacity since I was about 8. I remember creating stories as comic book panels and becoming increasingly frustrated at my lack of ability to get the drawing to match the action in my head. But as far as novels go, I began about sixteen years ago, sitting down to bang out the first draft of a novel called The Cull after my father got sick of me saying that I would like to write a novel one day. I think his words were: if you want to write a book, write a bloody book! So I sat down and went at it. I still love that first one, deeply flawed as it is.
Q: In a previous interview you’ve mentioned that the Bolom is absolutely real to you. I do not doubt that, but I’m curious if you’ve ever seen one?
A: The lore surrounding the Bolom dictates that unless you are the master of one of the great estates, you can’t see him – only the master can. So I’ve never seen one. However, I did spend time at one of these estates, and in the small hours – in that very black part of the night – something did come through the house. I heard it. I listened to it tear through the attic. So for the eleven year old me, the Bolom is very real.
Q: Experiences from your childhood have worked their way into The Clearing, was there any parts that were emotionally difficult to write?
A: I’m not sure I’d classify it as emotionally difficult, but for parts of the story I did need to get myself right back into the headspace I occupied as a real kid, looking up at the ceiling in a very creepy old house and imagining some vicious, foul-smelling creature skulking around above me. It was important to scare myself a little, to get the hairs on the back of my neck up so I could remember the little details. And I was a quite surprised at how available that memory was. But that’s fear for you. It sears itself in deeply. Still, memory is a strange thing: it amplifies some elements and plays down others. Like the whole sound of the nutmegs rolling; that was the single most frightening thing I remember, but it was probably just a small by-product of whatever was moving through it.
Q: Tell us about the cover and how it came about.
A: As a first timer, I have to say that watching the cover come to life was one of the most exciting parts of the whole process. That first draft, that first glimpse of your very own title; let’s just say your smiling muscles begin to hurt after the first few hours.
My publisher, Exhibit A, was incredibly collaborative on this, and my understanding is that not all publishers are. Before the first concept was designed they asked for my input; how I felt it should feel thematically, what imagery I’d imagine would be part of it – that kind of thing. It was really great to have a voice. My input really consisted of saying I felt it needed to be dark – that black should be the dominant shade – and that the title font should feel senescent, falling apart. Then I left it to them. They came back with two amazing concepts, and whoever briefed the artist really understood the story, and got the mood bang on. There were a few suggested changes – a key one from my brilliant agent, Carrie Pestritto, to make the light emanate from the hand of the figure as opposed to coming from behind it – and the rest, as they say, is history.
Q: What I took away from your book is that the past is the past. It is done, you can’t change it, so you’d better start accepting it. Also, I formed a new before bed habit of making sure along with the door, that all the windows are locked. *Snicker* Was there an additional message you wanted readers to receive?
A: Please forgive me but I’m glad I was able to creep you out! You’re absolutely right, the book deals with our personal histories – the past is there, sit on it if you like, but it won’t stay quiet unless you deal with it.
One of the things I hope readers consider is what the Bolom represents– beyond simply being a disturbing supernatural element of the story. For me, the Bolom is childhood lost, and even for those among us who had the most blissful, idyllic childhoods, there’s always something dark there, something we lost along the way that exists all on its own, back there, in the dark forests and clearings of our pasts.
Something to think about.
Thanks again for letting me stop by, Elizabeth!
Thanks again, Dan!