Thursday, January 14, 2010
Keith Pyeatt's Horrors With Heart
My guest today is Keith Pyeatt. Keith, welcome to the blog. Please tell us about yourself.
I was a mild-mannered mechanical engineer when I designed and built a simple log cabin on the side of a mountain in rural northeastern Vermont. After two years in my isolated cabin, I began writing horror novels. After ten years, I left my engineering career behind and moved to Albuquerque to focus on writing and freelance editing. Now I've been writing novels for 14 years. I'm working on my sixth novel, and I recently had two novels published.
My novels blend genres in different proportions, but they all have a paranormal element and plenty of psychological and physical tension. I refer to my novels as "Horror with Heart" because I force my characters to look deep inside themselves and find their very best before they can save the day.
When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?
I was a manager at an electric utility in Vermont, and my assistant challenged me to write a short story. The only requirement was that the good guys had to win. She wrote a fun and clever story, a couple pages long. A novel came gushing out of me. I wrote it on weekends and evenings in three weeks, and it's a tongue-and-cheek horror novel called Confusion. I didn't know what I was doing when I wrote it, and I've never returned to it now that I do, but it holds a special place in my heart. It hooked me on writing.
When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?
I write to entertain. My goal is to write novels readers can't put down. I want to flash images and situations into my readers' minds so they can submerge themselves in my stories and enjoy the read. I want my readers to feel the emotions my characters experience, but I also want to evoke emotions from my readers.
There are messages in my novels, often carried by themes that play out throughout the novels. Struck carries a theme about the understated power of acceptance, for example. Two major themes play out in Dark Knowledge, one about how good and bad often can't be separated and another about how winning great prizes requires great effort.
Briefly tell us about your latest book. Series or stand-alone? If you have written both, which one do you prefer?
I had two novels published in '09. Both are stand alone novels, but I could write a sequel for either if the mood hits.
Struck is a paranormal suspense novel set in Albuquerque, a fictional pueblo, and the Anasazi ruins in Chaco Canyon. When the main character, Barry, is struck by lightning, it's more than an act of nature. It's a calling. Earth's fate is now tied to Barry's, and Barry's destiny is linked to the past.
Dark Knowledge is a paranormal thriller that might be described as Flowers for Algernon with a Dean Koontz twist. A mentally challenged man named Wesley can't resist a gift of knowledge, but it comes with a dark destiny. Now Wesley must fight to survive, piece together his heritage, and weigh the value of his soul against the fate of mankind.
What’s the hook for the book?
In Struck, the earth will lose its ability to sustain life unless our easy-going hero understands and accepts his role as warrior, joins forces with a Native American elder, and overcomes massive obstacles before the equinox.
In Dark Knowledge, Satan wants a stronger foothold on earth. Mankind's fate rests on a mentally challenged man who must fight for his life in two worlds, grasp the concept that good and evil can't always be separated, and use that concept to save his soul.
How do you develop characters? Setting?
I give my characters strengths, flaws, quirks, and room to grow. Then I start writing. They become real to me early in the first draft but may continue changing even near the end. I don't worry if their nature changes during the first draft. Making characters consistent is just one of the many things revisions are for.
For settings, I use what works for the novel. Struck is very much tied to New Mexico. The settings in Albuquerque, a Native American pueblo, and Chaco Canyon not only season the novel, the whole premise of Struck comes from New Mexico history and culture. Dark Knowledge uses very different settings, but they also help establish the mood of the novel. It's set in a group home for mentally challenged men and women and a bizarre, threatening, and ever-changing world that exists inside the main character's mind.
What are your protagonist’s strengths? Flaws?
In Struck, Barry is a kind, compassionate man. He's too easy-going for his own good, especially when faced with the challenge of saving the earth.
In Dark Knowledge, Wesley is a sweet, strong, mentally challenged man with an amazing moral compass. Poor guy has a lot to deal with and overcome in the novel. He ignores his instincts a couple times, and each time pays a price.
How do you determine voice in your writing?
I write from the characters' point of view, so much of my voice comes from them. What carries through from me is word choice and conciseness. I write tight. I also concentrate on how prose flows, and I've been thrilled to see in my reviews the term "poetic."
Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?
One of my tricks is to create an in-progress outline as I write first draft. I summarize each scene after I write it. Doing so makes me focus on what happened, what was set up, and where the novel is going based on that one scene. As I progress, I can tell if I'm stagnating or stumbling ahead without proper motivation. Scenes that add little or repeat something already established stand out, and I'll either cut or refocus them in edits.
The finished outline is a big help during edits and also when it comes time to write a synopsis.
How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?
Interesting and tough question. My environment/upbringing colored me, and I color my writing, so the question goes to the core, my core. Anyone who reads my novels learns something about me, and the personal values revealed are a result of my environment and upbringing.
Have you started any online networks or blogs to promote yourself and others?
Online promotion is important, and I'm everywhere. At least it feels that way. I also send out a short newsletter every other month (there's a sign-up form on my blog). Here are a few places I have an online presence:
I also have an author page at both of my publishers' websites. I have a page at Goodreads, Author's Den, Amazon, MySpace, and Manic Readers.
After hours of intense writing, how do you unwind?
I drink. Ha. Actually, physical exercise is a huge help to me. I run four or five times a week and go to the gym to work out with weights four times a week. Exercise helps me unwind and gives me time to think about what I've written. I'm known at the gym for smiling my hellos but not talking. I'm always thinking about my characters or my novels. Unless I'm people watching, noticing interesting traits that might work their way into a character.
What are your current projects?
I'm excited about my work in progress. It's a dark fantasy/paranormal thriller. There's a parallel world and some really dark angles to contrast the light. I've had this project on hold for too long while I market unpublished novels and promote my newly published ones, but I'm finally returning to writing first draft, and it feels good.
Where can folks learn more about your books and events?
Best places are my website, http://keithpyeatt.com, and my blog, http://keithpyeatt.blogspot.com. To sample my published novels, a great online venue is http://www.freado.com/users/3981/Keith-Pyeatt. There are two chapters of both published novels posted there.
Keith, continued success with your writing. Thanks for the interview.
Great interview questions, Susan. Thank you for hosting me here. It was fun.