By Ethan Cross
After a Near Death Experience (an ‘NDE’) radically transforms the life of eccentric billionaire Nicholas Sheridan, he recruits a team of other survivors to study the experience. Recreating the conditions that opened the gate to the unknown, they will discover amazing connections, common visions and dramatic abilities among people who have come back from the dead. But what they haven’t bargained for is that the gate opens both ways, and something else has escaped death. Something hunting them… Something hungry.
Tell us about NDE in one line.
David Sakmyster: NDE is our collaborative effort to create a thrilling horror novel about an extraordinary team of people who have had Near Death Experiences: how they cope with what they’ve seen on the other side, and also – what demons might have been brought back with them.
Describe your typical writing day. How do you balance your writing with marketing, editing, plotting, and all other commitments?
Steven Savile: I’m a slow riser, but stubborn. I force myself to do the arse-in-seat thing for at least 6 hrs a day, more if I can. It makes me look incredibly prolific but the truth is I’m just really really stubborn. In terms of juggling time, last year was weird. I ‘wasted’ about 3 months of it not actually writing but rather writing an incredibly detailed 130 chapter outline (around 25,000 words of outline here guys) for a last days of the Templar historical thriller. I was antsy. I really wanted to be writing prose. But my head was filled with plot. I’ve never done anything like that before, and honestly about 6 weeks in, I was really regretting it! I’m the worst marketer in the world, I must have had 8 blogs that generally manage 5 posts before fading into some unloved limbo. I have someone who does my website for me. She generally complains I never give her anything to put on it… I do, however, chat football (round ball… kicked, not you know, carried in hands and thrown) on facebook, as Dave can testify. I’m pretty fixated. I’m working hard at remembering I’m married and setting real time aside for life these days. It was harder when I was teaching, and writing, and trying to be a husband and have a social life… something had to give. Mercifully, it was the teaching.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Steven Savile: I’m a coffee shop guy, I love to sit, drink, read a book, unwind. I’m addicted to sport, and genre tv. That addiction has been good in that I have a non-fiction book (Fantastic TV) which covers 50 years of genre tv, good and bad. I just need to figure out how to write about football and I’m sorted.
David Sakmyster: Ditto what Steve said about the coffee and the genre TV, and add that I’m a tennis junkie and also an amateur ghost hunter, with a detailed non-fiction book unraveling the spooky legends about a haunted upstate castle.
As a reader, what are some of your personal pet-peeves? In other words, what’s your list of writing dos and don’ts?
Steven Savile: Actually, I’m an incredibly forgiving reader. All I want is to feel emotionally committed. I switch off the work brain. Mind you, my reading matter these days is generally ladlit (the blokey version of chicklit). Because I spend so much of my time working with words all I want to do when I read is lose myself. So if they spin a decent story ace. That’s it for me.
David Sakmyster: My one pet peeve, and the thing that usually makes me groan in disgust, whether it happens in books or especially movies and TV is the cop-out line, waaaay overused: “Why are you doing this?” Go ahead, listen for it the next time you go to the movies and the hero and/or victim whines to the diabolical villain, as if lazy writers have no other way to reveal motivation: “Why….” Once you’re on the lookout for it, you’ll see it everywhere (even GAME OF THRONES and MAD MEN just used it). I’m actually creating a Youtube montage, and you’ll be amazed. Seriously.
What kind of research did you conduct for NDE?
Steven Savile: Well, you know what they say about sinking into a project? I’ve had a few close brushes, struck by lightning for instance, and electrocuted when I was younger (no fingerprint on one finger and thumb of right hand – I’d be an awesome criminal… erm) so I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of what lies beyond. I can still vividly recall my mind consciously choosing to let go when I was being electrocuted. I was 15. The only reason I didn’t die was instead of trying to help me, my father had the presence of mind to run inside the house and pull the circuit breaker. I was left with the bone on full display where my hand had been in contact with the raw wire. It was that feeling of surrender that I’ll never get over. Not fear. Not fighting it. Just thinking, this isn’t so bad.
David Sakmyster: I haven’t been so (un)lucky to experience this research first-hand, but I’ve had several family friends detail their experiences, complete with seeing themselves on the operating table, hearing the doctors and nurses talking, able to recount later exactly what was said after they were pronounced dead. Fascinated by all this, I read everything I could on the subject – a lot of great research is out there, especially Kenneth Ring’s books – THE OMEGA PROJECT and others. I also managed to hook up with a national group of experiencers, speakers and experts, where I could hear their stories directly from the experts. It was always the fascination with how death changes a person so dramatically when they come back from it. Sometimes in uplifting, transformative ways, other times not for the better as they can’t adjust now to the normal everyday world. That character aspect was primarily what drew me to this project.
What are you reading now? What are some of your favorite books/authors and who has had the greatest influence upon your own work?
Steven Savile: Stephen Lawhead’s Bright Empire series – onto Book 2 at the moment. It’s quantum mechanics meets alternate history. I’ve always loved LAWHEAD. We used to correspond when I was first starting out. He was very kind and patient. Favourite books, off the top of my head, so the list might change tomorrow: WEAVEWORLD, Clive Barker, SLEEPING IN FLAME, Jonathan Carroll, STRANGEWOOD, Christopher Golden, MANHATTAN GHOST STORY, TM Wright, LAST OF THE SAVAGES, Jay McInnerny, ONE DAY, David Nicholls, anything by Paul Auster, big fan of CARTER THE GREAT, Glen David Gold, KAVALIER AND CLAY by Michael Chabon was immense… I’ve got a real soft spot for some of the fantasies by guys like Stephen R Donaldson, Hugh Cook, David Gemmell, David Eddings… I think I’m formed from all of these and more…
David Sakmyster: I just finished Robert McCammon’s PROVIDENCE RIDER (and I then had the pleasure of being on a panel with him in New Orleans for the World Horror Convention). Next up: THE BLOOD GOSPEL (Rollins & Cantrell).
What’s something that you’ve learned about the publishing business that you weren’t expecting?
Steven Savile: Oz the Great and Powerful is real… ish. There was a huge cloak of mystery about this stuff when I was getting started. It was a case of getting The Writers and Artists Yearbook, scouring for names of agents and their clients, of blind subs and just waiting… now it’s all so visible. Even sales numbers. I’ve been shocked and saddened by people, stuff like the sock-puppeting scandal and fabricated war memoirs, stuff like that, but equally I’ve been humbled and amazed by the sense of community when it comes to things like health, the way people rallied to help Jay Lake pay for genome sequencing in the hopes of finding a treatment for his now terminal cancer… top and bottom of it, it’s all about the people and the relationships. You do what you are comfortable with. You promote yourself in a manner you are comfortable with. You create. You work. You hope…
Do you have any advice for aspiring (or struggling) writers out there?
Steven Savile: I’m a bad one to talk. I broke all the rules. I got my first agent when I was 19… I wrote a 9,000 word approach letter… hit 10 agencies, got 9 full mss requests, 7 offers of representation within a week. I had no idea it was supposed to be difficult. The difficulty all came later with publisher collapses, books locked in limbo, editors being sacked and projects becoming hellish… the thing no one really told me was no matter where you are, there are always problems/worries/issues… they’re just different. They start out being how do I get noticed, how do i stand out… they metamorphose into how do I get a better deal, better numbers… how do I get a new contract… how do I not get dropped… how do I brand myself… how do I survive. It’s almost as though getting published was easy, but staying published, that just feels a lot harder
Steven Savile has written for DOCTOR WHO, STARGATE, STAR WARS and WARHAMMER, has sold over quarter of a million books worldwide, and is a number one bestseller in the United Kingdom. David Sakmyster is an award-winning author and screenwriter who has over two dozen short stories and seven novels published, including THE PHAROS OBJECTIVE, the first in a completed trilogy featuring psychic archaeologists.