Now available is The Devil’s Engine, a YA novella perfect for horror fans both young and young-at-heart. Author Robert Stava talks a bit about the book and his writing.
What’s The Devil’s Engine all about? Who would be interested in it?
It’s your classic tale about a bunch of curious kids who start poking around someplace they shouldn’t be and end up in a whole busload (or trainload as it were) of trouble. In this case, the trouble takes the form of a diabolical experiment in locomotive technology of the late 1930s that was deliberately walled up and forgotten.
If you’re someone like me who’s into exploring odd, abandoned places potentially filled with buried secrets, then you might find this up your alley.
Where did your interest in trains originate?
From an early age my father was into old model trains, books on trains and such. He even took us on a real steam engine ride so we could experience it directly – that was the key thing he instilled, the correlation between the imaginary (models) and the tactile.
What gave you an interest in the occult and/or secret Nazi technology?
I’ve always had an overactive imagination and naturally the occult fed right into to that; it’s about embracing the mysterious. “Secret Nazi technology” is a twofold extension: the unnerving drive of a sinister entity to pursue all sorts of unconventional solutions along with their very real fascination with the occult. They got into some really weird stuff. Even before I watched Indiana Jones I knew that. It’s gold mine territory for horror.
How much of the setting of the novella is based on where you live?
Elements of it, but not all, or at least not all currently. There was a turntable/engine yard at the Croton Harmon facility I used as a template but it doesn’t exist anymore. And the stream-lined J3 “Commodore Vanderbilt” Locomotive that inspired the story did run on the Hudson Line ages past. But I would advise getting caught up on everything literally.
What do you hope readers get out of The Devil’s Engine?
A story that’ll take them somewhere else for a little while, I hope, and maybe come back with one or two pieces of knowledge they didn’t have before.
What are you working on next?
A few things. The next (6th) novel in my Hudson Horror Series titled Legends of Wyvern Falls, and concurrently tackling half a dozen or more new short stories. I have a huge backlog I’m pecking at so there’s always something.
Would you talk a little bit about your publishing and writing experience? How did you find publishers for your work? What advice would you offer to those looking to get published, especially in the horror field?
It’s a screwy business, that’s for sure. I’m coming from a threefold approach; first I was published in non-fiction hardcover (Combat Recon, 2007), then I got into self-publishing, now I’m getting picked up by a whole bunch of small presses, so I’m kind of all over the map. To make things more confusing the whole industry is a mess. About a year and a half ago I wrote a letter to Anne Rice about my frustration with the industry – that essentially I was getting a lot of positive feedback about my work but kept getting hit with “…and call us when you have 12k followers on Twitter or ‘Likes’ on Facebook and we’ll be glad to talk!” So my question to her was “Is that what the state of Literature has come to in the 21st century? Essentially a high-school popularity contest?” She wrote back a very nice response recommending I stick with self-publishing.
It’s an industry where you have to have a tough skin because most likely you’ll endure a lot of failure before you get even within an inch of anywhere. But keep in mind writers like Anne Rice did too – Interview With A Vampire sank without a trace when it was first published and it was seven years before she wrote the sequel. Her editor told her “If you put on a bodice-ripper cover it might sell a few copies, but I don’t think you have much of a future as a writer.”
Searching for publishers is pretty much a matter of combing the internet for open submissions and getting your stuff out there. Pay close attention to the guidelines and requirements – nothing POs a publisher or agent more than getting a document from someone who makes it clear they didn’t bother to check, and that’s an excellent way to get your manuscript put directly in the trash no matter how good it is.
Above all, be persistent and patient. It’s a fickle business and what one editor hates another may go ape over. You never know which it’s going to be so you just have to keep plugging away. Don’t think in terms of timetables – if you’re looking for a quick buck, you’re in the wrong industry.
The Devil’s Engine is available at our online store.