Derek McEldowney - Nightmares, Hallucinations and Deep Existential Themes
Derek McEldowney is a half-mad author & illustrator residing somewhere in northern Colorado. He has claimed to have been writing since he was 16, but the world has seen little of his work since then. He has drawn influences across decades of writers and artists, including: Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, Jhonen Vasquez, Shawn Coss, and Bill Watterson. As our Author of the Day, McEldowney tells us all about his latest book, Sentiaverum Envisionment.
Please give us a short introduction to what Sentiaverum Envisionment is about.
The story follows a lonely artist struggling with insomnia and depression. As he begins to pursue a sense of meaning in his life, strange things begin to happen and he becomes uncertain of what is real and what isn’t.
What inspired you to write about a lonely artist who is seeking inspiration and purpose?
Personal experience and insomnia. I had the initial idea that would become this story late one night when I couldn’t sleep.
Tell us more about the artist. What makes him tick?
He has a lot of different kinds of trauma in his past, most of which he hasn’t actually dealt with yet. Art has been one of the only things in his life to make him feel alive, and we join him right as both of those things are starting to change.
Nightmares and hallucinations play an important role in this story. Why?
I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of subjective perception and how it can affect people. Nightmares are sort of similar in that sense; they feel real in the moment and can even affect us after waking, and they’re something everyone can relate to. A lot of the nightmares in the story subtlety allude to what is yet to come.
Interesting cover. How did it come about?
The cover is actually a painting I did for the book and felt from the beginning it would make a good cover, given its significance to the story. I wanted something visually striking, and decently recognizable from a distance. Later on I added various illustrations from the physical version of the book that were important to key moments, but I made them transparent and easy to miss unless you’re looking very carefully.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I like to draw and paint with watercolors. The physical version of the book actually contains around 100 illustrations I did. I actually got a certification in copyediting to help my writing. I’ve been practicing some voice over work, though I still don’t think I’d call it much of a skill yet. I’m decent at most video and tabletop games.
Readers say that your writing is very descriptive. Why did you take this approach?
It’s always been a strength and central focus of mine. I’ve always felt like descriptive writing is what pulls readers in the most. It adds life to the story and the world it takes place in, makes it believable; makes it real.
The book contains some twists and turns. Did you plan it all out before you started writing, or did some of it just "happen" along the way?
When I write I tend to outline a lot of key moments and events first and then connect them as I write. A lot of great ideas and events can just come about on their own when connecting things. So I’d say about 50/50.
Why did you title this Sentiaverum Envisionment?
When I came up with the title I was in a phase were I was using a lot of old Latin to come up with names and terms. I wanted a title that was mysterious and unique that would make people go “What the hell is that?” I may have overdone it hahaha.
The story contains some deep, existential themes. Why did you find this important to write about?
Some of the themes in the book aren’t always easy for people to deal with or talk about in real life. I wanted to let those people know they weren’t alone, and that there’s always hope buried somewhere. And to those who aren’t familiar, I wanted to show what it’s like. At its core horror is meant to discomfort people in some way. Existentialism is discomforting, and I wanted to make people think. It seemed perfect.
Who are your favorite authors in fiction? How have they influenced your writing?
Reading Edgar Allen Poe as a teen is what originally helped get me started on my writing journey with poetry. I can tell Poe has had a big influence on my writing, but it’s never really been a conscious decision I’ve made, it just sort of happens. As I’ve gotten older, Neil Gaiman has become a bigger influence than others. The way Gaiman writes fantastical worlds and with such liveliness, is definitely something I’ve studied more closely. He’s able to walk the line between dark and wholesome so incredibly well, and I admire that.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
I write at my desktop computer and tend to light a scented candle or incense. Sometimes I will play music to help me get in a certain mood or relax. It has to be at a low volume with minimal lyrics or I end up getting distracted though. A typical writing day is usually %80 more screwing around than it should be.
What are you working on right now?
The big project I’m working on is the first sequel to Sentiaverum Envisionment. I’m also doing a short story project called Devious Tales where I write one short story every month and put together a short video featuring at least one illustration and my reading of the story. I’m also part of an online writing group where we write 350 word flash fiction once a week.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
My Author page on Amazon will have my books available.
My Author page on Facebook is the best place to follow my writing or find any announcements.
I have a Tumblr and Instragram where I post my artwork.
I also have a Redbubble page to sell some of my artwork.