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Author Q&A: Derik Cavignano, “Colony of the Lost”

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What happens when you rebuild on the same site as a colony of settlers who just vanished into thin air? Could what threatened them come back around?

This idea is what Derik Cavignano explores in “Colony of the Lost,” a thriller that has a band of misfits coming together to defeat a threat to their modern-day town, which may have roots in Pilgrim times.

From the back of the book:

Nestled in the heart of the Berkshires lies Glenwood, Massachusetts–the perfect picture of suburbia. But when the children of this affluent town begin vanishing one by one, baffling local and federal authorities alike, Glenwood becomes anything but a utopia.

Built upon the ruins of a lost colony, Glenwood is home to a long-forgotten secret, and when three strangers are lured into the midnight woods by the phantom of a Puritan boy, they discover the truth of the town’s dark past and must face a vision of its bloody future.

Together, this unlikely trio–Jay, an alcoholic school teacher, Tim, a wise-cracking new kid in town, and Sarah, a nine-year-old with a host of imaginary friends–must somehow find a way to rescue the town from an ancient demon and its legion of human slaves. But in order for them to succeed, Jay must first conquer his own inner demons.

Below, Cavignano discusses his taut thriller and how it came about – as well as gives advice to fellow writers:

“Colony of the Lost” combines several different horror elements into one spooky tale; How would you describe your book to readers?

Colony of the Lost is about a trio of unlikely heroes who join forces to battle a terrifying evil threatening their town. It’s part ghost story, part creature feature, and even contains a bit of sci-fi and fantasy. It’s a character-driven story that pits good versus evil and celebrates the power of the human spirit.

What was your inspiration for this book?

Before I wrote Colony of the Lost, I had three different ideas for a story, but I was struggling to convert them into something worthy of a novel. I kept wracking my brain, trying to decide which idea had the most potential, but I couldn’t seem to come up with anything of substance.  Then one day it occurred to me that all three ideas might be part of the same story, and that’s how Colony of the Lost was born. The ideas were: a ghost appearing outside of someone’s bedroom window; the real story behind the lost colony of Roanoke; and a monster lurking in the woods of a small town.

Will we be seeing any of these characters again in the future?

As of right now, I don’t have any plans for a sequel, but I do think it would be interesting to see these characters reunite later in life to tackle another sort of supernatural problem. It’s possible that readers haven’t seen the last of Jay, Tim, and Sarah.

What makes up a good horror/thriller novel to you? Anything you find really spooky?

I think a good horror novel must have well-defined characters that readers care about. For me, character is the thing that matters most, regardless of genre. If there aren’t any compelling characters breathing life into the story, then the whole thing just falls flat … and not even the most amazing plot can rescue the story from mediocrity. Another essential ingredient is the suspension of disbelief. If the author gets that wrong, it can kill the story. The moment the reader starts rolling his or her eyes because something doesn’t ring true or the plot has veered into the ridiculous, the entire story implodes.

What I find scary or spooky in a horror story often depends on how effectively the author has committed the reader to the characters and how well the author has raised the stakes. In the hands of a capable author, something as mundane as an unlocked window can become terrifying. I find the fear of the unknown to be very powerful—as in something unknown stalking the characters or leaving a trail of victims. I also find being watched to be incredibly unnerving, especially at night when someone can see into your windows but you can’t see anything outside but darkness. I tap into this fear quite a bit in Colony of the Lost when the main characters are being watched from the shadows of Washaka Woods.

What’s next for you?

Right now, I’m working on a novel about a Boston homicide detective on the trail of a serial killer. The protagonist is Ray Hanley, who plays an important role in my sci-fi suspense thriller, The Righteous and the Wicked. Readers of that book liked Ray so much that I decided to give him a thriller of his own.

What authors do you enjoy reading in your spare time?

I’m a big fan of Stephen King and have read nearly everything he’s written. I also enjoy Dean Koontz, Neil Gaiman, and Peter Straub, and I occasionally like to reread the classics from Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Bradbury.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

The best advice I can give aspiring writers is to believe in yourself and never give up. Writing gets better with practice, so aspiring authors should practice their craft as often as they can. I always tell new writers to take their best story and focus on making it as good as possible before moving onto the next project. Self-editing is a critical skill, and the difference between a first draft and a final draft can be like night and day. I strongly recommend the book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. It’s made a big difference in my writing and I still refer to it every now and then.

For more seasoned writers who are ready for publication, I would suggest consulting the works of Noah Lukeman on how to get an agent. While the odds of landing a traditional publishing deal are on par with winning the lottery, the good news is that a lot of first-time and established authors have turned to independent publishing as a viable alternative. Sites like Goodreads, Amazon, and BookBub can help a great indie novel rise from the depths of obscurity and get readers and the industry to take notice. Both of my novels are independently published, and in the two years since their release I have received nearly 700 ratings across Amazon and Goodreads.Colony of the Lost was even named a 2016 Silver Falchion Award finalist for best horror (in a contest that accepts both traditional and indie works). In my opinion, there has never been a better time than right now to be an aspiring writer.

For more information about Cavignano and his work, check out the following resources:

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