Ask the Author: Caleb Roehrig
What would you like readers to know about you?
I’ve worked a lot of different jobs, from retail and food service to acting and TV producing, but I have always been a storyteller first and foremost. I write YA because there were stories I wanted as a teenager that didn’t exist, and because there were stories I needed that I didn’t know enough to ask for.
What is your book about for those who haven’t read it?
THE FELL OF DARK is a paranormal fantasy about August Pfeiffer, a teenage boy living in a vampire town. Fulton Heights, IL, isn’t known for much—just a dying mall and a nexus of mystical energy fields that attract the undead—and the only thing Auggie wants is to live long enough to graduate and move somewhere else. Anywhere else. But his plans are derailed with the sudden arrival of an annoyingly hot vampire named Jude Marlowe. Impossibly, it seems that Auggie is the key figure in an ancient, apocalyptic prophecy…and the end of the world is due any minute. As dark forces spread through his hometown, and the people closest to him reveal one shocking secret after another, Auggie must confront a terrifying question: is he destined to save the world…or to destroy it?
What has been your inspiration for writing it?
About ten years ago, before I was published, I tried to write a vampire novel. I’d envisioned it as the first in a series of five, and had sketched out plots for all of them, planning an epic story arc that I was really excited about. But that was during the first boom of paranormal fantasy YA, and I was far too late to jump on the trend. The idea went nowhere, and I set it aside—just in case. Fast forward to late 2018, when I was invited to contribute to Out Now, an anthology of LGBTQ+ short stories, compiled and edited by Saundra Mitchell. (Published by Inkwell this past May!) Just so I could say I’d finally done it; I wrote a short story about two boys hiding from a vampire invasion at their homecoming dance…and I had so much fun I couldn’t bear to leave that universe behind when I was done. So, I dusted off my old idea for a vampire series, revised or reimagined all the parts that didn’t work, and came up with a single book that I was even more excited about than the planned original five!
What was your favorite scene or part of your book to write?
I can’t answer this directly without giving away some serious spoilers, so I’m going to have to be a little vague. The big plan I came up with ten years ago for a full quintet of novels was a little messy, but there was one diabolical plot twist that I’d planned for the third book that I was really eager to write. Well, condensing five books into one wasn’t easy, and it required cutting numerous subplots and characters; but that one twist? I refused to let it go. I basically outlined The Fell of Dark with a specific goal of making sure I laid all the necessary groundwork for that one, pivotal moment, so I could do it justice. It comes roughly halfway into the third act of the book, and I’m really proud of it. If you’ve read it, and you think you know what I’m talking about, give me a shout on social media and let me know!
What books or authors inspired you to become a writer?
When I was first moving beyond Middle Grade novels, I read a ton of Agatha Christie, and that created a lifelong love of complex plots and surprise twists for me. Shortly after that, I started pilfering paperbacks form my mom, and I was further inspired by writers like Mary Higgins Clark and Patricia Cornwell, who wrote gripping suspense novels that left me breathless. (And sleepless!) But it was when I first read Sue Grafton that I knew I wanted to be a published author someday. Her books, featuring a witty (and mostly-ethical) private detective named Kinsey Millhone, were a revelation. Up to that point, I’d never encountered a main character that I could relate to so profoundly. Her stories were propulsive and humorous and thrilling…everything I strive to bring into my own work today.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book?
The one true key to success is perseverance. My first manuscript didn’t get published, and neither did my second, third, or fourth. I made a lot of mistakes in my early drafts, and a lot more in how I packaged and pitched them to agents; but with each try, I learned something important about myself as a writer. Along the way, I figured out my strengths and weaknesses, how to play to the former and compensate for the latter (until I could improve on whatever skills were lacking.) Even now I’m still learning and growing. But if I’d given up after those first few failures, I wouldn’t be published today. So, read widely, and experiment with genres, tenses, and POV in your work, but above all just stick with it!