A former award-winning educator, Doug writes about things paranormal and historical. His interest in the paranormal comes from personal experiences as detailed in the nonfiction adult book he and wife wrote titled, AN EXPLOSION OF BEING: AN AMERICAN FAMILY'S JOURNEY INTO THE PSYCHIC. Out of those events and extensive historical research, he created SLIDING BENEATH THE SURFACE for young adults, Book I of the St. Augustine Trilogy. Doug set his trilogy in the oldest and most haunted city in the United States, St. Augustine, Florida not only for those reasons, but also because it's his favorite place to visit. Books II and III of the trilogy are on the way.
INTERVIEW WITH DOUG DILLON:
How did you get started writing?
Right after my father died, strange things started happening in my family. For example, the horn in Dad’s car kept going off at the oddest times, and my aunt and uncle saw Dad in their living room over 1,000 miles from where he lost his life.
Mom kept telling me that Dad was trying to communicate with us, but my wife and I didn’t believe her. To Barb and me, back in those days, anything paranormal was just silliness. But eventually, Mom convinced us to visit a medium in the nearby spiritualist community of Cassadaga, FL. Tell you what though, that one hour made us realize my mom was right. To be perfectly honest, the medium was so convincing that Barb and I started a three-year paranormal research project. During that time, we had a ton of unusual experiences and accumulated notebooks filled with fascinating information.
In fact, we had so much detail that Barb and I decided to share it with other adults who might have the same kind of questions. To do that, we decided to write a book, even though neither one of us had ever published anything before. As a school teacher and administrator, I had written a lot of professional reports, newsletters and lesson plans. That meant I became the actual writer of the book with Barb serving as the editor.
It took us over a year to write the book and another year to get it in print. Prentice Hall in New York became our publisher and eventually, Barb and I did radio talk shows about the paranormal all across the United States. The name of our book is An Explosion of Being: An American Family’s Journey into the Psychic.
From that one experience, I found out how much I really enjoyed writing and continued doing it. Today I’m a very active blogger and I have great fun writing fiction for teens and young adults using my own personal paranormal experiences as inspiration.
Who influenced you?
As far as other authors go, these three are the ones that most impressed me long before I ever thought about being a writer. Their abilities to make words sing, express the deepest emotions, explore new ideas and describe things with clarity and beauty have stayed with me for many years:
· Isaac Asimov – Science fiction and nonfiction
· James Michener – Historical fiction
· Frank Herbert – Science fiction (The Dune series)
Do you have a favorite book/subject/character/setting?
One of my favorite young adult books is Holes by Louis Sachar. After working with troubled teens for so long, I really enjoyed how Sachar showed kids bonding and coming out on top even under the most difficult of circumstances.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?
Here are some suggestions:
· Read constantly and read a wide variety of things (Fiction and nonfiction): books, articles, newsletters, and blogs.
· Study how the authors of those publications express themselves, describe things and bring characters to life. Ask yourself what you like and don’t like about how they write.
· Write something every day, even if it is just to keep a journal of your thoughts.
· Pick subjects that fascinate you, research them and then write about them as if you are a reporter.
· If you are interested in fiction, write short stories complete with a plot, characters, setting, etc.
· Get a trusted friend, relative, or teacher to read what you write and give you suggestions.
· Approach every written project or report you are assigned at school as an opportunity to improve your writing skills.
· Keep a copy of everything you write and months or years later, go back and read those things again. See what you have learned since then and how you might express yourself differently now.
· Find other people who love books and who might also want to become an author. You all can support each other and learn from each other.
Where is your favorite place to write?
The setting for my young adult series is in St. Augustine, Florida, about 100 miles north of where I live in Orlando. In fact, the title of the series is The St. Augustine Trilogy.
You see, that location is the oldest and most haunted city in the United States, an excellent site for my paranormal/historical novels. And it is the perfect place for me to write. I go up there and stay with a friend for weeks at a time, outlining, writing, and revising my books. When I take a break from all that work, I roam the city day and night, imagining new plots, putting myself in the place of the characters and visiting historic sites.
What else would you like to tell us?
The premise of The St. Augustine Trilogy came out of my work with troubled teens in grades 6-12. So many of those young people thought they were stuck in their lives and could never really find a way out. My job, in those days, was to help them find that way out and find some tools that would help them to keep away from the problems that had made their lives so difficult in the first place.
Now, in writing my trilogy, I have another opportunity to help teen readers realize they can truly change their lives for the better no matter what. To do that in these books, I put the main character, Jeff, under terrible paranormal pressure. Jeff is an angry teen who comes from a really messed-up home and thinks the world is against him. There are times when Jeff thinks he is going insane or might even die, and there are times he just flat wants to run away.
But throughout the trilogy, Lobo, the Native American shaman, continually forces Jeff to realize he can handle anything if he just remembers one thing: “You create your own reality.” Those few words are the key thread, the premise, in each book of The St. Augustine Trilogy.