AP: Derrick, ALL PULP really appreciates you taking a break from THE LONG MATINEE and all other things Ferguson to visit with us. First, share with us a little bit about who Derrick Ferguson is personally, some background info, etc.
DF: The most interesting thing about me is the stuff I write. Seriously. But the bare facts about me are as follows: I’m a lifelong resident of Brooklyn, NY. I’ve been married for 27 years. I’ve been writing ever since I was 12 years old but it’s only been for the past 10 years or so that I’ve really tried to be professional about it. I love all things pulp, comic books, TV, movies, old radio shows, cartoons, cool trench coats and fedoras.
Most people always say they’d like to know more personal stuff about me. I have no idea why. I live a very quiet, even boring life. My years of wild adventuring have come and gone.
AP: You write Pulp. By your definition, just what is Pulp?
DF: Pulp is: Sinister plots to take over the world. Secret societies. Evil criminal geniuses. Even more sinister plots to destroy the world. Mere mortals tampering with the laws of nature. Ghastly creatures preying on the innocent. Heroes. Bizarre death traps. Ghoulish fiends from beyond. Slinky femme fatales more than willing to seduce good guy and bad guy alike. Futuristic gadgets. Art Deco. Villains. Sexy airplanes and even sexier cars. Loyal sidekicks. Mad scientists. Knowing what evil lurks in the hearts of men. Robots. Spaceships. Ancient gods seeking to consume our souls. Being superamalgamated. Faithful girlfriends who have no hope of ever getting married but don’t mind it a bit. Obeying Fu Manchu. Anything I left out?
AP: Pulp crosses multiple genres. What genres do you prefer to read? What genres do you prefer to write in? What genre have you not stepped off into yet that interests you?
DF: I guess action/adventure covers just about as broad a spectrum of those genres I like to read as anything else. But I like to read everything and I mean that literally. I truly believe that as a writer I can learn from everything I read and yes, that covers genres I don’t like or don’t normally read. You’d be surprised at how many bodice rippers I’ve read and gotten a solid good reading experience out of it. Science fiction and mysteries are always attention getters for me. I go out of my way for a good private eye yarn. I’ve been burning out my Mp3 player listening to as many “Pat Novak For Hire” episodes I can find and download the past month or so. How come nobody’s ever done a “Pat Novak For Hire” TV show or movie?
Pulp covers what I like to write as I take everything and anything from any genre I like and use it for the story I’m currently telling. I’ve taken elements of the spy genre, horror and spaghetti western and mixed them all up in one story with no problem.
The one genre I haven’t written in but I hope to correct that soon is The Western. Now, I’ve written weird westerns featuring my supernatural gunslinger Sebastian Red. But that’s a whole other creature. I’ve never written a ‘straight’ western. If my 2011 schedule permits, I’d like to knock out one. I’ve got the plot and character all mapped out. I just need the time, dammit.
AP: You’re associated with several pulp outfits, but probably most recognizably with Pulpwork Press. Can you tell us about Pulpwork and how you’re associated with them, just as a writer or is it more than that?
DF: Pulpwork Press devloped over a number of years due to the unique relationship I’ve developed with Joel Jenkins and Joshua Reynolds. I like to say that Joel is the best friend I’ve never met and Josh is simply an amazing talent who dazzles me with his profssionalism and his quality output. He’s also taught me a lot about promotion and the value of keeping one’s name out there.
Pulpwork Press was started by the three of us simply as a way to publish our work and get it out there to the people who wanted to read it. But it’s grown into far more than that. Joel had built up a sizeable auidence due to a pulp themed website called Electronic Tales he ran for years. That’s how I met him. And Josh as well as Joel contributed to Frontier Publishing, an online fiction site that remains one of the proudest things I’ve ever been associated with. We had ten tons of talent crackin’ on that site and when we cooked…mama, we cooked, you hearin’ me? Frontier Publishing got so well known and respected that we were contacted by the late Kevin McGowin, the author of the “Benny Poda” trilogy who wanted us to run one of his novels as a serial. Sadly it turned out to be his last one. But it brought us a considerable amount of credibility. Suddenly we weren’t just another fiction site.
I’ve written four books for Pulpwork Press so far and I guess that you could call me an editor there as well. Josh, Joel and I regularly meet and discuss Pulpwork Press beusiness and we all have equal say in what happens. One of the best things about working with these guys is that there’s no ego involved in anything we do. Sometimes we don’t agree on a course of action but that’s okay. We don’t take it personally. So far, there’s never been a dispute we haven’t been able to resolve like grown men are supposed to be able to do.
AP: One of your characters that has shown up from Pulpwork Press is Diamondback. He is the star of at least one novel already released with two follow ups announced. Who is Diamondback and what makes him unique in Pulpdom?
DF: Diamondback is unique for a number of reasons. One: he inhabits the city of Denbrook. Which is a city created by that insanely talented writer Mike McGee as a shared universe that Frontier Publishing writers could use as a setting. And a number of us did so. There were actually nine novels set in Denbrook written by various authors such as myself, Joel Jenkins, Michael Franzoni, Megan Curtis, Matt Pierce and Tom Lynch.
The first Diamondback novel “It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time” was my experiment to write a story where just about everybody is a bad guy. Just bad guys of various levels of badness (insert laughter) The inspiration for Diamondback himself comes from a line in a Billy Preston song: “Gonna write a story ain’t got no moral…let the bad guy win every once in a while”
Diamondback was also a lot of fun to write because it’s basically a western disguised as an urban crime thriller. If you’ve seen “Yojimbo” or “A Fistful of Dollars” then you’ve got the template of what the first Diamondback novel is about.
AP: Another character you’re closely identified with is Dillon. Tell us about Dillon, including where he’s appeared and any future plans.
DF: Dillon is my favorite character and the one who gets to go on the globetrotting, world saving adventures. He’s the character most influenced by the pulps, mostly Doc Savage. All the information you could want to know about Dillon can be found here:
So far there’s been two Dillon novels published and in 2011 there’s three Dillon projects planned. The first is a collection of short stories/novellettes that previously have been spread out all over the Internet titled FIVE BULLETS FOR DILLON. Those stories will finally be collected in one book, along with an original story written especially for the book. The second is a novel that’s a semi-sequel to DILLON AND THE LEGEND OF THE GOLDEN BELL which is called DILLON AND THE PIRATES OF XONIRA.
And the project I’m really excited about is one I’m collaborating on with one of the most popular and talented writers working today. I can’t mention it yet as the publisher has requested we not say anything about it until the end of the year. The only thing I can tell you is that Dillon is involved.
AP: Now, you’ve also developed a character for Pro Se Productions. What is the Sovereign City Project and just who is Fortune McCall and what does he have to do with it?
DF: Tommy Hancock came to me and Barry Reese with an idea for a shared universe project. His intention was to create a city and populate it with all kinds of original pulp heroes. His only rule was that the stories had to take place in the 1930’s.
I felt very honored that Tommy thought enough of my talent to ask be to be one of the architects of Sovereign City and give it life and characters worthy to stand beside the classic pulp characters we all know and love.
For my part I saw this as an opportunity to create an authentic black pulp hero in the 1930’s. Back then we weren’t as enlightened a people as we are now so black heroes were in short supply. So I was delighted to have this chance to hopefully expand the genre and give it (pardon the pun) some much needed color.
Fortune McCall is an international man of mystery. All anybody seems to know about him is that he’s staggeringly rich, has a wide range of esoteric skills and travels with a team of six who are all pretty formidable in their own right. He operates out of a luxurious gambling ship called ‘The Heart of Fortune’. He gets involved in the affairs of Sovereign City when he takes an assignment to rescue a friend of his from some neafrious Nazi types and the mayor of Sovereign City asks Fortune and his friends to then stick around and help out when needed. Hilarious hijinks will ensue.
The background for Fortune McCall is one that I’m actually pretty proud of but I can’t reveal it here. You’ve got to read the stories to see how it unfolds.
AP: You write reviews as well, movie reviews. What interests you so much about films that you not only write movie reviews for various venues, but also have a pod cast devoted to them?
DF: I’ve been a movie fan all my life. Ever since my father took me to the movies to see “The Wild Bunch” He shoulda never did that because from then on I was hooked. If I’m not reading or writing I’m most likely watching movies. In my family and circle of friends I’m the guy everybody comes to when they want a recommendation on what movie to Netflix for the weekend.
It occurred to me that if I started writing movie reviews I could simply point to them when somebody asked me what I thought of this movie or that one. So I started posting reviews on my Live Journal. Eventually I had enough reviews for two books and I have even more for a third and forth one. And yes, you will be seeing them in 2012. Until then, keep watching my Live Journal http://dferguson.livejournal.com/
The BETTER IN THE DARK podcast is something that I had no intention of doing for as long as Tom Deja and I have been doing it, which is five years now. It initially was only supposed to be six episodes. But listeners loved the first six so we said we’d do another six and then another six and it just grew from there. I’m still flabbergasted that people actually think I know what I’m talking about.
AP: Every writer has a process, some more organized than others. What does the Derrick Ferguson process of story building consist of?
DF: I sit down, I open up a new Word document and I start writing. Really, that’s just about it. I’ve never really been a writer that opens up a vein agonizing over what I’ve written or take a week rewriting one line. I write every story I’ve done exactly three times: the first draft and then two rewrites. I really can’t see me taking five years to write one novel. I’m just not hardwired that way.
To the horror of many of my writer friends, I don’t use an outline. I begin with the characters, a number of major scenes and I just go. I usually know the beginning of a story and the end but the middle I feel my way through. When I write a story for the first time I’m telling it to myself so I enjoy discovering the twists and turns in the story as I’m writing it. It feels more alive to me.
I’m frequently asked how I come up with ideas for stories. I wish I could say I’m divinely inspired but most of my story ideas come when I’m doing mundane chores like washing the dishes or doing laundry. It gives me a chance to plan out scenes in my head so that when I sit down at the keyboard no time is lost. I’m baffled by those writers who tell me they spend hours just staring at the screen. Instead of wasting that time, get up and mop the floor or wash the car. I guarantee that within ten/fifteen minutes you’ll have three or four ideas for stories.
AP: OK, what about the future? What’s coming from the mind of Derrick Ferguson for pulp fans in the next few months?
DF: I’m really planning on stepping up my game in the coming year. It seems to me that a lot of people really aren’t aware of me or my work and a lot of that is my fault. I simply haven’t been as prolific as I should be, I think. But in 2011 with the work I’m planning not only for Pulpwork Press but for Airship 27 as well as Pro Se Productions I guarantee that people are going to hear a whole lot of me.
AP: Derrick, thanks so much! We’ll let you back in the theater now…