I got a hold of an amazing book by debut writer Douglas Wynne titled The Devil of Echo Lake. I couldn’t put it down. The story was fantastic, the characters stayed with me, and the dialogue spilled on the pages as real life conversation. The author’s narrative was lyrical and each word he chose was on purpose with no leftovers.
I talked with Wynne about this project and his writing process in the following interview:
ENGLE: First of all, let me say as an aspiring writer that some of your passages were pure genius. Your use of word choice blew me away and I highlighted many passages to dissect and study at a later date. How does your editing process work in order to achieve such carefully plotted prose?
WYNNE: Hey Jaimie, first let me say thanks for having me on your blog, and for reading the book, and for your generous overestimation of where I’m at as a writer!
I also highlight the stuff that rings my bell in other people’s books, and sometimes I’ll write favorite passages out longhand to get inside the structures. It can be like learning someone else’s guitar licks.
I think I saw a quote by Elmore Leonard on your blog, which I’d seen before, about how if it sounds like writing, rewrite it. I try to keep that in mind because I want the language to immerse the reader in the story and hopefully never distract them from it with pretty words, but I also like a little bit of music in the prose. That’s something I’ve always enjoyed in Clive Barker and Neil Gaiman — a couple of my favorites. The writing I most admire has a rhythm and a cadence and a bit of hypnotism to it.
I did take Echo Lake through a lot of drafts in an effort to tighten things up without losing the the voice, just obsessively tinkering and trying to find the right balance of eloquent vs. efficient. But my tendency is to overwrite and then delete a lot. Of course my editor, Michael Collings, did a great polish on it which made me look better than I probably deserve.
ENGLE: Your story The Devil of Echo Lake mixes sex, drugs, and rock and roll with mythology. How did that combination come about?
WYNNE: I guess I could talk about how “wine ,women and song” goes back a lot farther then “sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll” and aren’t they really the same? Some of the influence of Greek mythology in the book comes from thinking along those lines. I also listen to a lot of progressive rock, which back in the 70s was tossing all kinds of mythology into the lyrics for better or worse, so that’s probably and influence as well. But I suppose the short answer is that you write what you’re interested in and I’m interested in mythology, but I’ve always had a healthy appreciation for sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll.
ENGLE: When choosing a story, what aspects do you consider as far as the genre and theme are concerned or do they choose you?
WYNNE: I think writers have far less choice about what they write then they usually like to believe. A certain juxtaposition of ideas will have resonance for me, and I start to see a story in it. But I don’t really think much about genre when I’m considering story ideas.
What’s far more important to me is if the premise of a story has the potential for me, and hopefully readers, to have a good time and an interesting experience exploring the possibilities. How to label it comes later and isn’t much fun. Inevitably you write what you read, or you should anyway. I read a lot of horror and dark fantasy, so that’s where I feel most at home.
As for themes, I try not to think too much about them because they’re very important to me. I like to keep them in my peripheral vision where I can sense when they’re working but where I’m not likely to ruin my story by consciously manipulating things to serve them. That kind of writing feels dishonest to me. If you’re telling a rich enough story that matters to you, then the themes will emerge, you almost can’t keep them out.
ENGLE: As a new fan, I look forward to reading more of your work. What projects if any are you currently working on?
WYNNE: I don’t want to talk too much about books that aren’t finished, but I’m currently working on the third draft of a non-supernatural crime thriller. That one is sort of a serial killer suspense thing with some historical elements. And looking ahead to Book 3, I think I’m finally going to write a story that I’ve wanted to write for years. Every now and then I go back to it and try to find my way in, but now I have a few chapters and a lot of notes and I think maybe I’ve finally found the keys to it. That one is very supernatural with a lot of horror and dark fantasy elements.
I’m still at the stage of experimenting and finding my style, so I like the idea that my second book will be stark and fast paced, followed by one that I expect to be more lyrical and fantastical. I probably can’t help having my own voice, but I do believe in the old axiom, “The book is the boss.” Each story wants what it wants.
ENGLE: And finally, if you could be a Muppet, which would you be and why?
WYNNE: I think I’m gonna have to go with Cookie Monster. I do love me some cookies! But I think somebody told me that Cookie Monster is now Veggie Monster? Did they get all politically correct on that? And I think I heard that Oscar the Grouch lives in a recycling bin now? I haven’t seen these horrible developments myself (my kid is addicted to superheroes). Have Ernie and Bert come out of the closet yet? Oh, and have you seen that YouTube clip of Kermit the frog singing “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails? It’s so wrong, but I nearly pissed myself, it’s that funny.
WYNNE: My pleasure! The Devil of Echo Lake will be released on October 19th. It’s available for pre-order now at:
And you can check out my blog at: