Barbra Dillon, Fanboy Comics Editor-in-Chief: As the writer of The Demon Within, what initially inspired you to tell this story?
Beth Woodward: It was a writing prompt in Writer’s Digest magazine, believe it or not! At the time, the magazine was running flash fiction contests every month, and their prompt was something along the lines of “Imagine you wake up with a dead body next to you and a knife in your hand. You cannot remember what happened or how it got there, and you have to figure it out.” Being the macabre sort that I am, I imagined a young woman waking up with a body next to her, and her first thoughts are, “Oh, no. Not again.”
I wrote it as a 750-word short. By that time, it was too late to submit it for the competition, but I thought it had potential, so I took it in to my writing group for critique. The overwhelming response of the group was, “But why does this woman black out and kill people?” Someone asked, “Is she possessed?”
I was reading a lot of urban fantasy at the time, and the idea that there was some sort of supernatural explanation for her blackouts and violence really resonated with me. I had this idea that, rather than being possessed by a demon, she actually was a demon and didn’t know it. She feels the impulses and power associated with her demon side but doesn’t know how to control them.
The short story became the prologue—and one of the few parts of the book that has remained largely unchanged throughout the revision process—and the young woman became Dale Highland.
BD: Your creative path for the novel was a unique one, as the project evolved from a short fiction piece to its current novel length. What can you tell us about your creative journey with the story?
BW: It was long! I started writing in June 2010, and I finished the first draft in December of that year. From there, I went through several rounds of revisions based on feedback from my early beta readers. I started submitting it to agents and editors in 2012.
I signed with California Coldblood in May 2014. Based on discussions between my editor, Robert Peterson, and me, I gutted the story. I changed a major plot point in chapter 3, and it was basically a domino effect from there. I submitted rewrites to Bob in April 2015, but the middle was still very draggy, so I had to rewrite it yet again. I sent the final draft to Bob in November 2015.
I knew that there would be some revisions after I signed with a publisher, but I never expected them to be as extensive as they were. Honestly, there were times when I almost gave up, when I was just overwhelmed and questioned whether I should be a writer professionally. But I’m so glad I didn’t. The final product is so much stronger and tighter than the original.
BD: Who or what do you feel that readers will most identity with in the story, and, likewise, with which characters did you most connect?
BW: I hope readers can identify with, or at least understand, Dale. I’m a little nervous about having a protagonist that commits such acts of violence, even if she can’t remember her blackouts. But I think her journey is one that people can relate to. Most of her family is dead. She can’t trust anyone. She’s been hiding herself for so long that she doesn’t really know who she is anymore. She doesn’t trust anyone, especially not herself. She’s been very alone for a long time, and she’s done what she’s had to do to survive. She wants to do the right thing, but she’s not sure what that is.
For me, though…I unexpectedly found myself connecting to a secondary character, Isaac, who becomes sort of a Mr. Miyagi-type mentor for Dale. He’s not as strong or fast as the other characters. His strength comes solely from his mind and his intellect. He’s not a hero. Mostly, he just stays on the sidelines and makes smart-ass comments, and no one knows whether he’s being serious or not. He’s a total Ravenclaw, through and through. When he first appeared in the story, he was very one-dimensional, more of a plot device than a character. But through many rounds of revisions, he became much more rich and human, and his journey really resonated for me. He might have been the hardest character to write.
BD: Do you feel that there is an ideal audience for the book, and what do you hope that readers will take away from the story?
BW: I think the book will appeal to readers of contemporary or urban fantasy, especially those who like a little bit of romance mixed in with their darkness. I just hope readers enjoy the characters and the world, and that they want to read more!
BD: Are there any plans to continue The Demon Within in future novels?
BW: Yes! The Demon Within is the first book of a four-book series, all of which are under contract with California Coldblood. The second book, tentatively titled Embracing the Demon, is scheduled for release next year.
BD: Why do you feel that California Coldblood Books made the perfect home for The Demon Within?
BW: Working with California Coldblood has been great, because it’s given me the advantages of working with a publisher—i.e. the editorial and marketing support—but because the company is so small, it’s also been a very intimate experience. As an imprint of Rare Bird Books, California Coldblood has the benefit of their expertise and experience in publishing and publicity. I had also worked with Bob before on CC2K, a website devoted to pop culture fandom, so I already knew we meshed well together.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with readers?
BW: I’m hard at work right now on Embracing the Demon. I’ve also had another project on the back burner for a while, a science fiction novel set in the 1950s that’s basically Frankenstein meets Mad Men, and I’m hoping to get back to it soon.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for readers to find out more information about The Demon Within?
BW: The Demon Within is on sale at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as other online retailers. Any brick and mortar bookstore can order it, if they don’t have it in stock already. You can also visit my website, beth-woodward.com.