DORGO'S BAKER'S DIRTY DOZEN PRESENTS: Derrick Ferguson.
I “met” Derrick Ferguson on Facebook some years ago, through many mutual friends, and we even share a publisher, Airship 27 Productions. He is one of the bright lights of the New Pulp brand of adventure and mystery and heroic fiction, and a very prolific, consummate writer. In fact, he’s always writing: besides his fiction, he blogs and Tweets, has a couple of Facebook pages that are among the most busy and popular I know of, and he reviews moves . . . lots of movies . . . all kinds of movies. You wouldn’t believe how many movies he reviews for his website, The Ferguson Theater! Eloquent and erudite, he is also one of the nicest guys I’ve come to know, generous with his time, and always engaging in some excellent conversation with his friends and fans. Among his many fine novels are Search for the Beast, The Madness of Frankenstein, and Fortune McCall. He’s also contributed stories to a number of anthologies, including Sinbad: The New Voyages, Black Pulp, and Bass Reeves: Frontier Marshall. He’s probably best known for his wonderful character of Dillon, soldier of fortune, star of such novels as Dillon and the Voice of Odin, Four Bullets for Dillon, and Dillon and the Legend of the Golden Bell. Always a gentleman of good grace, over the last few years Derrick has been kind enough to interview me not once, but three times for his interview series called “Kicking the Willy Bobo,” which is featured on his Blood and Ink website. Well, I finally get a chance to return the favor and interview him.
What and who are some of your influences and inspirations?
DF: Movies, any and all. Marvel and DC comics. Westerns, print, film and TV. James Bond, book and movie incarnations. Classic Pulp, especially Doc Savage. Lester Dent. Ian Fleming. Robert R. McCammon. George C. Chesbro. Michael Moorcock. Chester Himes. Ishmael Reed. Mike Resnick. Charles Saunders. Leigh Brackett. Jim Steranko. Robert E. Howard. I'll stop here. This whole interview could easily be taken up with me listing my influences.
Many of my influences, too. So how and why did you decide to start writing?
DF: I don't recall ever making a conscious decision to start writing. It seems as if I always have been. Even as a kid I made up stories to entertain myself and others. In elementary school I would write Edgar Rice Burroughs influenced stories with my classmates as the characters. I'd write a 'chapter' on both sides of loose leaf paper and end it on a cliffhanger. I wouldn't write the next 'chapter' until it made the rounds of the class. In junior high school I wrote a Hitchcock influenced murder mystery play that was actually performed for the entire school.
What genres and/or literary style do enjoy writing in the most?
DF: For better or for worse I've become identified with New Pulp. What is New Pulp? Well, here's the general description most of us who write it have agreed on: “New pulp is fast-paced, plot oriented storytelling of a linear nature with clearly defined, larger than life protagonists and antagonists, creative descriptions, clever use of turns of phrases, words, as well as other aspects of writing that add to the intensity and pacing of the story.”
Tell us about your latest published book, short story or novella.
DF: The most recent thing I've had published is THE THOUSAND EYED FEAR which is one half of “Nightscape Double Feature #1.” It's the brainchild of David Edwards, who is the insanely imaginative creator of the Nightscape Universe which consists of a movie, novels, a comic book and a CD of original music. David contacted me about doing a World War I novel and I jumped on the chance as I do with any opportunity to stretch my writing muscles. My story concerns a group of teenage soldiers named The Lost Boys and their leader, 'Strongboy' Quigg as they go on a suicide mission behind enemy lines to destroy a German super weapon. One that has otherworldly origins.
Besides the “entertainment factor,” what do you strive for in your writing?
DF: I would hope that African-American readers in particular would enjoy the adventures of Dillon, Sebastian Red and Fortune McCall because these are characters in situations that I don't think we're used to seeing black heroes in. Dillon goes on the type of globe spanning adventures such as the ones Doc Savage, James Bond and Indiana Jones engage in. Sebastian Red is a supernatural gunslinger wandering an alternate world Wild West that might have been dreamed up by Sergio Leone and Michael Moorcock. Fortune McCall is a black adventurer in the 1930s
Would you say that your stories are more plot-driven or character-driven?
DF: Any story worth a damn has got to start with the characters, far as I'm concerned. I love plot as much as the next pulp writer but if that plot doesn't have compelling characters inhabiting it that are doing interesting things, it's a waste of time. Out of all the advice about writing I've gotten, one is tattooed on my brain: “Plot Is What Happens. Story Is Who It Happens To.”
(I totally agree!) What can you tell us about your latest work(s) in progress?
DF: I'm currently about 40K words into THE RETURN OF THE SPECIALISTS a sequel to the book I co-wrote with Joel Jenkins; “The Specialists.” In this sequel, Dillon rounds up a bunch of badasses to foil the nefarious plot of a worldwide criminal organization. I love Men On A Mission movies like “The Wild Geese” “The Professionals” “Force 10 from Navarone” “Kelly's Heroes” and “The Expendables” and this is my opportunity to do my riff on the concept. I'm also working on and off (more off than on, I'm afraid) on THE TRAIL OF SEBASTIAN RED and THE RETURN OF FORTUNE McCALL.
Those sound really intriguing. Can you tell us what are some literary goals you’d like to achieve?
DF: I really never know how to answer that one because 'literary' seems too high-falutin' for what I do. I just like to make up stories and share them with others in the hope and expectation that they'll get as much enjoyment out of reading them as I did writing them. There are certain genres I'd like to write in just for the pure hell of it. I'd like to write a Gothic Romance, believe it or not. Something like “Rebecca”. I'd like to write a Space Opera but I'm too intimidated by “Star Wars” and “Guardians of The Galaxy”. If I can't write something at least as good as that, then what's the point? I'd like to write a Haunted House story. I've even got a title for it: “The House at 666 Cemetery Lane”
What genre of fiction have you not yet written for, but plan to in the future?
DF: I'm a huge fan of detective fiction and so far have only written one story in that genre. I've long wanted to fully immerse myself in those waters.
Name a few of your favorite literary characters and tell us why they are your favorites?
DF: Doc Savage immediately comes to mind. When it comes to pulp adventure, for me it begins and ends with Doc Savage. There's so much of what makes him unique and special that has been strip mined and used for other characters that it isn't even funny. If it hadn't been for Lester Dent and Doc Savage, there would be no Dillon or Fortune McCall.
Elric of Melnibone, Conan, Solomon Kane and Karl Edward Wagner's Kane are my favorite sword-and-sorcery heroes. If 'heroes' is the right term to be applied to them. They're all pretty complicated guys (yes, even Conan in a way). It was from Elric and Kane that I learned that heroes don't have to be likeable for you to be interested in them and even grow to care about them.
What are some of your all-time favorite films and TV shows?
DF: Lordy...we'll be here all night. But I'll try to hold it down to a manageable number. First off, my 12 all-time favorite TV shows: “Have Gun Will Travel” “Voyage To The Bottom of The Sea” “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” “Green Acres” “The Wild Wild West” “The Fall Guy” “The A-Team” “Magnum, P.I.” “The Bob Newhart Show” “The Simpsons” “Murphy Brown” “The Big Bang Theory” Ask me this time next week and there's an excellent chance it'll be a completely different list.
Now as to movies...as with TV shows I'll give you the first twelve right off the top of my head: “The Ten Commandments” “Star Wars: A New Hope” “Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom” “Little Shop of Horrors” “El Dorado” “The Magnificent Seven” “Yojimbo” “Blazing Saddles” “Diamonds Are Forever” “On Her Majesty's Secret Service” “House On Haunted Hill” “Hard Boiled”
This is as good a time as any to mention that I write movie reviews and if your readers would be so good as to scoot on over to The Ferguson Theater: https://derricklferguson.wordpress.com/ they will find a couple hundred movie reviews I've written. That'll give you more of an insight into the movies I like and provide you with some mighty fine reading if I do say so myself.
Seems we grew up reading and watching much of the same stuff. Now, tell us about your writing habits, such as: Do you outline extensively? Do you create your characters first, or your plot? Do you listen to music while writing, and if so, what kind?
DF: I used to say that I didn't outline until one day I woke up an realized that my first drafts were indeed my outline in a way. But outlining in the technical sense? Nah. Everybody has their own way of working and I found out long ago that working that way just doesn't work for me. I like to surprise myself while writing because I figure that if I'M surprised and I'm writing the damn thing then the reader will be surprised as well.
I usually create characters first and then the stories/plots will come from them. I recall Robert E. Howard saying once that his Conan stories came out of him as if Conan was relating them to him and Howard was just transcribing what he was telling. I don't go that far but I rarely come up with a story/plot and then have to think up characters to go along with it. The characters come first and they dictate the adventures they're going to have.
I don't listen to music while writing first drafts as I'm trying to hear/see the film that's playing on the Mental Movie Screen in my head. But during the editing/rewriting process I'll listen to music vaguely related to whatever it is I'm writing. For instance, if I'm writing a Sebastian Red story I'll listen to Ennio Morricone soundtracks and Gangstagrass. For Fortune McCall I'll listen to big band music from the 1930s and 40s.
If anybody is still reading this and wants to know more about me and my work there's quite a few places you can hang out and interact with me:
BLOOD & INK http://dlferguson-bloodandink.blogspot.com/ is the blog where I usually keep folks up to date on my latest projects and I also have interviews with writers and like-minded creative types.
DILLON https://derrickferguson1.wordpress.com/ is a blog totally devoted to my most popular character. Anything and everything you want to know about Dillon, you can find it here.
You can find me on Twitter as @DLFerguson1 and my personal Facebook page can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/derrick.ferguson.566 You might also want to visit and/or join the Facebook group I started and administrate, Usimi Dero which can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/usimidero/
What else? OH! My Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Derrick-Ferguson/e/B002QJZQHU/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1494455859&sr=1-2-ent
I guess that's it. Thank you, Joe. You're a stand-up guy.
You’re welcome . . . and thank you, Derrick for such a wonderful interview. The feeling is mutual, my friend. We “stand together.” And don't let Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy, or even John Carter of Mars intimidate you: write that Space Opera, and write some Sword & Planet, too!