Vervegirl chats with J. Gabriel Gates, and Charlene Keel about Dark Territory, their first novel in the Tracks series
By Giselle San Miguel
Charlene Keel: When I was in the third grade, I read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and decided that I wanted to be a writer like my favorite character Jo March. For years, I wrote little stories in longhand and sent them to magazines. It took six more years for me to have a story accepted for publication in Teen Magazine.
J. GABRIEL GATES: I’ve written my whole life, really. In third grade I had about thirty pages of a fantasy novel I was writing that I carried around in my Trapper-Keeper with me. Writing, although it was a lot of work, wasn’t the hard part. The hard part is getting people to read your work, and getting people in the publishing industry to take you seriously when you’ve never been published before.
VG: Who are some of the authors you admire?
CK: My favorite authors are Stephen King, Peter Straub, Catherine Cookson, Jude Devereaux, Kat Martin and Kathleen Woodiwiss. I like fantasy, paranormal and historical novels.
JG: I think Mark Z. Danielewski is a visionary. Stephen King and Dean Koontz, of course. I also love the classics: Dostoevsky, Hemingway, Shakespeare.
VG: What do you like to do to unwind when you’re not writing?
CK: Play with my adorable Pekingese pup and my two demanding cats. They wait very patiently for hours while I’m at my computer writing, but when I shut down at the end of the day, they are ready for romps.
JG: I was taking Wing Chun Kung Fu as research for The Tracks books, but unfortunately I haven’t had a lot of time for it lately. I love reading, running, weight training, soccer, singing and playing my guitar. It’s a great diversion when you need to take a little break from writing.
VG: Where did you get inspiration for writing Dark Territory: The Tracks?
CK: Jake came to me six years ago with an amazing idea that we first intended to pitch as a potential dramatic TV series. I met the owner of HCI Books through a mutual friend, I pitched it to him as a series for teens that would be full of magic, martial arts and star-crossed romance.
JG: I got home from my training one day and said to myself: “You know what would be cool, a teen drama with kung fu!” The initial idea was for a TV show, and when I met Charlene, we made a pitch to TV studios. We never got around to pitching the show to anyone, but years later Charlene got the idea to turn the TV pitch into a book series—so here we are!
VG: What can we expect from the future regarding the Dark Territory series?
CK: From the beginning, we’ve planned The Tracks series as an epic tale and we loaded it with wonderful characters of all ages. Ghost Crown, the second book in the series, will hit the stands in March 2012, and we’ve just finished plotting out books 3 and 4: Shadow Train and Strike of the Immortals. Readers can expect more breathtaking adventures, more star-crossed love, and lots more magic, martial arts, forbidden romance and fallen angels (as well as scary demons and monsters, stairways to Hell and danger for our characters lurking everywhere).
JG: We’re putting the final touches on book 2, Ghost Crown, now. And let me tell you, it’s a barn-burner! It comes out in March. We’ll likely get started on the next couple books soon. We’re working that out with the publisher now. Then, it’ll be nothing but movies, action figures and lunch-boxes.
VG: Being a writer meant having to deal with book deals, but rejection slips as well. What kind of advice would you give a novice writer or someone who would like to pursue writing?
CK: Rejection slips are never fun, but they can be informative. I’d get one with a note scribbled, “This isn’t right for us but you’ve got talent. Keep trying.” Encouragement like that inspired me to keep going. My best advice is to write a lot and read even more. Try to emulate your favorite authors. If any of them, like Stephen King with his On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, have done books telling how they became successful, read them and try to incorporate their advice into your own work. If you believe in yourself and your talent, keep the faith, and never give up.
JG: Before I got the book deal for The Tracks, I’d finished four polished novels and probably half a dozen screenplays, and I’d never been paid a nickel for my work. But guess what? I was still writing every day. Now, two of those four original novels are scheduled to be published—my teen horror novel The Sleepwalkers is out now, and my blood-curdling dystopian adventure Blood Zero Sky is coming out in fall of 2012. The moral is that your faith in yourself must outlast the world’s attempts to squelch your dreams. You also need to read a lot, write daily, and read Strunk and White’s Elements of Style so you know what the heck you’re doing.
About J. Gabriel Gates
Hailing from Marshall, Michigan, Author J. Gabriel Gates sets out to make a name for himself through his intense and effective writing style. His passion for writing started at a young age, being a son of an educator. Performing also led him to get his B.A. degree from Florida State University. His presence in Los Angeles for years gave him exposure to the media through national tv commercials as well as screenplays as he works and aspires to be a novelist.
About Charlene Keel
Little Women and a biography of Louisa May Alcott in the third grade started what would become a lifelong passion and career for author Charlene Keel. Trying out her skills in writing at a young age, she finally made a break when she landed a job as a publicist for Columbia Pictures Television where she wrote episodes for Fantasy Island, Days of our Lives and even turned one of her books Rituals into a series. She enjoys a variety of subjects, and would love to write about string theory, alternate universes, fringe science and UFOs.
Dark Territory: The Tracks, Book One
Star-Crossed Love, Martial Arts, and Supernatural Evil meet at the Abandoned Tracks in the Deceptively Quaint town of Middleburg…When Ignacio Torrez moved from the rough streets of Los Angeles to a small town dead smack in the middle of nowhere, he never expected to find himself in the midst of a gang war. But, he soon learns, these are no ordinary gangs. The wealthy, preppie Toppers on one side of the tracks and the working-class Flatliners on the other adhere to a strict code of honor and use their deadly martial arts skills, taught to them by the wise Master Chin, to battle one another for pride, territory, and survival. When Raphael, leader of the Flatliners, falls for Aimee, a Topper girl, the rival gangs prepare for a bloody, all-out war. The only hope for peace between them lies within the dark territory of the abandoned train tunnels where the tracks cross. Under the direction of the mysterious and frightening Magician, the awesome power within the crossing sends the rivals on a terrifying mystical quest to fight the malevolent force that threatens the existence of Middleburg.