An Interview By Jill Edmondson
Jill: A while back you did a blog post titled “When is Writing Advice ‘Bad’ Advice”. In the piece you share 10 writing tips, followed by 3 counterclaims. So now, for the record, what is the ONE piece of advice you would offer to aspiring authors, and what was the worst writing tip ever suggested to you?
David: One day when I was prattling on about my manuscript and my writing, my girlfriend interrupted me and said; ‘Would you please just shut up and write? Finish your book already! Stop talking about it!’ Which basically meant ‘for the love of God, finish something!’ Finish anything; a short story, a novella, a paragraph! Completion is the cheese. Then you can call yourself a writer. Maybe.
The worst advice I ever received was ‘Only use one exclamation mark per 100 words.’
Jill: There are a number of writers out there who don’t bother at all with social media. How necessary do you think it is to be active in social media if an author is just starting out?
David: These days it makes a writer seem either aloof or out of the loop not being on social media talking to their readers. Plus, all your potential readers are online now. Building an audience isn’t like it was in Stephen King’s day – now you have to be a ‘personality’ to stand out, to the chagrin of shy or reclusive artists. Unfortunately the shy writer may be the new James Joyce and get no attention, while the loud and flashy ‘personable’ writer may be a Dan Brown; with apologies to him, of course. I’m not a big fan!
Ultimately, the work speaks for itself. But unless people know you exist, no one will read it.
Jill: What can you tell me about your current work in progress?
David: It’s a novel based on the ‘End of the World’ scenario, following a group of survivors as they struggle with the fact that there’s no more civilization. There is another group of survivors, a decidedly more pessimistic group who walk the earth and kill anyone they find, because they want all humanity to end for good. These two groups meet, eventually, and they must confront each other, and fight it out as it were. The premise being that as long as there are two people left on earth, there will always be war. There’s certain sadness to that, don’t you think? A social satire of sorts.
I’m also working on a coming of age love story set in 1982 that’ll be published on my blog (and hopefully on Kindle and Kobo) called ‘The Dogwood Summer’. It’s my first foray into this kind of thing, but I wanted to explore the subject of time and love, as they both fascinate me.
Jill: I took a look at your bookshelf on “GoodReads” and noticed that you only gave one star to “The Da Vinci Code” and one star to “Moby Dick”. What was it about each of these that you didn’t like?
David: Moby Dick, while a great classic, was written in serial form and published in parts. It was not written as a novel, so there are a multitude of repetitious passages and minutiae to wade through. Moby’s prose doesn’t translate well to modern readers, well, to my generation at least, yet I can read Mark Twain and Jules Verne with ease. As for Dan Brown, I dislike his dialogue, it jags on me, and his writing is rather un-artistic (Yes, I’m a writing snob!). His books seem written with movies firmly in mind, with wooden characters to match. The Da Vinci Code itself has a great idea behind it, but a great idea can be ruined by bad execution. Although in this case his story idea saved it. Dialogue is the key however– if a writer messes that up, it ruins everything for me. Robert Ludlum! You cad!
Jill: You are a very active blogger. What is it about blogging that appeals to you?
David: It’s free, and a great way to get my writing out there. And, this is the key, it is instant gratification. I don’t have to wait weeks or months (years even) to publish something. Also, it allows me to experiment with different things; poetry, op-ed, essays, short stories, novellas, serials, and different genres of writing; crime fiction, horror, etc., although I haven’t posted much of it yet. I’m still shy that way. But 2012 seems to be my year; I’ll be posting a lot more fiction. Another great thing about blogging; people get to know you, and you can build a trust there. Then you can get them to read your work a lot easier.
Jill: Between fiction and nonfiction (and the many subdivisions within each) what type of writing do you enjoy doing the most?
David: Fiction. Non-fiction can get mired in reality, which can be quite boring, so then you have to exaggerate it, turning it back into fiction. There’s a vicious loop in there somewhere.
Jill: What is your highest aspiration as an author?
David: To contribute something lasting to the literary canon. I cite Gene Roddenberry, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and even Rod Serling as examples. Each created something that will outlive us all. That’s not asking too much, is it?
Jill: Which authors do you admire and why?
David: I have to say, for pure word wizardry, Edward Abbey. I read Desert Solitaire, and some of his descriptive passages took my breath away. The man described the desert sky a dozen times and each was different and fantastic. Not the greatest idea man as far as fiction went (Although his book Brave Cowboy became a movie in 1962) but he knew his way around a phrase (I think a thesaurus was planted in his head). His prose style still shows up in my work a lot. A surprisingly modern writer for his time, he kept a brisk pace and made good use of frags. For learning about the more interesting mechanics of writing, he was invaluable.
Another influence, Stephen King; too easy, right? But what he contributes is a wonderful myth-making ability. He is able to create stories that become lore; you know, like those campfire tales you heard as a kid that stayed with you because you thought they were real. Not easy to do in fiction. He has a wonderful gravitas, a weight to his story-telling that I try to emulate. There are 5 dozen others, but I won’t go on and on. Those were the first two to come to mind.
Jill: What is one of the strangest/weirdest responses or comments you’ve received from a reader?
David: In response to a post about ‘writing for an audience or for yourself’, someone wrote “one needs to write for themselves. Its purpose is not to entertain,” which I found strange.
Jill: Last question is kind of a freebie. What question do you wish I had asked but didn’t? Now ask and answer that question.
David: What does it take to become a successful writer? Well, a lot of reading. Not just reading, studying prose; how authors turn a phrase, how they transition from scene to scene, how they attribute dialogue, pace the story, and build characters. The story idea is important too; the more you read, the more you can steer away from well-trodden and clichéd avenues. There’s a lot to know. Anyone who has ever been successful at anything has studied their craft, knows the rules, and knows their stuff. You gotta train to gain, because there’s a lot of competition out there, and the only way to get ahead is to be prepared. Me, I’m getting there – it’s a journey, not a destination.