Please read about David.
When did you start writing?
I think it was 3rd grade. I had a relative who was a few years older who wrote
science-fiction stories. I began by ripping off Planet of the Apes and wrote Planet of the Dog-men. Thank god that has been lost.
Has your background affected your writing at all?
My wife mentioned that I should write about the things I have done, places I have been, but I am not particularly interested in memoir. I did compose an essay about growing up in
and the events that brought me to Clark, N.J. East Africa but I did so to explore issues of race and identity. Elements of experiences have, of course, found their way into the fiction I write but interpreted and reinvented to advance a story.
What are you working on now?
I was working on a novel that collapsed under the weight of over-writing so I removed what was to have been the third chapter and am turning it into a short story. It is about an individual receiving a call to become a shaman.
Where do you get your ideas?
There is no one place. I recall someone comparing American to British comedy. The former begins with the notion “Isn’t it funny that?” The latter starts “Wouldn’t it be funny if?” If combined, however, the latter idea creates a premise but the former allows it to be told in an acceptable manner. It took weeks of failed story attempts before I realized this. This insight meant scrapping something I was well into but allowed for the writing of Music Box. Yet the elements of the failure may find their way into something completely different. Even Music Box began with the notion of how one gets their things back from an ex’s home after you have been thrown out. The original idea was to come upon an ex’s radio that received broadcasts normal radios do not which would cause the protagonist to re-examine the person with whom he was involved. Fortunately, that idea failed. When the radio became a music box, it was the relationship that became the story’s core.
I know you have an artistic past also, what happened to drawing?
I always preferred writing.
Has anyone influenced you?
The most important influence has been my wife Sali. I watched and listened as she took a guitar riff and turned it into a song. She gave me the most important piece of advice-Finish Something. For years I would work on an idea then, second guessing its merit, I would begin something new with the same results meaning off to a third or fourth piece. Then, having distanced myself from the first and thinking better of it, I would take it up again, only to abandon it once more in favor of one of the other storylines. Nothing was ever brought to fruition. Seeing Sali complete one work by focusing upon it allowed me to do the same.
What are some books you recommend and why. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Garcia Marquez is so essential that I do not mind stating the obvious. I just finished a bio of Che Guevara because I realized I knew the icon and not the history. The one thing that stayed with me from the book was a friend of Che’s describing the difference between them. Che looked down the scope of a rifle and saw 30.000 children with better lives if a soldier were killed where he saw the soldier with a wife and children of his own. The 14th century historical novel
Romance of Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzong was a tome but told like the serial films of the 1930’s. Chapters ended with questions to be answered followed by the simple phrase “Read on” that caused a number of sleepless nights. Kelly Link’s Magic for Beginners introduced me to what has been labeled speculative fiction. She and her husband began Small Beer Press whose office is located a few towns away from where I live. I wrote my story Music Box for their magazine Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and dropped it off personally. It was my first professional sale.
What do you like to read, and what would you never read?
To answer the second part of your question, I was working from until at the desk of an Athens youth hostel twenty years ago. To pass the time I read anything I could find. One night, the only thing available was a Jackie Collins novel. I think I made it to the second page before deciding that staring at the walls was preferable. That said, it was Jackie Collin’s works that one of my college professors railed against but pointed out that those novels were not necessarily easy to write. As for preference, I move back and forth between fiction and non-fiction. My friend Gabrielle owns an independent bookstore and he has given me stacks of galleys. For a time I decided to read every one. Though there were some unexpected gems most of the books were awful. But having gotten through them I realized that the experience of reading them was invaluable. If you read good fiction you run the risk of emulating it. After reading junk you can write against it. It also allows me to realize when something is not working in my own writing.
The main character in your upcoming story has a ‘gift’—do you know anyone like this?
No. I began this as a reaction against some things I read. I am hesitant to use the word gift. He is receiving a calling but lives in a culture where it is not understood and cannot be answered.
Can you talk about your upcoming children’s book, The Open Pillow?
The Open Pillow was made up on the spur of the moment to put a child to sleep. It was after that I sat down and put the work on paper. There were elements that fell into place without my consciously planning them like the size of the pillow actually corresponding to the animals rejecting it. I realized that because I was playing around with a piece of graph paper. The original draft had the animals speaking. In rewriting, I realized that I could set Adam apart by having only him speak. It was also important for me make the point that growth alone is not sufficient. One needs to be in the right place at the right time which allows for a person to see your inherent value. The story sat in a drawer for years because several people expressed interest in doing the illustrations but none did the work. Though I was pleased that you also offered, it meant little until you began producing completed illustrations that corresponded beautifully to the text.
I am over the moon about being part of this book, I love it.
Thanks again David!