|In September, I had the pleasure of interviewing David Rose, an indie author who hails from South Africa. On his Amazon page, he tells us that he has had a “relationship” with books for as long as he can remember. He used a manual typewriter for years, his favorite being an Olivetti Lettera 32 portable which he inherited from his mother. He has traveled very widely, beginning at the age of ten. David describes himself as an “unabashed romantic.”|
|Will: David, can you tell us a bit about your writer’s journey? When did you discover your “voice?” What convinced you that you were a writer?|
David: I have a “voice”? Wow. I had no idea. No, seriously, I don’t think I’ve yet discovered my “voice”. I’m a very eclectic writer, and my style alters to match the mood of my genre or topic. Genres I have written in include SF, Fantasy, Romance, Christian nonfiction, Horror, Historical (I guess fantasy?), some paranormal stuff, and children’s literature. I also write poetry, of which my favourite form is probably haiku. I enjoy humour and comedic moments, but I’m probably impossible to pigeonhole as a writer of a given type. (Perhaps I should simply confess to being undisciplined!) I tend towards shorter fiction, and I’ve written several short stories, some of them published as ebooks. For the last decade I have wrestled with the longer form, and currently have one fantasy novel at about 60,000 words, what should eventually be the first of a trilogy. I’ve had an affinity for writing for as long as I can remember. Certainly, I began reading at a very early age—I remember devouring my mother’s James Hadley Chase novels from when I was around six years old. I wrote a bad and unpublished novel when I was eighteen or nineteen. I’ve written on and off ever since, depending on what was happening in my life, and how much time I could give to creative writing. I love words, and the use of language in English to achieve the desired effect. One short (a single page) story started life as an exercise to see if I could tell a story with no characters; I wound up with a story in which a house, the wind, and a seagull became the characters! (That’s “Storm’s End”—see favourites below.)
Will: What’s your creative process? Where do you get your ideas and how do you begin to flesh them out? Do you write every day?
David: I have flashes of inspiration, and try to record them, and work on them later. “Dragonfire,” though—I woke in the middle of the night with the idea of the story burning in my mind, got up, and had the body of the story written within a couple of hours, between something like 01:30 and 04:00. Inspiration can come from news articles, a book or a movie. I don’t copy, but something in another story can spark a tangential idea. I find that daily life, lived reflectively, and people-watching, are also good sources of ideas. I usually capture the original idea and then play with it in my mind—where might it go from this initial situation? So I run through several scenarios, some very different from the final version, before I settle on a direction for the story. While I might plan and prepare a lot of background, especially in Fantasy or SF (world-building), once I have a core direction for the story I allow details to vary as I write. It depends on how much the characters come to life and take over! Do I write every day? I wish! That is what I need to be doing, and I hope that when I retire at the end of next year, I will be able to do just that.
Will: Your Goodreads page would suggest that you’re particularly fond of writing short stories. What are the elements of a good short story, and how do you go about writing one?
David: Plot, Characters, and Point (or message, or theme) are the most important to me. Before I start a short story, I know how the main issue is going to be resolved. Characters have to be human and relatable, and the point of the story needs to be something that will satisfy most readers. (You can never satisfy everyone.) I like the classical approach to short story writing that has a sting in the tail that, ideally, the reader never sees coming. O. Henry’s and Roald Dahl’s stories are good examples. Finally, I believe the setting should enhance the story, not usurp it or conflict with it. Look, bottom line is, does this short story leave you feeling satisfied and/or surprised and/or interested in the topic? Your answer needs to be, “Yes,” to at least one of those and ideally all of them. Your own short stories, Will, are excellent examples! What d’you mean I’m not supposed to praise my interviewer? You’re one of the finest short story writers I’ve read! I dare you to leave in my comments on your short stories!
Will: Yikes! You’ve caught me completely off guard! Thanks so much, David. That’s very kind of you. But let’s get back to your writing. If it’s not too personal, what life experiences have shaped your artistic vision?
David: I don’t mind, but to try to share all my significant life experiences would not only take too long, it would make me look like a vain attention-seeker!· My parents being medical missionaries in Thailand, which resulted in my growing up essentially independently in South Africa from the age of ten, certainly had an impact. I saw a lot of the world, and was exposed to a variety of cultures and experiences as a merchant seaman, including sailing through the eye of a cyclone in 1982 on a vessel of about 13,500 tonnes.· I’ve seen the effects of poverty close up, and worked with emerging farmers in South Africa.· So I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter what culture you’ve inherited, or what your ethnicity, or whether or not you have money. We are all human beings, individual persons, and we all matter.
Will: You’re not afraid to tackle serious emotions in your stories—human brokenness, grief, loss, heartache. How do you manage that?
David: I suppose the fact that I’ve been exposed to all of this in real life, in counseling among other areas, has allowed me to put these things into some perspective. I’ve encountered some truly horrifying and heartbreaking personal stories, too grim, and too confidential, ever to use in my writing. But it’s meant that I believe in sharing the courage to deal with hard issues, by fictional example if nothing else.
Will: Do you have favorites among your stories? Tell us about them.
David: Oh, come on! They’re all my favourites! …Really? I have to? …All right, all right then.· “Moonlight,” because it came first, and because it’s a beautiful story.· “Dragonfire,” because it burns so ferociously.· “Storm’s End,” unpublished, but you can find it on my sadly neglected website.· “Frost,” because I (believe I) succeeded at what I set out to do.
Will: What have you discovered about indie publishing? Do you have any advice for aspiring independent authors?
David: I’m not the greatest person to take advice from, since I’m far from any kind of commercial success, but there are a few things I’ve learned.· It takes a village of writers and friends to raise a child book: you’ll need support in different levels of editing and proofing, encouragement to keep going in the face of trollish reviews, and hard, truthful advice on how to become a better writer. (That’s how you know who your true friends are! Thanks Mike! And the others.)· Seriously, find a community of like-minded writers, whether locally to you or online.· You’re very unlikely ever to make any significant money doing this. Don’t do it to get rich. Do it because it’s what you love.· If you do want to become an established author (still not rich, though!), you will need to spend some money on marketing your books.· The great thing about indie publishing? No one will force you to write what you don’t enjoy. No one will demand a plot change that destroys your message (or your character!) and no one will demand a delivery date. Although… that last one is also a disadvantage!
|Will: David, thank you so much for sharing your insights with us. To my readers, here are links to two of David’s stories. Check out his Amazon page for more.|