Getting to know David a bit better through random answers to random questions.
If you were sent to a desert island and were only allowed to take one book with you, what would it be?
Frank Herbert’s Dune. Hands down.
What makes for a good story, in your opinion?
Ironically, strong character development. I say “ironically” because for the longest time, I was very much a plot-centric writer, something that actually contributed to my early difficulties. A good story has to be driven by a compelling narrative arc that is rooted in the strengths and weaknesses of the main character. For me, flat characters who don’t develop make for an uninteresting story regardless of how intricate the plot might be.
As a writer, when you find yourself stuck in a story, or unable to begin a story, what do you do to jump-start the process?
My usual gambit is to go to a scene where I have two characters and then let them start talking to one another. Sometimes all I get is pure dialogue–back and forth–but then I can begin to weave the story around it. Sometimes this has even worked with just one character, though in those cases it has been a first-person narrator talking to the reader, so there’s still a conversation involved.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve had as a writer?
Learning to turn off the internal editor and just free-write. Letting the drafts be drafts and getting the rough material out so that I can work with it. I’ve gotten much better at that, and learning the trick of having characters just start talking to each other has been very useful.
“The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S. Eliot.
What did you read as a child?
All kinds of things, but a lot of fantasy and science-fiction. My dad had some old paperbacks of Asimov’s Lucky Starr novels, which I read many, many times. Watership Down. Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain. The Chronicles of Narnia, of course. Likewise, The Lord of the Rings. The double trilogy of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever. If it had fantasy, space travel, or magic, I was probably reading it.
So are you all sci-fi and fantasy then?
When I was younger, certainly. In many ways, I was a typical nerd. Let’s say that I did not fully appreciate Pride and Prejudice when I had to read it in high school. These days, my interests in fiction are much broader: things like the classics, mysteries, historical fiction, and the occasional romance. I can even appreciate Pride and Prejudice (although I think I prefer Sense and Sensibility as far as Austen goes). That said, I really did enjoy Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
Finally, non-fiction. What are your interests and what might we see in your non-fiction writing?
My interests are wide-ranging, but I’m keen to research local people, places, and events, then write what one might call micro-histories: very focused historical narratives regarding a particular place and time. Also, essays on subjects such as simpler living, practical philosophy , various insights from my own life that might be helpful to others, that sort of thing. And a few collections of poetry are likely waiting in the wings, as well.