Nov 28, 2014

Interview with Daniel

When did you realize that you wanted to become a writer?
Probably in my pre-teen years. I had dreamed of becoming an airplane pilot and was told that commercial pilots worked for a certain number of days and then had the rest of the month off, and I remember thinking, “Oh, then I can write fantasy books during the rest of those days.” It's the first time I can remember thinking it explicitly. The pilot thing gradually got left behind, but writing stories (and poems) took over instead.

Is being an Author all you dreamed of, or did it just happen? The best and worst thing about it?
I dreamed of countless things, and still do. I worked in education for awhile, did some journalism work, considered pursuing a Masters or PhD, probably in Spanish but maybe English Literature or even something else entirely. But really stories and words and the love of language was always behind it all.
The best thing is being able to create. To play with words and form them into something unique. It's what keeps me going, day by day. The worst? The marketing side of things. Growing up, I was always finding myself selling things for fundraisers—school, clubs, Little League, band, read-a-thons, bike-a-thons, hunger walks, etc. I grew so tired of it, and sometimes trying to promote something brings up those old feelings of dread. Even so, there are parts of promotions that I genuinely do enjoy, so I try to focus my efforts on those parts.

What was the very first thing you ever wrote?
That I recall...I wrote a cheesy poem to share at a talent night when my family was camping at this weekend camp thing. No idea how old I was, but I do remember that one of the adults liked it so much he said I should mail him copies of any other poems I wrote, and I know I sent at least one (though I never heard back if he enjoyed it).

What made you create Spire City?  How did it come to you?
An editor for a small press answered a submission saying how much she'd enjoyed opening each file of the book as she read, feeling like she was reading some serialized story like Dickens wrote. The press folded before we signed any contracts, but her comment left a bug in my mind. I decided to write something specifically for serialization, and the Dickens comment right away made me think of a steampunk setting, with orphans and factories and societal conflict. I shied away from an archaic style but kept a lot of the other images that jumped to mind when I thought of Dickens.
After that first spark, I think the idea of infection came next, of a mad scientist's serum that he was deliberately infecting people with, turning them into animals. I'd already written one novellette set in a steampunk city with giant beetles pulling carriages and singers chained to the tops of spires, and I saw how that could fit with the mad science. And the character of Chels grew organically right alongside everything else, her immigrant heritage and the beetle antennae that come from her infection, developing and coming clear as I pieced together all the other bits.

Describe your main character in six words.
Orphan girl, identity questions, idealistic, beetle-infected.

Describe the city you’ve created in six words.
Gothic spires, beetle-drawn carriages, steam-powered factories

What are you working on now?
Right now, a bunch of short stories. I just finished a middle grade sort of book that's mostly for my kids. Whether anything more comes from that will depend somewhat on their reaction to reading it. And of course, Spire City continues to be a main focus of my time, with Season Two: Pursued beginning serialization on November 28 and continuing until early August and Season Three: Unwoven following.

Goals? Accomplishments? Improvements?
Really my goals are pretty open-ended: have success in a variety of creative and imaginative ways. I love poetry—my last sale was to Strange Horizons for a poem. I love writing (and reading) short stories and have had a number of those published. And I've written several novels completely unrelated to Spire City, which I'd love to see out there in the world. Plus, I'm very open to other writing opportunities as they come up, which has led to some other fun ways to use words. As long as I can keep creating, keep using my imagination in ways that people find enjoyable, I'll keep doing it.

Are there any authors or books you recommend?
There's a definite New Weird vibe to Spire City. It's not a movement that's easily defined, and the writers most associated with it don't usually consider themselves New Weird writers exactly, but rather writers who've sometimes written works that fall loosely under that umbrella. But it's well worth checking out China Mieville's New Crobuzon books, Steph Swainston's Fourlands books, K. J. Bishop's Etched City, and Jeff VanderMeer's Ambergris books. Really, any books by those writers, whether they're New Weird or not, are worth seeking out. And I can see the influence of works like Leena Krohn's Tainaron and Catherynne Valente's Orphan Tales and even Gene Wolfe's Book of the Long Sun on Spire City.

What's your favorite thing to do when you're not writing?
Read. Be outdoors, especially hiking. I can't exactly combine those two, but I can't really pick one over the other, either. They're equally favorites that balance each other.

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