ABOUT THE BOOKLife is absurd, ultimately beyond our comprehension, in [some awesome accomplishment] David Atkinson's latest short story collection Not Quite So Stories. Themes of adolescence, marriage, work, and death intersect in stories that will leave the reader at times amused, sorrowful, pensive, hopeful, and marveling at the bizarre things that make people tick.
INTERVIEW WITH DAVID S. ATKINSON
David, how did you get started writing?
My parents got me started, reading to me, taking me to the library all the time, all that. They seemed to consider that reading and writing were just things most people did, so I started doing them. I never even thought about it. At least, that's how I remember it. Other stuff they exposed me to has made it into my writing. My story "Domestic Ties" was influenced off of a 70s era Saturday Night Live skit (again, at least I remember it being a 70s era Saturday Night Live skit).
What's your favorite thing about the writing process?
I like the idea phase where everything is possible, but even that falls short of coming out the other side and seeing what came out. It's such a marvel when I'm sure I fell short and somehow there's something on the page that dazzles me. Personally, I think elves must be involved at some point, like the old fairy tales about the cobbler who leaves leather out overnight and wakes up to find shoes . . . or Elaine in my story "Monkey! Monkey! Monkey! Monkey! Monkey!" who opens the hood on her rental car to find the engine replaced with a cymbal monkey. Well, maybe less the latter.
Do you have a writing routine?
I tend to say that I have no specific routine, but really I have a number of different routines. Each project I take on seems to have an inherent way that I need to tackle it. As long as I'm successful in figuring out what it is, I listen and stick to that. Each different thing I write seems to work differently and I've never had much luck forcing a single routine onto that.
Do you write every day?
I write something every day, though not always fiction. I certainly blog every day, and my career as a patent attorney has me writing regularly. Book reviews, stories, there's always something. I tend to go with whatever the day brings as long as it brings something. The tales in Not Quite so Stories were majorly written in the past five years, but a few I've been fiddling with for about a decade.
What do you think is hardest aspect of writing a book?
The hardest part of writing a book is revision. As wondrous as how things have turned out, having to face the flaws that are there and correct them is both humbling and painful. Of course, there's no getting from the wondrous to the dazzling without it. I loved writing my story " The Des Moines Kabuki Dinner Theatre," but it took me forever to get it right.
What’s more important – characters or plot?
I think it depends on the particular story. I've seen good writing that focuses primarily on character while other good writing I've seen focuses more on plot. For me, the best is when both are working together in a story. In my story "The Onion She Carried," the character of Nan and the fact she'd decided to carry around an onion everywhere works together with what happens when she does so. However, there are a lot of ways up a mountain. If an author can make something work then I won't try to tell them different. From a writing perspective, whatever isn't working right is the most important.
How often do you read?
Reading is one of the major ways I spend my days, along with writing and working. In the last six years I've tended to come in at about 200-300 books a year. I try to read all around and not get stuck in a rut only getting exposed to one kind of writing. Sometimes I read writing like Amelia Gray or Etgar Keret, other times Dostoyevsky or Balzac, still others Harper Lee, and yet others Clive Barker. I try to read all over.
What is your writing style?
I write a lot of different things, and I think my style morphs accordingly. My first book, Bones Buried in the Dirt, was a realistic child narrator piece. My second book, The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes, was very weird. There were several different layers of what was going on and the exact specifics depended on how you wanted to look at things. Not Quite so Stories is somewhere in between. It's fairly realistic, but then there's something off the wall and the ordinary people have to come to terms with that. For all of these different approaches, I write in a little bit of a different way.
What do you think makes a good story?
That's a tough one. Almost any rule I could come up with I could think of a story that ends up being good but still violates it. My story "G-Men" seems wildly different to me than my story "Dreams of Dead Grandpa." The biggest test is always how does it read. If it pulls readers in, even if those need to be a small distinctive group of readers, it's a good story.
Is writing your dream job?
Absolutely not. As much as I'd like to not have to have another job and be able to write more, since I'd be doing that anyway, I think writing as a job would reduce the joy it brings me. To some extent, it's fun because it isn't a job. Bringing a job into anything is going to drive out at least some of the play. I don't want writing to end up feeling like how the main character feels in my story "The Elusive Qualities of Advanced Office Equipment."
What is the worst job you’ve ever had? What did it teach you?
I worked for one day ringing bells for the Salvation Army. I wasn't even a volunteer, so there was no "doing good" to offset it. It was ten degrees below zero Fahrenheit, and my arm didn't stop hurting for a week. I'd still rather be as lost as the main character in my story "The Elusive Qualities of Advanced Office Equipment" than do that again. I learned to be nice to bell ringers, and to contribute without needing to be reminded by a ringing bell.
Do you have any marketing tips you could pass on to indie authors?
I think the best marketing tip is to be interested and involved in what's going on out there. If you care about what's going on out there and contribute to the discussion, it's far more likely people are going to be interested in something you publish. If you don't care, why would anyone care about you? We're all in this together, so we might as well act like it.
For what would you like to be remembered?
Hopefully something I've written as opposed to that time I was shopping with my wife and threw the cheese sticks I wanted to buy into a stranger's cart. They looked so strangely at me. I need to pay more attention sometimes. I'm as bad as Phil in my story "Home Improvement."
What’s one THING you never leave the house without .
A book. Seriously. I take at least one to work, on trips, to the grocery store, when my wife is getting a massage or her nails done, everywhere. My wife dragged me to Lululemon and sat me in the chair next to the changing area. She came out and noticed that I was facing the mirror where all the women were checking out how their butt looked in the yoga pants. She laughed because I was nose deep in a book and hadn't even realized the situation. Phil in my story "Home Improvement" has nothing on me.
What’s your favorite place to go on date night?
Queen of Sheba. It's an Ethiopian place in Denver. I love taking my wife there. Unfortunately, she never wants to go. We each have our favorite places we always want to go and end up making the other utterly sick of them. We tend to show our love by agreeing to go to one of the other's favorites despite hating them.
What is your superpower?
The ability to spout random possibly related Simpsons quotes in almost any situation. I even got the name for the main character in my story "Form Over Substance ≈ Eggs Over Easy" by messing around with Milhouse's last name on The Simpsons. After all, everything is coming up Milhouse.
Do you give your characters any of your bad traits?
Of course. How else would I be able to do bad traits as well? Some I can imagine, but it's a lot easier if I have some familiarity to fall back on at least some of the time. I really am as annoying about proper toilet paper replacement procedures as the husband in my story "A Brief Account of the Great Toilet Paper War of 2012."
What would you do for a Klondike bar?
I'd probably pay for one. Those commercials always bugged me. I mean, those things are about a dollar. The characters in the commercial all clearly can spare a dollar. Why not simply spend the dollar rather than do things that someone would usually have to pay you much more than a dollar to do? Though I know it's an imagined scenario, it baffles me as much as people baffle the cuddly killer teddy bear in my story "60% Rayon and 40% Evil."
You're taking it much too literally and missing the fun. What are you working on now?
Right now I'm working on a collection of little flash pieces that are way, way weirder than the tales in Not Quite so Stories. One story (published in Apocrypha and Abstractions) involves a character who keeps waking up with strawberry jam smeared in his boxers.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Connect with David:
Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
Buy the book:
David S. Atkinson is giving away one paperback copy each – Bones Buried in the Dirt and Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes!
Terms & Conditions:
Terms & Conditions:
By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
Two winners will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive either Bones Buried in the Dirt or The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes
This giveaway begins March 1 and ends on May 27
Winners will be contacted via email on May 29.
Winners have 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!
Good luck everyone!