Wednesday, March 20, 2013

In conversation with Dan Campbell

Dan Campbell, one of the Something Wicked volume #2 anthology authors is dropping by today. I totally recommend you get your copy on pre-order already

So, Dan, tell us a little about your short story for Something Wicked volume 2.

Redemption's Edge got sparked as I was working on character backgrounds for a novel. I needed to know the origin of Johnston's flaws, the weaknesses that fractured against his strengths. I'm reluctant to say much more, due to spoilers, but the story is a test of character.

What gets you writing? Tell us a little bit more about your approach.

Usually, I'll get gripped by a mood or an idea and then, if a plot connected to that occurs to me, I have a story (otherwise, it might end up as a poem). I tend to get material all in one go: an outline either of what could / should happen or a sense of the emotional points that must be hit. With that as a scaffold, I'll get to work on the story or the poem and flesh out the details. Writing something novel length requires me to also outline things as much as I can, but then follow one word to the next and hope I can either stay on target
or revise my course to suit things I didn't anticipate in the unfolding story.

What do you think are particular challenges associated with short stories as a form? As for longer works, do you have anything planned?

The thing that strikes me most about short fiction is the amount of time you have to get story-telling done. Quite simply, you don't have enough time. The story has to immediately engage the reader, to grab and hold their attention, and then it has to continue to pull them in. The writing never gets a chance to relax the way it can in something novel length, where a reader might keep reading just because they've gotten to know a character or they want to explore the world you're creating or some similar "let's explore this together" motivation. Of course, a good novel should also immediately engage the reader, hold their attention and continue to draw them - but the pacing in the two forms is quite different. Short fiction is liking getting a glimpse that stays with you forever, whereas the novel is like studying a scene until you can re-create it.

I have two novels in progress at present: the one with Johnston as a secondary character (which is on hold), and a newer one that I'm gradually working my way through, playing the game of writing according to my outline except when I change the outline to suit the story that gets written. Both are science fiction, with a focus on character development, emotion, and the consequences of choice and action.

What's the one short story or novel you keep going back to (we all have them), and what makes it stand out above all the rest?

I hate to sound cliche, but: The Lord of the Rings. I read it during a formative time in my life, and absorbed a lot of the values and culture portrayed in the books. I've since gone on to study Old Norse literature in my spare time, so Tolkien's work has a lot of resonance for me, now that I understand the source material he was drawing on. Tolkien blended heroic ideals with modern sensibilities in a way that I find offers a sense of depth, of history, of being rooted in tradition while adapting to the winds of change that drive the present.

What scares you?

Losing control, especially due to illness or insanity - becoming a captive in one's own body (or mind), unable to choose how one acts.

Thanks for stopping by, Dan! All the best!

Follow Dan's blog here...

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