"Finding a genre-bent story that works within the frame of a literary publication such as Byline Legacies is incredibly difficult. David not only made a sci-fi tone work within our expectations, he also used that suspension of disbelief to teach a powerful lesson about the consequences of convenience and the necessity of organic processes." — Jaime Dill, editor for Cardigan Press
What genres/age ranges do you typically gravitate toward in your writing?
I’ve noticed that a lot of people talk about the fact that they wrote their first story aged [young], and in some respects I think that’s probably true for everyone–I can remember creative writing at school, and even a few of the stories that came out of that, including one . . . but that’s another story.
I started dabbling with writing in this context after I submitted my doctoral thesis: I was at a bit of a loose end and trying to process some things. It was very hit and miss to begin with. I started blogging some sciency stuff, and then in September 2016 I launched https://fictioncanbefun.wordpress.com/ with my friend Debs. We met through a book club and were both interested in writing, as well as reading. We thought that joint accountability would keep us honest and a shared schedule would mean that we could keep up a reasonable stream of output without it becoming overwhelming.
Most of the stories on there come from prompts in one form or another, and we set a prompt of our own every month for people to join. In 2018 we did the A2Z blogging challenge, and over the course of a month, using the NATO phonetic alphabet as a daily prompt. We ended up writing 40,000 or so words of what we’ve come to call the November Deadline. We’ve been working on this since, and we’re pretty much ready to send an 80,000 word book out to beta readers, hopefully to query later in the year. The November Deadline is a spy story with an urban fantasy twist: it’s set in London, between the end of WWII and the beginning of the Cold War, and is mostly made up except for the true bits . . .
In what way would you say your story in Byline Legacies is similar and/or different from the work you do with Debs?
How close is it to what I ‘normally’ write . . .? Tricky. I probably write more SF&F type stuff, but I try to stray from the worn paths as much as possible. I also think it’s helpful to try out different things to help hone skills, such as my previously accepted Weird West story (in Kyanite), and a SF/Adventure story (in The Crux Anthology).
But I’ve also written a chapter for a pop science/public engagement book, “The Secret Science of Superheroes.” For my chapter, I looked at Elastigirl from The Incredibles, considering her abilities from the point of view of Materials Science (my day job) and the issues with trying to lift objects at a distance.
However, the contemporary short stories that I wrote for the blog, generally have very little science at all: they feature three brothers of school-age who are just living their lives and trying to get used to who they are and how they fit in the world. On the blog, we have a prompt that we use periodically, where we look up what’s been added to Project Gutenberg recently, and then a title that we like the look of becomes the prompt. I generally reserve these for the brothers now. Debs thinks I’m the plotter and she’s the pantser: I generally like to know where I’m going to end up, so I’ll often have a last line or a scene written for the end and then aim for that, but I’m probably more of a pantser than I’d like to think. As a challenge for 2021, I’m doing #2wordprompt and #vss365, letting the prompts take me along for the ride, which has sort of worked so far . . . although the #2wordprompt story started off as a magical superhero thing and looks like it might be turning into a horror . . .
With short stories, I generally like to try and think about them for as long as possible and then commit them to the page. With a fair wind, I can usually do that in one session (which is what I did with the story for the Cardigan Press anthology), and then let it sit for a little while before giving it a polish. The whimsical, “Today I will write a story”, is probably a fair reflection of some of my writing—it’s certainly what I wish I could do with all the stories in my head trying to get out.
Where can readers best support your writing career at this time?
If you’d like to meet a genie who’s set up as an independent contractor, or a woman who finds her eight year old twins looking guilty in the kitchen, or a steampunk(ish) Santa trying to keep The Pact, do pop by https://fictioncanbefun.wordpress.com, and have a look around.