Saturday, June 3, 2017

Author Interview ~ Charley Daveler

Charley Daveler is an American author and playwright, best known for her online series of shorts, Stories of the Wyrd. Writing with a dry humor in supernatural worlds, her fiction tends to focus on the close bonds of two people in their darkest hour. Growing up in Wyoming, she currently moves from city to city, meeting new people and their animals, missing her own little black cat along the way.

1.     You have FAQs and author interviews on your website. What are some things you would like people to know and remember about you?

As weird as it may sound, my biggest wish is people would naturally skim my writing instead of reading so closely. Not because I’m not precise or what I’m saying isn’t important, but because I see the world in a sum-of-its-parts sort of way. I write as I read and describe as I observe, and though I do consider it my job to factor in how other people read and observe, I’ve found that I really love having Easter Eggs and foreshadowing and puzzle parts that people tend to get hung up on.

For instance, I once wrote a now deleted scene (in an unpublished manuscript) where the protagonist runs to his wounded brother hiding in a hut. He steps under a broken door frame and over a stripped engine… and a whole slew of critique partners couldn’t get past why there was an engine in the middle of the hut. Why was it stripped? The question was very much a part of the point. People were supposed to wonder about it, but more or less accept it as a part of the world and continue with the scene until that part of the story became evident. I didn’t do this intentionally. I’m never trying to be obstinate; it’s just seems like a very inherent part of my way of thinking, and it’s a pretty common controversy. I’ve played with it for a while and I don’t know if I will be able to successfully write in this style, but if I was known for anything, I honestly would like to be known for my readers just “going with the flow.”

2.     What do you write? Why do you write?

I tend to write speculative fiction, which is a fancy way of saying something magical, fantastical, paranormal, or plain ol’ sci-fi. When you say you write fantasy, people tend to picture Tolkien, and while I admire him and love the whole Dungeons and Dragons sort of reality, my worlds tend to be lower density magic with less European-inspired cultures, and just a whole lot more humans.

I like to tell people that I write for all the reasons. Which is true. I write to stave off boredom. To feel empowered. To ignite my imagination. To connect with people. For money. For fame. For bragging rights and something to do on a Saturday night. But I suppose the biggest reason is just to have something to look forward to. Writing can make you feel good about yourself and is an amazing supplement when your life is lacking in other areas, or even enhance an already great day.

3.     What are your literary influences? In what way do they influence your work?

My biggest influence both consciously and subconsciously is the Calvin and Hobbes comics. I can see how I write like Watterson in surprising ways sometimes, and there are other occasions in which I intentionally want to create the same effect that he did and analyze the ways he went about doing it.

Douglas Adams and Jonathan Swift didn’t entirely write like how I want to be, but they are my favorite authors and come pretty close to some of what I’m trying to do. Neil Gaiman successfully creates ambiance that I’m looking for, and his magical worlds tend to have rules that are both grounded yet enigmatic. I suppose that if I could write something along the lines of Diana Wynne Jones’ Howl’s Moving Castle but with a touch more horror and higher stakes, I’d be a happy camper. I love Harry Potter’s iconic world building and over the last year attempted to find ways to achieve that same sort of effect.

4.     You have written plays for theatrical productions, children’s theatre, screenplays, and short stories for journals. Will you eventually add a book to your repertoire? If so, what can you tell us about it?

I just finished my 16th unpublished manuscript a few weeks back. I tend to like writing, but not submitting, and even sometimes editing is hard to force myself to do. For the past four years I’ve been heavily revising a manuscript that I love to pieces, but I’m not sure there’s a market for. I finished the first draft right before the Divergent movie came out and dystopian novels hit their peak. What I am currently calling The Dying Breed is dystopian, possibly best called young adult, and isn’t easily pitchable, even without the issue of trendiness. I’ve been submitting to agents with pretty informed expectations, now turning my focus to other works.

I have two manuscripts that I think are more “catching” but I haven’t done nearly the same amount of revision with. One has an epic beginning that has yielded shockingly positive results from my critique partners, the other has a much more quippy pitch. I plan on pursuing traditional publication for the next few years, but if that doesn’t yield results, self-publishing isn’t out of the question. So yes. Hopefully a novel is on the horizon, but in the literary world, who knows?

5.     What are Stories of the Wyrd?

About the time when I really felt a kick in the butt to pursue publishing, I realized that it would be a while before I could ever have readers even if everything went amazingly well. I had been writing in isolation for so long that I really just wanted to connect with people. Plus, having started getting active in my social media/blog, I was getting asked about where my writing was pretty frequently. I pointed them to the short stories and plays, but nothing was really an example for who I feel I am.

Stories of the Wyrd is a pet project of mine, free online short stories featuring the same characters in a world where humans have to deal with the mystery of a dangerous other realm appearing and disappearing amongst them. It was a means for me to take the stress and seriousness of trying to get published and just write directly for my readers, see how they respond, and just have an author’s catharsis of making exactly what I wanted to without artistic snobbery or commercial value getting in the way. It’s funny, it’s sad, it’s romantic, and while I’m still figuring out where I want to go with it, I think it really is a demonstration of the kinds of things I want to do ultimately.

6.     How do Stories of the Wyrd compare with Might Morphin’ Canine Powers? Are you the artist who illustrates them?

I am the artist. I draw all my graphics on my site and social media using a Wacom tablet and Adobe photoshop, although my web comic, Mighty Morphin’ Canine Powers is first drawn on regular paper with Sharpie and then colored on the computer. I use acrylic paints on canvass and watercolor paper sometimes, but I’m not as strong with that medium. Not being able to zoom in is a real handicap.

The tone, I find, is pretty similar. Both feature duel protagonists, male and female, in a supernatural world, and, if I was being completely honest, I haven’t entirely developed Canine Powers’ setting too fully yet and so some of the assumptions I make about it (as I have to draw the background for instance) are similar to how I picture the world of Stories. My web comic is more of a romance, however, and the shapeshifting demon, Levy, is far more reserved, suspicious, and powerful then the altruistic hero Rasmus Kondori in Stories of the Wyrd. Rina Maker has a darker back story than Kaia Kondori, Kaia being far more optimistic, curious, and immature than Rina, though they both are similarly sarcastic.

7.     You are a writer, an artist, and you make beautiful quilts. What is the connection among these different avenues of creativity?

Possibly just being able to do things. I like learning and I often look at something and think, “I can do that.” Then I do it. Poorly. So then I say, “No, that didn’t count. I know I can do this. Let me try again.” Repeat until I actually create something I’m proud of. I believe actually a lot of people think just like me, get inspired just like me, but then have something better to do than to sit and create thousands of crappy projects. Like socialize. Have fun. Enjoy life. Not for me though! Once I put my mind to something, I have the unrelenting compulsion to complete it. I don’t think I’m more creative or focused than most people, I just think I’m more determined to do something when I’ve mildly considered it.

8.     What do you love best about the things you write?

I do genuinely make myself laugh at times. I’ll be reading through something I’ve written long after I’ve forgotten about it and the characters will say the damnedest things. Sometimes in real life I feel like I have no personality at all, but my writing reminds me how bizarre my train of thought can be.

9.     What trends, tactics, styles, or genres would you like to see become popular? What trends would you like to see disappear?

I’d like to see so-called “purple prose” come back, though only to a certain extent. I’m not a big fan of reading too many dense novels and have read writing (by my own hand no less) that was cringe-worthy via trying too hard. But simple prose grates on me sometimes. I like a little bit of challenge in my books, I like to be impressed by a good turn-a-phrase, and I’ve never been a fan of the way Hemingway or Carver work, though I will say I can admire it strictly from an objective point of view. I enjoy over the top, not-so realistic dialogue and a good play on words. Poetry with plot is beautiful. The whole writing at a “fifth grade level” advice is limiting.

In that same vein, I could do without so many of the Hemingway copycats. ‘Said’ is like me at a party. Typically it doesn’t say much and you won’t notice it’s around, but after a while you start asking, “Why is it always there and not actually doing anything?” I DO notice too many saids, especially in audiobooks. I mean, it takes a lot of them, and I’m not saying avoid using them, but the heavy-handed way people insist it’s the only dialogue tag feels completely against what I’d like to be reading. It’s also something that people push as if it it’s the Coca-Cola of the 1900s, the miracle drug that will solve all your ailments when in reality solutions require a whole lot more than a dose of cocaine.

10.   Any final thoughts about writing?

Whether you’re a writer or a reader, I think it’s important to remember that you’re not like everyone else. We want the literary world to be diverse, for people to be writing books that not everyone’s going to like, that not everyone else is doing. The entire point of writing is to communicate, to show a perspective, to share how the author sees the world so we better understand how we are different and how we relate to those that aren’t exactly like us. The number one thing a writer figures out by being read is just how weird he is, and just how normal. It’s shocking the ideas that you think are so bizarre that are actually very common, and the parts of your life you considered mundane that are actually really strange.

This factors in, of course, to the way you critique and edit. I’ve found a problem with critique partners who consider themselves the voice of the people. Some are way, way smarter than the average bear and don’t realize it. Some are less informed. Some are pretty savvy but with a weird sense of taste. But in a lot of causes, I’ve had someone telling me what ‘other people are going to think’ and I knew, having gotten a wide variety of opinions already, how wrong they were. In fact, it becomes a part of the process to explain that I’m asking questions and digging deeper into a criticism because no one else agreed with them, because I’ve heard responses directly contradicting their insisted suggestion, and I’m trying to understand. Their opinion is still just as important, but it doesn’t mean I, or their peers, immediately see eye-to-eye. It doesn’t make them wrong, but it’s useful if they understand that not everyone is telling me the same thing.

As a writer, it’s your job to figure out how weird you are. Sometimes common sense is actually incredibly insightful and needs further explanation. Sometimes something you think is complicated is really obvious and needs less explanation. Sometimes your assumptions are actually inaccurate to other people’s lives. Sometimes you are too poorly informed about something to realize how poorly informed you are. Literature is supposed to be telling us exactly that, so it’s important that before you shut someone down or feel wrong for thinking the way you do, you might prioritize diversity over acceptance.

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