Monday, August 22, 2016

Interview: Dr. Dan Williams

Hi everyone! I'm starting a new series in which I interview fellow unpublished or newly published writers and ask them about their writing. The goal is for y'all to make some new connections and get to know some other authors.

Today's spotlighted writer is Dr. Dan Williams! Dr. Williams was my English 101 professor last fall. He's known on my college campus for wearing crocs, for the campus reading series and their hilarious preview videos shown in chapel, for sitting in ceiling rafters during class, and for other general awesomeness. But he's also a great author, and he was generous enough to allow me to interview him for this blog series! He also draws:

1.      And the dreaded, standard first question! When did you start writing?

a.       I started writing in undergrad. My first creative writing class got me hooked. The teacher looked like an off-season Santa Claus—limping through a Christmas hangover, the snow-white that his hair and beard should have been was a February yellow. Mrs. Claus didn’t want to see him again until November. He looked crazy. He gave me excellent advice: never give up.   

2.      What was your first MS about?

a.       About some castle-times family traveling into a great northern European-ish wilderness to be eaten alive by trees. The characters had horrible names, names like Stretten and Brehonibeam. No wonder I sent them away to die.  

3.      What is your current MS about, and why do you love it?

a.       The idea came from something brutal: the way mice kill whole beehives. A mouse climbs onto the hive’s front porch and scratches at the door. So the bees send a drone down to check it out. The mouse eats that drone then scratches again. Another drone comes. The mouse eats that one too then scratches yet again. All the mice take their turns (this is the part that really sounds fake to me, but I think it’s real) scratching until the whole hive's gone, even the queen. So the story’s a dystopian thing where the entire world's an office building and all employees are drones. They each have their own little cell called a cube where they live. And the scratching mouse comes in the form of telephone calls that, now and then, send another employee away to die. 
b.      I love this because it gives me a chance to talk about one of the biggest things I can think of: the fear of death. I want my main character Arny to get over it, to face his inevitable (maybe) call with bravery. I want to get over my own fear. I think that’s part of why I’m writing this. Because I’m afraid.   

4.      Do you have a new shiny idea that’s distracting you from your current project? How do you keep your focus?

a.       Just this year I learned to stop trusting shiny ideas. I hope one day to hate them. I want to smell their stink (I once thought it was good perfume) miles away and greet them at the gate with a shotgun. They’re in the snakeoil business. The shiners show up because I’m having a hard time with my current project, the one that was once a shiny itself. I know this about shiners—they all turn into heartbreakingly heavy trackless tanks that put down roots faster than leeches. This is the life-cycle of a story: shiny goes quickly to dead-tank and then to…(and I don’t know if I’ve ever gotten beyond dead-tank).  
b.      But yes, I’ve got shiners. They’re there like hallucinations I have to ignore so they don’t get worse. I stay focused by knowing that following shiners is one of the most dangerous things a person can do, if they’re interested in having a happy life, or at the very least, a good one. 

5.      What are some things you love in real life that usually end up in your Mss?

a.       The ocean. The way I see it, the Atlantic. I’ve said for a long time that I want to write an ocean book, something that captures the way I feel about it. But it makes me tired to think about that book. I don’t know how to say it yet. I’ve got to live a lot longer and read a lot more before I try. It’s sort of like being in the mudroom of God’s palace and some angel says, “Come on in whenever you’re ready.” Most people would stay in the mudroom for a thousand years, getting ready.      

6.      Which fictional character would be your best friend?

a.       I think Tom Sawyer would be my best friend, and maybe Bilbo Baggins, once we’d roomed together long enough and had all the usual fights a person would have with a Hobbit—fights about schedules and pantries and my side of the room and your side. But in the woods, we’d be blood-brothers.   

7.      What authors would you say have most influenced your writing?

a.       Melville 
b.      Faulkner 
c.       Hemingway 
d.      Steinbeck 
e.       C.S. Lewis 
f.       Tolkien 
g.      Flannery O’Connor 
h.      Kafka 
i.        Stephen King 

8.      Where’s your favorite place to connect with other authors?

a.       Email, so far, is the finest place, though a healthy trustworthy writers’ group would be ideal. The trouble is, establishing that kind of group, one that lasts and is healthy and fun and helpful, is just about as difficult as finding a church that doesn’t leave you feeling chilly or like you’re being courted by a cult.  

9.      What else do you like to do besides writing?

a.       I’m in love with drawing. It’s been my constant companion for years, my oxygen in smotheringly boring meetings and waitings of all kinds.  

10.  Favorite GIF or meme?

a.       I don’t know if this counts, but it’s a pic of a person making a thoughtful face and thinking, “hmmmm…and yet another day has passed and I did not use Algebra once…very interesting.” 

11.  Anything else you’d like to add? A pitch? A reading suggestion? An advertisement?

a.       For all story writers, read, The Anatomy of Story by John Truby.

Thanks, Dr. Williams!! Best of luck to you and your writing!

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