Saturday, June 4, 2011

Keith B. Darrell Interview

1: What is the most productive time of the day for you to write? 

I find I’m most creative at night. I think the fact it tends to be quieter at night, with fewer distractions, makes it more conducive to writing. When the phone has rung for the final time that evening, the neighbors have gone to sleep, the street noises have faded, and the Witching Hour has passed, then the gremlins of my imagination can be unleashed. 

Someone once tried to explain to me that nocturnal creativity was tied to theta waves, but my money is on the gremlins.

2: Do you start your projects writing with paper and pen or is it all on the computer?

In the olden days, I would write in longhand or by typewriter, but these days I prefer my ubiquitous laptop. Judging from the chicken scrawls that pass for my handwriting, I was most likely destined to be a doctor, not a writer, so I run the risk of not being able to decipher my stories if I write them with pen and paper.

3: What do you draw inspiration from?

Stories are based on a coalescence of theme, plot, and characterization. I may see a social issue I feel more people need to become aware of, or view from a different perspective, so I might craft a story based on that theme. Other times, I may have an epiphany for a great plot and write around that. But I think the best tales come from creating well-crafted characters, placing them in a situation, and letting them act out the story. If your characters are truly well defined, the scenes almost write themselves, and the author reverts to taking dictation from his characters.

4: Do you set goals for yourself when you sit down to write such as word count?

Absolutely not. I believe a story is like Goldilock’s porridge: it must have just the right amount of words; not too many and not too few. Too many authors ruin good stories by padding them to fill up pages to reach some arbitrary length. It’s not the number of words but the impact of the tale on the reader that is the mark of a good story. A flash fiction piece may be so moving and thought provoking that the reader is still thinking about it weeks later, whereas he may not recall the last chapter of a novel he read a week earlier. 

If you’re writing fiction, you are, by definition, a storyteller. A story is not judged by its length by how it affects the reader and how memorable it is.

5: Are you a published or a self published author and how do you come up with your cover art?

My print books and eBooks are published through my publishing imprint, Amber Book Company. I do all of the cover design for my books. For my print books, I usually use photography since I cannot draw stick figures. For example, for Issues In Internet Law, the cover is a photo of a dog, seated at a computer typing in a singles chatroom (“on the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog”). For my anthology  Randoms, I used a random assortment of leaves of the front cover, and shaped them into the form of a giant leaf for the back cover. Shards, my second short story collection, has a stunning visual of shards of glass projecting toward the reader.

For my eBooks and eStorybooks (single short story eBooks), I still design my own covers but license stock illustrations, which work better than photographs when the covers are reduced to thumbnails online. 

6: What drives you to choose the career of being a writer?

I’ve had many careers throughout my lifetime, including stints as a reporter, stockbroker, attorney, entrepreneur, retailer, web designer, real estate agent, ad rep… life is about experiences, and I think the more life experience you garner, the more you will have to write about. But there are two components to being a writer: the art and the craft. The craft is an objective set of rules; it can be taught and can be learned. But the art is intrinsic to the soul of the writer. This is where the creativity flows from, and one is either born with printers ink in his  blood or not. 

7: Do you own an eBook reading device?

I produced all of my eBooks and eStorybooks formatted both for Kindle and EPUB, so I read on Kindle and several EPUB readers, including Adobe Digital Editions and a great e-reader widget by Opera. My books can be read on Kindles and Nooks, and on various EPUB apps for smart phones. Later this year, I will be adapting many of my works as podcasts, too.

8: Who are some of your favorite authors and What are you reading now?

My primary genre is speculative fiction, so Harlan Ellison and Neil Gaiman come to mind. As a child, I read all the popular SF authors: Heinlein, Asimov, Bradbury, Kornbluth… as well as the classics: Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, Ernest Hemingway, Guy de Maupassant, D.H. Lawrence, Anton Chekov, J.D. Salinger, George Orwell, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Dante Alighieri, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Carlos Castaneda… there are too many to list. But in my anthology "Randoms", I explained: “My writing is a reflection of my muses. From Dickens I learned how to create memorable characters and tell a story. Like Hemingway, I believe in using simple, declarative sentences. O. Henry instilled in me a deep appreciation for the effective use of irony and a resolute belief that a short story should be … short. Lewis Carroll, L. Frank Baum, and Douglas Adams erased the boundaries of my imagination while showing that a sense of wonder can be accompanied by a sense of humor. e. e. cummings gave me permission to break literary rules, while Rimbaud encouraged me to go against tradition, as I push the envelope of speculative fiction. And the Marquis de Sade taught me that it’s O.K. to write nasty words and have impure thoughts if they express an underlying philosophy.”

Right now, my reading list includes Neil Gaiman’s :The Grayeyard Book” and three large volumes of short stories.

9: What do you think of book trailers and do you have any plans to have any?

I’ve seen a few good ones but most are slide shows with background music and alternating text slides that make me feel as though I’ve warped back to the era of silent films. I’d love to produce some trailers for my “Halos & Horns” series of fantasy novels, but to do it properly, based on the quotes I’ve received, is way out of my budget. I’ve also read some preliminary reports that trailers do not increase sales, so I’m going to hold off on them for the present.

10: How did you come up with the title of your latest book?

I’m not sure what my “latest” book is. This month (May 2011), I published “And A Child Shall Lead Them ” (Book 2 in the “Halos & Horns” series) and sent “Shards” to the printer; published “Paved With Good Intentions” (Book 1 in the “Halos & Horns” series) as an eBook; published 34 short stories and one novella for Kindle; and am currently writing a Young Adult novel, a SF novel, and the third “Halos & Horns” book, so I’ve come up with quite a few titles this month.

11: What are you working on now that you can talk about?

I think my passion has become “Halos & Horns”, so I’ll be writing the third book, “To Hell in a Hand Basket”, this summer, taking the characters in a completely new direction. I have some very exciting stuff planned  that will surprise the fans of the series. I’ve been challenged by some author-friends to write a Young Adult novel and I’m outlining that right now. It will be titled “The 25th Hour”, revolving around a high schooler whose days have an extra hour he uses to aid those around him. I’m also writing a time travel novel that is taking much longer than I had anticipated, due to the research involved.


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