Darian and I are newly acquainted as co-committee members of SpecFicNZ. It has been awesome to get to get to know him over the past few months, but this interview has been my first opportunity to learn about his experiences as a writer. Check it out!
What sort of stories do you like to write?
I like writing stories that grab me. I particularly like writing stories with an emotional punch. Those are they ones that feel worth telling. It could be a fantasy (my first love) or contemporary fiction, but it has to have some impact in terms of making me (and hopefully the reader) feel something.
Sometimes an idea won’t quite work for me so I don’t write all of my ideas into stories, but I do try to capture them just in case they come in useful later. I keep a notebook with lots of random snippets in it which I promise myself will be woven into stories at some later date. Sometimes they even are.
Have you been published / where / how many rejections have you received?
I’ve had short stories published in places like ASIM, JAAM, WilyWriters.com, and have won prizes in several competitions with them. I remember the first time I won something I was so excited, I drove four hours to get to the prize giving, then four hours home again. It was thrilling! But before that I had rejections galore. Initially I kept a folder of my rejection slips. I hear Stephen King had a nail on the wall that he would spike his rejections onto and, in a way, keeping them was my badge of honour, like proof that I was paying my dues. Then my folder filled up and I didn’t bother to get another one!
Now that my recent novel manuscript has won the SpecFicNZ/Steam Press competition, I’m hoping I’ll be able to find a suitable agent and publisher and finally get my name on the cover of an actual novel.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
I enjoy that rush I feel when I’m developing the story. Feeling the sparkling, buzzing, electric kernel of the idea that I know will burst out into something wonderful and then watching as it does just that. And I enjoy the surprising feeling when I read it back over and realise that it actually sounds pretty good. In between, of course, there’s the phase where I’m pretty sure everything I type is rubbish, but force myself to keep typing anyway. And even that’s kind of fun…as grimly determined self slavery goes.
What do you find most frustrating / difficult?
Well, there’s that grimly determined phase I mentioned earlier – during which I can be heard to plaintively moan “Why won’t it just write itself??” and eat copious amounts of chocolate.
There’s also the struggle to convey my new ideas to my beloved wife who also writes. Somehow I just can’t express a story idea verbally. The conversation usually goes something like this:
“Oh my God, I’ve just had a brilliant idea for a story. What if…xyz.”
Blank stare. Frown. “Um…are you sure? That sounds kinda rubbish.”
“No no! It’s brilliant! Because…xyz! Get it? X. Y. Z!”
“Still sounds kinda rubbish, but go and write it. They usually turn out okay.”
Grumble grumble. “Totally brilliant, trust me.” Grumble grumble. “XYZ!!” Grumble grumble. “Don’t understand.”
Pat on the shoulder. “There there. You’re very clever. Go and write it now.”
Fortunately, we’ve both figured out this pattern and don’t let it worry us. The rest of the time we’re each other’s best cheerleader, coach and shifter of writing blocks.
Which of the stories you have written so far are you most proud of and why?
I’m very proud of the stories I’ve written this year, “Wearing the Star Cloak” and “Agents of Kalanon”. It’s been an honour to have them win SpecFicNZ competitions. In the more literary/contemporary side of things, I’m extremely proud of a story called “Slippery Road.” It’s an edgy, parental-guidance-definitely-advised tale of a young man making the best of a bad situation. It begins with maybe the best hook I’ve ever come up with, “The first time my dad died it was raining.” And, according to New Zealand writer Sue Emms, “went on to build a story of loneliness and confusion to a powerful conclusion that still resonates with me.” I feel like I hit the emotional punch nail on the head with that one.
Do you write more than you read, or read more than you write?
This very much depends on when you ask. Sometimes one, sometime the other. Deadlines are good for driving me, so if there’s a competition or submission date I want to aim for, I’ll be doing more writing than reading. A few days after the deadline, I’ll be reading more than writing!
What advice do you have for new authors just starting out?
Remember that writing is both talent and skill. No matter how much talent you have to work with, skill takes time and effort to develop. So, sadly, not everything you write will be brilliant right away. But the more you write, the more skilled you become at letting that talent shine through.
Find out more about Darian at his new website: www.darian-smith.com