Thursday, October 27, 2011

Author Spotlight - CS DeWildt

CS DeWildt lives in Tucson Arizona with his wife and sons. His short stories can be found online at Bartleby Snopes, Word Riot, The Bicycle Review, Foundling Review, and the unfortunately defunct Writers Bloc. He is currently working on a new novel and a collection of short stories.

His novella Candy and Cigarettes was published by Vagabondage Press in July 2011 to great reviews. You can read an excerpt at our website.

Chris, when did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

When I was in second grade. Our class published our own short books as part of a regional “young authors” program and I was selected to represent my class for my story, The Traveling Seed. I remember the sheer joy I felt while writing my story and I guess it just stuck. Today, writing takes me through an array of emotions and on the best days I feel just like I did at seven years old.

Why do you write?

I write because of an innate urge, a nagging muse that compels me to put words on paper, to tell stories. I write because I want people to read my work. I’m an entertainer and I think writing is the freest form of expression an artist can have. The words make music, paint pictures, dance. They do all the things I wish I could.

Is being a writer anything like you imagined it would be?

Is anything they way we imagined it would be? I guess the biggest reality check for me is that I used to think that there was this dichotomy among writers, which is either you’re on the bestsellers list or you’re struggling. And while reality might be a little closer to the latter I’ve discovered that there is room for those of us who just want to write and make an honest living at it. That’s my dream, not to be hugely successful (though that would be nice), but to pay the bills with my words.

What do you think makes a good story?

A compelling character goes a long way. If you’re interesting I’ll follow your lead longer than I will a total bore.

What's your favorite genre to read?

I like anything with a dark edge, from something as prosy as Cormac McCarthy, to Big Jim Thomson, to Stephen King. Literary fiction is often presented as a genre all its own, but I think of it more as a subgenre present within all other genres, think a typical Danielle Steele romance versus Lolita. Talk of genre often pigeon-holes a stories unnecessarily. They’re just stories, a character wants/wants to avoid something and is met with conflict while trying to get/avoid it. Some work for you as a reader, some don’t. Genre conventions are just set dressing in my opinion.

Who is your favorite author or poet?

The answer to this question would depend on the day you ask so I’ll list a few I consider masters of both story and language: Paul Theroux, Cormac McCarthy, Vladimir Nabokov, Irvine Welsh, Sylvia Plath. Again, ask me tomorrow and I’ll give you a new list.

What books or stories have most influenced you the most as a writer?

The Mosquito Coast, beyond being a compelling read, has great take-away lessons in character development, use of symbols, themes, and structure. It’s your classic man vs. man vs. society vs. nature vs. machine vs. self. And repellent or not, Allie Fox is my favorite literary character hands down.

The Old man and the Sea would be another. Regarding critical analysis, Hemingway said of it, and I’ m paraphrasing: “The old man is a man, the fish is a fish.” I think any writer or critic knows that was a damn lie, whether it was an honest lie, only Ernie knows. Regardless, considering the state of his career when he wrote it and how the story so closely parallels facets of his writing life, even the unpredictable post-publication response to it, it just shows how important honesty is when writing a truly magnificent story. To me, the work was a vivisection of the author. And ideally, that’s what a good story is.

What books or stories have most influenced you as a person?

I wish I could say that reading Hemingway toughened me up, the hero code thing, but I’m still pretty soft. However, his lessons in stoicism keep me from crying myself to sleep post rejection slip.

Where/how do you find the most inspiration?

It hits when it hits and I just try to maintain within a piece until it hits again. Usually, a story will come from a random event that just strikes me the right way, be it a comment, a conversation, or an observation. Some of these things will explode in my consciousness like a cherry bomb, and I think, that might be an interesting story. Another piece of inspiration is definitely my own memory, I’ll let my thoughts drift and then in a similar explosion I’ll recognize something that I feel is worth developing.
What does your family think of your writing?

My wife is my biggest supporter. She believes when I doubt and that’s a pretty special secret weapon to have.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?

I’ve always been an early riser so most of my writing gets done in the dark wee hours while everyone else is asleep. I try to do this every day, and I mean every day. I’ll sit down other times too, if I have the opportunity, but until I can quit my day job, the writing has to be worked out around the man’s schedule.

Do you have any writing quirks or rituals?

Not really. I used to smoke cigarettes constantly while I wrote. I’ve since traded them in for nicotine patches. So I guess, sure, I always make sure I have my nicotine. Caffeine too.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

If I slow down, or get pulled away from a piece I tend to lose interest. Sometimes the challenge is just believing that what I’m writing will work itself out in the end. I don’t do a lot of plotting, a couple sign posts in my mind and then I take the scenic route.

What are your current projects?

I have three incomplete novels I’m letting stew until they’re ready to finish. I’m working on another story I hope to develop into a novella, that’s what I’m working on right now. For fun I like to write a flash piece or two a week, just to keep things interesting and to help my other projects from feeling stale.

What are you planning for future projects?

I’ve got several things in mind, but you’ll have to read them to find out.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Keep at it. Deal with rejection and move on.

You can’t be a writer without writing. A lot of people talk about writing something, but don’t put the time in. Put in the time.

Don’t be above taking criticism, but don’t bow to it either.
If it isn’t giving you pleasure, you shouldn’t be doing it

Where else can we find your work?

Online at Bartleby Snopes, a great journal by the wonderful writer Nate Tower, also on Word Riot, The Foundling Review, The Bicycle Review, and the now unfortunately defunct Writer’s Bloc