Tag Archives: Stephen King

Interview: Kit Daven

This week’s interview comes from Kit Daven who I met at Ad Astra a few years ago. I was invited to go to it by my friend Pasi who ran the con suite and I’m really glad I did. I met a bunch of great people, including, as you’ll see, Kit.

Kit Daven Interview

What is your quest? As a writer, my current quest is rooted in the exploration of fictional narrative, primarily novels and short stories. In my youth, I spent many years exploring poetry and short fiction, published my own zines, and attempted several longer works, including an unfinished, abandoned epic fantasy. The maze of fictional narrative is vast, and the paths to be taken many. Here are some of the authors who have stood at pivotal intersections and either handed me a power key or pointed the way.

Roald Dahl was the first to hand me a golden ticket and lead me to the entrance of the maze. In the earliest turns and bends, C. S. Lewis pointed out the rabbit holes and mirrors, and Astrid Lindgren provided me a young companion, a strong girl with carrot-coloured pigtails, who took me in a little deeper. From imaginative hallways down into dark tunnels, Edgar Allan Poe showed me mood, atmosphere, and mystery. H. P. Lovecraft showed me that the unknown and the ambiguous could be effective, and William Hope Hodgson made the sea forever creepy. Later on, a young man in a possessed car drove me a good distance with Stephen King, from whom I learned that in-depth characterization can be done without putting a reader to sleep. William Blake showed me how to develop my own eclectic rhythms and that without self-publishing his work, no one would know his writing today. Tanith Lee pointed the way to the flat earth, where I explored style and concision and how to bend fairytales and myths. Douglas Adams showed me you can be funny and smart at the same time. There have been other writers across the mediums who have been influential, all noteworthy yet too many to list. Recently, I took a turn at George RR Martin and am exploring world building in more depth.

All of them have been teachers. All of them have told me, “Go forth but beware trolls!”

What is your favorite color? Purple. My favourite colour is always purple.

Experimentation is an important aspect for my stories. I tend to start with rules and see how I can bend them. One rule in particular was quite fun to play with while writing A Xiinisi Trilogy. The rule goes like this: unnamed characters shouldn’t be given dialogue. So, I went ahead and gave the occasional unnamed character dialogue, by putting it in italics. I made sure there were several background characters available to chime in on whatever was happening, offering three to four bits of dialogue that acted together as a beat in the narrative. I did this sparingly throughout each novel to great effect.

Who does she think she is?
You can’t do that.
Hack!
Rules Schmules! I learn them mostly to break them, then I play with them until they cry.

When it comes to characters, I love creating foils, because like real people, they want to show you how they see themselves. A foil, however, peels away that veneer and shows you what they are like beneath the surface. In The Forgotten Gemstone, the main character Ule is hungry and tired. She has been invited to sit by a fire where she patiently listens to stories told by a boy. The boy offers her what he’s been cooking over the fire, and after she discovers she’s nearly eaten a roasted spider, she storms off into the desert in a temper tantrum. At this point in the narrative, she’s not as mature as she likes to think she is.

Kit Daven Portrait

In general, I really love to listen to what the story wants, how it wants to be told and presented. A project that I’ve been working on for a couple of years has been calling out for multiple POVs. When I mean multiple, I mean every character will get at least one turn in contributing to the narrative. I’m not sure how to present that yet, but I’ll figure it out.

Oh, and I love the colour orange, too.

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush? (What are some of the challenges you’ve faced that have frustrated you? Maybe some creative failures that you’ve learned from)

The biggest challenge I face is rooted in a huge fail on my part. I quit writing for many years over a decade ago. I’d quit before, but this last time was for good. I was writing straight literary fiction, and I crashed into this wall. I’d get dry tongue when I sat down to write. My body would vibrate and not in a good way. I used to love poetry but couldn’t bring myself to write it anymore, because my favorite pieces elicited zero response from readers. My readers (mostly family and friends) liked the literary stuff. It was good, never great. Then, I decided to try a new approach, and I found this beautiful intersection of writing from both my heart and my mind. However, the reactions I received were ones of discomfort and I often heard, “I couldn’t say that.” At the time, I interpreted these reactions as negative responses.

No longer enjoying the process, I gave up. I stopped writing fiction. I stopped reading. I must have purged a couple hundred books out my library and got them down enough to fill two tall bookshelves, then channeled my creative energy into art. It was, at that time, the right thing to do and a huge relief. Later, however, I realized being a writer is very much a part of who I am, whether I like it or not. To reintroduce myself to the subject, I began reading online about writing and writers and discovered something interesting. Those reactions my readers had all those years ago were, in fact, progress, but I hadn’t recognized it at the time.

The first challenge was to get my writing skills back up to where they were before I quit. So I decided to dive into writing a novel and completing it By Any Means Necessary. That novel turned into a trilogy, and not only has my skill level returned, but I’ve leveled up. The second challenge I continue to struggle with is catching up on reading, especially currently published books. I’m a tortoise. I read slowly, and I write carefully, so I always feel behind the times and suspect I may never catch up to where other writers are. Doesn’t mean I won’t try. 😉 Who knows, perhaps with enough practice and time, I’ll pick up speed.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade? My Holy Hand Grenade is all shiny and gold and beveled, and on each bevel is a mark: the question mark. The almighty question. That is by far my biggest power. I ask questions, a lot of them. Questions drive characters, they propel plots, they make you think, and when something doesn’t make sense, I ask What’s wrong? How can I make this better? Can a woodchuck chuck wood? And why am I suddenly channeling Chuck Wendig?

The Other Castle

When I was a kid, my parents got so annoyed with my questions, they bought me an encyclopedia set. My teachers cringed when I tried to articulate questions and did their best to answer but couldn’t quite grasp what I was asking. People run when they see me, because I ask hard questions, the kind that can’t be answered with glib, greeting card responses. I’m a question monster, and I finally realized that my super power is, in fact, troubleshooting. I do it all the time with everything now, especially my writing.

Questions lead me down interesting rabbit holes in my narrative, and they help me get back out again when the rabbits down there want to serenade me or paint my toenails. Questions are sensitive beasts. Can I write a short story? isn’t the same as How can I write a short story? One questions the writer’s ability, the other questions their approach.

For the longest time, I didn’t think I could write a short story. Every time I tried, it turned into a novelette or longer. The short story format eludes me most of the time, but I persisted with my questions. Then last year, for the CBC Short Story Competition, I finally wrote a legitimate short story, less than 2100 words. That in itself has been my biggest achievement lately. So, when I found out the story didn’t make it to the long list or win, I honestly didn’t care. I’m in the process of going over it again, making a few more changes, and then will start submitting it to other markets. Now I want to know, How long will it take until someone wants to publish it? Who will publish it? And where’d that rabbit go?

When I finish The Starry Rise, that’ll be my next huge success. Not only will it complete the trilogy, it’ll be a third novel under my belt, which I think is a notable milestone, and a tricky one, too. I’ve read a lot about writers throwing the towel in after the third book, but that isn’t going to happen for me. I have too many stories I’d like to tell, too many questions to explore.

Lightning Round
  • Favorite Muppet? Animal. No! Sloan. Wait! Animal with Sloan. Oooo, is there a fan fiction forum for this? Oh, and Beaker.
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Depends.
  • Favorite Sports Team? Hell, no!
  • Cake or Pie? Neither.
  • Lime or Lemon? Both.
  • Favorite Chip Dip? My mouth.
  • Wet or Dry? Towels?
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? My mom; she plays the harp.
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Hell, no!
  • Favorite Superhero? Unfortunately, growing tired of them, but I am looking forward to the second Deadpool movie.
  • Steak Temperature? Medium rare to well done, because I’m a heathen.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Laverne & Shirley
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Autumn
  • Favorite Pet? Siren and Skye, sibling Siamese cats, as opposite to one another as you can get. Siren is one of those quiet surfer, vegan, yoga, pansexual, meditation cats, who gives you these looks that say, “It would be really wise for you to pet me, dude.” Skye, on the other hand, is an all around brat, very direct, very forceful, very demanding of attention. She walks like she’s cruising for a fight, and she’s likely to be heard saying. “Pet me, dammit! Now!”
  • Best Game Ever? I go through phases. My last phase was Skyrim. I picked up a special edition with three or four add-ons. Installed them all in one go. I don’t get much time to play anymore. I figure it’ll be years before I finish it.
  • Coffee or Tea? Tea. I just quit coffee, so tea.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Fantasy.

What question(s) would you like to ask me?

What kinds of tactics do you use to keep yourself on the writer’s path?

My Answer: I think the biggest thing is to listen to your body and see what’s working. For example, I built a really good office in my basement. Then I realized I never used it. I put an office in a first floor room, and it worked well, even though I never really set it up completely. I’m excited, because as I’m moving back into the house that room will be my office from the start, meaning I can arrange it exactly the way I want.

But I’ve also found that I sometimes need to work in a different environment. Right now, I’m sitting in my favorite place, a bar called Brewbaker’s. They have good beer, a tasty salad I really like (especially with extra jalapenos and avocado), and a tall half-booth near an outlet that is just really comfortable to me. It’s been perfect, and I missed it while being in Omaha. Basically, it gets back to

the main rule: “There’s one true way of writing, and it’s what works for you to get words on the page.” If you find you’re having problems being productive in your home, go to a different room. Or go to a coffee shop. Or a bar. Or a library. Change the music you listen to. Turn it off. Turn it louder. Put sports on in the background. Or Supernatural. Or Firefly. Or whatever.

And if you’re stuck on a project, start a different one. Asimov apparently had a bunch of stories/novels going on at once. When he’d get stuck with one, he’d shift to another. By the end of the year, I hope to have built that process up so I can get more than a couple of short stories each year to go along with 2-3 novels. For me, if I know what a chapter/scene will be, i can write the first draft pretty quickly. If I’m fighting one novel, going to a short story can let my backbrain come up with the next set of scenes or vice versa.

Basically, if you’re stuck in a rut, change something. Anything.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And Where can we find you?

Final question for you: What should I have asked but did not?

You should have asked, “What is A Xiinisi Trilogy?”

A Xiinisi Trilogy follows the adventures and misadventures of Ule, a trans-dimensional world builder with the ability to manipulate matter and energy, including her own body.

The first book, The Forgotten Gemstone, is primarily a fantasy, in which Ule finds herself trapped in a world she created and must find a way back to her realm. In doing so, she discovers an unprecedented phenomenon, the presence of demons. In the second book, The Other Castle, the story takes on a more violent and mysterious tone when Ule discovers she’s been poisoned. Determined to figure out who murdered her and why, she returns in a new form, that of a man, and discovers there’s more to these demons than she first thought. And in the third book, The Starry Rise, fantasy segues into science fiction and a bit of cosmic horror as Ule embarks on the last leg of her journey, during which she figures out why the demons are there and her true calling as she undergoes her final transformations. The trilogy explores themes of self-identity, transformation, the shadow self, and finding purpose. Also, it is queer friendly.

You should have also asked, “Do you have any sample fiction of your work available online?”

Why yes, Rob. Yes, I do.

Forgotten Gemstone

The Forgotten Gemstone

The Other Castle

And, jeez Rob, why didn’t you ask, “When is the third book in A Xiinisi Trilogy coming out?”

The Starry Rise is coming out in Late Summer/Autumn 2018.

Author Biography

Kit Daven is a long time writer but has only started promoting herself as an indie writer in the latter part of 2013. To date, she has published the novels The Forgotten Gemstone and The Other Castle, the first two installments in A Xiinisi Trilogy, through her author press Eager Eye Books. She enjoys writing along the darker spectrum of fantasy, and blends her fiction with science fiction, suspense, adventure, horror, mystery, and romance. Weird tales are her favourite kind of story. She resides in Cambridge, Ontario.


Thanks for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326.

If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at rob@robhowell.org.

Also, if you want to join my mailing list, where I’ll announce every interview, as well as what’s going on in my life, go to www.robhowell.org and fill out the form (Name and Email Address) or drop me an email and I’ll add you.

 

Interview: Todd Fischer

I know Todd Fischer as Colyne from Ealdormere. Among his other skills, he’s an amazing poet who can write in just about every medieval poetic style, which I can attest is not always easy. The sonnet ain’t got nothin’ on drottkvaet.

But as you’ll see, he can write much more than that.

What is your quest? I am eclectic by nature and I think that comes through I my writing preferences—namely, that I do not have any. I’ve written fiction, non-fiction and poetry; I’ve written horror, sci-fi, fantasy and “regular” fiction. When I first began to write, however, I was primarily focused on horror fiction. I was a young teen and I had just discovered the works of H. P. Lovecraft while camping in the woods of northern Canada. On a trip to town we had stumbled across an underground bookstore—literally underground, not figuratively—and after descending the concrete steps and entering the shop I was immediately drawn to the horror section where I found a large tome that arrested my attention. The cover was black and white but had red highlights, emphasizing the alien eyes and mouths of the depicted alien entities. I had heard of Lovecraft, thanks to the Real Ghostbusters episode featuring Cthulhu, so I eagerly bought the book and read voraciously from its font under the leafy canopy of the forest. This, I decided, is what I wanted to create.

Todd Fischer

So I started writing horror stories. I dabbled in some fantasy as well. Through the rest of high school I took part in some writing programs which resulted in Leon Rooke (author of the award winning Shakespeare’s Dog) reading one of my stories and telling me I was a sophisticated storyteller. That sealed the deal for me! I was gonna be a writer!

I applied to York University to study Creative Writing, which was a three year program, but you had to pass an introductory course in your first year before you could apply. (So a four year commitment in total.) You had to send in a portfolio to apply for the intro course, and only a certain number of applicants would be selected. Likewise, if you passed the course, you went through a similar application process for the actual course. It was a harrowing experience and somehow I managed to get into the program. The program exposed me to numerous forms of writing (as did all the English courses I also ended up taking) and I began to work in more than just horror and fantasy fiction.

During this time I got married, and my wife and I started “imelod, the litzine of horror and the bizarre” and published around twenty issues over the years publishing folks such as WH Pugmire, Jeffrey Thomas, John Ford, Stanley C. Sargeant and Ian Rogers. We also published chapbooks and a few comics. Our bestselling issues were those devoted to Lovecraft and eventually we started a second imprint called Mythosian dedicated to work of the Lovecraftian ouvre.

When I graduated university the plan was for me to work part time and devote the rest of my days to writing. Things did not go according to plan. As they say, man plans, Cthulhu rises from R’lyeh and consumes the world. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this is when my severe depression began. I had always suffered from depression (we know think since childhood) but this is when it began to become insidious and truly interfere with my life. I began to work full time in a company where the atmosphere was toxic, and I stayed there for just over ten years. My depression increased. I could no longer handle the constant rejection that comes hand-in-hand with being a writer. I stopped writing. We stopped publishing imelod.

About ten years passed. I went through a horrible six year stretch when my depression was at its worst, culminating in a breakdown. I was at a loss.

By this time I had joined a medieval recreation society and I was feeling adrift within it, as if I had nothing to offer the group. One of my friends suggested I try writing wording for club awards (in the Ontario chapter of this society each award handed out usually has personalized wordings). I had done some writing for the club when I started but had stopped as my depression got worse. So I took that suggestion and began to write again. From researching and writing these awards I began to write stories and articles and—most notably—poems. I wrote two monographs for the society’s monograph series and published poems and articles in several other society publications. One of my books (Osse Poetices) grew out of a project I did for the club.

In 2017 I decided it was time I got back up to bat and I began writing again for a wider audience. And that is the goal of my quest, my MacGuffin. While publication credits are excellent, and I am glad to be getting some again, it is the simple act of creation period that is my real goal.

(ed. note: One of the reasons I started writing fiction was to pull myself out of my own dark places. They weren’t as dark as what Todd faced, but dark enough. The need of a creator to create, I guess.)

What is your favorite color? I generally prefer stories (or poems) that are weird or surreal, such as the writings of China Miéville. Whimsical, but dark. You may find parts of my writing inspired by Shel Silverstein, Lewis Carrol, Mercer Mayer, Stephen King, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Thomas King. My visual depictions draw on Tim Burton and the Rankin-Bass specials and films.

I prefer language that is direct, and usually conversational. Realistic dialogue. I don’t mind when rules are broken, but to truly break them, you have to understand them.

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush? As I mentioned above, I have severe depression. I also have several other mental and physical conditions that can make concentration difficult. It tends to take me a long time to finish a project if it’s longer than a few pages. I am highly self-critical and constantly doubt the validity and worth of my work. Since I work in short bursts when the stars are right, I sometimes rush things through during these manic periods, which means I do not spend enough time editing.

Occasionally I scratch my head when I receive a rejection from an editor. One specifically said they doubted the veracity of several details of a scene in my submission that was autobiographical—each incident they said was unbelievable had actually occurred. (Still, getting personal feedback is a rarity, and I appreciated receiving it.)

(ed. note: A perfect example of writing needing to make sense, where history doesn’t care if it makes sense or not.)

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade? I have always been told that my dialogue is realistic, and that my imagery can be a “tour de force”.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? I think I identify the most these days with Kermit the Frog, who feels as if they weight of the world is on his shoulders, who is desperately trying to navigate this crazy world while creating art.
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Creamy.
  • Favorite Sports Team? I do not follow the sports ball, so I generally just root for the home team wherever I am.
  • Cake or Pie? Cake, of the cheese variety.
  • Lime or Lemon? Lemon, in an ade.
  • Favorite Chip Dip? Dill.
  • Wet or Dry? Lubed is always preferable.
  • Favorite Musical Performer we’ve Never Heard Of? Leo Moracchioli’s heavy metal covers on YouTube are great.
  • Whisky or Whiskey? I don’t tend to drink much, and when I do I’m generally not picky.
  • Favorite Superhero? Wolverine. As a short, hairy Canadian I always identified with him. I also loved his bestial nature and his claws were cool, yo.
  • Steak Temperature? Well done. My stomach demands it.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? All in the Family.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Autumn. The season of apples, and pumpkins, of baking pies and crunching leaves, of oranges and reds, and All Hallow’s Eve. Spring is my least favourite season. It is cool and damp and wet and all the snow melts revealing the trash it had been hiding.
  • Favorite Pet? (provide pictures if you want) Mine, of course. She’s a rescue; a beagle-lab mix named O’ber (which is short for October). She has come a long way since we adopted her but she still sometimes has issues with other dogs. I have also had cats, rats and gerbils.
  • Best Game Ever? I play way to many games to choose one as the best of all time (card, board, RPG, video, etc). However, I loved the Mass Effect video games (especially 3), especially the setting they had created. For board games I enjoy paying Scythe, Parade, and Firefly: the Game. While I know the system is not everyone’s favourite, I grew up playing the Palladium Books RPGs and am still partial to them.
  • Coffee or Tea? Tea, but usually only if it’s iced. (In Canada, iced tea is sweetened. If I’m in the States I enjoy both iced and sweetened tea.)
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? I generally think that a lot of sci-fi is just fantasy in space anyway, so I tend to gravitate more to fantasy. If it’s dark, that’s even better.

What question(s) would you like to ask me? Just how much of your writing is grounded in actual history?

My Answer: That depends upon what you mean by grounded in. If you are asking if I have specific events that I am writing around, generally not.

However, I tend to write sort of like making a stew or pot roast. I don’t have a set recipe, more of a gathering of what’s at hand. Yet, at the bottom it’s almost always a beef roast.

History is sort of the base to everything for me, but it’s often not the big things. Trade routes, logistics, types of food that are available, materials and techniques used to produce stuff are all things I pay attention to. For example, I am constantly checking to see what vegetables and fruit are available in various places during different times of the year. I won’t say they’re always precise, but you can generally expect that what characters glean during their travels is, in fact, accessible.

That’s not to say that I don’t also pull from real events, people, and places. I do that, too, especially from stuff I find using Wikipedia’s random article function.

It’s all what comes to mind at a given moment that gets tossed into the pot.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

Many thanks to Todd for taking the time to join me. Take a look at his work. Or don’t and risk Cthulhu’s wrath. Choose wisely 😀


If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at rob@robhowell.org.

Also, if you want to join my mailing list, where I’ll announce every interview, as well as what’s going on in my life, go to www.robhowell.org and fill out the form (Name and Email Address) or drop me an email and I’ll add you.