Folks, please welcome Dean Wilson back for another interrogation! He was kind enough to submit to my questions once again. I thoroughly enjoyed Book 1 in The Children of Telm series, The Call of Agon. And now the sequel, The Road to Rebirth is out. Please enjoy our little chat about Norse mythology, how every day events can influence writing, and avoiding deadly but beautiful fictional beasts.
Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?
Yes, but in very different ways. While many people really believed in various gods, goddesses, and mythological creatures and events in the past, that is generally not true today. Fantasy is explicitly labelled as fiction, while the mythology of the past was part of complex religions and belief systems. Of course, not all people of the ancient world believed in the literal truth of these tales, whether it was Egyptian, Roman, Greek, Norse, or even Jewish, Christian, Islamic, or any other religion or tradition. There is a core human need for inspiring and evocative tales to help us make sense of the world around us, and ourselves, and encourage us to do the right thing, and discourage evil deeds. I think an element of that will always remain with us, even with the vast majority of us recognizing scientific fact in place of mythological constructs.
That does not mean, however, that powerful modern fiction does not have an effect. We only need to look at the investment many fans make in the worlds of Middle-earth, or Star Wars, Star Trek, or any other alternative universe. Invented languages are studied as ardently as real ones, and there are many scholars of these texts and films, just as there are for mythology and religion. The constant success of speculative fiction, and of fiction in general, shows just how important these seemingly “not real” stories are, and many people and cultures are changed drastically by books like these.
Given the opportunity, what fantastical beast of fiction would you like to encounter in the wild? Which would you avoid at all costs?
This is a tough choice, especially because so many creatures sound wonderful, but would also be very scary. The majesty and intelligence of dragons makes them very intriguing, while the pegasus combines the beauty of horses and angels. I don’t think I’d like to meet a gorgon, as I’d rather not be turned to stone. Likewise, I don’t think fighting a hydra would go down too well, with all those heads that keep growing back. Thankfully I, and all of us, can encounter these and more from the safety of a book.
Conventions, book signings, blogging, etc.: what are some of your favorite aspects of self-promotion and what are some of the least favorite parts of self-promotion?
I like anything that connects me directly with readers, where I can find out what they really thought of my work, the story, the characters, the world, etc. I’m less enthused by promotions that are essentially one-way ads, where readers are bombarded with “buy me” notices, even if they are veiled as something else. I don’t learn anything from that kind of promotion, so I cannot use it to improve my writing and make the next book even better. Direct engagement will always trump any other means.
I haven’t yet read the Edda, the Norse tales that heavily influenced Tolkien, although I do know many of the tales indirectly and have arguably been, even unintentionally, influenced by it. There is a lot of Shakespeare I haven’t read yet either, and I’d like to correct that. In fact, I recently bought his full collection.
With the modern popularity to ebooks, a book is no longer limited to a specific genre shelf. It is now quite easy to label place an ebook in multiple genres (i.e. YA, Fantasy, Horror). How do you see this affecting readers? Have you been inadvertently lured outside your reading comfort zone?
The growth of ebooks has certainly helped with those odd, genre-defying books, which might not succeed under one heading. It also helps any book that could be under several categories, as it will appeal beyond just the fantasy fans, or just the horror fans, and so forth.
That said, I don’t tend to tuck into genres I’m not enthused by (like horror) unless I really want to learn something from it (like how to build suspense, or, by reading Stephen King, how to develop strong characters). I think most readers know what they like, and the category acts only as an initial filter. The cover, blurb, and eventually the book itself all have to appeal to him or her.
As a published author, what non-writing/reading activities would you recommend to aspiring authors?
I think all activities can benefit an author to some degree, but some are more suited for certain genres. Video games can help writers understand what an immersive world feels like. Films help writers develop their ability to capture events visually, and thus communicate visually to a reader. Music can help writers develop pace and rhythm–effectively the “score” to the book. History can help writers with ideas, or with generating realism. Mythology can help writers identify universal archetypes. I don’t think there’s anything that writers cannot benefit from and bring into their work.
What does your Writer’s Den look like? Neat and tidy or creative mess? can you write anywhere or do you need to be holed up in your author cave?
It’s neat and tidy for a short while, and then very messy for a much longer time. I can sometimes end up with piles of books on the floor alongside me, despite having several bookshelves behind me. I may have various notes lying about the place, and stuff I should have thrown out years ago. Then it’s neat and tidy for a short while before it begins all over again.
I can write anywhere, but I am most productive in my office. A lot of that has to do with having access to all my digital files, and my being used to a PC. It’s not the same accessing them from a smartphone or tablet. I prefer to have a large screen and a real full-size keyboard.
I’m not one for throwing parties or having celebratory dinners for stuff like this. To me it was just one stepping stone along the path, and it just encouraged me to do more and aim higher. I don’t believe in “good enough.” I always want to push for something better.
Thanks again for this opportunity, and for your time and attention.
Places to Stalk Dean F. Wilson