Thursday, June 23, 2016

Author Interview: Daniel Clausen and Harry Whitewolf

Today's interview is with two authors. They wrote a collection of short stories, essays, games, and cartoons that revolves around the challenges of writing, rejection, and literature. Those authors are Daniel Clausen, and Harry Whitewolf. 

The bio on Daniel Clausen: Daniel has wanted to be a writer ever since he was in elementary school. He has published stories and articles in such magazines as Slipstream, Black Petals, Spindrift, Zygote in my Coffee, and Leading Edge Science Fiction. He has written four books: The Sage and the Scarecrow (a novel), the Lexical Funk (a short story collection), Reejecttion (short story/ essay collection), and The Ghosts of Nagasaki (a novel).

The bio on Harry Whitewolf: Harry Whitewolf is not only a contemporary poet of cutting edge pop prose (with books like New Beat Newbie and Two Beat Newbie), he is also a storyteller of true crazy travelling tales that read like fiction (Route Number 11 and The Road To Purification).

ReejecttIIon, a collaboration with author Daniel Clausen, contains all manner of stories, skits and titbits, and is Harry's first published fiction.

Harry's writing has a distinctive style all of its own, but its beat driven prose is somewhat inspired by those tea toking cheap trick beatnik geniuses of bygone bebop days.

He is a forty year old Englishman who smokes too much, he hopes to see world peace in his lifetime, and yes, Harry believes miracles are possible.

1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Daniel - Really early! Like around third or fourth grade. My teachers gave a shy kid a platform to shine by letting me read my work aloud to the class. That feeling stayed with me into adulthood.
Harry - It’s only been in the last few years that writing has become my main passion, but I started writing stories and poems at an early age. I self-published my first magazine when I was only 10, and it sold out at school lunch break. That’s still my biggest success!

2. How long does it take you to write a book?
Daniel - It takes approximately four years for me. Lately, though, I’ve embraced the idea of smaller projects that can be finished quickly. ReejecttIIon took about six to seven months. Of course, the book isn’t really finished! We still have to get people to read it. I think I’m going to follow a pattern now - one six month project; one four year project. 
Harry - Apart from ReejecttIIon, I write poetry and travel books. It’s hard to say how long the poetry books take to get together, but each travel book was about nine months in the making - about four months to write, another three months to rewrite and edit, and a month or two to polish. But then the travel books also had to be lived first - so you could say they took some years to come to fruition!

3. What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
Daniel - Unfortunately, my writing schedule is all over the place. This might be a reason why I haven’t had more success professionally. That being said, my “don’t force it” attitude keeps me sane and relatively happy. 
Harry - I try to avoid schedules in life as much as possible, so the same goes for my writing! Although I did have to be more organised for ReejecttIIon, seeing as it was a collaboration.

4. What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Daniel - I’m not sure it’s a quirk, but I would say the range of stuff I write is pretty impressive -- humor, literary, sci-fi, blog posts, letters to family, foreign policy essays, literary essays. At some point, I actually want to tackle a genre or format that I hate to see if I could do that too. That would be chick lit, sitcoms, or romance. Don’t tempt me! I’ll do it. 
Harry - I admire Daniel’s multi-abilities, but please don’t write a chick lit romance mate! It’ll be the first book of yours I won’t want to read. As for my own writing - well, it’s all pretty quirky.

5. Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Daniel- I find that most of my book ideas happen organically. I have so many story and book ideas that I regularly make it a habit of throwing away ideas and notes that I don’t think I’ll ever use. 
Harry - Yeah, I never intend to write any of my books. They just kind of happen. 

6. When did you write your first book and how old were you?
Daniel - Well, that kind of depends on your definition of a “book.” Even when I was in elementary school I got in the habit of marketing my work by giving it away to people. I made a 120-page short story collection when I was 19, made 20 photocopies of it, and gave it away to people who were interested in my writing. I would say my first bold attempt though was “Sage and the Scarecrow” which I finished when I was 21 and began selling at the coffee shop where I worked. It was quite an experience, and I learned a lot from it. 
Harry - I self-published a poetry collection in my mid-twenties. It was made in the old fashioned way: printing it out at home, folding lots of sheets of A4 paper, stapling it together, and getting too many paper cuts along the way.

7. What do you like to do when you're not writing? 
Daniel - Well, reading! I also like to work out. I like to take long walks. I’ve watched a lot of TV lately (Farscape, Community, Wilfred), but this is unusual for me. I’m at an unusual point in my life. My default, though, is reading (You can read my many reviews on goodreads -- Wait did I just transition back into talking about writing?) . 
Harry - I like making prank phone calls to Justin Bieber.

8. What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
Daniel - Writing is a far lonelier activity than others in the arts. I don’t think it’s entirely healthy. So, if you’re a serious writer, I suggest developing a robust social life to offset the long bouts of loneliness. 
Harry - I was surprised I didn’t go more insane than I already am; Daniel’s right about it being a lonely profession.

9. Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work? What impact have they had on your writing?
Daniel - Douglas Adams, Toni Morrison, Haruki Murakami, JD Salinger, Philip K Dick. I could go on and on. 
Harry - I don’t feel like any authors have directly influenced me, but there’s definitely a trace of the Beats in my travel and poetry books. My stories in ReejecttIIon are quite different to my other work, and they’re mostly humorous, so I guess some of those were inspired by people like Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, Spike Milligan, Woody Allen and Bill Hicks. 

10. What do you think makes a good story?
Daniel - I don’t know that I could ever answer that in a final way. There are some standard definitions: a main character has to go through a meaningful change; a good story should have elements of dramatic tension; a good story should spark some form of empathy for another person. 
All of those are fine, but there is an irony that needs to be understood. If you ask a storyteller to explain something, then you have taken him or her out of their natural element. I think of good stories as the counterpoint to explaining or rationalizing something. The best stories are events that are otherwise inexplicable or force you into uncomfortable moments of empathy. 
One of my writing teachers once told me, “The best writers are absolutely incapable of explaining their own work.” 
If this explanation makes any sense whatsoever, it might mean that I’m not very good. 
Harry - What do I think makes a good story? Any story makes a good story if it’s written by someone who knows how to write! If it’s original and it has something to say, I’ll be interested in reading it.

By reading ReejecttIIon, it’s likely you’ll discover: colorful short stories, funny flash fiction, hilarious cartoons, riveting reviews, wondrous anagrams and other assorted skits and titbits of under-achieving literary genius.

If you’re lucky, you might come across sci-fi tales about the privatization of words, horror stories about hair and ruminations on indie writing. It’s also possible that you’ll find commentary on the hazards of greedy literary agents and stories about washed up movie directors who receive financial backing from space aliens.

Publisher’s Meekly calls it: “a thought-provoking fable about technological hubris and the hazards of bioengineering.” (*This may or may not be referring to Jurassic Park and not ReejecttIIon.)

Reader’s Indigestion says: “this book quietly stands as one of the most powerful statements of the Civil Rights movement.” (*This may or may not actually refer to To Kill a Mockingbird and not ReejecttIIon.)

But why not read this seriously comical scattergun book and see what you can discover about ReejecttIIon for yourself?

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