Frequently Asked Questions
“What do you write?”
I call myself a speculative fiction author even though that raises more questions than it answers. I write primarily in secondary worlds—alternative universes, planets, histories—that feature fantastic elements which may or may not fall nicely into certain genres. My manuscripts usually have some sort of supernatural or science-fiction element, but when I say fantasy, I don’t always mean Tolkien-esque, and I never want someone to get tofu when they were really looking for a hamburger. The rules of magic and spirituality vary from piece to piece, but the whimsical and dark tone remains consistent. There’s always romance, always the enduring bond of two people, always sarcasm.
Or… “Where are your books?”
If what you’re really asking is who the hell I am, I have published short stories in a variety of literary journals, premiered play scripts on the west coast, and put my hand in all kinds of writing projects. My greatest notoriety comes from my blog, What’s Worse than Was
, which achieves humble success in discussing writing philosophies, conflicts, and telling good anecdotes about the life of a struggling writer. Since its launch in 2011, it has achieved some loyal fans. However, at the time of writing this, I have not yet published a novel for the public’s viewing, for various, non-recommended reasons.
Instead, as my blog grew and people wanted to know more about my writing, I offered the free reading, Stories of the Wyrd
, to stave away the hordes of impatient readers while I attempt to publish a debut novel.
“Why don’t you self-publish?”
When readers and friends find the number of manuscripts I have lying around, this is typically the first question to come up. I don’t disparage self-publishing, but it is definitely the more difficult path—the same level of work, except it falls all on your shoulders, less credibility, and fewer opportunities to be warned you’re being an idiot.
I am far better at negotiating than at telling if I’m an idiot.
Really, I am not self-published (outside of posting Stories of the Wyrd
online, of course) for the same reason I am not traditionally published; I liked writing and put off the process of getting it to the readers. Up until recently, there were no manuscripts I wanted to be printed in their state. Some are not that far from the point they’d need to be, but still require some tweaking. Truth is (and here’s where we get to the non-recommended reasons stated above), for a long time I just hadn’t pushed a manuscript to the stage where I feel like it should be viewed—I owed it to reach its full potential.
“I want to be a writer. Do you have any advice?”
My best advice changes from day to day. Right now, my most useful realization is this:
If I strictly followed conventional advice, I wouldn’t like my writing. If I strictly refused to follow it, I wouldn’t like my writing as much.
Listen to what other people have to say, but question it. Trust yourself, but dig deeper. The right answer is rarely simple, so be open-minded, respectful, and critical. Ask the right questions, get the right answers, make the right decisions.
“Can I interview you for my blog or website?”
Or… “Can I share something you’ve written/made/drawn?”
Or… “Can you read something I’ve written?”
Or… “Can you share this important thingy?”
Or… “Can I be a beta-reader?”
Unless you are a constituent of the anti-adverb coalition, I’m a fairly chill and empathetic person, so I always say it doesn’t hurt to ask. I won’t bite. Not through the internet anyway.
Don’t be disappointed if I say no; my schedule changes drastically and it’s not uncommon that I bite off more than I can chew. I will be flattered that you asked, bare minimum, though I do hate telling people no. Today I will most likely say yes, but my flexibility is likely to change over time based on who I’m partnered with, what I’m doing, and what you’re asking, so I go by context to context.
There are some legal ramifications for authors reading others’ manuscripts, so please do not attach anything when initially inquiring. I won’t open it unless I have told you I would do so. This is to protect both of us from lawsuits, plagiarism, and any sort of legal confusion. However, I really do enjoy giving my opinion, (like really
enjoy giving my opinion) and if you like what I do and what I have to say on my blog, you should reach out. I can, at least, answer questions.
However, I do not promote work I haven’t read
. I did this once for a new friend who asked, and my fans tore him apart. The work was not very well crafted and people were annoyed at both of us. I’ve been asked for reviews and found myself in an uncomfortable position when I didn’t like it. Therefore, I have a hard policy that I do not agree to solicitations for public reviews or promotion
. I do interview authors
As for sharing my work, all of it currently is copyrighted or notarized under my name, meaning that I retain full rights. In those circumstances, I love for people to talk about me. Hell, I love to talk about me. If you like my artwork, my quilts, or my stories, feel free to discuss and share with others. But please help a starving artist and make it clear where the original come from (I don’t want to be accused of stealing my own work, for one thing), and always consider if your sharing might be subtracting from my or my publishers’ revenue, credit, or reputation. Sending people directly to my site rather than just copying and pasting can be extremely supportive. My best advertisement is word of mouth.
And use common sense. Taking all of my work and putting it on your website, using something I’ve created to make money for yourself without asking, or taking credit for my work will result in an immediate cease and desist. Basic copyright infringement does apply if I feel you are being malicious or willfully obtuse. If you aren’t sure, just contact me and ask. In some cases, I might give permission for something I would have had a problem with if you hadn’t contacted me.
You can find me through any social media or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“What are your favorite books?”
My favorite writer of all time is Bill Watterson, creator of the comic, Calvin and Hobbes
. It must be included because he has, by far, been the most influential person in my career. I’m not idiotic enough to compare myself to him, but you can definitely see a lot of his style, focus, and choices affect mine. We have very much the same sense of humor and interest in the deep bond between two beings.
I also love Neil Gaiman (period), Howl’s Moving Castle, The Prize Winner, The Black Cauldron, and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
. My favorite story throughout high school was the Artemis Fowl series.
“Is your writing autobiographical?”
If by that you mean, “Are your characters you running around with a poorly crafted flesh mask?” the answer is no.
I have never been the sort of person to “live through” the characters. I am not Harry Potter, though I might fantasize about being his friend.
There are occasions in which a character initially spawned from a day dream—like I may be driving through traffic wishing I could magically manifest a person to get into the carpool lane—but the second their backstory is different, I no longer see them as a version of me. If we don’t have the same name, same memories, or same appearance, how are they me?
My characters act on their own accord, and many times they do not respond in a way that I would or even do things I agree with. I will sometimes surprise myself by laughing at what assholes they all are. Usually, I find my dickishness soberingly obnoxious.
I also rarely base events on my real life. I do take from my experiences of course, I’m not sure how you could not, and my characters have parts of me in them. I relate to them, empathize with them. I often naturally talk about concerns of mine at the time of writing. I may use a line from a real person. I may base something off a real place. But if you were to look at what I am inspired by and then the end result, you often wouldn’t be able to see the connection because it takes from multiple places/people and combines into something new.
I also dream in third-person often, which is kind of weird.
“How do you stay motivated?”
Self-awareness can open so many doors. Motivation is personal and what inspires or propels an individual might not be the same for the next.
My more universal advice, I’d speculate, is firstly to vary yourself. What that means is fairly loose, but you’d be surprised how doing little things like switching rooms, changing the font you’re typing in, going from computer to notebook, switching from outlining to pantsing, changing the P.O.V., or working on different manuscripts can sky-rocket your enthusiasm. Some things work for better for others, so just experiment. You never know what tactic you’ll end up falling in love with.
The second thing is to be honest with yourself. A lot of writers shame themselves for wanting things they find shallow and so they deny that they want them at all. Yet, motivation is fairly instinctual, not logic based. If you are motivated by pretty covers, you might realize that designing a pretty cover greatly increases productivity and/or quality. You might find it legitimately is a complete waste of time.
There is nothing wrong with wanting your book to be liked or for it to sell well, and admitting that’s what you want (if it is what you want) is a fundamental part of making effective decisions. But your tactics should make sense with your goals, not the other way around. If, for example, you want to be a prolific writer and want to write by inspiration only, but find that you’re not inspired that often, you need to make a change; either come up with a way to inspire yourself more frequently or try out forcing yourself to write a certain amount each day. But don’t just accept, “I’m just not inspired that often,” and prevent yourself from achieving what you actually want.
“Did you take any writing courses?”
Oh, so many. Not initially, and I somewhat recommend delaying it. I think spending some time with yourself, figuring out your opinions and what you want to be doing prior to getting too much external input can vastly enhance the learning experience. I really don’t recommend taking writing classes before you’ve written a bit for the sole reason that if you end up in a bad one it can be extremely detrimental. And there are some bad ones.
While having a good, optimistic, and respectful attitude is key to getting the bang for your buck, there are some very toxic people drawn to the arts. I have never had too much of a problem because I’ve always been a bit of an asshat myself, and we bounce off each other like two magnets of the same charge. But I know some wonderful people who were torn to shreds and demoralized by an unhappy and naïve aspiring writer simply because these kind hearted souls were too open to some dumbass’s opinion. They lacked the experience and awareness to recognize the unadulterated disrespect and bias. It’s happened right before my eyes, and I sometimes think, “If I didn’t know any better…”
You will better protect yourself the more you self-reflect. Gaining self-awareness can be overwhelming at first, and if you start getting too many voices—which may or may not be trusted—it can complicate the process.
Classes can be wonderful, enlightening, and brilliant. They can also be awful. It kind of just depends on the teacher and the specific group you have and is hard to predict. But I do recommend taking a chance, expecting to enjoy yourself, and again, think critically.
“Where do you get your ideas?”
From taking my fantasies too seriously. I too have dreams of fighting ninjas and magically being the one person who is not affected by an alien invasion, but I don’t get too far when I start to question, “But how
I generally have a small concept, and then figure out what would have to be true for that to work. Why are the aliens here? Why can’t they control me? Why do I suddenly have the superhuman ability to face kick a six-foot man?
By answering these questions, the story tends to get fully fledged out before I even have a chance to write it down.
“Why do you write?”
To have something to look forward to.
There are a lot of reasons why I write, and mostly, it’s all the reasons
. I won’t go into detail about the importance of having a variety of motivations, but I will say that the writing habit gives me some sort of goal, including short-term and long-term. When I have a crappy day, I think, “Two hours and I can go write.” When I have a crappy phase of my life, I think, “One day, I’ll be a successful writer.” It keeps me from alcoholism. In an ironic way.
Oh. And why I like writing so much is because I never grew up. But I did learn to be embarrassed about talking to myself. This was the best solution.
“Why do you offer Stories of the Wyrd for free?”
Stories of the Wyrd
, for those of you who don’t know, is my ongoing online serial of episodic short stories. It is free fiction I post (typically) monthly on my website.
The reason I created it was in two parts.
For starters, when my blog started to become popular, people asked about my books. Why wasn’t I promoting them? Where were they? I could send them to short stories I’d written, but it wasn’t exactly the same. Even though I had been writing for years and years, I felt a little like a fraud.
The other side was that when I started to take publication seriously, it changed things. The fun was sucked right out of it. I began to get a lot of external advice and that turned on the inner editor. Every time I wrote anything I questioned if it wouldn’t be too weird. “What would other people think?”
Stories of the Wyrd
is an escape for me, a free place to write what I want, connect with my readers, and still work on gaining a fan base as I attempt to pursue a harder, more stress-filled path.
“What are 'episodic' short stories?”
They are, simply put, exactly what they sound like. Like American sitcoms, each episode features the same characters, but has a self-sustaining story. Traditional episodic novels have a different story each chapter—think Huckleberry Finn
. Episodic short stories are stories that are satisfying in themselves, but allow for the audience—that desires—to have a more lasting relationship with the characters.
“Why episodic short stories?”
Recently, I have been feeling restricted by the medium. When I was a young(er), burgeoning writer, I always wanted to have a premise and then a series of conflicts akin to how television is written. I’d have a “pilot” and go from there. But the pilot would either get too long, or after I finished the premise, I’d be out of ideas. Often the story wouldn’t really have any driving plot, and I ended up having to go back in and insert through-lines.
While working on all these bigger novels, I’ve started trying too hard to be “professional,” and by that, I mean following standards and expectations in the industry. Now I’m not the sort of person to keep up appearances, but my experiences have taught me balance is key. Finding that balance is a bitch. So while I sought professionalism, constantly worrying about how other people will react to a decision, my decision making skills—and worse, my risk taking—has diminished. I wanted a space for trial and error, to make choices based on my own tastes/opinions, and to not have to be concerned about people wanting to buy it. BUT—and here’s the thing—I still wanted readers. I had been writing in isolation too long.
But I personally never read online fiction. Because the novels start and then aren’t finished and are often never edited enough as a whole piece (they can’t be if they’re not finished) to sustain immersion and deliver satisfaction, they are hard to commit to. So I knew it had to be short stories. The problem is I don’t like reading short stories either. I am a character person, and I get invested just in time to lose them forever.
Then one day, I got the idea from a misunderstanding. In an article about the writer who The Terminator
stole its plot from, I was told he had a series of supernatural short stories (maybe it said, “Shorts”). It was actually a Twilight Zone-esque television show. I thought, I want to do a series of supernatural shorts following the same characters! So, here we are.
“Is there any specific order the stories are meant to be read in?”
No. Well, yes and no. But really no.
Being one of those people who won’t watch a series unless I see the pilot first, I know why people might want to read stories in the “right way.” I commend that, which is why I include a list of the order I wrote them in and another in the order in which they happened in (from Rasmus and Kaia’s point of view.) If someone was planning on sitting down and reading all of them, I would go with the order I wrote them, because that is where the information being delivered most appropriately.
However, the point of the short stories is to be a temporary entertainment, for someone who, say, is supposed to be writing, but needs to read just this one thing
before going back to work. (You know what I’m talking about.) I have several categories in order to give readers quick fixes, whether it be by length, mood, subject, or even characters. I also have always enjoyed puzzling things out as I read, and though I know I am the minority there, there is something appealing to me to have long-term readers try and put together where, chronologically, the events are happening. It is challenging, but can be enjoyable to put two-and-two together.
Read them however you so choose.
“Do you draw all of your comics yourself?”
If I didn’t, I would attribute credit to the real artist. Mighty Morphin’ Canine Tales
, (also sometimes known as Canine Powers) is a long time passion project of mine. It’s undergone several incarnations as I grew better at drawing, and I have gotten to the point that I actually find it fairly attractive. Plus, it doesn’t take me nearly as long now that I’ve gotten some tricks up my sleeve.
But if I could have found another artist that I could count on, I would have been on Cloud Nine. I’m still struggling with the medium—pacing and certain conventions—and find it to be one of the few public things I’m insecure about. I love working with other people, but the more you involved others, the more likely the project fails. I learn to do a lot myself because it’s hard to depend on artists—especially those who will work for what I can pay.
“Why don’t you write contemporary fiction?”
Yes, this is actually how it’s been phrased to me before. I don’t include it as being one of the most
frequently asked questions, but because it is asked frequently enough
Because I don’t want to.
Writers are constantly told they shouldn’t write what they do, that they need to turn into someone else or do the things that specific reader is interested in. My advice to any author is to remember that subjectivity is a complicated idea to grasp, and many friends and peers genuinely think they are helping. So forgive them, but ignore them.
“Do you want me to point out typos I find?”
Absolutely. Stories of the Wyrd
are meant to be pure escapism which is inhibited by typos. I edit, I have editors, but we all work for less than what we’re worth. The blogs are only edited by myself and mistakes happen. If you have a complaint, let me know.
Send me an email at email@example.com. You can also direct message me @AuthorCharleyDaveler on Facebook or @CharleyDaveler on Twitter. Or, I suppose you could just post it for the world to see, if you wanted to be a dick about it. You do you.