A dad with a laptop
I’ve recently had the pleasure of reading a couple of pieces written by thought provoking new author, Draven Ames. A recommendation from a fellow twitter user (and believe me Draven is definitely #WW) led me to this young family man from Oregon. Almost immediately, I could see the passion for writing in his tweets. They led me to his blog and to his story, Nothingness, featured in the January issues of SNM Horror magazine as story of the month.
Intrigued by this philosophical author, I made contact with Draven to see if he would let me interview him. He graciously agreed and I emailed questions. In the emails that we exchanged back and forth about the interview and following review of Nothingness. Draven himself gave me the title for this piece when he wrote that he is " just A dad with a laptop.”
I submit for your approval (extra points for those who know where I stole that) A dad with a laptop.
JM ….Congratulations on having the story of the month for January at SNM Horror Magazine with the short story, Nothingness. Nothingness makes the reader have to think for themselves to stimulate their own imagination. The ending makes you go hmmm. Was that your intention at the start of the story?
DA….The original story was about a military man who woke up to the post he lived on being attacked by the nothingness. Lots of gore, but little thought. The characters were paper thin and the story was so-so. It had been accepted for the January author showcase by their old submissions editor. When that editor left, Steve read my story and was honestly unimpressed. He said the ending was very good, but the rest... not so good.
But I had this on query letters. They promised and already said yes.
For a moment, I reverted to childhood and wanted to say "Not fair!" I could take my cookies elsewhere. But I read the story and he was right. I went into this story with a chip on my shoulder. To me this had to provoke a little thought. The heron marked swords and wands of holly, implies that the worlds in our stories are connected.
I'm very happy with the end product and hope people like philosophical horror.
Do I agree that imagination is dying? It depends on your perspective.
JM….People have said that certain aspects of Horror are played out like Vampires and Werewolves. Do you think that is possible or are there more stories to tell?
DA…That is like saying that human stories are played out. Nothing is played out. There are plenty of original stories to be made in any genre.
I'd love to see some of Shakespeare's greatest works put into vampire novels, if they haven't done it yet.
Stephanie Meyer may be hated by some and loved by others, but she did one thing Anne Rice did very well: She made vampires human. She made people identify with them, long to be them and also shy away from them.
There are not enough werewolf books like this. I think this could be approached in a more adult arena. I would love to see a YA Ladlit, like title with a werewolf theme. Something that makes werewolves more human. Take out the full moon, turning into a wolf and so on. Make it like Teenwolf without the cheese - throw in romance, male masculinity issues in today’s age and our darker sides of human nature, and I think you could have a great story. I could see a Legends of The Fall type of story working in the market today, using werewolves.
I'm sure someone is already doing this. But there are many ideas to be written. Werewolves created in a genetics testing lab in space? Vampire football team in high school? Something where the vampire/werewolf side isn't the main plotline, but only a backdrop to the greater story.
JM...Your blog has had some very insightful and helpful tips for writers. Everything from keeping an ego in check to popular traps writers fall into. Have you ever considered the editing side of the business as a career?
DA...That is something I would love to do. I'm certain that I'd make a good literary agent or editor one day. Right now, I still have a lot to learn. College, for one, would be very nice. I don't believe I'd be currently qualified to edit someone professionally. I'm very harsh on myself, but I paid for an editing job that was not worth paying for.
An editor must be honest to make a writer better; we must be humble to get better.
JM….Have you considered starting your own magazine or publishing effort?
There are so many other ezines pushing to make it. I'd rather put my time into supporting them and writing. There are plenty of opportunities to be read, and anything I would do would only serve to detract from them.
JM….Favorite two authors and why.
DA….Oh, I could never bring it to just two. Recently, I said my favorite horror author was King. That's true. But in all genres? Too many to count.
But here are two that come to mind: Terry Brooks and Ursula Le Guin.
As a kid, I grew up on fantasy books. Terry Brooks kept me engrossed with his Shannara series. I still love the Elfstones the most. The descriptions in his books always gave me a wildly engrossing world to enjoy. The human issues that were dealt with were very real. Each generation of characters becomes a living world. I also loved his Magic Kingdom for Sale, Sold books. Funny and good morals. Even my kids like that one.
And Ursula wrote amazing stories about Earthsea. The journey of Sparrowhawk is still with me. There were moments that I really identified with Sparrowhawk, especially in his adolescence. Ursula was also the very first author I remember reading. The thing I loved the most had to be how Earthsea's magic worked. To create something, something had to be exchanged. Nothing is created without destroying something. Sparrowhawk learns this, though I believe his name was Ged at the time. It has been so long since I read that, I can't believe I remember this.
JM….If in some futuristic censured world, Horror was outlawed, what genre do you think you would write in.
DA….You know, I didn't pick horror. One day, after finally taking the time to read a horror novel, I read Under the Dome. My wife has an extensive collection of King shorts. I read a few more books of his and decided to write something.
And here we are.
But I want to write some dark comedy, MG, YA, romance, fantasy and so many others. But if I had to pick only one - MG. I want to write something my kids can read too. I have an outline for a 4 part kids series with a very original plot, just waiting for me to get to. I can't wait.
JM….What do you look for in a good Horror story as a reader?
DA….I read mostly new authors, so good grammar is a start. Quick scenes work best for me in a short, where we can't spend much time in world building. I like to discover a character, so that usually means I want to see some characters interact and discover their traits, wants and needs on my own. Then, I want you to surprise me. Suspense is great, but nothing beats out well written characters. Mostly, I want the story to make me think about how ugly or beautiful humans can be.
JM….If you could ask your favorite author one question, what would it be?
DA….I'd ask King to play guitar with me. I'm sure he gets all the other questions. But to jam with the man, maybe hear some songs he has written?
Not one of those "Who would you have dinner with" questions.
You know, now you have to answer that. Who would you have dinner with?
Hmm. Horror theme here... I'll go with dinner with Judas - there is a philosophical story waiting to happen.
Who would explore that topic though? Maybe he thinks the other apostles had him killed because he knew the truth. What is the truth? Could you imagine the horror novel that has the second coming as being a bad thing? Perhaps it would say we pray in the name of a false idol - a plan of the devil from the beginning. Wow, I could imagine the controversy and hate mail on that one...
Sorry for the tangent - you had me thinking.
Nah, I'll take dinner with my wife on the top of the space needle. We can toast to getting an agent.
So there you have it, a small glimpse into the mind of Draven Ames. Even in his answers, he challenges us to think for ourselves.
I want to thank him for his time and thoughtful answers.
The following is a review of Draven’s short story, Nothingness, about the death of imagination.
When I was a younger me reading Horror anthologies in the seventies, some of my favorite stories were written by authors that made you think. The Horror was of a subtle nature that used a feather to tickle you instead of a sledgehammer to drive the point home. For me Nothingness did that, it tickled me with a “Mental Mind F@#K”. The ending made me go “Whoa, nice concept” and let me as the reader, come up with my own conclusion, while at the same time telling a complete tale.
I enjoyed this well written story by author Draven Ames. His style of description gives poetic visual references for the mind’s eye with lines like… “Lightning became electric tinsel in the sky, an ebony backdrop that left tracers of their existence.”
The author gives enough of a glimpse into the characters lives to make you understand them; almost as if you knew them before this tale began. Not an easy thing to do in short stories. He builds up the “villain” slowly as the story progresses but fast enough to make you say “uh oh something evil comes.”
With talent like this, I expect Draven Ames to be a name well known in the literary world before too long. He is indeed now shopping for an outlet for his first book, Bullets Till Midnight. That is a book that I will definitely be looking forward to reading.
Draven Ames has a blog worth reading at… http://dravenames.blogspot.com/
His short story Nothingness can be read at… http://www.snmhorrormag.com/snmjan2011issue2.htm