Authors discuss their writing techniques.
Hi, I’m Mark O’Bannon. Welcome to this rare look into the secrets of storytelling from published authors. Today, I’m joined by, Horror writer Robert Devereaux, the author of Santa Steps Out, along with many other novels and short story collections.
Life as a Writer
How did you get into writing?
It’s always a nice dance between reading and writing, isn’t it? For me, fourth grade was the turning point. It was then that I found the local library, less than fifty yards from Newbridge Road School. There lay in wait the works of Heinlein, Bradbury, and so many others. In fourth grade too, I wrote “The Monstery, Monstery, Monster Story” for my teacher—who also read “The Monkey’s Paw” to us—and probably read it out loud to the class.
When did you first realize that you have what it takes to be a writer?
You always really know from the very beginning. Doubts? Aplenty. But you forge ahead, even at a very young age. You may well imitate those writers you admire, but your voice in all its uniqueness is emerging even as you do so. Then come attempts at publication, your best most polished stuff of course, and as you find acceptance, perhaps even praise, from one editor, then another and another, the assurance you always had at your core is reinforced and you ease into that ever developing creative voice, taking risks, always growing.
Where do you get your ideas from?
From unchained imagination roving free in the rich garden of experience, both of the “real” and the fantastic varieties. Ideas are legion. An idea book or the equivalent is probably to be preferred. An idea that takes hold of you and won’t let go—that’s the sort of idea to be prized and teased into fiction. And if you can get two such ideas to dance together in one work, you’ve passed through the gates of paradise.
How do you develop your ideas into a story?
I know enough about the characters and what they want that I can feel the shape and tonality of the story. Choose a point of view, sense the grand direction, and strike out for the territories: that typically works for me.
What kind of stories do you enjoy working with?
Stories that touch real emotions every reader has experienced, and always with something marvelously wonderfully fantastical to stimulate the dreamer in us all.
What genres would you like to explore in the future?
At this point on my career, I stay away from genres, unless they are being used as a hook into more interesting material.
Do you work from an outline?
For stories, only the barest outline. For novels, most definitely yes, using top-down programming, such that I know how the chapters break and what happens in each scene. As I press on into the writing, there’s always a need for new scenes, or the dropping of planned scenes which turn out to add little. But in general, I have my roadmap from the outset, which frees me up to go wild in each scene.
How do you build your story?
Word by word, trusting to the magic of spontaneity and revision.
For you, what makes a great hero?
Someone with plenty of weaknesses, a secret untapped power, and the unforced ability to turn someone, or many someones, on sexually. A big fat wallet and a generous hand with its contents are a bonus.
If one of your characters were to describe you, what would he/she say?
Robert is a fine chap; one who grieves for humankind’s myriad missed opportunities to save itself; a friend to all, though too cautious by half; a risk taker in his writing, but not so much in life. If people could peer inside his mind, they would either nod in sympathy, run screaming into the night, bow down and worship him, or start peeling off their clothes.
How much time do you spend researching the setting for your stories?
Not much. I set the scene as I go, using just the right detail to let the reader fill in the surroundings.
What settings would you like to explore in the future?
For starters, the place settings of extravagant gourmands.
Do you like to know the purpose of your story before you sit down to write it?
Stories have a purpose? But seriously, there is always a core of thematic continuity, with unexpected sparks of anything-goes spinning out of it as the pinwheel whirls.
Do you have any favorite lines from your stories?
Not really. Dialogue should be simple or savory. Otherwise, characters ought to shut up and act. Those that don’t, I fire.
Do you have a routine? A certain place to write? Do you listen to music?
Music? None but the wild improvised songs of my muse. I write these days on our white leather couch in the front room, as birds sing outside. Soon, though, I expect to hear the call of a coffeehouse.
How do you deal with writer’s block?
I smash though it one damned word at a time. And I pray that I never get breather’s block, eater’s block, or swiver’s block. Only sun block is okay in my book. All others can go hang!
How do you go about fixing a story?
If the fixes are major, I abandon the story. If minor, I polish until the story shines with the illusion of perfection. I don’t want to waste my precious time only to end up with ramshackle patchwork limping and galumphing along, springing leaks from scads of badly welded seams.
How do you know when to stop?
When my lover signals that she has had enough orgasms for the moment and her smile is as broad as the mountain vistas of Colorado. Oh, you’re asking about writing. Honed instinct tells me when I’ve inflicted as much psychic damage on my readers as the present narrative vessel can hold.
Words of Advice
What words of advice would you give to new writers?
Turn off the interior editor and let ‘er rip. Your voice is and will always be unique, though part of your job is to hone its output, toss out the time wasters, layer in the stemwinders, trim the sails, sculpt the prose, surprise us with the inevitable, find your brand of magic and practice it. Above all, I beg you to save the world. It’s the best thing you can do with your writing.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever written?
Santa Steps Out: A Fairy Tale for Grown-Ups
What are you working on now?
The third and possibly final Santa novel. The second one is Santa Claus Conquers the Homophobes.
I’d like to thank today’s author, Robert Devereaux for being with us today.
I’d like to thank you as well. Please check out the other great interviews in this series with authors, and remember to keep writing! The next published book could be yours.
– Mark O’Bannon
About the Author
Robert Devereaux lives on an unreasonable facsimile of Planet Earth with an utterly insane conglomeration of supposedly intelligent creatures who continue to squander nearly every chance to do the real right thing, choosing instead to beat their chests, exchange fire, let blood, and mostly stand by agog and agape while power-mad sociopaths shove crapola up everyone’s wazoo. In his spare time, he writes fiction. Among his novels are A Flight of Storks and Angels, Deadweight, Santa Steps Out, and Santa Claus Conquers the Homophobes. You won’t want to miss his short story collection, Baby’s First Book of Seriously Fucked-Up Shit, but if you do, that’s okay too.
Visit Robert Devereaux online:
Books by Robert Devereaux
Baby’s First Book of Seriously Fucked-Up Shit
Santa Steps Out: A Fairy Tale for Grown-Ups
Santa Claus Conquers the Homophobes
A Flight of Storks and Angels