Followers

An Interview with Fantasy Author Gabriel De Anda

When did you start taking writing seriously and honing your craft?

I started a science fiction novel when I was in 5th grade, but only completed a chapter, long since lost. The one family friend who’d read it just passed away three years ago.

As an adolescent, I wrote mostly poetry, publishing in few small publications in my early twenties. In 1987 I had 8 pages of poetry published in a university paperback that was edited by, among others, the Peruvian writer / politician / journalist / essayist and 2010 Nobel Prize winner for literature, Mario Vargas Llosa.

I wrote a fantasy piece in early college titled THE CRYSTAL HEART (1976) which was purchased and published years later (1992) by Chris Reed, the editor of the British magazine, Backbrain Recluse. It is included in my 2011 Xlibris collection “Cherubimbo and Other Stories.”

In the late 1980’s I wrote what I thought was my first short, “Scissors, Rock and Paper Doll.” It was 100 pages long. I didn’t know what the length of a short story was. When I found out, I opted for turning it into a novel rather than shortening it. It was published also in 2011, through Xlibris. Although it was my second published novel, it was the first one I ever wrote.

Are you a pantser or planner? What is your philosophy on planning out your books / pantsing through the writing process?

I’m a bit of both. I need to get the skeleton for my stories constructed, but once that’s done, then I do a lot more winging it. There are many things that do not occur to me until I’m actually writing, and that’s where a lot of the flavor comes from. Both the overall planning and the pantsing change, evolve, mutate, grow, merge and dance. For me it’s impossible to do just one or the other; it’s a combo.

What three fantasy authors would you say has most influenced your writing?

David Lindsay, “A Voyage to Arcturus.” All of Jonathan Carroll’s early novels. Lewis Shiner’s “Glimpses.” Samuel Delany’s “Neveryon” series. Anything by China Mieville and M. John Harrison.

Have you ever abandoned a piece of writing and left it unfinished? Would you ever go back, change it and finish it?

I have many things that exist in a nascent form, with writings that are anywhere between a few pages to a couple of chapters. I’ve merely not gotten to them yet. I have neglected and not returned to certain project. Others evolve or are reborn as pieces of a lifelong puzzle that sometimes reveals its face. Ideas are sometimes misplaced or waylaid. The intention is always to go back.

Do you have a day job and what is it?

I am a Family Law lawyer. I also an a freelancer or what is called an “Appearance Lawyer,” which entails making court appearances for other attorneys on their files when they have multiple hearings on the same day and same time, calendar conflicts which they can only resolve by having another attorney appear for them.

How has your career impacted your writing career?

My writing career not so much. I have, however, used my legal knowledge to round out section of specific stories. I wrote an SF/legal piece titled “Par Autre Vie” that I entered into a contest sponsored by the writer Kenneth Mark Hoover, in which the judge was James Van Pelt. “Par Autre Vie” got second place.

What fantasy subgenre(s) do you enjoy writing the most?

Alternate History, I think, is a fantasy subset. I find it fascinating to see where killing Bradbury’s butterfly will lead to. The best AH will reveal how much and how well the author understands history, as well as the present time. I try to work AH into my Kronokaze series, of which I’ve written only 3 pieces so far: the short story “1969” and “Local Color,” both in the “Cherubimbo” collection; and in the short novel “My Dinner with Jodorowsky,” where the Chilean film director Alejandro Jodorowsky, who was given Five Million Dollars to storyboard and develop Frank Herbert’s “Dune” for the screen, had the project taken away from him in the end. In my tale, he gets a second bite of the apple.

8. Outside of fantasy, what genre or subgenre would you like most to write in? (eg. Historical Fiction, Mystery, Sci Fi, Spy Thriller, etc.)

I write science fiction as well as literary mainstream. “Scissors, Rock and Paper Doll” and most of “Cherubimbo and Other Stories” are SF. “Heartfelt Affectations” is a mainstream/literary novel. I’m currently working on a SF novel and a huge, family saga that spans two generations which is three-quarters done. I’ve got a few fantasy short stories on the grill.

What was the first book you've published and what do you like about it?

Orchidia


What was your favourite hero/protagonist you've thus far written about? What makes them special?

As authors we are parents. We love all our children equally, but you’re right, we don’t like them all equally.

My favorite character is Orchidia Abelarde from my latest, “Orchidia.” She’s a damaged character, passive and hiding from the world. Yet the world comes to her, and her reaction to it is awkward but admirable and engaging. She uses her deficiencies to plow forward, and I think that this is a good definition of health. Henry Miller wrote that when love burns us and kicks our ass, the secret is to not lose our faith in love, in its capacity to surprise, delight, transform. In earth’s evolution, certain creatures developed thick armors, and they lived the longest. Other creatures had little defenses, trading it for a fleetness and light-footedness that made them more sensitive and open to the signals existence is constantly radiating; their lives were, while shorter, richer.

The challenge is to find a medium.

What was your favourite villain/antagonist thus far? What makes them special?

Again, in my latest, there is a computer artificial intelligence/sentience that calls itself Geometra. She is a Librarian, which are diagnostic warrior programs designed to aid humans in their times of, usually, military crisis. The problem is that they’re designed to be destroyed after three interviews, basically because they’re fierce, aggressive, and, know that they have limited “life” spans and don’t want to “die.” While being kinked to serve, they try to use their bright intelligence to find a way out of their confinement and dilemma. We’ll be seeing more of Geometra.

If you could propose the plot of a TV show what would you make it about?

I would pitch the time traveling and alternative universe concept of my written and planned Kronokaze work. It could, handled right, make for an entertaining and thought-provoking TV series.

Do you like to use tropes in your writing and subvert the reader's expectations, or do you try to avoid them entirely?

Clich├ęs and tropes, I believe, are unavoidable. They develop as shorthand for human experience and reality. It’s the new patterns that we can weave with them that can create new constellations, confound expectations, give rise to a spark of surprise when things don’t go in the direction we’d thought they were going.

Do you get annoyed when you see movies, TV shows or books that show unrealistic depictions of things or do you brush it off as the "magic of fantasy"?

There is a wonderful and largely forgotten novel by a fellow named Philip E. High, the 1967 SF novel “Reality Forbidden.” It dealt with virtual reality long before John Varley and William Gibson. Same year as Harlan Ellison’s “I Have No Mouth But I Must Scream.” Most people who used dreamscape chose to simply wish and get. The protagonist of this novel only wanted possibilities to manifest themselves, but he still held himself to the standard of having to fight for what he wanted the outcome to be. There is a vital and life-giving was to use fantasy and virtual reality.

I don’t like it when writers take the lazy way out and merely deal in wish-fulfillment. Do the work, puzzle out the reality, make it seem real. A fellow in a writers’ group I attended had his story torn apart because it was not believable.

He crowed as if in triumph, “Well, you’re wrong. This really did happen!” Sorry Charlie; only the best tasting tuna. Writers are not relieved of making their fictions appear real. Poor writing will make things that actually happened seem false.

Good writing can make things that never ever could happen seem real as
sunlight.

Do you celebrate after you finish writing a chapter or a book? How do you celebrate?

I breathe easier. I’ll feel happy with myself. I’ll do all the things (or some of the things) that I can’t do when hunkered down. But celebrate? No, not really.

Do you prefer to write what you would like to read, or do you try to cater to a specific audience? Or sometimes both?

That’s a hard one. My experience has been, not only in writing but in life in general, that what I was expecting is never what I get. Sometimes better, sometime worse, but rarely what I was expecting.

My writing, to my ears and eyes and touch, is like that. I have my favorites --- Samuel Delany, William Gibson, Nicole Mones, James Clavell, Paul Di Filippo, Jonathan Lethem, and others --- and I must be influenced by them, yet I can only write like myself. (Well, that’s not true. We can become, and often do, copycats.)

But I’m not shrewd enough to tailor my fiction with the precision that I would like. I’ll try for a certain direction, and end up at a destination I hadn’t planned on. I just hope that it’s a cool and interesting place of arrival.

What is the darkest thing you've ever written about?

I don’t like to read about violence but it seems unavoidable, and I’ve written my share. It just happens, I guess.

But most of my darkness comes from moral or emotional dilemma’s which corner people into situations that they feel definitively capture a life they can’t escape. To think that any unpleasant reality you inhabit cannot be changed (and sometimes it may be true that it can’t) is to me the darkest thing. I imagine it is, in part, what leads people to take their own lives. My life has been touched by three suicides.

Have you ever published any short stories in a fantasy literary magazine? If so, which magazines and what was the title of the short stories?

I had a short literary/fantasy piece, mentioned earlier, published in Chris Reed’s British magazine “Backbrain Recluse.” It was the cover story, and I am very proud of it. Also, I had a short piece of fantasy titled “Sphinx” published in Gordon Linzner’s “Space and Time.” You can read the latter on my website at gabrielsdeanda.com

If you could go back in time and change something in your past to become a better writer, what would you change? (For temporal causality purposes we will assume this doesn't completely change history and that only that one thing has been changed.)

I would have started writing short stories and novels in earnest much earlier than I did. I was 22 when I wrote “The Crystal Heart,” but up until then it was mainly poetry. My father, whom I loved deeply and miss profoundly, discouraged me in writing, wanting for me something more remunerative, and I see the merit in that.

But I lost a lot of time and practice because of this. I would have gotten the 10,000 hours of practice and the thousands of words and pages to be destroyed before you begin to get a grip on your art and craft.

Do you sometimes find it difficult to find books to read because you are looking for something specific, nobody has written it, and you realize you should just write it?

Trying to find confections which will satisfy ones sweet tooth can be tricky. You look for the candy you already know melts your butter. But finding new candy can be an act of serendipity, fortuity.

It takes a great act of imagination to create art. Market considerations as to what is and is not out there, and what should or should not be written, are hard to entertain while you’re just working hard at creating. There are writing courses that tell you how to test the winds of commerce and then to write your fiction accordingly. And that’s not bad advice, not really. But I find it hard to plot what
the market needs, and what I need to write.

There are so many amazing writers out there, past and present, that to look for something specific isn’t even ignited until you find something so novel and so satisfying out there that it’s hard to be avante guarde enough to think in terms of what to do or not do. At least for me. And judging by the proliferation of DIY publication product out there, most others have this problem too. Which is not to
denigrate DIY platforms. I’m DIY too.

Where do you see yourself twenty years from now and what might you be writing about by then?

I have a list of projects that will keep me busy for the next twenty years. I don’t think the project will change. How I approach them may, of course. But my love of literature is expansive. I expect to be writing mainstream fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and hybrids of all three, such as slipstream.

What is your next book that is coming out, when should it be available, and what is it about?

Hard to say. I just put out “Orchidia” a month ago. I may put out an SF novella titled “Castles in the Sky” sometime this year, but I’m unsure.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on two books: an untitled family saga that tracks the lives of two generations of one Mexican/American family. The present timeline story is completed and stands at 575 pages (176,851 words). The past timeline story is half-way done, 9 chapters out of 19 yet to be written.

I’m also working on and still plotting (plotting and pantsing) the loose sequel to “Orchidia”. It is, of course, science fiction/fantasy, and currently I’ve only written the first opening sections. It will consist of 9 separate but related stories that I’m rounding out and in the process of imagining.

What are you currently reading by other fantasy authors?

“Osama” by Lavie Tidhar, a dark fantasy which is amazing, the imagery and characterizations similar to that of “Voyage to Acturus”, David Lindsay’s previously mentioned novel, though more baroque It reminded me of my own “Crystal Heart.”

Also “Lud in the Mist” by Hope Mirlees; the writing is layered, perceptive and creative, very involved, seductive, revelatory.

If you could recommend one or two fantasy author(s) for me to interview after you, who would that author be?

I may have a name or two coming up, but I need to touch bases with them first.

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