Our series of mini-interviews with our Mannison Minibook authors continues! We hope you’ve been enjoying the series, because we sure have…only a few left to go! Today’s (not-so-?) mini-interview is with…
Author of Mannison Minibook
Thanks for joining us, Chris! Let’s learn a little about YOU! So tell us…
1. How old were you when you decided you were a writer?
I feel a good—or at least decent—writer starts off first and foremost as a storyteller. Using that yard stick, my family might have said that my journey into writing started in first grade. It was the class’ first school trip and we visited one of those little local airports that were common here in southern New Jersey, circa 1967. It was called “The Flying W Ranch” and 28 seven-year-olds were given a tour around the tiny terminal, got a look inside the hangar and repair area, and, most importantly, had an opportunity to explore the airplanes! The coolest thing about our trip was the guide, dressed like a stewardess, inviting us kids to go up and inside an old 50 passenger Pan Am shuttle. As I remember, the plane looked like it was from the late 1940s with a chrome bright fuselage and velvety feeling and slightly musty smelling, velour seats.
The guide had us buckle deep in those seats and asked us to close our eyes. She then went on to describe what we would feel as we readied for takeoff. How the engine would rumble and the speed as the wheels gently lifted off. She described the way your tummy would drop as the plane lifted off and flew higher into the azure sky. Then as the plane banked around in a widening curve, the way the clouds looked from higher and higher into the air. Oh, and the floaty feeling once you came back around. She went on to describe the landing, how the plane lined up even with the landing strip. Then the bump and rough feeling as the plane hit the macadam and applied the brakes before coming to a stop in front of the hangar. Our imaginary ride was complete.
The whole class opened our eyes and unbuckled the seatbelts. I felt giddy and couldn’t wait to get home and tell my parents.
The next day my terrified parents contacted Mrs. Rogers, the first grade teacher and suggested that the permission slip to the Airport did not mention any actual trip up in an airplane. Apparently, my recollection to them was so vivid they believed I had in fact gone up on a plane ride.
Mrs. Rogers chuckled and explained what really happened. Color my parents chagrined. Then, under the white hot light lights of a grilling only parents can give to a first grader, were they able to determine I had, well, made the whole thing up. I didn’t lie, really, since I felt I actually had taken that quick trip around the airport. Or at least I did until the truth came out. My parents admonished me not to fib going forward, and for years afterward I had to put up with being accused every time my family didn’t believe something I said with the bitter phrase of “Is this another Flying W story?”
So, I think that was when I decided to be a writer.
2. What was the inspiration for Dina’s Dryad?
I’m always amused by the very beginning of face pages in books and at the end of movies with that “all persons fictitious disclaimer”. You know the one. It says something along the lines of “Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.” I believe writers are, first and foremost, voyeurs. At least I am. I watch the way people interact—the way they fight or kiss or ignore each other—and file it away. I masticate the scene or the persons involved and blend it further. It marinates in my brain pan to become fodder for a character, a line, or story. I truly believe all writers at some level write about people they know. The situation may be unique if it’s, say, a horror or urban fantasy; but the characters in a writer’s head all have a connection to a flesh and blood person that at some point has intersected with the writer.
In my case, the inspiration for Dina’s Dryad is my goddaughter Dina. My wife, Elaine, and I re-entered Dina’s life when she was 10 or 11. We had known her mother, Cyd, for quite a few years prior in one of my many previous job incarnations. Dina’s relationship with her mother was always complicated. Their life was sadly typical for many families in our society today. An absent father, a mother overwhelmed by job losses and a lack of said father’s child support, applied relationship stressors to both mom and daughter that during Dina’s early teen years threatened to reach a breaking point.
It was during this time period that Dina asked me to write her a story. About her. As the hero. And it had to include one or more of her friends. And it had to include her dog. Dina has always been very specific in her wants and needs. She was my first and most important part of Dina’s Dryad.
Now, Burlington city is old. Its incorporation in 1676 makes it one of the oldest cities in the country, with lots of history in and around it. The area is festooned with old houses, ruins, swamps, cemeteries, and ghost stories. There’s also quite a bit of real history, too. At any rate some of the local history includes Bloody Rachel, a gory ghost reported to haunt one of the houses near Burlington. The stories in and around any old town become the scenery in which a writer’s characters meander.
I’d wanted to include Bloody Rachel in story form for some time but just couldn’t quite find a hook to wedge her into. Then Dina asked me to write her story. And Rachel became the second most important part of the story.
Ashley was an idea for a short story that could find no publisher. But like a theater actor’s understudy, she was ready willing and able to reinvent herself to become Dina’s antagonist. Three parts, mashed and blenderized into a story base. Add in some real life incidents for extra flavor and out poured Dina’s Dryad.
An interesting coda with my goddaughter and “Dryad.” The story was finished for a few years but Dina couldn’t read it through to the end until she was a junior in college. Now she rereads it whenever she needs to energize herself.
3. Shane seems to represent Dina’s conscience. Would you say he failed, or would his continued presence (of a sort) carry hope for reigning in the rogue adolescent?
I believe you are spot on. Shane represents the teen version of that angel on your shoulder. He also serves for me the adult writer as the cynic that can’t quite believe that the fantastical still exists. While I wouldn’t say he failed in this specific instance, going forward I believe his character would have more and more trouble helping Dina reign in her more negative impulses. Like Stephen King’s “Carrie,” it would terrify me if any adolescent had overwhelming power. We’d all be dead on a whim. Ironically, Shane the character’s fate was sealed based on a statement that Dina made to me in real life about her real friend Shane. They had had some falling out (common in long-term childhood relationships) and she observed that sometimes she felt sad and that the pair was just going through the motions. Dina feared they were growing apart and the friendship was just shambling forward mindlessly, like a zombie. That comment stuck with me and wound up in the story.
4. Did you have any specific music in mind as you wrote this story?
Whatever WXPN was playing at the time I wrote it. (WXPN is the University of Pennsylvania’s audio jewel, a fantastic radio station/resource for new Indie music.)
5. What’s your favorite genre to write in?
I really am a geek for high fantasy. Much as I like Lord of the Rings, my favorite is Stephen Donaldson’s The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. My ultimate goal is to write an extremely long and wildly successful series of books in the fantasy genre. But lately, I seem to lean more toward horror or urban fantasy. Writing horror for me is like eating potato chips. More likely it’s probably just the world we’re living in right now though…
6. Got anything new cookin’?
Doesn’t every writer have a ton of things they’re always working on? My issue is trying to drill down and finish ONE story. You know how it goes, you get an idea for your next story, then get an idea for another one that you want to explore. Then a third one pops in my head and I shift to that one. Apparently, I lack focus. Actually the one I’m most in love with right now is a graphic novel called The Commons. My log line is: “It’s a superhero story where The Avenger’s meet Bull Durham.”
7. And just for fun… Where did you go on your last vacation and how bad was the sunburn?
My wife and I ventured out of the country for the first time last year and went to Punta Cana with my extended family. All I can say is sunburn on the bottom of your feet hurts like a mutha…
Thank you, Chris, for taking the time to indulge us! We hope you enjoyed sharing a bit about yourself and your work with our audience.
Up next: Mannison Press founder, editor-in-chief, and Minibook author RONALD LINSON on Thursday, July 16th!
Dark Fantasy (46 pages)
Chris Doerner has been at different times in his life a consultant for folks with disabilities, a free-lance videographer, an Indie film producer, and most recently, an antiques and collectibles auctioneer. He vowed two years ago to return to creative writing and has been hacking away at it ever since. Learn more on his website at allthingsold.com or follow him on Facebook at Twentyfirst Century Antiques.
Learn more about Mannison Minibooks here.
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