Years ago, I belonged to a now defunct writing site called Authonomy. There, I workshopped my writing, learned to critique others, and, ultimately, found my publisher. Dave Olner was one of the writers I met there and his book, The Baggage Carousel was one of my favorites. I was so glad to see he recently published it and I had a bunch of questions for him that he was nice enough to answer.
Since Authonomy closed, have you found a comparable writing group?
I haven’t frequented a writing site since Authonomy shut up shop. I feel like I found it at the right time: as a clueless fledgling taking their first crack at writing a book. Some of the feedback I received there helped shape the finished manuscript immeasurably and I’m thankful for it. It was a case of separating the wheat from the chaff, though, because some of of the feedback I received there was dogshit, from people who didn’t know what they were talking about. People just like me! I had found a virtual peer group and it was a sad day when the site closed.
When did you decide you wanted to pursue publication? How did you find your publisher?
After completing the book I embarked on the well-trodden road of queries, subs and rejections. I garnered some initial interest in the manuscript, but nothing that ever came to fruition. When I’d exhausted all options, when I couldn’t find anyone else who would even spare the time to dismiss my work, I set the MS to one side and started on a second book.
Years later, I was contacted by Nathan O’Hagan, one of the non-dogshit people from Authonomy. Now a big-shot published writer, he babbled excitedly about a new indie publisher, Obliterati Press, he was setting up with another author, Wayne Leeming. He told me he remembered my book fondly and asked if I’d ever managed to get it placed. The short answer to that was No. The two of them agreed to consider the MS and…well, here we are.
Describe your writing process. Do you keep a journal?
Much to my shame, I’m not currently writing at all. I’d like to write but after work, sleep, feeding and occasionally washing myself there doesn’t seem to be much time left. Although, sometimes I get an idea for a short story and it starts to rankle me so much that I’m eventually forced to write it down. It’s like lancing a boil and finding a homunculus within.
I don’t keep a journal in my grim everyday existence, but I have done them whilst away on backpacking trips. I’d like to say these journals contained in-depth reportage of the places I’d visited, but I found an old one recently and most of the pages were filled with doodles of robots.
In The Baggage Carousel, the main character’s traveling is motivated by rootlessness and restlessness. The places he travels to seem so real. How have you researched these places? Are you affected by a similar wanderlust?
All the places mentioned in The Baggage Carousel are ones I’ve visited. Some of the events featured in the book are based on actual occurrences. For the purpose of the narrative, I expunged myself from those events and transposed the central character, Dan Roberts, into them. He’s a bit more of an arsehole than I am but, hopefully, a little more entertaining. So it was like a Spacey/Plummer situation, except in reverse.
Is this really your first book? How long did it take to write and when can we expect another?
Yes, it’s really my first book. I would not intentionally deceive you. It’s hard to tot up how long it took to write The Baggage Carousel, because it’s something I would set aside for months on end and then return to periodically, a scab I had to keep picking at. So, maybe soup to nuts was something like five years, but it wasn’t five years of continual slog. If anything, the MS was something I would revisit when I had a little time away from the continual slog.
I wrote a second book, “Munger”, a character study based on a sex-tourist I met on a bus in Thailand. He was a hideous man, really, but his voice got stuck in my head. Even after the inherent darkness of my first novel, I somehow managed to plumb new depths of depravity with my sophomoric effort. I honestly do not know if the world will ever want or need this novel, but I do know it was something I needed to write.