Interview with Dave Olner

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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.

 

tbcIn 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.

 

You can follow Dave at daveocelot@twitter.com and and check out his publisher, obliteratipress.com.

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NaNoWriMo: The Community

On October 1st, we relaunched our website with new features, new, squeaky clean forums, and more. The site reset is a physical reset, but for a lot of people, it’s a mental one, too. For many of our participants, the reset is the sign that NaNoWriMo is here, and the panic and planning begin in earnest.

The most valuable resource NaNoWriMo provides is its community. And I’m not just saying that because I manage the aforementioned community, either! Time and time again, people have told us how the community has transformed their writing, and I’ll be honest: I’m one of those people! For me, writing was something I did alone, in a corner, scribbling madly in a notebook or behind a textbook where the teacher couldn’t see me.

Mind you, I had writer friends, and we talked about it. Maybe we even shared work now and again. But write together? Madness!

NaNoWriMo changed all of that. I was suddenly surrounded by a community of thousands, all writing together, with a common goal and deadline. The community was sheer magic. It drew me like a moth to flame, and today, it’s quite literally my passion and my career.

So how can you leverage that magic for yourself?

First and foremost, if you don’t have an account, create one. Many people do the event on their own, or know it’s going on and kinda write along with us, but never really use the site. That’s great, but you’re missing out on a rich community of writers who want to help!

Once you’ve created an account, head straight over to the forums. That’s where the main, international community resides. Forums exist for just about every writing-related issue you can think of, and then some. There are age groups, genre lounges, tips, tricks, and more. There is also a regional community for most areas. You can find that under Local Events.

So you do all of that… now what?

Well, what’s your need? If you’re having trouble with naming things (one of my favorites) you can pop over to the Appellation Station. If you need prompts, or competitive word sprints, you can hit Word Wars, Prompts, & Sprints. If you’re looking for filler characters, chapter titles, motives, or just about anything, Adoption Society will have a thread to find one. You can find commiseration in the NaNoWriMo Ate My Soul forum, or check out the genre lounges.

The most important thing is to engage. Ask questions. Help others. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve improved a piece simply by looking at what others are doing, and getting inspired, or realizing what I did wrong… or any number of things. Sometimes, the process of typing out a question will solve the problem by getting me thinking in the right direction.

What do you have to lose? Well. I’ll be honest. Time. Your soul. NaNoWriMo (many a novel has been lost to the Games forum.) But you might just gain something instead. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?