Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Not Quite So Stories: Interview with David S. Atkinson

David S. Atkinson is the author of "Not Quite so Stories" ("Literary Wanderlust" 2016), "The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes" (2015 National Indie Excellence Awards finalist in humor), and "Bones Buried in the Dirt" (2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards finalist, First Novel <80K). His writing appears in "Bartleby Snopes," "Grey Sparrow Journal," "Atticus Review," and others. His writing website is http://davidsatkinsonwriting.com/ and he spends his non-literary time working as a patent attorney in Denver.

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About the Book:

Author: David S. Atkinson
Publisher: Literary Wanderlus LLC
Pages: 166
Genre: Absurdist Literary Fiction

The center of Not Quite So Stories is the idea that life is inherently absurd and all people can do is figure out how they will live in the face of that fact. The traditional explanation for the function of myth (including such works as the relatively modern Rudyard Kiping's Just So Stories) is as an attempt by humans to explain and demystify the world. However, that's hollow. We may be able to come to terms with small pieces, but existence as a whole is beyond our grasp. Life simply is absurd, ultimately beyond our comprehension, and the best we can do is to just proceed on with our lives. The stories in this collection proceed from this conception, each focusing on a character encountering an absurdity and focusing on how they manage to live with it.

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Thanks for this interview, David.  Can we begin by having you tell us about yourself from a writer’s standpoint?

Thanks for interviewing me! I like to write a lot of different things. I've done some very realistic straightforward stories (a lot with a child narrator), weirdly realistic stories like "The Bricklayer's Ambiguous Morality" and other pieces in Not Quite so Stories, and some completely weird stuff. I like to write serious stories, but I like to have fun too. I've been writing for quite a while, submitting my first short story around twenty-five years ago. I studied writing during my original computer science undergrad, a second undergrad in English after law school, and then again during my MFA program through the University of Nebraska. I like to think that all yields an interestingly unique writerly combination, but it's who I am in any event.

When not writing, what do you like to do for relaxation and/or fun?

I spend most of my non-work time reading or writing. Reading is actually one of my main sources of relaxation and fun, being so different from the kind of reading and writing I do at my job. I end up reading around 200-300 books per year on average, a book with earmuffs on being a good way to snuggle up next to my wife and cats while my wife watches TV and I can't stand the program she's chosen. Of course, we do go hiking regularly and spend a lot of time exploring all the foodie related things in the area. Denver is great for that. Travel as well; we just got back from the Yucatan peninsula and hope to go to Asia next. I love getting to see somewhere completely different and it often ends up resulting in a new story, like our trip to the south of France ending up giving me my story "Changes for the Ch√Ęteau."

Do you have a day job? Or a night one?

Kind of both. I'm a patent attorney who focuses on prosecution (basically drafting patent applications and then working back and forth with the patent office about them. It's pretty hectic. Not as unpredictable as litigation, it can still often require nights and weekends. Luckily, I have a better idea what I'm doing than the character in my story "The Elusive Qualities of Advanced Office Equipment."

Would you say it’s been a rocky road for you in regards to getting your book written and published or pretty much smooth sailing?  Can you tell us about your journey?

I think all journeys involve patches of smooth sailing alternating with patches of rocks. When I first started writing these kinds of stories, I wasn't sure what I was going to do with them beyond writing them. I ran across other authors doing similar things like Etgar Keret, Amelia Gray, and so on. They showed me all kinds of possibilities I hadn't dreamed up, and led to even more authors working on similar things. This led to journals that liked those kinds of stories, and even publishers who would consider books of those kinds of stories. Still, it was an author of whom I was a fan who got to know me due to me regularly attended her readings that truly made the difference for this book. She'd seen some of my stories and recommended me to her publisher, even introducing us. Her publisher hadn't originally been into my kind of stories, but that author's recommendation got her publisher to keep an open mind…enough that they fell in love with my stories too.

What is it about the absurdist literary genre that appeals more than any other genre you would choose to write?

I like how it requires a solid, realistic story but allows for things to get more interesting by the addition of completely wild elements. An incomparably capable woman dealing with a situation where she is not completely equipped is a good setup for a realistic story. The fact that she is not equipped because her rental car engine has mysteriously turned into a cymbal monkey (as in my story "Monkey! Monkey! Monkey! Monkey! Monkey!") gives much more opportunity for entertainment. It's simply a unique combination of fun and seriousness that I can't turn away from, though I do write in other genres. I like a lot of different kinds of writing.

If you had to summarize your book in one sentence, what would that be?

Life isn't going to make sense so we might as well figure out how to live amidst nonsense.

What makes your book stand out from the rest?

Every author who likes to write a mostly realistic story and mix ridiculous things inside has a different approach. It's almost like a fingerprint and you can start to identify authors quickly even without knowing beforehand, even when they break totally new ground. My take on these kinds of stories comes forth from my own particular obsessions in life, the particular slice of the world that I've taken in and assimilated into my identity. It stands out from purely realistic fiction as well as purely fantastic, but also bears my unique stamp in the realm of the realistic/absurd mix.

If your book was put in the holiday section of the store, what holiday would that be and why?

I'd have to pick Halloween. It's perhaps my favorite holiday anyway, but it's definitely the holiday for things that mix multiple worlds. Things that are more than they are, the world shown to again be a place of wonders, that's where I think Not Quite so Stories would fit best. Where else would a murderous teddy bear ("60% Rayon and 40% Evil") go?

Would you consider turning your book into a series or has that already been done?

I could certainly think of doing other stories like this, which I suppose could be considered a series to not get confused with the other kinds of writing I do. I had fun with "An Endless Series of Meaningless Miracles," "The Unknowable Agenda of Ursines," and "Cents of Wonder Rhymes With Orange," but I'm certainly nowhere near done. I love writing these kinds of stories and will certainly keep doing so.

Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?

For truly rich stories, I think you need to get information and ideas from everywhere. "Context Driven" came from my wife laughing at me when I tried to unlock someone else's car by mistake because it looked like mine (it was a Camry, not even a Corolla). "The Unknowable Agenda of Ursines" both involved a friend having a bear jump on his car and a google search into the rules for casino games. There is so much out there, our stories suffer if we don't try to make use of every resource we can.

What’s next for you?

I'm finishing up a novel that puzzles around with our apocalypse obsession, a character who is utterly sick of the apocalypse because it happens at least once a week. I may have news about that very soon, though it might be that I'm not supposed to talk about it yet. Maybe.

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