Amerika

Author Interview with David J. Gibbs

  1. David Please tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? Where did you go to college, and what did you study? What books did you love growing up?

I grew up on the east side of Cincinnati, Ohio, in a newly built neighborhood buffeted by woods. I graduated from Anderson High School and then attended the University of Cincinnati graduating with a Masters in Criminal Justice Technology of all things. It sounds like I should be out solving cyber-crimes or something, but in reality it was mining datasets and statistics. Not quite as cool as saving the world from hackers, right? I also studied psychology, sociology and philosophy.

I enjoyed anything that was dark as a kid. Loved telling campfire stories and enjoyed watching scary movies and reading creepy things. It didn’t matter if it was fiction or nonfiction. I read about witches, zombies, folklore, vampires and, of course, big foot. I discovered Stephen King when I was ten and it was over. I devoured anything he wrote and then moved on to Dean Koontz, Peter Straub, and H.P. Lovecraft. I loved ‘Salem’s Lot, The Shining, Ghost Story, Carrie but it wasn’t until I stumbled upon Skeleton Crew that I fell in love with short fiction. The idea that in just a few pages a writer could tell a complete story and illicit a response was incredible to me. My favorite book is The Alienist by Caleb Carr which details a serial killer stalking the streets of late 19th century New York City.

  1. In your story Starter Apartment there is a lot of dialogue, done really well. What is the key to writing dialogue that moves the story along and yet doesn’t turn into a lesson in “show don’t tell”?

The dreaded ‘show don’t tell’ pitfall!

Dialogue to me is a perfect opportunity to reveal things quickly and easily, either about the characters or the plot. Instead of giving paragraph after paragraph of backstory, I find it sometimes easier to let the reader into the character’s world a little more by way of dialogue. I also always try to infuse humor in the dialogue too, it helps. A bit of teasing can bring out some great banter between characters, which tends to keep the pace consistent and the story moving forward. I also think if you can picture the conversation as it unfolds, almost like an imagined movie, it’s easier to make it seem realistic.

  1. What types of themes do you enjoy working with? And how would you classify Starter Apartment if a marketing executive told you he wanted to option the story for a movie?

I enjoy coming age pieces, revenge storylines, unexpected heroes, and redemption, all with a few bits of darkness sprinkled in.

It’s interesting when people ask me what style my writing is or what genre do I tend to write most of my stories in, because I’m honestly all over the board. I describe most of my pieces as Twilight Zones with a darker slant and bigger twists. Most people would consider Starter Apartment as horror and I wouldn’t disagree.

  1. That brings us to the next obvious question many writers deal with. How do you handle marketing? Is it a one man endeavor, or is it a team effort with your family and friends pitching in?

While I do have family and friends that help with regards to spreading by word of mouth, for the most part, marketing is a one man endeavor. I use social media quite a bit and also use Amazon and Facebook ads to help bolster interest. I routinely have giveaways or discounted prices a few times a year. I also have a monthly newsletter that always has a free short story in every issue. Every little bit helps.

  1. Your characters are really alive. What is it that makes a great character, especially in short fiction?

I think flawed characters, ones with relatable fears and doubts are easy for readers to identify with. We all have something we’re afraid of or anxious about. If all characters were perfect, they’d be boring. Who wants to read about someone who has never made a mistake or never had a single problem to overcome? I think giving them real world issues, letting them make mistakes, having them suffer a bit, all helps breathes life into them.

  1. Aristotle in his Poetics said “character is destiny.” Do you believe a character’s personality and flaws will lead inevitably to a certain conclusion? Is the author free to struggle against the characters to achieve a different ending?

I do think characters change as the story grows around them. Just as we change with our daily experiences, so do characters through the course of the story. As an author, sometimes, we are just along for the ride. The characters will react to things in ways we might not have predicted and take the story in a direction we weren’t prepared for. Can we struggle against it? Yes we can. But I have always

  1. What do you look for when hiring an editor? What is it to you that makes an editor worth the investment?

Editing is always a tricky thing for an author. I’m currently the Managing Editor for Storyteller Magazine and do freelance editing as well. I’m in a somewhat enviable position in that I have other editors I work with to help with my work.

For those looking for editors, I’d strongly suggest to make sure they enjoy the genre the piece is written in and also have edited the type of work before. It’s important to ask questions and important to be honest about your expectations and concerns.

  1. There is a lot of crossover now between media such as film, books, games, etc… Do you think it is productive for an author to write a book or even a short story, assuming (hoping perhaps is a better word) that their work gets optioned?

I always imagine what the story might look like and have the characters act it out as if on the screen. So, in a way, I always like to think my pieces would translate well to the screen. Now, do I think all works would translate well to the screen? No. Do I think it’s productive for author’s to imagine their work in that way? I think it depends on the author and the work. If it helps them describe the setting well or set the tone properly then I say go for it. As with most ‘rules’ of writing, I think it’s all dependent upon the story.

  1. How much research is too much research? How do you know you’re done learning about your novel and its characters and just get to writing?

That’s a tough question. Authors need to be correct. (Nothing worse than getting called out for getting it wrong) But at the same time, writers don’t want to dry out the subject and bog down the story with too many facts and too many details trying to get it right. A little detail and a little fact go a long way.

I’m a free writer, meaning I don’t have everything outlined or thought out. I typically start off with a very general idea. It might be a setting or just a character and I start to write. Most times, I’m not sure if it will be a book or a short story or somewhere in between until it tells me. It’s been a very productive method for me.

  1. What inspires you?

Everything inspires me. It might be just a conversation or a line from a book or a commercial on TV. There is inspiration in our daily lives that sometimes go unnoticed. Those little flecks of ideas, might be enough for entire story, but they are definitely enough to add some dimension to a character or a moment in a story. I have a fifty-five page idea file that I keep all of those things in which has over ninety ideas in it.

I write every day and I surprise myself every day. Nothing more incredible than creating something out of nothing, right?


You can find out more about David J. Gibbs on his website. Also check out his story on the Uprising Review called Starter Apartment.

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