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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Interview with Damon Suede

Where do you hail from and what do you love most about your hometown?
I’m originally from Houston Texas. My family is what I love most about it.
When you generalize, Texas looks pretty wretched from every angle: hot, humid, bourgeois, bigoted, and fiercely Republican. The statistics on the region are horrifying almost across the board: for crime, illiteracy, poverty, prejudice, corruption, disease, pollution, obesity, censorship, education, abuse.
Obviously there are bright spots and lone holdouts managing to survive and carve out a life for themselves in the sticky, stripmall desolation which sucks the joy out of most folks. I salute anyone brave or crazy enough to try, but I fled that cesspit the way people escape a burning building. I fucking hated it and only go back because I love my family so much. They battle the moron majority with grace and panache and I bless them for it.
Not that I have an opinion or anything… LOL
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? How has that childhood dream affected your career?
I wanted to write and direct shows. And that’s what I do now for my bread-n-butter. J So I lucked out and the childhood dream became my career…
Because of my singing voice I started out in showbiz pretty early doing musicals, concerts, and jingles. In turn, that led to acting, and then while I was living in London in my early 20s, I realized that I’d built up enough connections and know-how to make the transition to writer-director. Never looked back!
Tell us about your latest book.  Do you have anything new in the works and can you tell us a bit about it?
My newest release is Grown Men published by Riptide Publishing. It’s a sci-fi novella about terraformers thrown together on the edge of the galaxy. The threat of corporate assassination looms between them and dramatizing their tension became special challenge because one of the characters is literally a mute giant; his murky intentions and the burgeoning friendship puts both of them in terrible danger from within and without. J
Up next I have a full length steampunk zipper ripper called Spring Eternal with skullduggery, abduction, and all sorts of greasy shenanigans in the underbelly of a Gilded Age Manhattan that never was…. Inventing that particular world has been such a treat! I’m super-stoked about the way the components have come together. And every kernel of research leads deeper so the story has blossomed into this florid, whimsical adventure with a strange fairytale vibe. Fantastical delirium!
Have you ever used contemporary events or stories “ripped from the headlines” in your work?
My first novel Hot Head was about firefighters in New York City dealing with the aftermath of 9/11 and the fall of the Twin Towers. So yeah, that was definitely a “topical” book and the gravity of the subject made me obsessive about getting it right, as much as I could. The last thing I wanted to do was dishonor the heroes of that day by treating them with flippancy or sloppiness. I interviewed people, walked the area repeatedly, read firsthand accounts, and toured stations and hospitals.
But in a sense, everything I write exists as a reaction or meditation on things I notice in my world. Even the most outlandish science fiction or fantasy gives writers a way to talk about real world issues and relationships in a heightened context. The imagined elements just broaden the dramatic possibilities.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing?
Patience comes hardest for me. I work quickly and waiting-waiting-waiting on anything ties me in painful knots. As I’ve gotten older (and more successful) I’ve tried to cultivate a kind of Zen detachment about it, but my inner Tasmanian Devil continues to rattle around inside me whenever I want people to just get a move on. LOL Still, as my agent reminds me, I don’t have to love that part of the process but I have to learn to live with it.
What advice would you give to writers just starting out?
Write every day. Make no excuses, brook no opposition, and sit your ass in the chair and produce words daily or you are fooling yourself big time.
If you want to be doing this professionally the biggest factors for success will be consistency, dependability, and bone-deep skills. Whether you’re writing on assignment or on spec, relentless focus and discipline will save your ass as a matter of course so get into the habit NOW. And if you cannot get into the habit, you may want to think twice about what you believe writing is… because your illusions will snuff you out like a candle.
Being an artist is not a disability. Writing is pitiless. If it wasn’t work people wouldn’t get paid to do it. If you start out with a bunch of silly expectations you will make yourself (and people around you) miserable for exactly no good reason. Being an author isn’t glamorous or lucrative or even all that creative much of the time. It is a craft that demands commitment, ingenuity, and catastrophic energy for very small recompense. Write every day for nothing, write like your life depends on it, and eventually someone will pay you to do just that and your life will depend on it.
Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?
Well… I don’t believe in writer’s block. Gah. I hope that’s okay to admit.
I know this will piss some people off, but I think writer’s block is a name we give to anything that keeps us from writing: procrastination, distraction, laziness, disorganization, expectations, perfectionism, etc. We lump all of these bugbears under the name “writer’s block” because it feels better to make our excuses seem like a “condition” rather than a personal failing, an internal rut, or a crappy habit which needs solving.
No one runs out of ideas. No one experiences paralysis because their fingers have touched a keyboard. No one suddenly loses the ability to put words on paper. Those may be evocative metaphors for how writers feel, but they are not reality.
I hope that doesn’t sound too harsh, but I write for a living. If I don’t write I don’t eat. They pay me because it is a job requiring craft and a work ethic. Film companies and Broadway producers don’t take kindly to being told you “don’t feel like” doing the job for which they’ve paid you. If you announce you have writer’s block often and loudly enough, they will simply go hire a professional who knows how to get the job done.
Writer’s block is an appealing (self-indulgent) metaphor, but obsessing about how you feel only grants your feelings the power to cripple your work. Frankly, the best work grows out of life or death investment. Put a metaphorical gun to your head and you’ll be amazed how creative you get.
Most often “writer’s block” designates a kind of creative ingratitude. We have an idea but we don’t like it and want something better. We get bound up in the idea of what we WANT to tell or what we EXPECT the story to be. When the words don’t turn out as we expect them to, we get frustrated and reject what we’ve written (or worse stopped ourselves writing) and we announce that we’re blocked. The Muse has given us something, but we want to regift it or exchange it for credit. It’s like a child refusing to open a present because it isn’t shaped like a bicycle, when in fact there may be a note inside telling them where to find the bicycle in the garage. Sulking and tantrums do not conjure bicycles out of thin air, and kids who make a life of sulking and tantrums may find bicycles increasingly hard to come by.
Writers write. Expectations may freeze us, may inspire us with a million reasons why we should dawdle or gripe or fritter away the day, but the Muse always wants to play. Likewise, when writers barge into a project with no outline in place and then lose their way there’s no great mystery, They’re driving in the dark with no headlights! Of course they’re gonna create roadkill and get lost and stall in the middle of nowhere! But calling bad prep “writer’s block” doesn’t mean much.
Long bolshy answer there...but I’ll stand by it. Writer’s block is a metaphor. Sometimes I’m lazy or sloppy or distracted, but I can always write.
Who is your favorite author and why? What books have most influenced your life?
Impossible question! My list of beloved authors shifts constantly. In truth, I can’t imagine anyone who could narrow down all the books they love into a single person’s output. This reminds me of when kids ask what your favorite food is. LOL Depends on the day and the mood and the city I’m sitting in.
I love Austen and Dumas (pere et fils) and Bulgakov and Henry James. But I also love Philip Jose Farmer, CS Lewis, Dorothy Parker, and Gore Vidal. Or Eco or Runyon or LeGuin.
And I love them for a million reasons: craft, wit, skill, radiance, clarity, precision, scope, plot, prescience. Ack. And those are just fiction; what about plays or nonfiction or memoir? How can you pick just one or just one reason?! How can anyone rank them? It’s not like weighing meat at the butcher! I dunno. Sorry.  Gah. Pass! LOL
How did you deal with rejection letters?
Like any informative piece of paper. An older writer once gave me a beautiful piece of wisdom. Since you know that you may receive a hundred rejections before a project gets accepted, each rejection represents another step towards your goal. For a writer, rejections are just a way to mark time passing, like notches carved in the wall of your creative prison. I read them and then I stick them in the file in case I want a laugh in about ten years.

NOTHING is for everyone, and you can never know the reasons why a piece of work doesn’t find favor. What you can do is submit intelligently and diligently to minimize the chance of a pass. And then thicken your skin to rhino-toughness, because anyone who can’t take rejection will never be a professional writer.

The important fact that we forget is the book is that they are rejecting one project, they are not rejecting your career. A single book is small in the scope of your life and a career spans your lifetime, deserving every fiber of your energy, time, and talent. The career is what matters, and no person on the earth is powerful enough to kill that other than you.

What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
Diligence: Sloppiness and laziness have no place in the writer’s world at any point. If you look at great writers and great books what they share is specificity and power that arises from focusing energy with love and attention to detail. Good enough isn’t.  Being an artist is not a disability!
Professionalism: Know your job and do it. Manners matter and if you want to be any kind of success in this business then treat it like a business. Whatever “Art” exists in fiction can only find an audience if you deal with people graciously and honorably. Everything you do reflects on your work, for good or ill.
Perspective: Fiction allows us to spend time seeing the world through fresh eyes. Feed your head and explore the world. No one sees the way you do. Regurgitating half-chewed ideas from other writers and “hot” tropes keeps you a creative bottom feeder, As my mother would often say, “Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.”
Where do you as an author draw the line on gory descriptions and/or erotic content?
My boundaries are pretty extreme. For romance fiction, I draw the line at the standard publisher restrictions without hesitation. To wit, I have zero interest in eroticizing children, corpses, or quadrupeds, and would avoid anyone who would suggest that sexualizing them has a place in our genre.
Likewise, I have no problem with intense violence or gore, but there again the line is drawn by the genre. In telling a story about people in a relationship who reach a positive outcome, I don’t want to gross out my readers before I can get my heroes to their happy ending.
What's the weirdest thing you've ever done in the name of research?
LOLOL I don’t think you want to know. I should mention that my boyfriend just laughed when I read this question aloud because I’m a freak about research and HE is a forensic investigator! I have visited morgues and walked thigh-deep in offal in an abattoir and interviewed performers at a live-sex circus in Berlin. I once spent two hours “undercover” at a pharmaceutical conference to get a feel for mass-marketing of drugs. Oh, and I made my boyfriend do a full helmet and gloves bee-suit visit to an apiary in the Czech Republic.
For M/M (although I’m only a year in), I think the weirdest thing to date may be screening 6 hours of documentary footage about eels as I was drafting Grown Men because my heroes work eel-ranch and farm designer crops on a terraformed planetoid. Actually I tried to go out on a boat for an eel haul but the calendar and geography was against me. I did spend a couple weeks eating a lot of eel in different forms, but I wanted to actually wrestle an eel into the barrel on deck. Nothing doing. L I was sad, but I imagine the eels were not.

Here's the blurb from Grown Me and the buy link.
Every future has dirty roots.
Marooned in the galactic backwaters of the HardCell company, colonist Runt struggles to eke out an existence on a newly-terraformed tropical planetoid. Since his clone-wife died on entry, he’s been doing the work of two on his failing protein farm. Overworked and undersized, Runt’s dwindling hope of earning corporate citizenship has turned to fear of violent “retirement.”
When an overdue crate of provisions crashes on his beach, Runt searches frantically for a replacement wife among the tools and food. Instead he gets Ox, a mute hulk who seems more like a corporate assassin than a simple offworld farmer.
Shackwacky and near-starving, Runt has no choice but to work with his silent partner despite his mounting paranoia and the unsettling appeal of Ox’s genetically altered pheromones. Ox plays the part of the gentle giant well, but Runt’s still not convinced he hasn’t arrived with murder in mind.
Between brutal desire and the seeds of a relationship, Runt’s fears and Ox’s inhuman past collide on a fertile world where hope and love just might have room to grow.

This title is #1 of the HardCell series.

Don't forget to give us links to your website etc.


emmettmke said...

I'm getting Grown Men on pay day (yay!) and I can't wait for Spring Eternal!

Bookishly Awesome said...

I always find you so flipping adorable. I have Grown Men and will start it ASAP.

sabrinayala at gmail dot com

The Scarf Princess said...

Loved your previous release and so excited by what you have coming up. The steampunk title I'm especially intrigued by. Thanks for a great interview as usual.

joderjo402 AT gmail DOT com

Bookwyrm369 said...

Great post! Had to laugh at your description of TX as that's how I feel about New Mexico :-)

smaccall AT comcast.net

booklover0226 said...

I enjoyed the post; it was a great read. Grown Men is on my must have list; I can't wait to read it.

Tracey D
booklover0226 at gmail dot com

-Maria- said...

Great interview, I likee the way you talk about everything.

Sarah said...

When do u expect the steam punk to be released not that I'm waiting :-P

You interviews do make me laugh...brutal honesty however it comes

Sarah S


Loveless3173 said...

Wonderful Interview!
Heh... Grown Men is most certainly on my must have/read list. Sounds fantastic. Not to mention the cover is quite fabulous! lol...
Absolutely excited to read it!

Judi P
arella3173_loveless @ yahoo . com

Adara said...

Lol! Tell us how you really feel, Damon. You're too shy. ;)

adara adaraohare com

Damon Suede said...

:) I'm not exactly a blushing flower...and I get so worked up about this stuff! LOL

Spring Eternal has no firm ETA yet. I had to double back and fix a structural thing which changed the completion dat4 I'd been aiming for. But it IS coming! :D