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.
For More Information
- Visit David S. Atkinson’s website.
- Connect with David on Facebook and Twitter.
- Find out more about David at Goodreads.
- Visit David’s blog.
About the Book:
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.
For More Information
- NOT QUITE SO STORIES is available at Amazon.
- Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
- Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.
- Watch the book trailer at YouTube.
Would you call yourself a born writer?
I certainly had a great deal of study to do. I’ve read and read and read over the years and tried to pay attention to how various authors make various things work. I took writing workshop courses in undergrad, went back for a lit degree, studied hard during my MFA, and sought the advice of readers and writers wherever I could. However, I can’t remember ever making a decision to be a writer. My parents raised me on the significance of reading and writing. It simply seemed like something people did, everybody, even if not everyone spent as much time doing it as others.
What was your inspiration for Not Quite so Stories?
I had been writing very realistic short stories, but I kept getting these ideas popping into my head for weird things. They were so fun that I ended up writing them, but I wasn’t sure what I could do with them beyond simply writing them. Then I came across Etgar Keret’s The Nimrod Flipout and Amelia Gray’s Museum of the Weird. They were doing similar things, but had gone so much further. This led to more authors like that, and to me giving into more and more weird story ideas. I started thinking about how baffling life really was and how the idea of myth explaining it was such a cop out. They weren’t even really trying to explain it, just in a way, and we’d have been better off accepting the bizarre nature of life and trying to figure out how to deal with it instead rather than seeking explanations we weren’t going to get. I thought of Rudyard Kipling’s Just so Stories and decided to warp that, the result being Not Quite so Stories, playful and fun and not demanding that life be explainable.
What themes do you like to explore in your writing?
I come back to a number of different themes over and over again, the kind of things which frustrate and baffle me in my own life. Stories like “Changes for the Château” and “Domestic Ties” relate to sensations of feeling trapped and the different ways we can be trapped. Stories like “Turndown Service” and “Up, Up, and No Way” explore the sensation that life kind of does what it wants with us, smacks us around a little bit. On a larger scope, I think all the themes come back to trying to be alive as a person in the world.
How long did it take you to complete the collection?
Somewhere around a decade. Some, like “The Headshaking Disappointment of the Misguidedly Well-Intentioned,” were more recent. Others, like “Context Driven,” were originally begun almost a decade ago. Being short stories along a particular theme, I kind of had to wait for certain kinds of ideas to come so the stories didn’t end up force, working on other projects in the interim since I don’t hold off writing simply because one kind of idea isn’t coming. While different ideas came and developed, I worked and reworked the ones I already had. It was iterative and time consuming in a way my novels weren’t. I definitely think it was worth it though. I’m very happy with how it came out and would easily spend that time over again for the same results.
Are you disciplined? Describe a typical writing day.
Due to the way I work, there’s almost no ‘typical’ day. Working as a patent attorney is an extremely time intensive job. I have to fit writing in where I can, and accept that heavy work times can consume nights and weekends. I’m always writing SOMETHING each day, but it varies. I’ll fit in reading where I can, writing at least one blog post per day, and so on. If I get time and I need to get on revising something, I do that. If I’ve got a new story that needs to be written, I do that (like the time a new story leapt on me while on vacation in Paris and I banged out a draft while my wife was out running an errand, leading to “Dreams of Dead Grandpa”). I try not to force a schedule as long as a responsive approach is still moving forward. If I find that I’m instead procrastinating, I look at forcing myself to be more structured so that I don’t drift away from writing.
What did you find most challenging about writing this book?
The most challenging aspect was being patient. I kept having the urge to write strangely realistic stories faster, and what felt like the good ideas didn’t always come when I wanted them. I would try to force it, but then I’d end up with a story I didn’t like, a story that felt like only a recast version of one of the others. I must have ended up with three different stories that were all basically “Home Improvement.” The results wouldn’t be good for anything, so I had to make myself relax and turn to another writing project if I didn’t have anywhere good to go at the time. I wanted to have all the stories already, but I didn’t like the product if I rushed.
What do you love most about being an author?
I absolutely love it when someone enjoys something I’ve written. Still, I don’t think anything can compare with the writing itself. Seeing something really special end up on the page that can’t have possibly come from the labors one has been doing (I think of “Domestic Ties” in particular when I’m thinking about this example) because it’s so much more is amazing. At the same time though, I don’t want to just be jabbering to myself in a corner. As much as I love the writing itself, it’s even better when people read and enjoy it. Writing alone isn’t enough.
Did you go with a traditional publisher, small press, or did you self publish? What was the process like and are you happy with your decision?
I’ve seen good things come out of all three, but small press worked the best for me. I didn’t feel that I fit into the existing categories for traditional publishers, and I needed far more help than successful self-publishing would allow. All my books have come about by relationships I’ve established with small presses I’ve learned about putting me in the right place at the right time so that a receptive person asked to see my work. It wouldn’t have helped at all if the writing wasn’t ready, but it helped get noticed out of the overload even the smallest presses are subject to. A real person knew who I was, what they were reading, and why they were reading it. Then, once they fell in love with what I had, they did everything they could to make it even better. It’s like working with friends, highly committed friends with the integrity to hold you to at least as high a standard as they would a stranger…if not higher.
Where can we find you on the web?
I wander around a lot of places. My writing web site is at http://davidsatkinsonwriting.com/. Stories of mine are in online journals such as Wilderness House Literary Review http://www.whlreview.com/no-10.2/fiction/DavidSAtkinson.pdf, Apocrypha and Abstractions https://apocryphaandabstractions.wordpress.com/2015/07/16/the-philosophical-problem-of-original-jam-by-david-s-atkinson/, and Hobo Pancakes http://www.hobopancakes.com/2014/12/02/department-of-human-resources-18/). I also have a Facebook author page (https://www.facebook.com/DavidSAtkinsonAuthor/), a Twitter account (https://twitter.com/DavidSAtkinson_?lang=en), a blog (https://davidsatkinson.wordpress.com/), and a book blog I co-edit with Kimberly Campbell Moore titled Eleven and a Half Years of Books (https://11andahalfyearsofbooks.wordpress.com/). I’m not tough to find.