A Day in the Life Presents . . . Short Story Writer, David Rae

Terrie Leigh Relf: What types – and forms – of writing do you do? Do you have a niche market? 

David Rae: I’m not sure I’m comfortable thinking about niches. I’ve spent a lot of my time trying to get out of pigeonholes that people tried to put me in. However, we do live in a world of labels. I’ve written horror, Sci-fi, fantasy, and more realistic pieces. I do also write children’s stories, but find them almost impossible to place. I’d like to be thought of as a Magical Realist, but that sounds so pretentious.

Terrie Leigh Relf: What is your area(s) of subject matter expertise? How did you discover this niche? What intrigues you about it?

David Rae: Again, I’m not sure what to say. I’m not really an expert on anything. I think that we shouldn’t aim to be experts; we should always try to be learning new things and that label might just get in the way. I’m not suggesting I know nothing. I have degrees in Mathematics, Biology, Geography, and Architecture. They do inform my writing, but don’t drive it. I found these niches simply through curiosity. I’m intrigued by anything new or bright and shiny.

Terrie Leigh Relf: How do you balance your creative and work time?

David Rae: I slack off work every chance I get. No, seriously, it is a problem. I work mostly at home. The big problem is balancing promotion and working. Twitter, Facebook, websites . . . they all need a lot of attention. Shameless self-promotion does not come easy to anyone. I also have no friends or social life, which makes finding time easier, and a very understanding family.

Terrie Leigh Relf: What tips do you have for other writers?

David Rae: I don’t know. “Don’t give up,” is the obvious one. I have stories about that piece that was rejected fifteen times and then found the ideal home. And genuinely, that is very satisfying, and the piece was very popular. So much so that I had editors asking why I hadn’t submitted it to them. That’s never happened before or since. I also keep all of my rejection letters and read them on occasion; sometimes, they are so uplifting they are better than an acceptance. But they all boil down to the same thing, regardless of how kind they are. Keep going. If you’re happy with what you’ve written, then that should be enough. Sharing it or having someone else share it is an added bonus.

Terrie Leigh Relf: What are your thoughts on the creative process in general and your creative process in particular?

David Rae: I’m not a deep thinker. I think that ultimately, I create because I have to. If I don’t get the words down on paper, then they come back and haunt me at night and keep me awake. For years, I had a drawer full of old writings, and then I decided that I should do more than hope that someday someone reads them after I’m dead.

Terrie Leigh Relf: Where do your ideas come from?

David Rae: I have no idea. I guess I’ve been a reader all my life and consciously or subconsciously, I’m stealing ideas from Gene Wolfe, Michael Moorcock, Ray Bradbury, Robert Louis Stevenson, Amine Maluf, Robin Jarvis, Philip Reeve, and the rest. I also get a lot of ideas from real life. Some from stories my parents told me. Real life is a lot weirder then people think. Or maybe I just hang out with weird people. But, for example, everyone knows someone who has seen a ghost or had a religious experience or seen flying saucers or Big Foot. It doesn’t matter if they’re real; people believe they are real and that’s enough.

Terrie Leigh Relf: Where have you been published? Upcoming publications? Awards and other accolades?

David Rae: Well, I’ve been published by Alban Lake Publishing and I’m very proud of that. Mostly, I publish short stories and I love getting micro fiction placed. Writing micro-fiction is a great discipline and really helps sharpen your prose. I have a big piece –  7,000 words – coming out soon in Crazy Town Anthology called “Seeing Things.” It’s a supernatural noir story. I did win a prize for one of my 50-word pieces, “I Dare You,” and “When the Wild Woods Came” was nominated for a Pushcart prize. I’ve had about thirty pieces accepted. I do write bigger pieces, but they are much harder to sell. So far no success.

Terrie Leigh Relf: What are you working on now?

David Rae: I’m still doing short pieces, which gives me a lot of fun. When I see a call or a prompt, then I like to rise to the challenge. But I’m also working on a piece called “The Lepidopterist’s Beautiful Daughter.” I hoped to make it a novella, but it keeps wanting to be larger and larger, so novel it almost certainly is. It’s a steam-punk novel about a clergyman and his interaction with a race of winged people (Angels, Aliens, or Fairies) and his quest for love. It involves man-eating plants, Lazarites, the dreaming towers of Oxford, giant spiders, and flying saucers. I’m looking for beta readers, if you’re interested.

 Terrie Leigh Relf: What challenges have you faced as a writer and/or with a particular project? How did you meet them? What did you learn from these challenges and how did they make you a better writer?

David Rae: Rejection. No one likes it. It makes me determined to do better and be more humble. Both are important. It can make you feel that you’re no good, but then you don’t have to be good; you just have to write.

Editing. No one likes it, but it’s so important. It’s never done, and you will always benefit from one more read over. It’s particularly challenging for me because I’m severely dyslexic. When I was in my twenties, I actually had a piece accepted, but I need to make edits for a deadline. I just knew I couldn’t do it. Not in the time they set. It came back as a paper with red ink all over it. I suppose I could have paid someone to do it, but financially, it wasn’t an option, so I just turned down my first- ever acceptance. It wasn’t a lost masterpiece or anything, but it was many years before I tried to get back into the game.

Thank God, for word processing and Grammerly!

Writer’s block. Leave it and write something else until the guilt becomes unbearable and you just have to do it. I think writer’s block is about thinking you’re no good. Keep going; it’s a first draft.

Terrie Leigh Relf: Are you plotter and planner or a discovery writer?

David Rae: Definitely a discovery writer. Even when I have a plot, the story will go haywire.

Terrie Leigh Relf: Are you currently a writing mentor? If so, what are your thoughts on mentoring?

David Rae: What a wonderful suggestion. I’m certainly not a formal mentor, but I like to think of myself as being supportive, and I’ve done collaborative work with my nieces and had their work published. I’ve also encouraged a work friend to do the 50 words and he’s had that published. I’m currently helping a friend who’s been inspired by my writing to have a go. I hope we can get his piece placed somewhere.

I don’t have a mentor, but recently I interviewed an old friend who has published a few books and I thought, Wow! Why  didn’t I speak to you about writing years ago?! He was very supportive, and I think he got a lot out of our time together, too. We now meet regularly, so I suppose he’s my mentor. Writing is quite lonely. I suspect many writers would be happy to informally mentor someone. I know I would.

Terrie Leigh Relf: Since you’re a fiction writer, who are your favorite characters? How did they come into being, and what do you love – or loathe – about them?

David Rae: I love Tito from “The Lepidopterist’s Beautiful Daughter.” He’s been described as sweet and clueless. Of course, he’s based on me. Putting yourself into your writing is something we can’t avoid no matter how hard we try. He’s very introspective and a good person. Okay, so maybe he’s not based on me, but he’s the kind of person I’d like to be, except not so stupid. Sometimes I want to take him and slap him.

Terrie Leigh Relf: Are you currently, or have you ever, been in a writing group? Your thoughts?

David Rae: Yes, I have. In one, we sat about and talked about writing but never read or directly discussed each other’s work. This was actually pretty good in a lot of ways, but it never really encouraged you to be productive. It did make you think about why you write, what you want out of writing, and it did help generate ideas. I’ve been in others, and let’s just say they can become ego-fests. I’m also in an on-line writing group, and that is hard work, but so far a good experience. You have to put in to get out, so it’s more commitment. I can see why they would work for some and also why they might not.

Terrie Leigh Relf: I know our readers would love to hear about your networking, marketing, and promotional experiences – including tips.

David Rae: Submitting work is the best networking method, even if it does not always seem like it. Always include a link for editors to look at your other work. A website is a must, and try to build a mailing list from there. Don’t forget Twitter and Facebook, and any other social media forum. I’m certainly not an expert, and would be happy for any other tips anyone has. I suppose that’s the thing; there are people out there that are experts. Just be sure your work is ready to be marketed before you make that leap.

Terrie Leigh Relf: Your thoughts on having an agent?

David Rae: I’m certainly open to having one. Is that an offer? At the moment, I don’t earn near enough to justify having an agent. But I’d love for that to change. Having an agent might be the thing that changes it. I can’t really say I’ve thought about it.

Terrie Leigh Relf: Your thoughts on self-publishing?

David Rae: I’ve resisted the idea for ages, but I’m having second thoughts. If writing is a hobby then, like fishing or football, you need to invest in it. I’m mean, and hate spending money, and the thought of spending money on a vanity press fills me with horror. Nothing would be worse that having caseloads of unsold and unwanted paperbacks to shift. BUT . . . things are changing, and the new e-platforms make it a viable proposition. The problem is marketing and the amount of time that takes. Still, I suppose if I pay to get someone to fix my pipes, why not to sell my book? I’m thinking about it.

Terrie Leigh Relf: Thank you so much, David, for creating time for this interview. Be sure to check out his website!

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