A Day in the Life With Fiction Writer and Poet, Gary W. Davis

Terrie Leigh Relf: What types – and forms – of writing do you do? If you’re also an editor, what is your niche?

Gary W. Davis: My writing interests are rather specific. I write and publish traditional-style poems and haiku on mostly classic horror subjects, and also short stories that are largely about Halloween. As a separate interest, I write nonfiction, online magazine articles that apply East Asian philosophical concepts—Zen and Taoism—to business innovation. I have published about ten of those over the past decade. In the past, I also did editing of academic articles and entire books in the field of economics.

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

Gary W. Davis: Regarding fiction, I have a fair amount of expertise on Halloween and on related Celtic history and mythology about Samhain, Druids, ancient Ireland, etc. I also have knowledge about concepts in Zen philosophy, which can be useful for inspiring and writing haiku.

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

Gary W. Davis: Since I am approaching retirement, I only work part-time hours, and most of those are tele-work; I don’t spend much time commuting to and from the office.

Terrie Leigh Relf: What tips do you have for other writers and/or editors?

Gary W. Davis: My approach to writing short stories is to just go ahead and write them—”go with the flow,” so to speak. If I already have a set of basic ideas for a short story (beginning, ending, setting and major characters), I just start writing without extensive or detailed plotting ahead of time. I don’t worry too much about what I will have to write “down the road” in a given story, because when I get to that later point in my story, what I want to write, combined with a little imagination, will usually be pretty apparent—at that later point. I have found that writing short stories is actually a lot easier than I originally anticipated, before I started writing anything. Hopefully, that experience should boost a budding writer’s confidence. Of course, if one is attempting to write a whole novel, then probably a lot of planning and plotting ahead of time would be necessary.

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

Gary W. Davis: Get ideas from anything that interests you—personal experience, myth, history, current events, maybe even dreams—and then let your flow of vivid imagination do the rest. Go outside, take a walk and look around. Studies in the field of business innovation have shown that a great many new ideas do not come while people are working at their desk in an office. Some new ideas even arise during the middle of the night; (see Gary W. Davis, “Collaborate with Night and Nature to Come up with New Ideas,” published in InnovationMagagement.se, July 5, 2016).

Terrie Leigh Relf: Where do your ideas come from?

Gary W. Davis: Some of my story ideas come from poems, even short poems, that I have already written. I get a lot of inspiration from reading about ancient Celtic history and mythology (e.g., the idea of spirits living in trees). Sometimes, I’m inspired by personal experiences I’ve had on Halloween—setting up a haunted house or the time my father tried to scare me; he put a scarecrow in a chair in our darkened living room on Halloween night. Later, when I came back from a party, I thought there was a real family member in the chair who had passed out.

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

Gary W. Davis: I have had Halloween short stories published in Alban Lake’s Frost Fire Worlds magazine (2016-2017); I have a new Halloween story, “The Perfect Pumpkin Patch,” coming out in the new Frostfire Worlds anthology this November. I have published poems and haiku in Tales of the Talisman, Bloodbond, Illumen, Scifaikuest, Star*Line, Tales from the Moonlit Path, two Lester Smith Halloween anthologies and a sci-fi anthology, Kepler’s Cowboys (2014-2019). I haven’t really done enough writing to receive any awards; I only started writing short stories a few years ago. I do have a Doctorate in Public Administration, from George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia.

Terrie Leigh Relf: What are you working on now?

Gary W. Davis: I recently finished a page-long Halloween poem and a flash-fiction story. The story is about a kid taking a summertime nap while hiking in deep woods; unfortunately, the kid falls into a dangerous magical dream-sleep and then later finds out where all the creatures from children’s fairy tales disappeared to. I write haiku—horrorku and scifaiku—all the time. I have lately done some take-offs on Basho’s famous “frog-pond” haiku. I also continue to do research on a prospective nonfiction paper entitled, “A Horror History of the Origins of Halloween.”

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 and/or editor?

Gary W. Davis: See my comments above. So far, I have not often gotten to a point where I am really stuck in the middle of a short story. I am usually able to move on quickly, because, as I am writing the story, I am also plotting out the remainder of it in my head, as I go along. I think that my personal history of an active imagination helps here. Occasionally, I will add in extra sentences or a paragraph to make sure the plot is clear and smooth to the reader. For instance, in my first published Halloween story, the editor had me go back and add about half-a-dozen sentences to make sure the reader understood that a particular boy character had indeed turned into a ghost.

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

Gary W. Davis: I am probably more of a discovery writer. I usually do, only in my head, the general outlines of a short story plot ahead of time. I often “discover” some new, interesting or humorous dialogue as I proceed with my story-writing.

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

Gary W. Davis: I am not currently a writing mentor, although I have frequently given friends editing help for personal business letters.

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?

Gary W. Davis: In my Halloween stories, I like to put in some characters that are different from the typical spooky antagonists. For instance, instead of the standard Halloween witch, I may use a Druid priestess, participating in an ancient Samhain ritual, which probably has some historical validity. In contrast to the civilizations of ancient Greece and Rome, the so-called “barbarian” Celtic societies of western and northern Europe allowed women to participate in religious leadership roles and even warfare. The relationship of the characters to their setting is also important in my stories. I may use natural settings like deep woods, large oak trees, forest clearings, lakes and bogs, which had important ritual significance to the ancient Celts. Well-preserved bodies of (probably) ritual execution victims have been found in ancient peat bogs throughout the Celtic and Germanic regions of northern Europe.

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

Gary W. Davis: I’m not in a writing group. I do correspond by email on a regular basis with one major steampunk, science-fiction and horror writer, novelist and editor—David Lee Summers (who is also an expert in Victorian and modern astronomy). David has given me lots of helpful advice over the years.

Terrie Leigh Relf: Your thoughts on self-publishing?

Gary W. Davis: I strongly prefer to be published by established companies.

Terrie Leigh Relf:  What are some of your longer-term writing goals?

Gary W. Davis: One of my longer-term writing goals is to publish an anthology of Halloween short stories and poems geared mostly to older kids.

Terrie Leigh Relf: Thank you again, Gary, for creating the time for this interview! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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