Where Honesty Never Ends.
Hello and welcome, once again, to The Review Board. Today we are bringing you an inside look at Author David Dubrow who is visiting us as part of the March 2016 Author Spotlight.
Conducting today’s interview is our very own Harmony Kent.
In your biography on your website’s homepage, you mention the diving watch incident … please, do tell us more!
This is probably going to be one of those stories where you had to be there, but here goes:
I was fortunate enough to grow up in a house that had a swimming pool, and during the summer months my brothers and I loved to swim. One day, when I was eleven or twelve, my dad came home with some wristwatches that, on a lark, he had purchased from a street vendor selling knockoffs of famous brands. As I was the most avid swimmer, I picked the diving watch and couldn’t wait to try it out.
With my brothers watching, I put on the watch, got onto the diving board, and dove into the pool. To my delight, the watch still ticked despite the dunking! It really was a diving watch like scuba divers wore. Just to be sure, I dove into the pool again, and, of course, the watch died. Later in the week, my dad made the game attempt to exchange the watch with the same street vendor, who asked him, “Did you get water on it?” For some reason, my older brother thinks that’s the funniest story ever.
Do you have any particular writing processes or rituals? Favourite music to listen to … that kind of thing?
I’m a morning person, and I do my best work in the earliest part of the day. I find that music distracts me, so I like for things to be quiet when I write. In the outlining and note-taking stage when I’m trying to develop an idea I walk around the house and talk it out. So yes, I talk to myself at times, but it works. It’s why in the early stages of a book I can’t work at a Starbucks or library or somewhere else public: they’d think I was crazy.
Are you able to write full time, or do you have a “day job”?
I left a successful career with the most dangerous publisher in America to be a stay-at-home dad. My wife works very hard to support us; without her, I wouldn’t have a writing career, and I’m very thankful for that. The real rock stars are those writers who have day jobs and families and still write.
Is there any person in particular who has inspired you in your life and/or your writing?
Years ago, when I wrote The Ultimate Guide to Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse, I did it on those weekends I wasn’t working as a solitary, self-starting venture. I had to light my own spark, so to speak. During my novel-writing career I’ve been lucky enough to make several good, encouraging friends: fellow writers who are successful and skilled like Adam Howe; R.M. Huffman; and Jim Arvanitis, whom I’ve worked with on multiple projects. Inspiration really has to come from within, and you have to fuel it with your ambition to keep it lit.
Okay, so your biography states that you read the Chronicles of Narnia at age four although you have no recollection of that now. Did this family tale influence your creativity at all? What other books and/or authors have influenced you and why?
No other book series has influenced me more than C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, even though I’m Jewish and the books depict Jesus Christ as a lion in an alternate universe. Aslan is loving, but not safe, and that’s a powerful, complex notion. In Narnia, there’s redemption and damnation; there’s decent, simple goodness and terrible evil; and there are choices big and small that affect your spiritual welfare. I like that. I like that Lewis showed us both good and evil in such elemental, unequivocal ways, and I try to portray that in my fiction. What happens when our culture, one that not just acknowledges moral gray areas but seems to celebrate them, gets the ultimate wake-up call: a Biblical apocalypse? How do we cope as individuals and a civilization? Can we disagree with a good, loving God and keep our integrity?
I read in a lot of genres, from history to science fiction to horror to literary fiction, so my writing influences are a bit across the board. The late Gary Jennings awakened a love of history in me, particularly pre-Columbian history. John Updike, particularly his Rabbit novels and Couples, showed me that you can portray even the most prosaic events and people with incredible complexity and beauty. I’ve read all of Jonathan Carroll’s novels in awe and respect for an amazing writer with an unbounded imagination. John Fowles, Hermann Hesse, Michael Moorcock, Paul Auster, Graham Masterton…I could go on. I’m nowhere near these writers in depth or skill, but they’re all influences.
You have four books published to date—what’s in store next for you?
I will finish the Armageddon trilogy with the third and last book in the series. I prefer longer works to short stories, so once the Armageddon trilogy’s done, I’ll start on another novel. I don’t know what it will be yet: I’m pouring all of my inspiration and imagination into what I’m writing now, so the reader gets my best work. There’s a Yiddish expression that I’ve found valuable: “People plan, God laughs.” So I take things one book at a time.
Do you tend to hold a grudge or let it all go?
A great question. I hold grudges when I can’t work a problem out with someone. I don’t like it, it’s a thing about myself that I work to change, but being able to forgive someone for wrongdoing (or perceived wrongdoing) is an admirable trait. Becoming a dad has helped me with that, however. I work to be a man that my little boy can emulate and admire.
What is one of your biggest pet peeves?
I’m healthy and I get to write and I have a wonderful family whom I love. Any complaints are necessarily petty and transitory.
Do you take much notice of reviews on your books?
I wish I didn’t, but I do read them. One day I won’t bother any more, but I’m not there yet. People like what they like and that’s fine, even if they don’t like my work. I got mixed reviews here on The Review Board, so there’s obviously no hard feelings. A positive review is encouraging, ego-boosting, and helpful to sales. A negative review can be just as valuable if it’s got some kernel of constructive criticism. Nobody likes negative reviews, but after the initial gut punch feeling, you have to make the decision to learn from it or not.
Do you always leave a review on a book you’ve read?
No, but I do it most of the time. I write book reviews for my website and a UK horror site called The Slaughtered Bird, and once those reviews go live, I post them to Amazon and Goodreads. For a writer, book reviewing is a can of worms: it’s a small world, and you can very easily make enemies with a less-than-stellar review. Sales are more important than reviews, so as a writer you should probably decide how many reviews is enough per book and focus your marketing efforts accordingly.
What would you like to be doing in ten years time?
Supporting my family on my gigantic royalties, writing more books, guiding my son through those hellish teenage years, spending more time with my wife. Again, though, it circles back to “People plan, God laughs,” so we’ll see. If you had told me in 2006 that I’d be living in Florida and writing novels about the apocalypse, I would probably have laughed at you.
What’s the most important piece of advice you would give to a fellow author?
Model success. Do what successful authors do. You don’t have to write like them, but you do have to write well. The books that I read and don’t review are the ones with bad grammar, repetitive sentence structure, lack of flow from sentence to sentence, and/or clichéd characters and descriptions. If you want to write well, read with an eye toward mindfulness: figure out how a scene works (or doesn’t work), take that knowledge, and put it to use in your own voice.
I frequently update my blog, which you can found HERE.
Thanks very much for the opportunity to talk about myself here on The Review Board.