Today I’d like to welcome Calvin Demmer, one of my favorite short story writers and author of the Dark Celebrations series.
Can you give us your quickest description of your books?
I currently spend the majority of my time writing short fiction. As a relatively new writer, this gives me the opportunity to experiment a bit more with different genres and styles. But I’d say most of my work falls under the speculative fiction umbrella, leaning towards the darker side of things.
Having read some of your shorts, I definitely agree about your work leaning towards the darker side, and I love that you play around with genres. In my experience, writing shorts is a very different process from writing longer works. If you start writing longer works (a novel, let’s say), what have you learned by writing shorts that will carry over to longer work?
I’ve learned so much… But some of the major areas are pacing, not overloading with exposition at the beginning, and keeping the story tight. With short fiction you’re always focused on making every word count and have a purpose. I think that is a great skill to carry forward to any other works.
Agreed. What are you working on currently?
My main focus is writing short stories and flash fiction then sending them to various markets. I was fortunate to get published in a few places in 2016 and hope to continue that in 2017. I also have a side-project, which are stories I write in my Dark Celebrations series. These are short stories that I write for pure enjoyment with no restrictions. They’re really about having fun with the story and are usually written when I need a break from the main focus. I’m also looking into some of my older stories with the idea of maybe putting some together for a possible future collection. This is a slow process as many of them do require some work. And then I’m also playing around with ideas for possible longer works.
Have you ever started a story or even finished a story and just not liked it, so you toss it? Or do you always find a way to use a story?
I’ve tossed a few away. I’ve also made stories work in the past, but I don’t like doing that and don’t anymore. There is always a fresh idea. When I started writing, I probably wrote just over 200,000 words that I never used. But I knew beforehand I likely wouldn’t use any of it as it was more for practice than anything else.
That’s a lot of practice! What is one bit of advice you’d like to share with writers?
One of the things I’ve learned is that the editing process is as important as the initial first draft. In the beginning, I neglected the editing side a bit. I now separate the two processes and give them equal attention. It’s a lot of fun during the first draft. Everything flows, usually, and it’s exciting to get to the next scene. Editing was a bit more labor intensive for me. However, it is where I can shape my story, give it direction, and make the story shine. As I get better at editing, I am starting to enjoy it more and more. I’ve also found that it helps to give myself a break from a story after the first draft and then tackle the work from a more critical standpoint when it isn’t so fresh.
Great advice. I’ve read a lot of books that could be great if the editing was better, and it’s an extremely important step that authors need to pay attention to. I’m glad you’ve found a way to enjoy editing (and it shows in your work that you take your time), but did you have to work at being critical of your own work, or does that come naturally to you? I know some authors struggle with that.
It comes easy to me. I battle myself quite a bit on some stories. There is a good and bad side to that. Sometimes, the stories never see the light of day because of it. Other times, the stories really come out great and shine.
When you get stuck in your writing, how do you make yourself keep going?
I find that having more than one project on the go works for me. I guess that’s easier when you’re focusing on a lot of shorter works, but even if I throw some longer projects into the mix it would still be a formula I use. I like to be able to switch to something different if I get frustrated or hit a brick wall with one thing. This way the writing never stops.
That’s a good system. When you’re working on more than one story at a time, do you find that thinking about one leads you to ideas for the others? I imagine that would help keep the creative juices flowing, rather than being stuck in one story.
It does, mostly because your mind is always active and gets used to thinking like that. I’ve been working on a story before when an idea for something else pops into my mind. Depending on how interesting and complex the idea is, I might make a note of it. But usually, the good ideas never really disappear.
Is there anything you’ve read that made you jealous you didn’t think of it first?
When I started just about everything I read and enjoyed made me jealous. I was amazed by some of the epic works like Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos and Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. Books like Richard Matheson’s I am Legend and Phillip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle also left me in awe. But as I started to write more and more, I realized that it wasn’t so much jealousy but rather an inner desire to create my own world and characters that was growing within. These types of works then became inspiration that fuelled me to keep on improving, so that I may also one day create my own colorful worlds and characters.
(That’s always where I hope authors will take this question – turning it to inspiration.) 🙂 Even though your work is mostly on the dark side, do you get inspiration from all over the place, or just stick to certain genres? How important is being well-rounded as a reader, to you?
That’s a tough one. Some people say you should stick to your genre and focus, while others say reading more diverse will make you a better writer. I don’t know the answer to that, but as for myself, I read almost everything. I do spend majority of the time in the genres I enjoy, but I also like the challenge of reading things I normally wouldn’t. As for the inspiration, I get it from everything. Sometimes works that are not in my genre will trigger an idea. I would hate to be closed to any avenue that could provide fresh inspiration.
Thanks, Calvin, for sharing!