I want to thank author, Daniel Ausema for allowing me to interview him on my blog today. And before we begin let me say that anyone who comments on this blog will have the chance to win a copy of one of his books. The winner can choose between an ecopy of Contagion, his first story bundle, or Epidemic, which comprises stories 7-13.
So, Daniel, let’s get this interview started. Musa Publishing will be releasing Epidemic – seven more stories of your steampunk serial Spire City – on October 17th. Can you tell us a little bit about them?
They’re the story of a group of outcasts who have been infected by a mad scientist’s serum. As they turn slowly into animals, they try to reveal to the people of the city what he’s been doing and find some way to stop him, but the scientist is a respected member of society, so they’re up against more than just a single person.
The story spans three books, though I never had in mind to write a trilogy when I started. I wrote them specifically to be serialized, so these seven episodes form the second half of book/season one, “Infected”. Season two, “Pursued,” begins serialization on November 28.
From my own experience I know what it’s like when you write one book, then suddenly find you have a trilogy! How long have you been writing?
It’s difficult to pinpoint a certain time. I was creating stories with my brothers since I was quite young, writing them down since pre-teen years. In college my degree involved journalism, so I did a lot of writing for that, though it’s a very different sort of writing. I never completely left creative writing behind, and a year or so after college I started writing my first novel. But it’s really been the past 9-10 years, since we moved to a new state and I began staying at home with my then infant son that I’ve taken my writing a lot more seriously.
What attracted you to steampunk?
I love an imaginative and immersive setting. That doesn’t always mean steampunk, but it does mean I shy away from settings that feel too much like other fantasy books out there. There are many aspects to steampunk that draw me in, but I think primarily I enjoy the sense of change that’s inherent in an industrial revolution sort of setting. The class conflicts, the environmental impact of new factories, the flow of people from the countryside to the cities, the burgeoning questions about politics and the proper places for various peoples—these are all rich veins for powerful storytelling, for stories that resonate today.
Creative people are born that way but they are also shaped by various outside influences. Were you influenced by any particular authors, alive or dead? Does music or some other medium inspire you to write what you do?
Was I ever! Every book I’ve read, every author that has been, for however fleeting a time, my favorite. I recently posted on my blog about the thirteen books that have especially affected me ( http://danielausema.blogspot.com/2014/09/ten-books-well-it-rounds-off-to-ten.html ) and I could easily list many more. They span writers from throughout the last century through today, men and women writing for high literature or children and all points in between and all around (and with literature degrees in English and Spanish, there have been writers from other centuries as well, though I didn’t include them in my list). Plus some of my writer friends pushed on from that and included poets, which I could easily come up with another list for poets who have been at one time or another my favorite.
As for other media, some stories certainly are inspired by specific works of art—I have an entire series of stories and poems deeply influenced by Hieronymous Bosch’s paintings and Piranesi’s Dark Prison etchings. Parts of Spire City are inspired by the architecture of Barcelona. And I’m always interested in discovering more—music, art, architecture, literature of any kind.
You certainly have a rich vein of creative influences to tap into. I wonder, of all the characters you have created, do you have a favourite; and, if so, why?
All of them, especially whichever ones are in whatever story I’m working on 🙂 At the moment, I’m doing edits on the first season 2 episode. It introduces a new character, who had taken religious orders before she was infected. She’s not much a presence yet, but in the episodes to come she’s this fascinating person, outwardly at peace with her animal transformations more than anyone else, even to the point of shocking the other infected people. She can be both ferocious and devout at once.
But really Chels is the center and heart of these stories. She’s young and adrift. Her deceased mother was an immigrant, her father probably local but unknown. So she has tons of questions about identity that’s only compounded by her infection. Over the course of the series she grows into what’s needed of her quite satisfyingly.
Many authors have certain recurring themes or messages in their work. Do you see any in your own books?
Exile and immigration play in and out of many of my stories. Also characters who struggle between accepting the world as it is and trying to add their voice to change it.
It is said of writers, don’t make them angry or you might end up parodied or horribly slaughtered in their next novel. Have you taken revenge on anyone in this way?
Hah, I have not. And I will maintain that claim in the face of any accusations…
8. What advice would you give to aspiring, young writers who are seeking publication but don’t know where to start?
Be aware of what’s out there. If it’s short stories you want to publish, read lots of short stories. If it’s novels, read widely. Even within the fields of fantasy & SF, things get so fragmented, and it becomes easy to assume one small sliver of what’s out there represents the whole field. If the places you participate in online talk a lot about grimdark or vampires or mythpunk or military SF, it can feel like that’s all there is. But reading only such a small segment of the field can stunt a writer’s creativity and limit what they allow themselves to attempt.
So read the award winners and the bestsellers and the small press unknowns. And do that reading in a spirit of openness. Beginning writers so often get caught up in reading published works in order to criticize them. Read recognizing that there’s a reason this book or story was published. Figure out what that is, and appreciate it for it. And then criticize if it merits it, but start by understanding why someone thought it does work, otherwise you end up wallowing in your own jealousies and delusions.
9. That’s really great advice, Daniel. I’m all in favour of writers broadening their minds and reading as many different authors as possible. What’s next for you as an author? Is there a work in progress you’d like to tell us about?
Two more seasons of Spire City! Apart from that, you never know. I’m always working on new projects, and I have several novels complete or nearly complete that I’ll be shopping to agents as well as poems and short stories that could be appearing in any number of markets.
Buy link to this bundle: http://tinyurl.com/kmzpnc2
Link to all Daniel’s Musa-published titles: http://tinyurl.com/q68tg32
Link to Daniel’s blog: http://danielausema.blogspot.com
Author bio: Daniel Ausema’s short stories and poems have appeared in Penumbra, Daily Science Fiction, The Journal of Unlikely Stories, and many other places. He has worked as a journalist and educator and is currently a stay-at-home dad. He lives in Colorado, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains.
Thanks again, Daniel. That was a great interview and I wish you every success with your writing.
ENTER TO WIN: Now it just remains for me to remind everyone to comment on this blog for a chance to win one of Daniel’s eBooks. Contest closes Monday midnight GMT/ 6pm EST.