David S. Atkinson is the author of "Not Quite so Stories" ("Literary Wanderlust" 2016), "The Garden of Good and Evil Pancakes" (2015 National Indie Excellence Awards finalist in humor), and "Bones Buried in the Dirt" (2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards finalist, First Novel <80k a="" and="" appears="" artleby="" his="" href="http://davidsatkinsonwriting.com/" in="" is="" journal="" others.="" review="" rey="" snopes="" sparrow="" tticus="" website="" writing="">http://davidsatkinsonwriting.com/80k>and he spends his non-literary time working as a patent attorney in Denver.
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Can you tell us what your book is about?
Not Quite so Stories is a collection of absurdist literary short stories. For the most part realistic, linear stories, they each involve some kind of central absurd element (like the interviewer in my story "Form Over Substance ≈ Eggs Over Easy" who has to interview a clown for a billing outsource sales position). These reflect and exaggerate the absurdity of normal life, exploring how the individual characters manage (and/or fail to) live in the face of that absurdity.
Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
I don't think any character is completely from my imagination, but I never bring any full person into a story either. I may think I'm imagining them entirely, but I'm sure I'm borrowing bits and pieces from various people to create a breathing character. For example, there was a friend from my MFA program who showed me scratches on his car from where a bear jumped on it before my friend managed to drive off in a state park. At one point when I'd been having a particularly good run of getting stories accepted, he commented online that we should take my luck to a casino. This, along with one of the personas he used for poetry, got sucked up into a character forced by a bear to gamble in my story "The Unknowable Agenda of Ursines."
Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a story or do you discover it as you write?
It really depends on the project I'm working on. Everything I work on seems to have an inherent set of rules I have to discover to make things work. I had the idea for the concept of the firemen in "The Boys of Volunteer Fire Two-Twenty-Two-Point-Five (and a Half)" and then had to figure out what kind of a story they had with a rational narrator. "The Headshaking Disappointment of the Misguidedly Well-Intentioned," on the other hand, came to me as a plot and I had to come up with the details that fleshed everything out from there.
Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?
Each story is different. Although all elements really need to be working soundly for the respective story to come off, different elements take center stage depending on what the story is doing. The tiny, rural French hotel is integral to the story in "Changes for the Château." Setting is less important in my story "The Des Moines Kabuki Dinner Theatre," the bigger focus there being the mechanics of the relationship between Helen and Renaldo. I guess the answer is it can, but it depends on what the individual story needs.
Open the book to page 69. What is happening?
Oh, I can't tell you that. The ending paragraph to my story "Last Known Sighting of the HMS Thousand Thread Count Sheets" is on that page. It'd spoil the story to tell right now.
What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?
I could say a lot of things, but I'd probably spend it reading. I'm in the middle of To Rise Again at a Decent Hour by Joshua Ferris and I haven't had much time to get to it in the last few days. I'd like to get back to it and see what happens.
If we were to meet for lunch to talk books, where would we go?
I'd hope I could get you to go for Queen of Sheba here in Denver. It's Ethiopian, and one of the best I've been to. Things are laid back there, so there'd be plenty of time to chat, and the food is amazing. More importantly for me, I'd get to eat there. My wife is sick of it since I try to get her to go there so much and this would give me an extra chance to go.
What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors?
I think the best advice anyone can give is to simply keep writing. Anything else can work out along the way if it needs to, but nothing will work out if a writer doesn't keep writing. Being an avid reader, staying involved in the literary community, study writing as one would study anything else, reading drafts aloud to hear how they sound, paying attention to how other writers accomplish elements one might want to accomplish oneself, and all the rest are all important things to do. If one can, I think one should definitely do them. However, none of that does any good without continuing to write. As the character in my story "The Elusive Qualities of Advanced Office Equipment" would tell you, you can be surprised by how things can work out if you at least keep moving.