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29 May

It is important for readers to get a little insight on an author that they don’t necessarily get from the professional bio. Today, we got the opportunity to talk with Darrell Nelson!


JR: Tell us a little bit about you, and how would you describe your childhood?

Darrell: My childhood was strange, I grew up in two places, New York and Wisconsin. Winters in the most rural, freezing area on the Canadian Border, a place so remote we only had the CBC for television. Summers in the big city. The rural area was New York and the big city Milwaukee.

My mom’s house in New York was so remote, you couldn’t see any neighbours. However it was filled with books, and no TV worth watching, reruns of the Beachcombers get old fast. In Milwaukee, my Dad, not knowing what to do with me, would drop me off at the Movies all day. I saw every summer release in stylish Movie Houses all through the 1970s.

While this type of childhood is banned by the Geneva Convention, it did give me a unique view on storytelling. I totally immersed myself in both types of media.


JR: When did you first realise you want to be a writer? Who spotted that talent and what was the first thing you do knowing that?

Darrell: My passion for writing was encouraged at a young age by my mother, who would read to me every night. Fuelling my dreams in ways only books can. As I got older, she took me to the library every week, letting my imagination soar. She gave me a love of reading, that turned into a love of writing.


JR: Do you have any formal education in creative writing? Do you think formal education in writing is necessary?

Darrell: I do have my B.S. in English Writing from The State University of New York, Potsdam. As far as writing I believe it helps, but isn’t totally necessary. Where it does come in handy is when I get a bad review from someone who doesn’t understand the concepts of our language or read the classics. It’s hard to be mad over a review where the critic thinks English is a romance language and thinks Douglas Addams sold more books than Mark Twain. By the time I get done laughing, I’m not mad anymore.


JR: Are you a full-time author? Do you have other activities as main source of income? How do you organise your schedule and time in writing a book?

Darrell: I’m a full -time caretaker right now, didn’t plan that. I have a part-time job to pay the bills, so right now “organise your schedule” makes me laugh. I used to plan 3 hours a day, writing / researching. Now I can’t schedule anything, which makes me more productive. Before I would zone out into my world while writing. It was a little scary as I wouldn’t be aware of time. Now, I can start writing and when pulled away glance at the clock. So I can be in both worlds at once.


JR: What made you decide to start writing something? What or who influences you?

Darrell: I started and stopped writing all my life. When I was Vice-President of an Oil Exploration Company, the task of writing the Investor Prospectus fell in my lap. No one says, “when I grow up I want to write Investor Prospectuses.” But it was my favourite part of the job. I received praise from investors and it was good enough to fund my boss’s multi-million dollar a year coke habit. When the company folded because the owner’s coke habit made it impossible for him to show up to work, my wife mentioned that my favourite part of the job was writing, and I don’t need to work for a company to do that.


JR: What is the greatest lesson you have learned and/or greatest achievement you have reached as a writer?

Darrell: The greatest lesson was learning who my friends are. Overhearing, “You know that guy who wrote a grotesque parody of our town where all the residents are monsters? Yeah, he’s a friend of mine, cool guy.” has to be the greatest compliment ever. Worrying about what people will think of you after you’ve made a girl eat her own hand and they say, “I wish I had your imagination.” is really validating.


JR: Do you have habits in writing? Any specific time and/or place to write?

Darrell: I used to have writing habits, nearly rituals. My life changed when my wife had a stroke. I had to think about what was important in my life. Number one thing is my wife. Because of the stroke, there are times when she’s not totally there and times when she’s her old self. When she’s her old self, I put everything on hold. This is time I can never get back, so I need to savour every last second with her. The flip side is there are times when she zones out and I’m more alone than I’ve ever been in my life. It’s those times when I need to go to my imaginary friends (and enemies) in the imaginary worlds I’m creating and give them challenges that I don’t believe anyone can overcome, just to see how they overcome them.


JR: How long do you normally finish writing a book? What is the hardest part in the process?

Darrell: I never know how long a book will take. My second book (never published) was full length 95,000 words and took six weeks. Showgirls and Aliens (a novella) took me six weeks. Mind Thief took over a year. The hardest part is parring back the ideas. I wrote those two books back to back, and it taught me a lot. Mind Thief tied a huge number of events over the last century WW1, the Business Plot of 1933, The Kennedy Assassination, The Gulf War, everything. It was a lot to condense. Showgirls and Aliens I wrote while editing Mind Thief so condensing the Intergalactic Plot to enslave humanity down to one page was easy. Also Showgirls and Aliens was a parody on everything from 80s music and film, Moby Dick, Gilbert and Sullivan, even Puff, the magic dragon. A Venn Diagram of all those things would exclude everyone in the world who wasn’t me. All the jokes had to be both funny and quick so if you missed one two sentences later you’d get the next one.


JR: Do you have professional editors to furnish your books? If you do, any recommendation you would like to share to fellow authors?

Darrell: Yes, professional editors are essential. Having a BS in English writing, editing my own work is like the one scene in the Big Bang Theory when their car died and Penny asked, “Does anyone know anything about engines?” They all discussed fuel ratios and compression. Then she asked, “Does anyone know how to fix one?” None of them did. I know the roots of our language. When you say a part of speech I can tell you how it evolved, maybe even a brief history of the person who introduced the concept. I can identify which Style Guides a writer was taught from. However, seeing somewhere that I wrote the wrong word, never.


JR: How do you think you have evolved creatively?

Darrell: I’ve grown better at hiding the effort involved. The Genocide Game got reviews saying, “It was fast paced, and I was a little surprised how quickly the end came.”, “Enthralling”, “Edge of my seat.” With it and Dymon’s Lair, I timed it. How long from one disaster to the next. The hardest part is to make it seem effortless. Just like how Magicians study for weeks and months, so when they perform the trick you can’t see how much work went into it.


JR: Do you ever face Writer’s Block? If you do, how did you overcome the situation?

Darrell: There are two types of writer’s block. The one every writer faces, the voice saying, “This sucks” Maybe it does, but remember someone went to a room full of professional screenwriters and directors and said, “I want to have Sharks in a Tornado.” Then ask yourself, “Is it a worse idea than that?”

The second type is having all the ideas shouting in your head at once. You can write more and then try and edit down a million word 1st draft into 90,000 words. Alien Thoughts was 160,000 and I trimmed it down to 95,000 words, the editing was harder than the writing. The better way is to think about each idea separately and decide which stays and which goes.


JR: Do you have professional designer to design the cover and/or interior of your books? If you do, any recommendation you would like to share to fellow authors?

Darrell: I designed all the covers for my books, (except Alien Thoughts) not because I think I’m great and fabulous at it, but because I can’t tell the difference between great and horrible book covers. Quite frankly none of the professionally designed covers pop out at me. I’ve got some evil minions to help in the process now, but I pretty much take my doodles and run them through Photoshop.


JR: How do you involve in promoting your books? Any marketing technique you can share?

Darrell: The only good promotion I’ve managed, is to beg for reviews. I belong to a review swap group on Goodreads, so I get non-reciprocal reviews. From those reviews I get more reviews, but it’s a tough process. Thomas Edison once said, “I didn’t fail, I just discovered a way that didn’t work.” In marketing my books I’ve found a bunch of ways that didn’t work.


JR: Give your thoughts about traditional publishing Vs. self-publishing?

Darrell: Right now all “traditional” industries are in flux, not just publishing. Maybe it was a curse, but Mind Thief was accepted by three publishers. They all went out of business between accepting it and publishing it.

The old days of a writer hanging out at a strip club in New York City, until he meets a stripper who is also the editor at a publishing house and gets her to read his draft are gone.  The big five (or is it four now?) will continue to throw out hits, but the days of them reading a book and deciding on how well it does (copies shipped) are over. If you think I’m kidding read Cyberbooks by Ben Bova 1989. The book is nearly thirty years old, but the traditional publishers don’t seem to have read it.

As to what will take its place, if I knew that I’d fly you out to my private island for this interview. Right now, self-publishing works great for people who can really promote their own books. But just like film killed the theatre, (Hamilton only made $82 Million in advance ticket sales). Both the old, traditional publishing, and new, self publishing, will change and evolve. In the end it’s the message that makes it through, the media isn’t important.


JR: How many books have you written (published and non-published)?

Darrell: Alien Thoughts

Untitled Mess (non-published)

The Setting Earth

I Killed the Man That Wasn’t There

An Extra Topping of Horror

Mind Thief

Showgirls and Aliens

Dymon’s Lair

Darrell’s Dark Dreams

The Genocide Game

I’ve also written six unfinished books.


JR: What genre that you normally write, and what draws you to this genre? Do you always write in the same genre?

Darrell: My overlapping genre is Science Fiction. I say overlapping because Science Fiction covers just about everything. It’s hard to think of anything these days that isn’t changing because of technology. How people react to this technology has to have some influence in writing. From there I like to do cross genre stories.

Writing a Sci-Fi / Romance, Sci-Fi / Horror, Sci-Fi / Road trip, Sci-Fi / Action or any cross genre story appeals to me because I can take what I love about a genre and look at it in a different way.


JR: Of all the books that you have written down, which book that you think the best one? And what do you think readers will find most appealing about this book? What’s the “real story” behind this book?

Darrell: Whenever you ask a writer that, they are going to tell you about their poor misunderstood child. I’ll do the same.

The book of mine that I love is Mind Thief a Sci/fi Romance. The “real story” behind the book, as people who knew me in college have mentioned, is the “bizarre” events are based on real experiences. It also dives into history with tib-bits that actually happened. In the book if you find yourself thinking, “That’s too strange to have happened.” It probably did.

The other reason I love it, is the romance. One problem I have with bad romance, the novels not the Lady Ga Ga song, is when the writer takes two people that anyone would like to sleep with and throws them together, and surprise they end up in bed together. Instead, what if your dream girl isn’t quite perfect, what if the girl of your dreams and the girl of your nightmares are the same person?

The bizarre reason I love it, looking at the bad reviews and seeing people hating things that weren’t in the book. Books should fire up the readers imagination, if they hate something something that wasn’t there, I ignited their imagination.


JR: Any other works in progress?

Darrell: I’m currently writing a “classic” science fiction novel about the first settler on Proxima Centauri b.


JR: What advice would you want to give to an aspiring writer?

Darrell: You’re going to die! Knowing that, do you want to live “in” your life, doing what people tell you you should do? Or, embrace life, doing something you love? Write because you love it. People will love it, people will hate it, but no one can take away the feeling you get writing, “THE END”.


JR: How can readers discover more about you and your works?

Darrell: Visit my website at www.darrellbnelson.com

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