Meet the Author: David M. Donachie
Good Morning Bookworms!
Now that the arctic chill of February is finally over, it’s time to start a new month. What better way than with an author interview?
Today I’m interviewing David Donachie, fantasy, scifi, and horror author.
He’s currently celebrating the recent release of his novel The Drowning Land.
Welcome David, and thanks so much for joining us.
Alright folks, let’s get right into things!
David M. Donachie is an artist, author, and games designer. He has written short stories of countless types since he was old enough to hold a pencil — many are very embarrassing, the others appear in his self-published anthology The Night Alphabet, and in numerous anthologies. He lives in a garret (really a top-floor flat, but a garret sounds a lot more romantic) in Edinburgh with his wife Victoria, 2 cats, more reptiles than mammals, and more invertebrates than either.
Hi David, thanks so much for stopping by. To keep things interesting, I like to ask my interviewees a random question to get the blood flowing. Here’s yours!
As you walk home from the mall with your friends, an alien ship crash-lands near you. The dying alien from inside approaches and offers to give you the power to morph into animals so long as you fight an evil alien race til your dying breath. What do you do?
David: I accept the powers, as long as the alien understands that I’m mostly going to be fighting evil in the shape of a mouse, a hamster, a pigeon, or possibly a newt.
Jonny: Haha, yes! Poop on the head of your enemies as a pigeon! Yeah, I have to say, I’d be more about having fun with the gift, like flying as a bald eagle or escaping responsibility by being a cat and just lounging around while a human tends to my every need. That alien would be sooo mad at me!
David and the Writing Process
What kind of setting do you write in most times?
David: I’ve always found it hard to make time to write, which is made worse by the fact that most of my best ideas come while I’m out walking. Over the years I’ve written late at night, on holiday, on my phone/tablet while on my lunch break, or even when things are slow at work (don’t tell my Boss). If I really need to focus on something I put on my headphones and set some music on repeat, something with rhythm that matches the speed I want to be typing at. Quite a lot of my last book was banged out to tracks from the Westworld soundtrack.
Jonny: Oh, I hear you there! It’s a constant struggle, but it seems like you’ve chiseled away a method that works for you and I’m happy for you. I schedule time before work, at lunch, and in the early evening to write, and if I’m interrupted I’m equipped with the mightiest of death glares. Oh, I’m all about the ambient music, though I can’t say I’ve gone out of my way to listen to the Westworld soundtrack quite yet. Game of Thrones also has some good ambient music I enjoy from time to time.
PS: Your secret is safe with me!
I always find it interesting how authors lead multiple lives. What is your dayjob? Do you enjoy it?
David: Which one? The day job I get paid for is being an IT developer, but I also design games, draw pictures, and run my own virtual pet game.
Jonny: Oh wow, you wear many hats! I’ve never excelled at tech skills, but more power to you! My dayjob is I work in finance at a legal firm. I’m also due to start grad school for library sciences this fall so long as COVID doesn’t affect that again. Fingers crossed!
How long have you been writing?
David: About as long as I’ve been able to hold a pencil. I’ve got notebooks full of things I wrote as a child. Most of them are pretty bad, though I’ve had a go at rewriting some of them over the years.
I used to make my own books up out of craft paper and sellotape (I wish someone had told kid-me about how to sew bindings, because that sellotape has not held up) and fill them with stories. I even drew covers and wrote bad advertising copy on the backs — that’s how keen I was to have my name in print.
Jonny: Same here! I wrote some pretty awful fiction about me and my friends way back in the day. I started to get better at community college and kept a few stories that were really inspired. They’re not worth rewriting in my opinion, but sometimes I’ll pull them out and read them over for nostalgia’s sake.
Oh no! Well I’m glad you were still able to keep ahold of them even if they were falling apart. Whoa, you even wrote cheesy advertising back then? Man, I’m impressed!
Are you working on any projects at the moment?
David: My first novel, The Drowning Land, came out at the end of January. I’ve published a lot of short fiction, including my own anthology, but this is the first novel, and the first traditionally published book. I’m very excited.
Jonny: Whoa, congratulations! I just came out with a book in February, so this year seems very full of potential! Also, I love short fiction. There’s definitely a place for it, and I enjoy reading short stories in between books or when I can’t make up my mind on what to tackle next, something that happens pretty frequently. Very excited for you!
Who was your first publisher and what did you learn from them?
David: Sarah Newton, who is an author and a game designer, featured one of my stories as a serial on a game-fiction blog that she ran, and gave me editing advice at the same time. The most valuable thing that she taught me was how to match my grammar and sentence structure to the action. Slow meditative scenes can support slow and descriptive writing, but fight scenes need short and punchy sentences to support the action. She helped me improve my action sequences immensely, and I’ve kept that advice in mind ever since.
Jonny: Those are some great takeaways! Great tidbits of advice, David. The different approach between fight/action scenes and the slower build of the overall story can really make a story great.
Do you have any advice for new writers?
David: Read, read, and read some more. Reading is just as important as writing. Like any artist you learn by copying. I admire the confidence of people who launch into writing without reading the works of others first — but their work would be better if they did. You need to see the voice, and craft, of others before you can find your own.
Jonny: Great advice! I totally agree. I’ve decided to slow down my reading a little bit this year to allow more time for writing (and blogging), but I still read about a book a week and the knowledge I’ve gained on form and structure is priceless, especially in the genres I write in.
Fun Facts About David
Are pineapples on pizza blasphemy or no?
David: Pineapples are tasty wherever you put them. Hawaiian pizza isn’t usually my first choice (I like a good bit of pepperoni) but it’s often my second choice.
Jonny: Oh believe me, I’ll open up a can of pineapple rings and go to town! I just get really picky when mixing savory and sweet. More power to you!
If you had to choose one type of food to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be?
David: Macaroni and Cheese. I can eat limitless quantities of Macaroni and Cheese, and have done so, which explains why my body is closer to a sphere than a line.
Jonny: Lol, oh I’m sure it’s not that bad! Macaroni and Cheese is really good though, I must admit. For me, I’d say Asian food is my biggest temptation. Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese. Doesn’t matter, I love it all! The MSG is palpable, haha!
If you could choose to be any supernatural creature, what would you be and why?
David: If Pokémon count as supernatural creatures, then I’d be a Gengar. They are evil ghosts, sure, but they always appear to be having so much fun, and it’s clear that given a choice between malevolence and practical jokes, the jokes would win out every time.
Jonny: Totally! I love that you went with a trickster Pokemon. Back in the 90’s I played the first video games (red, blue, and yellow) and loved it. My go to was always Starmie (evolution of Staryu) because I was able to give it abilities in nearly every element and I could wipe out hordes of other Pokemon without batting an eye. Guess that’s just the ruthless conqueror in me.
Star Wars or Star Trek? OR Doctor Who?
David: All of the above. I’ve watched pretty much everything for all three, though I’m still catching up with the clone wars at the moment, and there must be a few of the Hartnell and Troughton serials that I’ve not seen. On the other hand, I’ve not read any Star Trek or Star Wars novels, and I’ve read at least a hundred Who books.
Jonny: I agree! I like them all, though I typically watch the older Doctor Who episodes for reruns. Tennant is my man. Timey wimey! Hm, I’d love to pick your brain on how the Who books are sometime. I haven’t gotten around to those.
What did you read as a kid? What stuck with you the most?
David: A huge volume of stuff; my parents knew that the best way to shut me up was to put a book in my hands, so I used to read even at the dinner table.
I read a lot of fantasy and SF. My parents had a bookshelf of classic SF from the 40s and 50s and I read through all of that. I loved lots of it, but Larry Niven’s work had the biggest impact. On the fantasy side I was obsessed with both Earthsea and The Dark is Rising. Earthsea taught me a lot about storytelling, but The Dark is Rising was the one that really worked its way into my soul, and — hopefully — my writing.
Jonny: Haha, you had some smart parents!
That’s really great that you enjoyed some classics as a kid. I haven’t read many classics myself. Ooo, I have a copy of Earthsea in my closet I haven’t gotten to. Maybe it’s time to pull it out. I’ve never heard of The Dark is Rising, but I’ll take a peek. Sounds interesting, and if it inspired you maybe it’ll inspire me too.
David and HisWorks
Tell us about your new book.
David: My first novel, The Drowning Land, released on the 29th of January. It’s what I like to call a Mesolithic Fantasy, because historical doesn’t quite do a book set eight thousand years ago justice.
The Drowning Land is set in Doggerland, the landscape that now lies at the bottom of the North Sea. The main characters — Edan the Fisher and Tara the Troll Seer — are faced with the destruction of their world, and the challenge of finding a new way to live, divorced from their own history. It’s an adventure story, but it’s also how cultures change, or don’t change, when the world around them does.
Jonny: Whoa, this sounds like quite the adventure. I’m a huge fan of fantasy, so I’ll have to give it a looksee. Congrats on your accomplishment! Nothing can beat the feeling of finally seeing your book in print after all the hard work you put into it.
How did you come up with the title for this book?
David: I’ve always been fascinated by the legends of countries under the sea: Lyonesse, Atlantis, Hy-Brasil, the Lowland Hundred. But those legends are always about places that have already drowned, where The Summer Lands — that’s what the people who live there — are still in the process of slipping under the waves, and it’s a big question in the novel, will they drown, or is there some way to save them?
At the same time, the book is also about climate change, and the threat of it. Against the reality of rising sea levels, we are all living in the drowning land right now.
Jonny: I love the inspiration behind the title, and the plot also sounds very tense. That’s my cup of tea! Though some may disagree on climate change, I definitely agree with you and think this book will definitely put that issue on readers’ minds. Very clever!
What inspired you to write this book in particular?
David: Back in 2009, the UK archeology program Time Team showed a special called “Britain’s Drowned World”, about the history of Doggerland. When I heard them describe the tidal wave that finally drowned Doggerland and created the North Sea, I had this sudden mental image of a pair of people looking up at that onrushing wave and knew that I wanted to write a story about it.
I sat on the idea for quite a while, but when I saw a repeat of the episode in 2014 I took up the project seriously.
Jonny: Wow, that’s some great inspiration! It’s funny how inspiration can come from pretty much anywhere, and I hope your passion for the subject comes across to your readers. That’s got to be a scary situation to be in.
What was your favorite part about writing this book?
David: The research, and believe me, there was a lot of it!
I’ve always been interested in archeology, but I’m by no means any sort of expert, so I had a lot to learn. I always do a lot of reading around any subject I write about, but the research for this novel went a lot further. I visited some Mesolithic digs, I had a go at flint knapping, I visited museums, and Mesolithic sites, and I got a lot of help from academics working in the field, who kindly shared their research papers, and practical experience with me. My priority was always that the novel was as accurate as I could make it, while still being a fantasy.
Jonny: Holy moly! Sounds like you went above and beyond on your research. It really pays to get in the mindset of your novels. One of my ideas for a story I went to Tennessee for, and it made all the difference. Once you insert yourself into something, the vision is stronger.
What criteria did you use when selecting the cover for your book?
David: I do my own cover art, but the idea for this cover came from my wife. There’s a beautiful iron age find from Patras in Greece, a girl’s skull crowned with a circlet of ceramic myrtle flowers, and there’s also evidence that flowers were placed in stone age graves, so I combined those images to create a neanderthal skull crowned with mallow flowers, which are significant in the book. Then I placed it against a background of a flooded birch wood, which is an element that appears again and again the novel.
And on the back, a tidal wave rushing closer …
Jonny: Very nice. I wouldn’t know where to begin with cover design, so kudos to you! I love how your cover has an illustrated feel to it (those kind of covers usually draw me in), and the skull really makes you wonder what the story is behind it.
Was there a message in your book that you were trying to convey?
David: That when the world changes, we have to change with it.
A lot of the book is about how different people adapt to change. Some people cling to their traditions, even when their traditions are wrong. Other people throw everything into chaos. Others try to fight that change tooth and nail. And there are still others who try to navigate a new way of living. My characters have all those options in front of them and have to choose how they will change, what they will do.
In the novel this theme is related to climate change, but the message is more universal than that.
Jonny: I really like that message. Change is tough. I myself am super stubborn and hesitant to change, but I like that you include different viewpoints on that. Some people do adapt, others … not so much. I think readers will appreciate the full-rounded approach.
If your book would be made into a film, who would you like to play the leads?
David: I recently saw the fantastic Swedish indie horror movie Border. Eva Melander plays the lead character, a troll called Tina. She’d be my first choice for Tara, the half-neanderthal seeress. I’m not so sure who should play Edan, the other main character. His body type, a dark-skinned Caucasian, isn’t really one that exists now. Maybe a darker skinned teenage Ben Barnes?
Jonny: Oh, I can totally see Eva Melander as a seeress, and Ben Barnes is attractive with any skin tone. I’m ready for the movie!
Alright, David, looks like our time here is up. Before we go, do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events, and special offers?
David: My Facebook page is the best place to look on the web, and I also have a mailing list that has all my writing news.
Jonny: Thanks for that info. For our readers, all social media links can be checked out at the bottom of this interview. Thanks again for joining us today, and best of luck on your continued writing journey, David!
That’s a Wrap!
All righty book worms, that wraps up my interview with David. I had a great time chatting it up with him, and I hope you enjoyed the experience too!
If you’d like to learn more about David and his work, he can be reached at the social media links provided below.
Thank you for stopping by, and have a great day!
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