Welcome to the twenty-ninth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, directors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with prose author, poet and lyricist Nathan Weaver. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the author further. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here.
Morgen: Hi, Nathan. Please start off by telling us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Nathan: I’ll primarily start by blaming my eldest brother, I suppose.
Morgen: I usually do. What for?
Nathan: He took up writing short stories when he was a teenager, and would read them to my siblings and me.
Morgen: Ah ha.
Nathan: We grew up in a home watching lots of old classics, especially Hitchcock films. And my brother took to writing some Hitchcockian stories that would keep us on the edge of our seats, and like most little brothers I tried to copycat. My first short story was 3 pages long, written in pencil, and was a blatant plagiarism of one of his stories. My other brother read it and rolled his eyes at the drivel and pointed out that I just ripped off our brother’s story. I believe I was 13 at the time, and after that I turned my attention to creating my own stories and was afraid to show them to my siblings after that (as I would usually borrow a few elements from my brother’s style). So I started sharing them with my best friend. But I soon abandoned writing until high school, where I picked up writing scenes and skits for the stage in drama classes. I didn’t return to short stories seriously until 2005, when I dove head first into what would be my first novella ‘Rose’s Thorn’. I’m a writer, actor, filmmaker, husband, father and I work in distance education at Missouri S&T as a Senior Video Production Specialist. I’m a mixed bag of things, I suppose.
Morgen: And did you stick with just the short stories?
Nathan: I write short stories, novellas, scripts, and lyrics. I’m currently working my way up to a novelist, so that’s exciting. So practically a little bit of everything.
Morgen: I worked my way up to novelist in 2008 but, four and a half later, am working my way back to my first love (short stories). What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Nathan: In written form (short story, novella, novel), I primarily write darker pieces like crime and thriller pieces. I would say noir is in my blood.
Morgen: Me too.
Nathan: While I like many genres and am constantly experimenting, there’s almost always some noir under the surface. But, if I’m writing a script, I can certainly do comedy very well. I find comedy is best suited for myself in dialogue, so it makes scripting a comedy easy, but writing a narrative that is comedic is foreign to me. And I do write lyrics, and primarily those are usually depressing or somber, or at least that’s the feedback I’ve had thus far. With lyrics I find it hard to write something that doesn’t have some meaning or depth. I suppose it depends on my medium, but primarily I would say I’m a noir dude.
Morgen: Ooh, lyrics? How did you get into writing lyrics?
Nathan: I love music, that’s the main reason. I would occasionally write a poem here or there, but didn’t consider myself too awfully good at it and didn’t even really care for it a whole lot.
Morgen: Am I allowed to agree with you here without getting bawled at by the poets reading (and being interviewed before / after) this?
Nathan: But my love of music has been driving me to want to make music, and so I created a document called ‘Lyricstew’ in which I would periodically write some lyrics in. And so for several years, I would randomly get some inspiration for some lyrics and open that document and add it to the pile. Eventually, I started getting relatively good at it, and had a few pieces that were decent. So I finally posted in a forum on a writing site asking for a musician to compose to my lyrics, and Mahal Adams, of the Philippines, volunteered and we collaborated through email and she composed and recorded one of my songs called ‘December’. About a year or so later, she and I wanted to collaborate again and I pitched the idea of giving ourselves a name and committing to a 10-song album. And thus, Blue Solace was born. You can hear what we’re up to here: http://www.facebook.com/bluesolace. We currently have 4 songs you can stream, and 3 you can download. Only 6 more songs in the project, so we’re almost halfway there.
Morgen: I love technology. Have you won or been shortlisted in any competitions and do you think they help with a writer’s success?
Nathan: I honestly haven’t entered too many competitions, but I did win one short film screenplay contest with a ‘Twilight Zone’ stylized script. I would say it can help with success, in the sense that a writer can get a better feel for what readers / judges / professionals look for, and that it can help with your resumé while harassing agents and publishers.
Morgen: Anything that helps. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Nathan: I do not currently have one, but I have plans to begin harassing agents in the very near future. I’m not sure if they’re a necessity or not; I would say it depends on the author. If you are exquisite at promoting yourself, and OCD to the ’enth degree at getting your ducks in a row, you may find that you don’t need one. But if you’re like me, and find it difficult juggling a 40-hour work week, raising a child, being a husband and so on, then yes, you might want to have someone in your corner that you can tap in when you get pinned against the ropes. That’s how I look at it. I’m a team player, and work better with someone working with me, so I see myself getting more out of having a partner in crime. You know, someone you can pin to be the fall guy when the going gets tough? I jest, I jest.
Morgen: Ah but that’s what they get paid for. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Nathan: Ah, rejections. I usually shake my head and over analyze their language. My most recent rejection was of my short story ‘The Rolling Stone’, and I dealt with it by posting ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ by Bob Dylan to Facebook with the comment, “Got another rejection letter today. Oh, yeah. ‘The Rolling Stone’ will live to roll over another day.” The music served as my therapy.
Morgen: It does me (she says listening to Eric Satie’s Gymnopedie no.3). What are you working on at the moment / next?
Nathan: And herein you catch one of my flaws. One of my biggest flaws is taking on too much at once. I’ve always got a ga-jillion stories in the works (that’s right, a ga-jillion). But, I will say that currently I am most obsessed with a sci-fi novella I’m calling ‘Dogs Chasing Cars’. For grins, here’s an excerpt for your readers right here: http://tinyurl.com/dogsandcars. And for the record, Erik Satie is an amazingly underrated maker of noises (I believe that’s what he called himself). Any rate, his music is beautiful and absurdly unique, like the man himself.
Morgen: Ooh great, we like excerpt.
Nathan: ‘Dogs Chasing Cars’ takes place in the future, and focuses around the invention of a robot with artificial intelligence by a freelance scientist and those that wish to take his invention for their own gains. And in classic Hitchcock fashion, an average Joe gets caught up in the middle of it all.
Morgen: He’s so careless.
Nathan: I’m also planning to tackle my first novel soon, and try to knock out as much of it as I can while sealed off from the world in my family’s lake cabin. It’s called ‘Hardboil High’, and as you may have guessed it’s a hard-boil piece about high school. It’s going to be a series of seven novels.
Morgen: Wow, nothing like being ambitious.
Nathan: Indeed. You can learn more about ‘Hardboil High’ and read a few excerpts here: http://talesfrombabylon.com/p/hardboil-high.html. And, of course, the Blue Solace album is an ongoing project, where I randomly get inspiration for some lyrics and write them in an email to Mahal.
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day?
Nathan: I do not get to write every day, I certainly would try if I could manage the time for it.
Morgen: Child in left hand, pen in right? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?
Nathan: I once was on an inspiration high and wrote over 30 pages of a screenplay in 2 days. And that was non-consecutively, as I was working 10-hour shifts both days.
Morgen: That’s good going. I did http://scriptfrenzy.org last April and wrote 102 pages in 30 days (although it was on and off) – the target was 100 so I only just scraped in. I found the format was too bitty but I later converted it into the beginning of novel 4 so definitely worth doing.
Nathan: Yeah, with screenplay writing, it can be really tech-jargon happy, but since I independently produce my stuff I typically don’t bother with too much jargon and keep it simple. As a fellow actor, I know it’s a pain trying to read something that has a lot of non-story related content. You just want the meat and potatoes. Any rate, once inspiration is kicked in gear, and I’ve got the time, I can write an absurd amount of stuff in a short amount of time.
Morgen: Me too (although I’m a secretary so type much faster than I write). What is your opinion of writer’s block? Do you ever suffer from it? If so, how do you ‘cure’ it?
Nathan: Of course I get it, and when you are wanting to write, or have a deadline to meet, it’s a real pain. But technically it’s a necessary evil, when you think about it. Because I would say creativity comes in at least three modes. Mode 1 is the idea mode. This is when the floodgates open and the development process overflows your valley. Mode 2 is the writing mode. This is when Mode 1 has ended, and your fingers itch to put those ideas into words and those words into sentences and paragraphs and those paragraphs into pages. Mode 3 is writer’s block. This is your 7th day, when your mind can finally rest and observe your labor and determine that it is good.
Morgen: And that’s your reward. Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Nathan: It’s all relative. Sometimes. Some stories don’t feel write unless you’re just winging your way through it. I used to be absolutely opposed to outlining a story, but it’s grown on me. I would say if you are wanting to write something lengthy, like a novel or full-length screenplay, you probably want to outline (at least in your head). Some of my outlines can be as simple as an old essay-style outline (beginning, some focus points in the middle, and a conclusion), but I don’t usually get any more advanced than having a simple synopsis of each chapter and estimated word count. I don’t like to over-think the story before I write it, because then I find my narrative will suffer. And like you and Phil Neale (interview 18), I also use spreadsheets for my outlines. Actually, I picked it up from Phil, who was gracious to share one of his spreadsheets with me… though his method scares me a little. But to each their own method.
Morgen: Yes, I use spreadsheets to keep track of my word count for http://nanowrimo.org (roll on November!) but other stuff is in Word, although I’m thinking of investing in Scrivener which a lot of writers use. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Nathan: This is a depressing question.
Morgen: Oh dear. Sorry about that. Is it too late to take it back?
Nathan: I don’t like to think about having a work that never gets finished, or gets lost. I had never given the idea much thought, until I discovered and researched the silent film ‘Metropolis’.
Morgen: I have that on DVD and have heard great things about it but not seen it yet (it was free with a weekend newspaper – they used to do that a lot over here until the recession thing happened).
Nathan: Cool, you should watch it. When I watched it for the first time, I found it very disturbing to view summaries of scenes that had been lost, because of so many cuts that were made to it during its original theatrical release. I hope everything I create will be available at some point.
Morgen: I like to think that even if something was written at my early stages that I’m experienced enough now to turn carbon into diamond. What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?
Nathan: Not sure if I can say what my favorite is… the idea mode is an amazingly fun mode, when you can just let the ideas flow. But I would probably have to say that editing is my least favorite so far.
Morgen: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Nathan: Exercise the demons. I can’t stand watching people slave over an outline for 10 years or more, and never write a single sentence of narrative. You’ll be a better writer if you write regularly and progress your writing. Even if you just write short stories on the side while writing that next great American novel outline, at least you’ll be exercising the demons.
Morgen: A bit of everything also helps avoid writer’s block. And lyrics (I’d especially love to know)?
Nathan: Just do it every now and then. That’s what I did. I just started a document that I would occasionally open and add a set of lyrics to. Did that for a few years until I finally had a few good ones, and started to get a feel for what was good and what was really lame. And then once I started collaborating with Mahal she’s given me some pointers along the way. The one piece of advice she’s given me that I constantly remind myself of is to be more gray. If you like it, you’ll find something that works. I certainly don’t consider myself a poet, but I do love music and taking part in making music (whether the composition or the lyrics); it is an amazing process.
Morgen: I think the thing that scares me (not the right word but hey) is about the rhythm, iambic pentameter and all that.
Nathan: Yeah, there’s rules to it, but I usually don’t care too much. When it comes to music, I somehow just try to make it work without getting too wrapped up in the “technique” of it. Every now and again, Mahal will adjust my lyrics a little here and there as needed during her composition process. But that’s always a given, that you may need to adjust the words as you go anyway.
Morgen: I used to do music quizzes with karaoke (mostly for colleagues / a friend’s wine bar) and have a huge file of lyrics so maybe I should just sit down one day and study the form. I have a Mac and use GarageBand for recording my weekly audio podcasts and I know musicians use it for recording songs so at least I have the equipment. What do you like to read?
Nathan: Stuff similar to what I write, I would say. Crime, mystery, noir. My all-time favorite is probably Alexander Dumas’ ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’.
Morgen: That’s one of my favourite films (the 2001 remake) but then it helped having Guy Pierce and Jim Caviezel (hooked on him ever since I saw the 2000 film ‘Frequency’ – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frequency_%28film%29).
Nathan: Yeah, I didn’t like that version, too many liberties taken with the plot. Plus, I would have reversed the casting (at least), with Guy Pearce as the Count. But, ah well. The best adaptation I’ve seen thus far was a French mini-series starring Gérard Depardieu (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0167565). But back to reading; Dashiel Hammet is a treat. And the Stieg Larsson trilogy was pretty fantastic. And I will say I learned a lot about writing reading ‘Fight Club’.
Morgen: Ah yes, Chuck Palahniuk, I’ve heard good things. I’ve not read the Larsson trilogy but saw ‘The girl who played with fire’ and the cinema and loved it (if ‘love’ is appropriate for such a movie). In which country are you based and do you find this a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?
Nathan: America, and I’m not really sure I can say it’s a hindrance or not. Except that we have so many publishers, and they seem so stuck in their ways. Sometimes the grass looks greener in England for publishing.
Morgen: And we probably think the same over the pond. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how invaluable do you find them?
Nathan: I co-run a site called Emerald Dragon. It’s a writer’s community, but we’re currently in the process of reinventing the site so that it better supports authors’ needs… we’re trying to create a network for writers. I’m on Facebook (a profile and fan page called Tales from Babylon), also LinkedIn, Twitter, and a few other things. I don’t network as well as I should, and so they are often not as useful to me as they could be. I don’t like Twitter, so don’t try to talk to me there.
Morgen: I’ll bear that in mind. I love it however although unless I have plenty of time to spare, I try not to get caught up in the ‘timeline’ (instant) feeds as I go and walk the dog and come back to hundreds (I’m not kidding) of new comments.
Nathan: It mostly just receives auto posts that I make in Hootsuite (which I do strongly recommend). If you get out and use those sites, they can really help. For me it’s just a matter of allotting time and being diligent.
Morgen: Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful and would recommend?
Nathan: Emerald Dragon (http://myemeralddragon.webs.com, the writing community I mentioned a moment ago), Scribd (http://scribd.com, a good way to digitally self-publish), Lulu (http://lulu.com, a pretty straight-forward self-publishing site), Thumbscribes (http://thumbscribes.com, a collaborative way to write really short pieces which makes for good exercises).
Morgen: Cool, thanks. And where can we find out about you and your work?
Nathan: Go Like my author fan page on Facebook called ‘Tales from Babylon’ and subscribe to my site http://www.talesfrombabylon.com. Those two places are where it’s going to be easiest to follow along.
Morgen: The Facebook link is http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tales-from-Babylon/148093387954 by the way. The name of your site is ‘Tales from Babylon’. Can you enlighten us as to what ‘Tales from Babylon’ is exactly?
Nathan: In 2005, I wrote and directed a short film called ‘Kings: Hit & Run’, which was to be the first in a series of three films. Everything comes in threes these days, you know.
Morgen: British buses. Apparently three is the magic number.
Nathan: I never named the location of the film, but less than a year later as I was developing the second film and writing my novella ‘Rose’s Thorn’ on the side, I placed both stories in a fictional city of Babylon. After that I decided that I wanted to write a long series of stories that were interrelated, in the least, by their location of Babylon. And so this allowed me to branch out and create in my crazy head a whole city backdrop for most of my characters. I don’t always write in Babylon, and I’ve since created two other fictional places as well, a Salem and Riverside. I like being able to have my characters cross paths, even if it’s just for an instant. I like making references in writing, when I can, even if it’s to my own writing. I do plan to finish with Babylon some day, and even at one time started to write a story called ‘Fall of Babylon’ which will be the final chapter in my Babylon tales. I have plans to release a series of short story collections titled ‘Tales from Babylon’ which will include all of the short stories and novellas from Babylon, and then of course some of my novels take place in Babylon and some screenplays as well. You can watch ‘Kings’ online at our Onyx Dragon Productions website here: http://tinyurl.com/kingsmovie. ‘Kings’ is a rough homage to the film noir classics, and was my first outing into Babylon. You’ll have to forgive it a little, as it was our first independent production and we didn’t even own our own camera at the time. We now produce in HD, as you’ll see from other videos on our site.
Morgen: What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Nathan: I don’t know, but a lot of people are really loving digital books. I’m no eBook or smart-phone guy myself; I still like picking up the book, appreciating its cover art and turning its pages.
Morgen: From what I’m hearing very few people would disagree with your love of ‘pBook’s.
Nathan: But as an author, you have to be smart and accommodate for your readers, and if they want eBooks too, then I have to make sure I’m providing that as an option. I will greatly miss books, if we ever choose to quit publishing them. Plus, I don’t like the idea that if I get a virus or hacked, or drop my device that I lose my books. I like knowing that the books I read are on my shelf in my home, and it’ll take a fire, natural disaster or a thief to rid me of them.
Morgen: Wow, a lot to digest here, thanks Nathan.
Nathan: Thank you, I appreciate the opportunity and exposure. It’s good to give back to new writers, and you’re doing that here. And I’ll throw out that I have a ‘Rogues Gallery’, as does author Phil Neale, who you featured back in interview 18, which is a way to feature others’ works. Anyone interested can submit work using the form on my site here: http://www.talesfrombabylon.com/p/rouges-gallery.html. The same form is also on my fan page. My first featured rogue was Phil, you can read his here: http://www.talesfrombabylon.com/2011/05/rogues-gallery-1-neal-james.html. And again, thanks for what you’re doing Morgen, I really appreciate it.
Morgen: You’re so welcome. It’s my pleasure… really!
Nathan: And now I’ll have to start reading some of your stuff…
Morgen: I won’t twist your arm but if you’d like to there are a few ditties within http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/category/short-stories until my eBooks get out in the ether.
Nathan: …and please feel free to submit something to the Rogues Gallery.
Morgen: Ooh, thanks I will (to me a nudge to remind me if I take too long…).
Update from Nathan May 2012: “Last August I wrote my first draft of ‘Hardboil High’. Need to finish tweaking, and adding a few chapters, and then of course the dreaded editing periods… but it’s nice to have it in the can.” Indeed it is.
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on this blog) is free.
If you go for the interview, it’s very simple; I send you a questionnaire (I have them for novelists, short story authors, children’s authors, non-fiction authors, and poets). You complete the questions, and I let you know when it’s going to go live. Before it does so, I add in comments as if we’re chatting, and then they get posted. When that’s done, I email you with the link so you can share it with your corner of the literary world. And if you have a writing-related blog / podcast and would like to interview me… let me know.
Alternatively, if you’d like a free Q&A-only interview, I now have http://morgensauthorinterviews.wordpress.com on which I’ve rerun the original interviews posted here then posted new interviews which I then reblog here. These interviews are Q&A only, so I don’t add in my comments but they do get exposure on both sites.
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