D.G. Valdron is a shy and reclusive Canadian writer, rumored to live in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He loves exploring interesting and obscure corners of pop culture. The Mermaid’s Tale is his first published novel, released in August, 2016, by Five Rivers Publishing. Since then he has released two books through Fossil Cove Publishing The Greatest Unauthorized Doctor Stories and Lost Continents, Found. He is currently an Aboriginal Rights lawyer. He loves B-movies and tries to be nice to people.
Why storytelling? What made you yearn to tell a good story, and how long was this story within you before it came out?
My earliest memory—that’s earliest memory of ANYTHING—was dragging my little brother in his high chair towards the blackboard, so that I could draw Batman adventures for him. I was telling stories before I could read or write.
My first published stories were when I was 13 in the local newspaper. Off and on, I’ve been writing my entire life. It’s a compulsion. I can’t not write. I quit. But sooner or later, it sneaks back.
I think that humans have a creative impulse. We can’t help ourselves. Prisoners in jail cells draw on their walls, housewives create elaborate gardens or they paint pottery. We have to do these things.
Without giving any spoilers, what is your favorite thing about this book?
It’s a chance to draw really different characters, races, people with viewpoints that might be alien, but whose world makes total sense to them. I love the idea of a city where Giants and Goblins are both struggling to think of each other as human beings.
Your story is a murder mystery about a multi-racial serial killer. How much research did you do on serial killers and were there any particular killers from our history that inspired you?
Jack the Ripper is the obvious starting point. Just about every literary, and a great many real ones are descended from Jack. Comrade Chikatillo is another – a man who could commit over fifty murders because the society he lived in refused to acknowledge something like him existing. Henry Lee Lucas perhaps.
There’s recurrent features in Serial Killers, a lack of empathy or humanity. A childhood that includes torturing animals. So those traits were in there. The defining attribute to the killer is that he is incapable or unwilling to see other people as people. To him, they’re just red toys.
Another recurrent feature is that often, these guys survive so long because, so often, they’re preying on vulnerable people that society doesn’t care about. Robert Pickton and Jeffrey Dahmer are classic examples.
I thought that idea was a key element. What makes us human, or inhuman.
What is the most fascinating thing about your main character?
She’s a monster, and she’s okay with that, at first. But she’s a smart monster. And she can’t help thinking. I like smart characters. I like characters that are smarter than their surroundings, constantly observing, constantly picking things up.
What character from your book fills you with hope?
The sidekick, Bronze. Because she sees something special in the protagonist. The protagonist, the nameless Arukh, is transforming, learning or discovering compassion and empathy. But she doesn’t fully understand what is happening to her. Maybe she wouldn’t want it if she did understand. But the sidekick, she sees something. She is looking at the nameless Arukh, and even if she doesn’t understand it herself, she sees something worth following, something redemptive.
Many of your races were inspired and reimagined from other sources. Can you talk a little bit about your Arukh race and where you found the inspiration for these peoples?
The Arukh are simply Orc, an artificial race in Tolkien’s mythos, I believe, created from mud and tortured elves. In the world of this novel the various hominid races occasionally come into contact with each other. Sometimes, hybrids are produced.
The lives of hybrids, in this world, and in human societies, are pretty tough. Half breeds often find themselves marginalized, not belonging to one culture or the other. Sometimes, if there are enough, half breeds form a culture of their own – the Creoles of the Caribbean, or the Metis of Canada.
In this world, a handful of half-breed races have emerged, from particular sorts of pairings. Some fertile, some not, but culturally common enough that they have names and traits. The Hobgoblins are the offspring of goblins and humans, and are integrated in goblin society.
The Arukh are the product of goblins and vampires, typically abandoned in early life, ostracized by both parent races, and growing up to be mad, bad and dangerous to be around. The Arukh in this world are considered the most monstrous. They’re named in different languages – Orc, Arukh, Arash, Ara, Agrik, Rughk, words that most frequently translate to abomination.
Your vampires’ lifestyle was based loosely on the Australian dreamtime. Tell us about that a little bit more, maybe more insight into the research you did?
Let’s assume that you are a hominid that evolves to drink blood. What are you drinking? Not other hominids. There’s just not enough of them around. A habitual blood drinker needs blood, a lot of it. So it evolves as a cattle parasite. The Vampires diverge from humans, following and riding with the herds of herbivores that move across the Savannah. They subsist on blood, supplement it with milk. They become part of the herd. Obviously, they can’t run and keep up with a migrating herd. They ride, and become a culture of nomadic riders during the day, and at night, as the herd sleeps they descend and feed. It’s a commensalist relationship, the Vampires provide guidance for the herds, they cull the weak, protect the main animals, they’re on the alert for predators. They become a race of ‘horse whisperers’.
Nomadic lifestyles are short on material goods. You just can’t lug lots and lots of stuff around. So it’s a ‘materials poor’ culture. The animals they ride, horses, aurochs, cervids, bison, some of them can be fitted with straps and carry packs, but that can be unreliable. Things like flint, copper, personal jewelry and ornaments are thin on the ground and highly prized. They are the least ‘tool oriented’ of the races of this world.
Instead, culture evolves in different directions. They’re extremely social, meticulously so. They’re very intuitive and very attuned. You have to read each animal of the herd, know it well, so you know when it’s going to charge, or when you can sneak up to drink a little blood, or suckle milk. You know the fellow members of your tribe. Oral memories become important – the riders of the herds build up an elaborate mental map, of where the watering holes are, the safest places to cross rivers, of good country and bad country, how to read the seasons and the weather. Although they’re impoverished in terms of tools, they develop an elaborate psychic map of the landscape, that they guide the herds through.
Food’s not a problem in the herd, nor is shelter. There’s a lot of free time, and particularly, riding in the day isn’t really demanding. So diurnalism or day living is spent in and out of an altered state of consciousness, a kind of dreamscape, or daydreamscape. Highly verbal and social, they share the details of their dreams, and incorporate these details into their own dreams. Hence they evolve an elaborate metaphysical world.
There are darker sides to living with the herd. Woe to the slow, or the clumsy – you die fast that way. Too sick or too old to ride? Die fast. Infant and juvenile mortality is very high. So high that they don’t even bother to name children until they reach a certain age. Each of the Vampires lives by their ability to ride, there’s no compassion and no sympathy, the sorts of sharing and mutual support that allows for compassion of that kind isn’t really a factor – they cannot help each other.
Along with elaborate metaphysics, detailed memory and lore, physical prowess is prized. Vampires delight in playing tag with bulls, in bull vaulting, in their grace and quickness, qualities that verge on the supernatural.
These are the people called Traditionals.
There’s another sort of Vampire. These are the settled ones. These are the ones who wandered into places like Anatolia and Mesopotamia, and took up with the emerging human population. Their mastery and control of beast were critical to early civilizations. They were cavalry, superbly graceful warriors, scholarly intellectuals. Their herds provided meat and milk and draft animal labor. Most of the early civilizations were Vampire lead.
The distinction between the City Vampires and the Traditionals was not a firm one. Young City Vampires would ride with the herds. The Traditionals were venerated and respected, even as the two cultures drew further and further apart.
Eventually though, these Vampire elites came to be displaced by the burgeoning human populations, and Vampire royalty were undermined and expelled by ambitious human middle classes pushing into their niches.
How did you find the time to write this book with your busy life? What ideas do you have on how others can make time in their lives?
Fight for it. I spent a couple of dozen hours helping a friend get a movie pitch together. And I spent another dozen hours reading and providing feedback on a pilot script for another friend. Afterwards, I stopped and thought… I didn’t have time to work on my own novel, why was I working on their projects. Can I get those hours back please?
People will just suck up your time. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But it is a real thing. Other people’s creative works. Other people’s problems and emergencies. Other people’s recreation. It’s hard to turn your back on that.
Beyond that, there’s the normal stuff in life. And honestly, writing can be hard and thankless, and there are so many other more interesting and less draining things to do.
Some people say devote an hour a day, or pick a specific time. Me, I binge write. Given my work and relationships, that’s my only option. But the common factor for every choice is that you have to fight for it. You have to really put your foot down, and ignore people’s needs and your own impulses and fight.
Do you have a word quota, or a page goal, maybe you work for a set amount of time?
I’ll try and do a few thousand words. My word processor has a word counter, so I use that, rather than page count.
Mostly, I try to have scenes in my head and to get them out completely. It’s not so much a specific page or word count. Rather, each sit down to write is like telling a tiny story – something happens, something is shown, and I have to complete it.
Describe your muse.
5’2”, mismatched eyes, goes by the name Cecil…. Seriously? Duran Duran? The group, not the evil mad scientist. I find I write to music – a particular song sort of gets into my head as the key to a world or character. I wrote a novel to the tune of Electric Barbarella – which I suppose makes sense only to me. But I think that happens, an image, or a song, or just some vibe becomes the gateway to the sensibility and style of a novel or a story.
I like world building. I’m very good at that. And characters. And plot. And contradictions. I don’t know. I guess that inspiration can come out of anywhere. What it grows into – a story with plot and characters and imagery and setting – I suppose that’s universal. But it can start from anywhere.
Close your eyes and throw a handful of seeds wildly. Maybe one lands in a flowerpot, another lands in a rain gutter, or between the cracks in the sidewalk, or in a garden. The thing is, a seed can sprout from anywhere, and maybe where it sprouts will help shape it. But once it takes root, it’s going to be a flower.
That’s the thing with writing. Start anywhere. What’s important, is that it takes root and grows.
The Mermaid’s Tale – lot of world building went into that. But the actual novel. That started with an image. A big, shaggy, scary monster, sitting on a rambling broken down dock, and mermaids swim up to talk to it. The monster is a little scared, though it doesn’t need to be. The mermaids aren’t scared, though they should be. And they just make friendly small talk. That’s the seed that took root.
What piece of art, that is not writing, moves you?
Movies, particularly B-movies. Growing up, my Dad ran small businesses. One of these was a Drive In Theatre. I spent a chunk of my youth working there, everywhere from concessions, to security, to the ticket office, to running projectors, picking up the litter and fixing the speakers.
So I grew up with Godzilla, and Cowboys, and Swinging Stewardesses, and Pam Grier, and a whole lot more. When I moved to the big city, I discovered art house cinema. I’m basically a movie fan – B-movies, cheesy movies, grind house, exploitation, sci fi, horror. There’s something to be said for these things, a rawness and reactivity, and a kind of over the top conviction.
As far as I’m concerned, Death Race 2000 is Sylvester Stallone’s and David Carridene’s best movie.
If we wanted a good story—book, show or movie—one that you didn’t write, where would you send us?
Well, I’d point you at the works of David Keck and Steve Erickson, both Brilliant Fantasy writers. David, particularly, is underrated, a treasure waiting to be discovered.
Best single novel I ever read in my life – Toby Barlow’s ‘Sharp Teeth.’ It’s a novel in free form verse, which normally would have sent me running for the hills. It’s a werewolf novel, which normally, most people would laugh at – werewolves aren’t popular. But it’s so goddammed beautiful. As I was reading it, I would come to these lines that were so elegant and perfect, I had to stop reading and just run them over and over in my mind, appreciating them. It was so good, I went out and bought a half dozen copies and gave them away to people.
As for movies – Death Race 2000 of course, Swimming to Cambodia by Spaulding Gray, Slackers by Richard Linklater, True Stories by David Byrne, Blue Velvet, Excalibur, Barbarella, Ong Bak 2.
Music? Duran Duran…. Am I dating myself? All this is off the top of my head.
If you could choose any other writer, living or dead, to be your mentor, whom would you choose and why?
Roger Zelazny, I guess. I just loved his stuff. I loved his dialogue, and the matter of fact sensibility of his characters, and the exotic quality of his landscapes. There’s a decency and a humanity to his characters – two people who are worst enemies can sometimes stop and have a conversation, and maybe understand each other.
I got to meet him once, a long time ago. I won a short story contest, he wasn’t a Judge, but he did read the story and we did chat a little. A couple of years later, I got to go to a convention as a small guest, where he was a big guest. I really wanted to see him. But he passed away. So it goes.
Find D.G. Valdron online:
FACEBOOK PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/den.valdron
MERMAID’S TALE FACEBOOK PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/The-Mermaids-Tale-1718544581759607/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel
FIVE RIVER’S PUBLISHING: http://fiveriverspublishing.com/?page_id=2549
MY BURROUGHS/PULP STUFF: http://www.erbzine.com/mag14/1402.html
A TV TROPES PAGE FOR GREEN ANTARCTICA: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/GreenAntarctica
A TV TROPES PAGE FOR LAND OF ICE AND MICE: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/LandsOfIceAndMice