While growing up, David was that weird kid with his nose in a book and his head in the clouds. He was the table-top role-playing game geek, the comic-book nerd, the story-teller and dreamer. Fortunately, he hasn’t changed much.
David is a software engineer by trade and a long-time sci-fi and fantasy devotee by passion, and he lives in Silicon Valley with his partner of twenty-seven years. David’s first trilogy, the Chronicles of Fid, has just recently been completed; these were his first novel-length projects, but they certainly won’t be his last—he’s having far too much fun!
1.Why storytelling? What made you yearn to tell a good story, and how long was this story within you before it came out?
I’m sure that my Mom would have mentioned if I’d actually been born with a pen in my hand, but it certainly couldn’t have been long before I picked one up. I’ve been creating stories for as long as I can remember. I’ve always loved reading stories and I’ve always loved telling them.
As for this particular story…I have to admit that it didn’t have a particularly long gestation. I’d been working on a different project entirely and—after accidentally writing myself into a corner—decided to write a short story about a supervillain as mental palette cleanser. As I developed the characters and the world, however, I realized that I had constructed far more than a single short story’s worth of plot…and I was off to the races.
2.What is it about your genre that speaks to you?
I write in many genres, but this particular novel is set within the sci-fi/contemporary fantasy genre mashup that is superheroic prose; I was a comic-book geek as a kid, and I’ve always felt that the genre allowed for a remarkable breadth of storytelling options. Some authors pushed the the envelope, creating comic books with tremendous depth and power.
In more recent times, superhero stories have become ubiquitous on the big and small screen. I was inspired by this popular resurgence but also wanted to approach the genre from an oblique angle. Telling the story from a supervillain’s perspective—diving deep into the mind and motivations of the genre’s traditional antagonist—allowed me a great deal of creative opportunities.
3.Without giving any spoilers, what is your favorite thing about this book?
I had a lot of fun exploring tropes common to the comic-book superhero genre. Some were played straight, others were twisted or subverted. This book isn’t a ‘standard’ superhero tale, but it was definitely conceived with fond memories of the comic books that inspired me.
And I loved being able to sneak in little jokes that only a fellow geek would get.
4.Let’s talk about tools. Do you have a word processor that you would tell us to use? Is there a certain computer that has become your favorite? What do you look for in a keyboard? What would you absolutely have to have if you were to sit down and write your next book?
I’ve often noted that I’d started dozens of novels over the years…but I didn’t finish any until I found a program called Scrivener. It is part word-processor and part outlining tool, and it has become absolutely essential for my workflow when developing novel-length projects.
I’m less picky about computer operating system or form-factor, but generally prefer a full-sized ergonomic keyboard. A high quality office chair has also become mandatory.
5.Describe your workplace.
I’ve set up a small ‘home office’ in which I do my writing. The front door to the office closes so that I can block out some of the general noise and distractions around the house…but I’ve added a cat-flap so that my feline supervisors can interrupt as needed. Along one wall, I’ve installed shelves at various heights so that the cats can climb up and criticize me from above.
My workstation itself is set on a height-adjustable table so that I can fully customize my position, and also so that I can occasionally stand (or even walk on a treadmill) while writing.
I try to keep my desktop organized. The exact layout, however, does change on a very regular basis.
6.Describe your muse.
My muse was a fluffy ball of purr and affection named Freya, with Lynx Point Siamese markings and the most brilliant blue eyes imaginable. For thirteen years, I never typed a single word without Freya keeping me company, nor did I read a single book without her curled up against my chest. That’s not to say that she was universally supportive! I’ve read my work aloud to many an audience, but she remains the only critic who ever bit me.
I will miss her forever.
7.You have a chance to hang out with any literary character for one day. Who would it be and what would you do?
While there are many literary characters that I admire, the list of characters with whom I would feel comfortable just hanging out for a day is much shorter. In the end, I’d probably choose Jake Stonebender from Spider Robinson’s Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon. I read that book at a time in my life when I desperately needed a reason to believe in humanity. Jake’s stories saved my life.
And, well, I think that he’d be just fine to hang out with for a day. We’d share stories, some sad and others happy. Whether we ended up at a music festival, a bar, or just ended up hanging out around the house…he would be welcome.
8.If you could choose any other writer, living or dead, to be your mentor, whom would you choose and why?
Lois McMaster Bujold. She is, without a doubt, one of my very favorite authors and I tremendously admire her ability to transition between genres. She’s created some of my favorite characters and delivered some of my favorite prose. I would absolutely adore the opportunity to learn from her.
Also, it would take me at least a year to finish apologizing for not choosing her creation, Miles Vorkosigan, for the previous question.
9.What are the things you’re most proud of in this book?
This book was a balancing act. On the one hand, it was important to maintain the sense of epic adventure that is expected from a superheroic action thriller. On the other hand…I wanted very much to make use of more complex literary devices such as non-linear storytelling, stream-of-consciousness deep dives into aspects of the protagonist’s mindset, and a subtly unreliable narrator. All that, while maintaining the lead character’s cynical snark.
I think that maintaining that balance is what I am most proud of.
10.What element of this story can we expect from your future work?
It’s been pointed out that a significant percentage of my current stories feature characters who are, in one way or another, struggling to find (or to accept) their place within society.
That seems to be a theme that I am not done exploring just yet.
11.You are forced to pick a fist fight with one of the characters in your book. Who would you choose and why?
Most of the characters in my story are either far better in a fight than I am, or have vindictive borderline-sociopathic protectors who would quite literally tear me limb for limb after the fight was won.
I’d probably choose to get into a fist-fight with the superhero known as the Red Ghost. He’s professional enough that he’d be able to defeat me in as quick and painless a manner as possible.
12.Do you have a celebration that you embark on when you finish a book, be it a release party, a trophy or even a shot of whisky?
I pet a cat. Actually, no…that answer is insufficiently detailed. It would be more accurate to say that I dedicate myself entirely to relaxing in the presence of purrs. After finishing a book, there is nothing I want more than to temporarily achieve ‘cat-resting-in-sunbeam’ levels of lazy.
(And also enjoy a glass of Scotch. My celebratory drink-of-choice is Macallen 18, but I’m always open to other suggestions.)
13.Do you share any vices or habits with any characters in your book? If so, what are they?
The supervillain / hacker / political activist known as Starnyx is a beer snob who absolutely loves finding interesting craft brews. Let’s just say that I thoroughly enjoyed doing research for the character.
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One thought on “The Friday 13 with David Reiss”
Thanks so much! This was a lot of fun.