Elliot J Harper
A Brief Chat with D.L. Young
D.L. Young is a Pushcart Prize nominee and winner of the Independent Press Award. A lifelong science fiction fan, his intense, fast-paced novels echo his many influences from books and movies, including Star Wars, the Mad Max films, Dune, Blade Runner, Star Trek, Harlan Ellison, and the novels of William Gibson. If you like page-turning, edgy science fiction, you’re definitely his kind of reader. Visit his website for more information.
Hello, David, thank you for agreeing to answer these questions. Who is your favourite author?
This has changed many times over the years. If you asked the teenage me, the answer would have been Isaac Asimov. A few years later, it would have been Charles Bukowski or Kurt Vonnegut or Zadie Smith. Right now, I'd have to say Cormac McCarthy. Ask me again in a few years!
What is your favourite book?
This also changes over the years. Blood Meridian (Cormac McCarthy) is the novel I've been most impressed by over the last decade or so. That said, though, I remember Breakfast of Champions (Kurt Vonnegut) and Neuromancer (William Gibson) as being two books that really blew the top of my head off.
What was your inspiration for writing your upcoming space opera Empire and Ashes series?
I've always been a Star Wars/Star Trek nerd (yes, you can be both!!!), and I thought it would be great fun (and challenging) to create my own version of a galaxy-spanning space opera with strange worlds and sentient creatures of all kinds. I took a great deal of time in the world-building phase, before I even began to outline the story itself, coming up with alien races, exotic technologies, religions, philosophical schools, bureaucratic organizations, economics, etc. It was a lot of work, but I think the end result is a very tangible, three-dimensional world. The first book (which comes out later this year or early '23) even has several appendices that detail major historical events, religious pantheons, and other aspects of this world.
What is the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?
There is no secret sauce!!!! Seriously, there are SO many "how-to" books out there that would have you believe it's easy to write a novel or series or memoir. But it's not easy! At least, it's not easy at first. Like any other skilled endeavour, it takes time and practice. The only way to improve is to keep writing, plain and simple. I always make the running analogy. You might want to complete a marathon, but you simply can't "be inspired" and go out and run 26.2 miles. It doesn't work that way (at least my body doesn't work that way). You have to start small. Run a mile without stopping first, then work your way up to a 5K. You keep at it, running several times a week, slowly building up your stamina and your running muscles. Eventually, 5 miles--a distance you once considered a very long run--becomes an easy workout. Then you reach 10 miles, and before long, you're actually able to run a marathon.
Writing is no different. I know it's a cliche, but it's definitely a marathon, not a sprint. Not so long ago, writing an entire novel felt like an impossibly huge endeavour. But the more I wrote, the more my "writing muscles" developed, and the more confidence I built in my ability to write longer, more complex storylines. Simply put, the more you write, the better author you become. There are no shortcuts, period.
Another piece of advice I'd give to aspiring authors is more of a warning. DON'T put a lot of emotional attachment onto your work. It's easy to do, of course, because we cherish stories we've created like they're our own children, but you really have to resist this urge. An overly emotional attachment to a piece of your writing can 1) make it impossible for you to listen to valid and valuable critique points (since such criticism can feel like a personal attack), and 2) inflict great emotional damage if and when that story doesn't get picked up by a publisher or (in the case of self-publishing) doesn't sell very well or receive positive reviews. Failure is far more common than success in the writing world (spoiler alert!), and if you take it too personally or tie-up your emotional well-being in your novel or short story or memoir, you're asking for a pretty devastating experience. I don't want to scare anyone off, of course, because writing is a very rewarding endeavour. But the sooner you can become somewhat detached from your own writing (or at least detached enough to take criticism without getting emotional), the better, more healthy relationship you'll have with the whole process.
Thank you for answering those questions.
I first met David when I lived in Houston where I attended a WriteSpace seminar on self-publishing. I found him to be very friendly and approachable, as well as exceedingly knowledgeable on the process of publishing your own work. From there, I read his Cyperpunk City series of books, which is brilliant, and beta-read the first in the Empire and Ashes series, Jeryn’s Dagger, which is also excellent. For a free starter library, previews, giveaways, and behind-the-scenes exclusives, join D.L. Young’s no-spam reader list here. You can get The Stone Vault Datajack for free, which is the prequel novella for the Cyberpunk City series.
Thank you for reading this month’s Brief Chat.