I'd like to welcome and thank author Darren O. Godfrey to Cloth's Chapel for this interview. Due to circumstances beyond his control, Darren O. Godfrey was born in Idaho. Further lack of proper helmsmanship led him to Texas, Alabama, Maryland, Utah, Colorado, Washington, Hawaii, California, then back to his home state. His stories have appeared in Borderlands 2, Borderlands 5, The Museum of Horrors, Quietly Now; an Anthology in Tribute to Charles L. Grant, Tales from the GoreZone, The Midnighter’s Club, Gorezone Magazine, and Black October, among others. He greatly misses his late wife, Bridget, and adores his daughters, Kayla and Dylana. To tell him what you think of him, you may visit his message board, here.
BKE: When did you first start publishing short fiction?
DG: That would be, I guess, in 1989. I sent a story to what was then the sister publication of Fangoria, Gorezone Magazine. I sent something to them – this is while I was still in the Air Force – forgot about it, then not long after I left the military, I got the call [from managing editor J. Peter Orr] and I thought someone was playing a joke on me, at first. That was my first professional sale, and it was quite a shock.
BKE: In regards to your novel, Jack in the Boxes: I remember you said was still in the works, or is it close to completion?
DG: It’s about 90 percent there. Problems is, I started this thing about 20 years ago, and have been either wrestling with it or shoving to the back burner over all that time. But it’s never completely died in my mind. I’m primarily a short story writer so it’s unusual for me to work at that length. Unfortunately, I’m not one of those who found it an easy jump from short fiction to long. Sometimes I think I bit off a little more than I could chew. I was inspired by Straub’s Ghost Story, Shadowland, and later The Throat where you have multiple view point, multiple story threads all going at once, and if your reader is patient and perceptive they’ll pick up on it and be entertained by it, rather than be bored to tears. It’s a hard trick to do, I find.
BKE: So how did you approach a novel? Did you say “Well I’m a short fiction writer, that’s what I know how to do, how am I going to tackle this? Am I going to tackle it by writing each chapter as a short story?” Or did you try to take the long view?
DG: Actually, when I started it, I didn’t know I was writing a novel. I had a pile of notes. There was a vague idea there, and characters were beginning to form in my mind. The idea sharpened after I decided rather than multiple viewpoints, I’d go with a single one, but this character is moving in several different time streams. The now, the today, is seventeen year old Jack, who comes home and finds his mother, who’s been in a wheelchair ever since he was born, as a matter of fact, not at home and neither is the care person who’s usually there with her. Eventually, Jack finds wheelchair tracks leading out into the forest behind their house. He goes looking for her.
In a separate line, we have Jack at thirteen, and curious about his father. The man had died while Jack was a baby. One rainy day, bored, he discovers boxes in the basement, the contents of many once owned by his father. Dad was in the Air Force, EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) and was supposedly blown up on the job. Jack finds out otherwise. He learns of family secrets, and many other things.
As the story progressed, certain things came together in neat, unexpected ways, leading me to believe I was onto something here. Eventually, it moved out of the short story realm, beyond novella, and went over forty-five thousand words. It was really moving, until I hit a brick wall.
BKE: You said your novel hit a brick wall. What was that brick wall, if I might ask?
DG: I simply didn’t know what was going to happen next. I was getting signals from one or two of the characters that this story wants to be something a little different than first imagined, and…I guess I wasn’t used to that. Often with short stories, it’s pretty well decided from the first sentence what it’s going to be. At some point, this thing was telling me to back up and regroup. There’s a murder mystery involved: the circumstances with Dad, how he was killed, and who was behind it, it all came as a bit of a surprise. But there’s even more involved in it than that. Certain fantasy elements crept in and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep those, or cut them. It’s almost an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink sort of approach, which I’ve never had to face before.
BKE: We were talking about Dennis Etchison before the interview. I was at a coffee klatch once with him. He actually said about story writing, what you just described as well. If you come to a point in your story where you don’t know how to go forward, you need to go back, because you made a wrong turn somewhere. It sounds like with Jack in the Boxes, you have a way through this though. It sounds like a captivating novel. I’d really like to see you finish this because now I want to read it!
DG: So do I! I did tack on, sort of, an ending and it just failed miserably so I scrapped that. But I’m a little hesitant to jump in until everything is right and unfortunately, as you may know, writing becomes a bit more difficult when things aren’t going well in your real life. And until things work themselves out and I know I can take the time and have the emotional preparedness to jump in and try again, I may have to wait. It is a difficult story with a lot of highs and lows, twists and turns. Which is why I thought it was working quite well. It wasn’t boring. Although it was, at times, confusing.
BKE: So I was going to ask you, how did you come up with the title? Jack in the Boxes.
DG: Through most of its writing, I was calling it Boxes. I kept coming back to the segments where he was 13, where he’s writing these first person things, sort of a diary, as he learns more about his father. There’s Jack, and there are boxes. The title change made sense.
BKE: Well, switching gears, I’d like to know, because you are an accomplished short story writer, if you could chose a writer from your past you considered a mentor, who might that be?
DG: Well, right away, it would be Dennis.
BKE: Dennis Etchison.
DG: Right. I’ve had a fair amount of one-on-one time with Dennis, either in person or on the phone, over the last several years. Ever since he bought a story of mine for the Museum of Horrors.
BKE: That’s a pretty great mentor to have.
DG: Yes. The way he is – in person and in his work – he’s hard to define Fascinating; that indefinable something…I think it’s why his short stories work so well.
BKE: Well speaking of recent stuff. Are you reading a novel right now? What are you reading?
DG: I’m just about finished with the new King, The Wind Through the Keyhole. It’s sort of a Dark Tower 4.5.
BKE: Okay! And how’s that?
DG: I like it quite a lot. Once I got used to being back in that world again. It was a little bumpy at first because, I suppose, I hadn’t read any of the Dark Tower books since he wrapped it up with the seventh volume.
BKE: Yeah, me too, and I was kind of reluctant about this one because I really felt like the other one was complete, and I know everyone’s love for that series requires him to write more, but I just felt like it’s done and then he goes and writes another one. So you would recommend this new one then?
DG: Yes. What drew me to it was he said there was a gap between where the fourth one ended and the fifth one began. And when I was reading The Wolves of the Calla, I realized, wow, this one rejoins the group quite a bit later. But I’ll admit I was a little let down by that; there isn’t a lot of fill-in there. What it is…Roland telling a story, a story that was told to him (called The Wind through the Keyhole). It’s sort of an aside; it doesn’t alter anything in the storyline with Roland and the others.
BKE: How about new authors? Any new authors grasp your interest?
DG: I’m horrible with names. I’ll read something and think, wow, that’s brilliant, but I move on and a day later I can’t remember who wrote it. I think my memory is going. Gary McMahon is great though; his Tales of the Weak and Wounded is exceptional.
BKE: What are your current projects? Any short stories that we can look forward to?
DG: I recently started a new one. For many years now, people have asked me why I write what I write and we get to talking about imagination, and of course mine tends to work toward very bad things happening to people, and I often wondered, say on 9/11, what it would be like to be on a plane that’s going to crash and everyone onboard knows it’s going to crash. I mean, if there was some way I could somehow put myself onboard and watch closely what’s happening…and I can’t think of anything more horrific than what’s happening there. Every time I do this, this character, this well dressed, gray-haired old gentleman, keeps popping up when I picture the big jumbo jet and people screaming, some going into the crash position with their heads between their legs, but most are just clenching tightly to the armrests, frozen in fear, but this gentleman just sips his martini. He doesn’t seem to be bothered by anything. This guy kept popping up and I kept telling myself, I’m going to write a story about him some day. Well, just a few weeks ago, I did start the story.
BKE: Well, to segue from that, how is your short story writing process? Do you write in little bursts? Or do you have a certain word count that you shoot for? Or do you just let the story determine that?
DG: I’m back to writing in bursts, unfortunately, because of my schedule with other commitments I have. I’m helping take care of someone who needs a lot of care and attention, and that takes a lot of time. At times I’ll get a call and have to go when I least expect it. So I’m squeezing in the writing time where I can. But for a many years I put myself on a daily schedule and wouldn’t stop until I had at least two thousand words done. I look forward to getting back to that.
BKE: Yeah, life dictates the artistic life, that’s for sure. So what about the editing process then? You have this story… do you just keep working on it until you think it’s perfect? When do you decide, okay, I’m going to start shopping this around?
DG: That’s a good question. It seems to be different with each story. There’ve been a few, as the cliché goes, that “wrote themselves.” When they do that, when it’s complete, I’ll backtrack, find a few errors here and there, a tense change that might be off, or whatever, but it’s pretty much there. Then there are the ones I’ve fought and struggled – I’ll set those aside for as long as a month before trying again…or abandoning it all together. So, from case to case, it changes.
BKE: Okay! Well I sure look forward to that Jack in the Boxes. That book sounded really interesting, so I hope you continue to write bursts on that one and get that extra 10% complete so we can see a Darren O. Godfrey novel come out. Thank you so much for this interview, and I’ll leave it off to you for anything you might want to plug for our readers.
DG: Let’s see. Mort Castle selected a story of mine, called “Recess” for his All American Horror of the 21st Century. I was lucky there. I haven’t sold anything in quite a while. Lots of things in the works, though.
BKE: Marination! That’s why I’m looking forward to your novel. Mark Twain took something like twenty years to write Huckleberry Finn, right?
DG: I don’t think this will rank up there with an American classic like that! [laughs]
BKE: Hey you never know! So, that about wraps it up. Thank you again for taking the time for this interview.
DG: Well, thank you.
Interview conducted via telephone 6/1/12
- Current Mood: creative