I am super excited to introduce you all to David Sklar author of Shadow of an Antlered Bird. I personally have read Shadow of the Antlered Bird. It was not a book I normally would have picked up, but oh man am I glad I did! I have never read a book as unique as this one, it was so refreshing to finally read something different. The characters were well written, and I really enjoyed April's character and how strong she was. When I learned that David dreamed the opening I thought, I wish I had dreams like that! This book is truly a piece of art, and if you are looking for something totally different please do yourself a favor and pick up this book!
1) Tell us about your latest projects?
I'm coediting an anthology with Sarah Avery, who is a brilliant author you also should check out
And I took a lot more time than I should've away from both of those projects to work on a new story called "Night of the Ill-Fitting Coat," which is a modern retelling of the Arthurian story "Knight of the Ill-Fitting Coat." Only, with zombies, bikers, gender issues, and family drama. I think it's the only story I've ever seen with a transsexual golem.
2) As a writer, what has been your greatest inspiration & what inspired you to start writing?
When I was 8 years old I changed schools, and the teacher in the new school was really impressed with the stories I wrote. And as a kid in a new environment, I guess I really needed something to define my identity, so after that I started thinking of myself as a writer, and I spent my time writing whenever I could.
3) What was the last book you read?
Lately, I've opened a lot of anthologies and read a story or two: Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link. Taking Flight and End of the Rainbow from Parsec Ink's Triangulation series. I have a story in End of the Rainbow and it just arrived in the mail recently. And at a recent book signing I traded a copy of that anthology for Interfictions 2, with author Carlos Hernandez, who has a brilliant story in that book is called "The Assimilated Cuban's Guide to Quantum Santeria."
If you mean cover to cover, then I think the most recent novel I've read is The Soul Thief by Charles Baxter, which is what you get when a writer of low-key Midwestern literary fiction decides to write a book that really messes with the readers mind.
4) Your book Shadow of an Antlered Bird is very unusual, where do you get your ideas?
For Antlered Bird in particular, I dreamed the opening scene, and thought, This would make a great short story. So I wrote it, and it didn't--too many loose ends. I like to leave a few loose ends--a story that wraps up with none isn't like real life--but this one had too many; it didn't feel finished. So I got to thinking about where it was going and what would happen next. And then I had the outline--not on paper, but I had the idea of it in my head. But then the initial outline had Tam driving down the coast in a car alone for two thirds of the book. He needed a foil, so that it wouldn't all be internal monologue. So I wrote in April. And she took over.
5) What are the top three things you couldn’t live without?
My son's whimsy, my daughter's smile, and all of the family and friends who help my wife and me care for these kids without going out of our freaking minds.
6) If being a writer meant you were cursed and everyone’s Karma was dumped on you, what would you be instead and why?
What makes you think that would be enough to make me stop writing?
In a way, that's what a storyteller does, isn't it? We work out life issues--not just our own, but the issues of a whole host of imaginary people who serve as a microcosm for the real world. But then we don't hang onto that karma, we put it on the page to share. And if I've done my job, then when you get to read it, maybe that helps you work through some karma of your own.
That's my job, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.
7) What is your inspiration when confronted with writers block?
Years ago I read something saying that before Columbus, the Native Americans worked their farms in harmony with the seasons, and then the Europeans came with their work ethic and screwed everything up, because they expected the land to be productive all the time and didn't know that sometimes it was better to let it rest and replenish. I don't know if it's true, but I read this and kind of figured that the same thing applies to writing--that we come from the natural world, even if we sometimes lose touch with that, so there are cycles and seasons within us, too.
Which is a long and elaborate way of saying that I don't need to be writing all the time. I mean, there is a compulsion to write, but if I worry that I'm not writing, then I try to remind myself that that's OK. That sometimes I need to take a break and replenish my creativity.
But I do have a couple of tricks.
If I want an inspiration and don't have any, I'll trawl through the "Open Anthologies" list at Ralan.com for themed anthologies that spark my imagination.
If I'm already writing a story, and I get badly stuck, I remind myself of the advice of a friend of mine, the brilliant writer Peter Gutierrez, to allow yourself the luxury of a bad first draft. I don't take that advice all the time, because I love getting it right the first time, when I can, but if I'm stuck then sometimes it helps me to power through--just write whatever comes, and then come back and fix it later.
8) When you’re not writing, what are you up to?
Who has time to not write?
Between writing and raising the kids, and the promotional stuff writers have to do, and the day job--which is also writing and editing--there isn't time for a whole lot else.
Before I had kids, I was a gamer geek. Now I'll play a board game or a card game once in a while, but I don't have time for roleplaying--certainly not for game-mastering. When my kids are older, I hope I'll get to share that world with them.
9) What has been the most rewarding part of being a published author?
That's an interesting question. I guess it's the feeling of vindication, like this path I've been on since I was eight has finally gotten me someplace where I can see something on the horizon.
I also like talking with other writers, and speaking at conventions. I don't know if I have a fan base of my own, just yet. But I love when a reviewer writes something about my work and really seems to get it.
10) Who is your favorite character out of all your books and why?
If we're just counting books, then I only have one published book. April is my favorite character in Antlered Bird, because she's a strong female character but also 100% human. Don't get me wrong--I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer--but there's this idea that a strong female character has to go out and kick ass. But a character doesn't have to have any special powers to be powerful. I love April because she's always in over her head, almost from her first appearance in the book, and she knows it. And she freaks out. And she yells at Tam. And maybe she panics once or twice. You know, she does all the things that any person ought to do when the world they know gets flipped on its head and they realize they could be killed any minute by something they don't even understand. But she pulls through. And I think that realness makes her courage more compelling.
11) Open to a page of any of your books, can you tell us what is going on?
She feels the rise and fall of the pistons, the tires against the gravel, and the air as it parts to let the car pass through. Tam turns on the radio with his anointing thumb, and Steppenwolf commands her to take the world in a love embrace, and there is not an inch of this highway of which she is not fiercely aware.
Tam and April are in April's roommate's car, and they've been on the run for a couple of days, down the coast from Seattle to California. April is doing all the driving, because Tam doesn't know how to drive. And she's had almost no sleep at all, because every time they stop to rest, the thing that's chasing them almost catches up.
So April's looking for something--anything--to keep her from falling asleep at the wheel, and Tam does this found-object witchcraft, using stuff from the glovebox and the back seat, to help her stay awake. But because it's fey magic, it doesn't just give her energy, it actually puts her into a ritual mindset and changes the way she experiences the world around her.
This is the end of that scene, and what I hope it conveys is how it feels to have this sort of magic done to you, and just to be opened to the entire world around.
Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us David, I know I am looking forward to reading more of your work!