Right… found the picture I was talking about last week. The mountain (Mt. St. Helens) is kind of hard to see in the picture… it’s actually the near-white crater shape behind the more greenish mountain in the foreground. Click on the picture for the full-size scan, and you’ll see what I mean.
Back in 1995, I made my first trip west of the Mississippi, all the way on out to Seattle, Washington (U.S.), to visit with a group of friends I knew mainly via our fiction writing for the Superguy list. (This was back in the days of CRT monitors, dot matrix printers, and hard drive storage measured in megabytes, when going out to meet in person people you mostly only knew from being online was not a regular occurrence. For that matter, knowing there was a line to be on was not a regular occurrence.) One of the things we did was take a drive out to see Mt. St. Helens (the ‘mountain’ in the picture).
I don’t remember all the details anymore, but I do recall that we were blocked at some point from making a closer drive. But we found this scenic overlook, with this marker telling us where Mt. St. Helens was–a thing we all found hilarious in its terseness.
I’ve never been back to the Pacific Northwest, but I’d like to, someday. Maybe get a bit closer to the mountain while I’m at it.
Gary W. Olson is the author of the dark fantasy novel Brutal Light. His blog originates here.
29) How often do you think about writing? Ever come across something IRL that reminds you of your story/characters?
It comes up fairly often, as in several times a day. I could be thinking about details of a particular character either on the way to or coming back from my day job. I could think of a plot twist during a meeting. I could be trying to get to sleep when I start thinking of a setting, only to not be able to get to sleep because I want to think about it some more. It just keeps coming.
As far as In-Real-Life reminders of my writing… I want to say yes, because I’m sure it’s happened before, but I can’t summon any specifics right now.
(You know what? This ’30 Days’ thing is almost over, so I’m just gonna answer the last thing so I can move on to something different in this blog.)
30) Final question! Tag someone! And tell us what you like about that person as a writer and/or about one of his/her characters!
Right. Imma taggin’ Eric Burns-White, who some of you may know as the guy behind Websnark. I first met Eric through our mutual Superguy connections, and as we both wrote for that list, I came to be more and more impressed with his storytelling skills, the clarity of his prose, and the depth of his characters. (Even moreso on rereading that material, ten years or so later–it stands up extremely well.) The projects he worked on after moving on from Superguy showed his tremendous worldbuilding ability–when I earlier, in answer to another question, admitted I needed to work on that aspect of my work, I was thinking of Eric’s skill at this as the thing to aspire to. He makes it look easy, even though we both know it ain’t!
(This ends the 30 Days of Writing. Please tip your waitress on the way out.)
26) Let’s talk art! Do you draw your characters? Do others draw them? Pick one of your OCs and post your favorite picture of him!
I did one drawing of a couple of my Superguy characters, and another of them has been painted by an artist friend of mine, but I know not where the former picture has gone, and would have to get permission, dig out, and scan the latter. And none of my Brutal Light characters have yet been drawn, though I hope to change that between now and December. So… no pics, sorry.
27) Along similar lines, do appearances play a big role in your stories? Tell us about them, or if not, how you go about designing your characters.
In Brutal Light, they do… in the sense that one character’s self-image, both physical and psychological, is a driving force for the story. I don’t put a lot of work into ‘designing’ characters before writing them, beyond establishing some basics. I like to return to the initial description and revise it to better fit the personality that emerges during the writing process.
25) Do any of your characters have pets? Tell us about them.
It’s kind of rare for my characters to have pets, now that I think about it. Neither Brutal Light nor True Places has any. The main characters in my serialized novelette nihil nations: Electricity in the Rain had a cat, but it was mainly a background detail. My other short works are notably petless. Some pets show up in my Superguy and SfStory writing, but these are also fairly minor (with the notable exception of Lucky, a six-foot-at-the-shoulder mutant cat who is actually someone else’s character anyway) or Not What They Seem.
My most notable usage of ‘pets’ comes in Onyx Fire, the kids book I co-wrote with my wife, Kristyn. It has various animals, domesticated and otherwise, who end up talking during the course of the story–my favorite being Jitters, a hyper-caffeinated, self-absorbed black squirrel… not a pet, okay, but still my favorite.
24) How willing are you to kill your characters if the plot so demands it? What’s the most interesting way you’ve killed someone?
I’m always willing to bump off my characters if that’s what the story involves. I’m also willing to maim, stab, defenestrate, mutilate, burn, and otherwise seriously inconvenience my characters — if it’s part of the story. Otherwise, their reps complain.
Also, I’m not going to tell you the most interesting way I’ve killed someone. Haven’t you ever heard of the statute of limitations and how it doesn’t apply? I mean… oh. You mean what’s the most interesting way I’ve killed one of my characters. Riiiight. Well, let’s see. There are some juicy ones in Brutal Light, but I’d rather not spoil them. Same for True Places. My published short fiction is low on killings. As for Superguy… well, to count as being killed, do the characters have to stay dead? (And let’s not even mention SfStory, where getting killed leads to an exciting new career in Hell’s space armada…)
21) Do any of your characters have children? How well do you write them?
With one major exception, I have largely avoided writing child characters. As far as my Superguy writing goes, only a couple characters have kids, and I didn’t write much featuring them until they were at least in their mid-teens. My adult novels and short stories have not featured child characters in any capacity–they just weren’t relevant to the stories.
The one exception is Onyx Fire, the children’s fantasy book I co-wrote with my wife, and which is currently in search of a publisher. That one featured an elementary-school age girl as the primary protagonist, with assorted other kids and talking animals in other roles. I like to think I wrote them well, but the credit likely belongs more with her.