An interview with H David Blalock

H. David Blalock has been a writer for print and the internet in speculative fiction for more than 35 years. Inspired by the science fiction and horror writers of the early and middle 20th century, he continues to try to bring that sense of wonder and awe he felt at that reading to his audience through his stories and novels. Daniel Cann caught up with the Seventh Star Press author in April 2012.

Hi David, Could you tell our readers a little about yourself?

I have been writing all my life. Writing is a compulsion with me. I spend hours writing, then weeks recovering. This process has been a part of me since the early 1970s, but it was only in the early 1990s that it really began to come to fruition in the form of multiple publications.

I couldn't publish very often because I had a day job, a family, a mortgage, and car notes to meet. It wasn't until I was approaching retirement, my family finances had stabilized and I felt I could devote myself to writing that I really concentrated on it. I had published the odd work before then, but my writing career really took off in the mid 90s with the appearance of a story in the Monsters from Memphis anthology from Zapizdat Press.

Since then, I have published fairly solidly each year, in novels and stories and articles for several different publishers and magazines on the web and in print. I find writing to be therapeutic, an outlet for my inner feelings if you will.

Who or what inspired you to be a writer?

Reading inspired me to be a writer. One of the saddest things I see today is the lack of literacy in our young people. The written word simply doesn't get the respect it deserves any longer. In an age of instant gratification, where information is absorbed in bite-sized chunks lacking real nourishment, literary excellence is failing. Mass marketing may turn a quick profit for some, but society in general suffers for it, losing its heart and appreciation for the poetry of life for the sake of commercial consumerism. I remain inspired to write to try to re-spark the sense of wonder and emotion in the readers' minds that today's writing lacks.

What authors inspire you?

All the writers that inspire me are unfortunately passed on or very nearly so. Poe, Verne, Bierce, Wells, Machen, Howard, Van Vogt, Heinlein, Asimov, Bradbury… men of vision, who looked beyond the mundane to see the future, to plumb the depths of the human mind unblinkingly. Sure, I read the mainstream writers as well. I still do. But the influence of those writers who peered into the unknown and brought back their understanding of that mystery still resounds in my mind and, I hope, in my writing.

What advice would you give to other aspiring authors?

Read. Read what you enjoy and don't deny yourself the pleasure of reading it for the sake of that enjoyment. Too often as writers we lose the ability to read another's work without unconsciously critiquing its structure, grammar, and content.

Remember what it was like to read for fun. If you can do that, you never lose your connection with your own readers and you become a better writer.

How many hours a day do you actually spend writing?

That depends on whether I am in my compulsion or in my recovery. In compulsion, I will spend 4 to 8 hours writing. In recovery, less than one. I know for some writers that is odd. I can't help that. It is a curse and a blessing. It keeps me writing, and keeps my marriage healthy.

Who is your favourite fictional character?

I have none. Fictional characters are constructs built for the purpose of telling a story. Without the story, the character doesn't exist. For example, in Herbert's Dune, Paul is the central character but the story is about Arrakis and its exploitation. Without the story, Paul doesn't exist. Similarly, in Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, if not for the story of the Martian exploration Michael Valentine Smith would not exist. I have favourite stories, but I don't differentiate between the story and the characters in it.

Which character/s (if any) from your 'Angelkiller Triad' series do you identify with the most and why?

I try not to identify with any of the characters in the Angelkiller Triad because they are supposed to be anonymous to the outside world. I am including some necessary internal dialogue for the benefit of the readers' understanding their motives, but I try to remain neutral vis a vis each character so that I can treat them equally through the course of the triad.

In the first book, which is the setup for the triad, I have spent more time in one character simply because I needed to use one for overall backstory and he is the oldest of the group.

Otherwise, there is no reason to concentrate more on him than on any other, nor is there a reason for me to identify with him more than any of the others.

What do you expect your readership to get out of your stories?

I try to evoke an emotional response in the readers. I have done this successfully many times, including writing one novel in which the main character was so disliked the entire book was panned. I deliberately wrote that character that way because not everyone in the world is a hero, not everyone can handle adversity well, and not everyone is moral. That character was weak willed, petty, and pedantic.

The book was an experiment in whether readers were actually attracted to the idea of 'anti-hero' or if it was a popular misconception. I am convinced now it is just that.

People want heroes, no matter how flawed, so now I try to give them their hero while tweaking them emotionally. Such a reaction makes a work memorable.

Did you plan the 'Angelkiller Triad' series of novels in advance or did they evolve as you wrote?

I stopped writing off the cuff years ago. Not knowing where you are going when you write leads to writer's block. I have been given an interesting task with the Angelkiller Triad, however. I hope that the result meets the readers' expectations.

What can your fans expect from you in the future?

I have fans? Interesting. I have readers, I know, but they are, I hope, more interested in the stories than in me personally. If you mean, what are my future plans for writing projects, then I have to repeat what I often tell interviewers, that my intent is to write two novels a year until I die, and one a year thereafter.

Currently, I am working on several short stories for some anthologies, two novels other than the next in the Angelkiller Triad, and a couple of projects that have nothing to do with writing but spring from my work.

Do you have any other hobbies outside of writing?

I love gaming. I have loved board games since I was a kid. I played war games in the 1960s and 1970s, then moved on to computer games as they came out.

Currently I play in an MMORPG (massively multi-player online role-playing game) when I get free time. I find a little mindless entertainment refreshes me. I am also fascinated with anomalous archaeology, or the study of what they call 'out of place artefacts', items discovered in archaeological digs that shouldn't be there. Mysteries are fascinating, but real-life mysteries are even more so.

What do you hope to achieve as a writer?

I just want to share my stories with as many people as will enjoy them. I am past the stage where fame or notoriety means much. At my age, just sharing the stories is a satisfaction. Knowing they will live on after me, that others will enjoy them long after I am gone, is enough. That my work will touch others for many years to come makes me feel like I have been successful as a writer.