Hey, there! Long time, no see. Things have been slow here at Author Interview Corner, but don’t go wrinkling your pretty little face up with worry lines. AIC is still here, and better than ever. I’ve got a steamroller of fresh posts coming your way! Wait, that doesn’t sound very fun. How about a magical unicorn parade? Yes, a magical unicorn parade of new posts is heading your way.
Leading the parade is Christian Dumais:
What inspired you to write your first book?
I wrote my first book when I was in college. The inspiration was a flammable compound of all the writers I was absorbing at the time, alcohol, and a huge dose of arrogance that convinced me that I had the great American novel inside of me already. The spark that lit it was a sloppy and chaotic relationship I was involved in that I misconstrued as The Perfect Romance. It took me a year to write the book on two different continents – because, you know, that worked for Hemingway, right? The results were 80,000 words of awful that will never see the light of day. It’s the perfect storm of bad ideas and overconfidence. It’s the Necronomicon of pretentiousness. If you take it to a cabin in the woods and recite specific passages, the dead will rise up and roll their eyes at you. I’m hesitant to talk about it because even the title sounds pompous.
Do you write every single day?
I’m getting back to writing every day, even if it’s a quick 500 words for something on my website. We had twins a year ago which is Writer’s Kryptonite. The farther away I am from the twins the more I can write. For instance, I just put them in the car in the garage and now I’m just cranking away with this interview.
Do events from your past play a role in your writing?
I don’t see how it couldn’t. Everything that has happened to me in my whole life has brought me to this specific moment, and writing works the same way. I have a list of story ideas on my wall and I know that if I started writing one of them today it’ll be a different story than if I decided to start writing it next month. There’s that expression about how a story is never finished, just abandoned. I always look at it from the other way. I believe that the stories I’ll write in my life are waiting for me to get to them. They’ve been waiting an eternity to meet me – they just don’t know what version of me they’re going to get. And that version of me is going to decide what kind of story they’re going to become. Will I be the best I can be for that particular story? Will I let it down and leave it unfinished? Will my mood spoil the optimistic story into something decidedly more pessimistic? As you can tell, I think about this stuff way too much. If you meet the love of your life too early or too late, there’ll be others, but sadly, you won’t know the difference.
Do you try to put messages and morals into your fiction, or do you write simply to entertain the reader?
I write to entertain first. I’m not one of those writers who’ll completely stop a story to have the character give a 50-page monologue on a philosophy I just made up. Where’s the fun in that?
Here’s something I’ve learned in the last few years as I’ve become known more as a “funny” writer. Readers are going to find a message in your writing whether you put it there or not. As @DRUNKHULK, a joke has to take a specific point of view for it to work. For instance, if a [insert political party] politician does something stupid and I make a joke about it, I’m going to see a lot of [insert other political party] enjoying the joke and a lot of angry [insert political party]. All I’m doing is trying to make the best joke possible, even if it goes against my own core beliefs, because I believe that laughter is more important than my own ego.
There’s no such thing as the perfect joke – one that will get the perfect universal laugh. The joke will divide the audience, delight some, offend others, because the point of view I chose to make the joke work goes against the baggage the audience brought with them. All I want to do is make you laugh, but the audience – those meddlesome kids! – has other plans.
I’ve learned a lot about writing since I created @DRUNKHULK because writing jokes is a microcosm of writing stories, minus the denouement.
Where can we find your work?
I’m uncomfortably Googleable. My books Empty Rooms Lonely Countries and Cover Stories are available through Amazon and bookstores, as well as some of the magazines I’ve been published in. And I put up new material regularly on my website: www.cadumais.com.
Are character names important to you? How about settings?
I do put a lot of thought into where the story is set, but I don’t sweat over character names.
Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote?
I wrote a lot growing up, but the first official serious short story I wrote was called “Cathy’s Gift”. My mother had challenged me to write it when I was in eighth grade. She let me stay up late at night at the computer on weekends. I had a month deadline. It was a story about a man who had isolated himself from the world and was at the very moment of suicide (you know, the usual stuff you write about when you’re 14) when the phone rang. He reluctantly picks the phone up and it’s a woman he hasn’t heard from in twenty years, his first love. They end up meeting and…
I wrote this because I had recently discovered the New Yorker. From the stories I read, I learned that fiction needed to be serious and that there was a checklist of things you had to have in the short stories: 1) sad adults having long conversations and eventually crying; 2) long paragraphs; 3) suicide; 4) words you only find in the thesaurus in my father’s library; 5) epiphanies; 6) metaphors; and 7) authors with a middle initial.
So I wrote “Cathy’s Gift” with all of this in mind. But because I was raised on a steady diet of Roald Dahl, H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King, I eventually added 8) supernatural twist.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on another novel, but I’m a slow writer when it comes to long form. I’m also working on a bunch of short stories and some other little projects, which I find a lot more rewarding because it allows me to finish things while I’m still chugging along with the book. One of the stories I’m proud of at the moment is a short story that comes in envelopes and the reader has to make decisions about how far he/she wants to read, like opening Russian dolls, but I’m still working out the logistics of having it printed.
Have you ever considered collaborating with another author?
I have projects in mind that involve collaboration. It’s something I’ve certainly considered. Writing is a lonely game sometimes, so a party might be nice.
Please tell us about yourself. What are your hobbies? What inspires you?
I spend an awful lot of time baking pies and cakes. I like the chemistry of it all, and especially like the part where it goes in my belly. I especially love when other people enjoy what I bake. I have a thing about weird recipes, like Coca-Cola Cakes or Beet Cakes. If it seems out of the ordinary – without being repulsive – I’m all over it. I can’t wait until my children are older and they discover the magic of desserts.
Where do you see yourself in ten years from now?
I don’t know. I’ve been living in Poland for ten years this month. I’ve told this story over and over again, but I literally got rid of everything I owned and moved from Florida to Poland on the e-mail promise that I had a job waiting for me. I didn’t even know if the job was real.
At the time, I felt like I was trapped in a bad TV show that should’ve ended a few seasons before. I just knew that I had to do something – take a chance. And so I came over here and it ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me. Now I’m on a TV show that evolves, adds new characters that make sense and enrich me, and the storylines continue to be funny and interesting.
What I mean to say is that if you would’ve told me 10 and half years ago that I was going to be living in Poland, I wouldn’t have believed you. I’m totally willing to believe that such an opportunity can happen again – something that will require me to take a chance that could potentially change everything. Happiness is paramount.
That’s a long way of saying: I have no clue and it delights me.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
I suppose the biggest piece of advice I can offer writers is to just write. I know that sounds simple and clichéd at this point, but it seems like the Kickstarter writers feel like they need some financial validation BEFORE they’ll even start a story. If there’s a good story that needs to be told, then tell it. If it’s honestly that amazing, the audience will find it.
Don’t treat the publication date of your book – especially a self-published book – as the opening weekend at the box office. If you don’t move a lot of books within the first 72 hours, don’t panic. Self-publishing is a long game and it might take time for the audience to find your work. Remember, the internet is full of a million people just like you shouting at the top of their lungs to buy their product. Give the audience time to work through all that noise, and if your book is honestly good, they’ll eventually come around. I just see too many people lose heart when they don’t move X amount of books immediately after pressing the publish button.
My book Empty Rooms Lonely Countries came out in 2009. I sold more books in 2013 than I did from 2009-2011. I never look at the book sales as there not being enough books sold; I always look at those numbers as the amount of people who read/are reading book. All I ever wanted was to be read. If you carry that philosophy with you, you’ll always be happy.
Where can we find you on the web?