You are an accomplished novelist. Which of your titles was first to be published? How did it feel to see your book in print?
Hunger in America was my first novel. It’s the story a young man cab driver in Kodiak, Alaska, and his search to find the father he never knew. The book took me years to write, and years to find a publisher for, so that effort felt redeemed when Simon and Schuster published it and readers seemed to like it.
Do events from your past play a role in your fiction?
Of course, but I don’t try to represent my past. I take images, feelings, and bend them, expand them, turn them inside out. I read fiction to get out of my own story, and I write it for the same reason. I use my experiences to better know the world, and better know the lives of others.
Your novel Ben Armstrong’s Strange Trip Home won a gold medal for Best Fiction in the Independent Publisher Book Awards, 2013. Can you tell us a little something about the story?
Ben Armstrong’s Strange Trip Home is a surrealistic homecoming story, a novel about a middle aged man who comes back to his home farm after being away for 25 years and who falls into a rabbit hole of dream and memory. Ben had been carrying on a love affair with his brother’s wife before he left, and so his homecoming is a story of forgiveness.
Do you try to put messages and morals into your fiction, or do you write simply to entertain the reader?
I write to try to understand the world, to try to understand what human beings are, and to find some solid truth in the liquid swirl of life.
What is your favorite genre to write? To read?
I suppose what is called literary fiction. Is that a genre?
Most definitely, David! Are character names important to you? How about settings?
Names are important. I don’t know how important. I don’t use names like, say, Dickens did. But names need to match the tone, and be in accord with the music of the book. Yes, setting is important, but not in and of itself. We live in the world. We do specific things in specific places. What we do, how we live, how we see the world—these things are affected by the places we live. I often think of writing as music. The setting is important as the bass is important. It’s part of the character’s world. It’s part of the sound of a piece of music. If you make it too important, you need to turn it down. If you don’t make it important enough, you need to turn it up.
Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote?
Interesting! That’s the first time an author has given that answer! Where can we find your work?
Barnes and Nobel: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/ben-armstrongs-strange-trip-home-david-allan-cates/1111177866?ean=9781470077617
And your local book stores.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve been writing poetry, and doing an adaption of my first novel into a screenplay.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Read, write, and read and write some more. Love the forms. Learn the forms.
Where can we find you on the web?