Author Interview – DJ Cockburn

More From This Author

Story Art Sneak Peek

Amazing Artwork By Daniela Rivera

"Fortune of the Téméraire"

Anthology: Uncanny & Unearthly Tales
Release Date: Oct 27th, 2023
Preorders: Coming Soon
About the Author: DJ has funded his unfortunate writing habit through medical research on various parts of the African continent and drinking a lot of coffee. Earlier phases of his life have included teaching unfortunate children and experimenting on unfortunate fish.

In between a steady drizzle of rejections, he's seen a few stories in venues including 'Apex', 'Interzone' and Gardner Dozois's 'Year's Best Science Fiction' for 2014.

Visit DJ at cockburndj.wordpress.comand occasionally twittering as @DJ_Cockburn.
Q & A
How does it feel to have this story published for the first time?
I'm proud to see it break free of my nurture and stride into the world on its own. I'm also worried that the world will discover some critical flaw that I failed to nurture out of it.
Authorship is very like parenting at times.
What inspired the idea for your story?
It started in an online writers' forum I was part of. We were talking about the classic 'man walks into a bar' story in which someone tells a tall tale over a beer. It got me thinking about reversing the form so that instead of the man telling the tall tale, everyone else in the bar tells fragments of a story about the man.
At the time, I'd just read David Cordingly's 'The Billy Ruffian' and Arthur Herman's 'To Rule the Waves', both of which are about the history of the age of sail. I was brought up on the Hornblower and Aubrey-Maturin novels, so I was already primed to take the characters out of a bar and put them up a mast.

Once I'd written the stroy, I realised it was probably influenced by Ian MacLeod's 'The Chop Girl' in that way that you only recognise the subconscious memory that's been guiding you after you've arrived.
We know that writing can be a tumultuous journey with a lot of obstacles, what is your kryptonite as a writer?
I tend to get so caught up with ideas and characters that I lose the sense of how much or how little to put on the page. That's where a critique group is essential. They tell me where I'm over-explaining and where I haven't given away enough for it to make sense.
Tell us about your favorite author. What about their book(s) call to you and how do they inspire your own writing?
If I have to pick one author, it's probably Graham Greene. He had a way of blending contradictions in ways that somehow end up making perfect sense. His characters and situations are simultaneously bizarrely outlandinsh and so real that they're instantly recognisable and the tone is simultaneously bleak and extremely funny.
Greene gives me something to aspire to, even if I know I'll never quite achieve it.
Clearly, you’ve succeeded at writing a captivating story for GrendelPress, but we all start somewhere. What advice would you give yourself as a young writer?
I'd tell myself to find a good critique group. Emphasis on 'good'. Finding the right one can be difficult.
I didn't really start to develop as a writer until I joined a critique group, which taught me how to align what was logical and interesting in my head with what would be logical and interesting in someone else's head once it got there via a page full of words.
We’d like to argue that every good story makes both the author and the readers feel something. What perspectives or beliefs have you challenged with your story?
I feel that's a question for readers. As an author, all I can do is condense my ideas and thoughts into words. They only have meaning when someone reads them. I know what I intend that meaning to be but I don't get to dictate it.
What do you love most about your story’s genre?
I like the supernatural genres because the settings and characters can be anywhere and anyone who has ever been or could ever be. People are always people but how a person reacts to a situation depends on a whole range of influences rooted in culture and experience. By introducing a supernatural element, I have a metaphor to bring out those reactions in the characters.
What are some other genres you’d like to break into and why?
I'd like to write more crime. Sometimes a good crime story explores what lurks in the darker corners of a society where we try not to look too closely at in real life. Sometimes it explores what a society regards as a crime, often through the difference between what the law regards as a crime and what people living in a society regard as a transgression.
Unfortunately, there aren't a lot of publishers for short-form crime and I'm not sure I'm ready to take on a crime novel quite yet.
If you had to pick another story of yours to share with your readers, what would it be?
That's a bit like asking me to choose a favourite child!
I'd imagine that anyone who liked 'Fortune of the Téméraire' would probably like 'Foreclosure', a tale of why we should always read the small print when we get involved in debt, whether as a borrower a lender or a collector:
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