Q&A with A.E. Decker
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Q&A with A.E. Decker
Why are stories important, and what compels you to be a storyteller?
Stories are important because we can see all of them at once. That sounds like an odd thing to say, but what I mean is that the world's a big and complicated place and we are incapable of looking at all of it at once. What stories do is parse the world into manageable chunks that we can examine. It's much easier to theorize on questions of morality, religion, society, or what-have-you when you can both put a bit of distance between yourself and the problem you're contemplating and be entertaining at the same time. Don't forget the entertaining. It's really the most important component of a good story and all the other, more serious factors sort of get slipped in sideways.
As for myself, I am what I consider a visual storyteller. Some pictures get stuck in my head: from movies, from dreams, from illustration books, or simply from sitting at a window and watching life go by. When that happens, when I see a picture in my head that won't go away, I feel compelled to explain it. What happened before this picture, for the characters to reach this point? What happened after? You could say I'm a little OCD that way; I like details and hate leaving things unexplained. Also, I simply enjoy it. Not all the time, but enough for the good times to outweigh the bad.
What are your favorite kinds of stories to read?
I need character. The characters don't have to be likeable, but the must be compelling. Richard III, in deference to the recent discovery, is one of Shakespeare's most compelling inventions, even though he's rotten at the core. I'll read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo just for Lisbeth Salander. In my opinion, there is no such thing as a bad genre. I'll read literature, fantasy, romance, sci-fi, Westerns, horror, thrillers--you name it--as long as there is one character that I'm interested in. That said, I do love humor and satire. If I had to name a favorite writer, it'd be Terry Pratchett.
Are those the same kind of stories you like to write? If not, what do you like to write?
I do tend to write humor fairly regularly. But I've also written some quite dark stories, a YA, and even a romance. I do put a lot of emphasis on character. I spend even more time with characters as a writer than I do as a reader, so I have to make them worth my time to invest in. Fortunately, for me, the character always seems to appear first and then I work the story around them.
Your story for Fireside, "The Gnomes of New Jersey," is already in. Tell us something about it.
The protagonist of "The Gnomes of New Jersey" is one I've played around with before. He has something of a fan following amongst a group of fellow Odyssey writers I keep in touch with. He's a hit man of the supernatural, and they're always suggesting crazy monsters for him to fight. Zombie chickens was one. I think I remember a plague of vegetables bent on conquering the world too. Some of it is a little too silly, but when one of them mentioned garden gnomes, the idea just clicked. I mean, garden gnomes are just intrinsically hilarious. Strangely enough, I knew how the story would end right away. It was getting the opening that took time.
Tell us something about you that doesn't make it into your biography.
My first ambition in life was to be an actor, not a writer. I took a course in performing Shakespeare from members of the Royal Shakespeare Company in London, back in the 1980s. Part of me still regrets not having pursued acting, but surprisingly, having that background helps my writing tremendously. Not only does it help you get inside the mind of a character, but it also improves your understanding of dialogue. Plays are all dialogue after all. I'd suggest all writers try a little acting first, in fact.
A. E. Decker is currently shopping around a novel about a tomato-obsessed hit man of the supernatural. That's all you really need to know, but for a little more information, this madness is being brewed up in the state of Pennsylvania. After earning degrees in literature and history, "Dee" embarked on a career as an ESL tutor before deciding to become an author instead. Like all writers, Dee is owned and controlled by three cats. You can find her online at smalltriumphs.com.