Interview – Surface Children author, Dean Blake
Self-Publisher’s Showcase: Today we are joined by Dean Blake, author of the short story collection SURFACE CHILDREN. Welcome to the Showcase Lounge, Dean.
Dean Blake: Hey there.
SPS: For any of our readers that haven’t across you previously, can you take a moment to tell us all a little about yourself?
DB: Well, I’m a Brisbane boy, and that’s about it. Surface Children, my new book, is actually something I’ve been hammering away at over the past few years. So I’m pretty happy to see other people reading it in all its beauty.
SPS: When did you start your love affair with writing?
DB: I started writing stories since I was around six years old. One of my first stories was about this guy who invaded a temple to steal a packet of chips. I also drew and wrote comics and sold them for fifty cents each. No one bought them.
SPS: Why do you do it? Why do you write? Why not paint, compose, be an accountant?
DB: Why do I do it? It’s therapeutic. It’s fun. People enjoy my stories. At least that’s what they tell me. Plus I can create an entire planet or universe or world without the need for a degree or a factory or even a computer.
But at the same time, I suppose, writing isn’t all I do. It’s not what’s keeping me alive at the moment. I’ve been a person at a butchery, a pizza deliverer, a sushi maker, a DVD stacker, a fucking admin person for a real estate agency, a copywriter, a government assistance receiver. I didn’t enjoy any of it. Except copywriting.
SPS: You run a blog, GENERATION END, what can someone expect if they drop by?
DB: Generation End is a blog I’ve been running for years. It includes a bunch of snippets of my life and the lives of my friends. It used to be called Always Eighteen. Because I didn’t have full ownership of the Always Eighteen domain, I went and started this new blog, Generation End. I think it’s much better because it has no ads, and I designed it myself. You have to love the shit you design yourself.
If you want a teaser of what my writing style is like, check Generation End out. Right now. You can also get a few really good stories of mine if you subscribe.
SPS: There are a few reviews going around that talk about how shocking some of the content of the book is. Is the controversy something you set out for, or just a by-product of getting your thoughts out there?
DB: I wouldn’t exactly call my work “controversial”, but I guess there’s a lot in there that could offend a few people, especially as the short stories progress and get darker and darker. I just write whatever the hell comes out of my mind, or what I experience, or what people tell me they experience. I don’t deliberately start writing with the intention of grabbing people’s attention, because a lot of what I write about happens in real life. Come to think of it, the kinds of things that happen in real life are much, much worse.
SPS: You have recently released SURFACE CHILDREN. For those out there who’d like to know more about the book: Are the stories contained unconnected or is a theme running through the collection?
DB: A bit of both. Most of the short stories in Surface Children work on their own and can be read in any order. On top of that, though, I decided to include “intermissions” in between every couple of short stories or so that recount my relationship with Eva, as well as how I completely failed as a writer/partner. I wrote these segments specifically for my readers who’ve been following my work since the beginning. So if you’re out there and you’re reading this interview: these stories are for you.
SPS : Who do you think the collection would appeal to?
DB: People who like to read about crazy shit. People who like to be entertained. People who’d like to read something fresh. People who like satire with a dash of violence. People who don’t mind a bit of swearing. I didn’t write this book for literary critics. I wrote it for the type of people I hang out with.
SPS: Speaking of craziness, there are quite a few stories in there that had us going, “WHOA.” I mean, they’re completely unpredictable, which can be rare nowadays. We also noticed that all the stories are written in first person – how much of SURFACE CHILDREN is based on personal experience?
DB: A lot of it is based on my personal experiences, or experiences of friends and loved ones. Except, of course, the more “fictional” ones like the story about the girl who marries the wolf and the story about ultraviolent Jack. Even so, I believe the messages in these stories are based on some very real issues we’re facing nowadays.
SPS : Issues such as what?
DB: Love. Heartbreak. Vanity. Greed. Selfishness.
SPS: I’d like to touch on the concept of love and heartbreak a bit more. The stories in SURFACE CHILDREN range from dark to satirical to horrific – but hidden underneath all of these tales, I personally find that there’s this one constant: Love. Why do you think love is important in storytelling?
DB: Love, or the lack of it or whatever, is what forms us. It’s what we think about when we’re not thinking about work. It’s the thing we drive towards at midnight. It’s that thing that plagues our nightmares. Each character in SURFACE CHILDREN is broken to some extent, and that’s because of the notion of “love” and how they react to what they think love is.
SPS: What would you like readers to take away from the experience? Or, do you prefer to see people decide for themselves?
DB: I’d prefer for people to decide for themselves. So far, everyone who’s written to me or contacted me have had different opinions about the book. Some people enjoy the more satirical stories such as The Committe, others have said that they like the more “relatable”, emotional ones, like Vail Before It Ended, which was simply about a day I spent with an ex-girlfriend of mine.
SPS: We have one of the stories LOS ANGELES ANGIE free to read on the site, can you tell us a little about how it came about?
DB: Los Angeles Angie is about a girl I used to hang out with who called herself Los Angeles Angie. I fictionalised some of it, but a lot of it was real. She was a really fun girl. I was hungry and sleepy one night and I think a little strung out, and all of a sudden I thought: I should write about her.
SPS: Do you have a favourite story in the collection?
DB: That’s a tough one. If I were to pick one, I’d say The Committee, Los Angeles Angie, The Worst Thing Jude Has Ever Done, One Hundred Sixty Kilograms, The Things We Do For Those Who Don’t Love Us, Suicide After Breakup, What Happened To Valentine’s Day, In The Name Of Love, Vail Before It Ended, The Girl Who Had Every Man, Charlie And The Open Open, We Fall Asleep So Early, Dirty Little Secret, This Is Not Hell, and the shorts of my relationship with Eva.
SPS: Upon completing the collection, are there any of the stories where you could see yourself revisiting any of the characters or extending from a short?
DB: I’m pretty happy with how each story ended, and I’m happy to put most of them to rest for good.
If I were to write more about anyone, it would be the ones I write about on my blog, such as Vail, Jude and Eva.
If I were to revisit one of my actual “character” characters, I might give Ribbon a go. You know, the one who hates cops and likes to call everyone a fuckin cunt. She’s mentioned in two stories and I don’t think her full narrative is over yet. The guy from One Sixty Kilograms might also get mentioned in a story in the future. But I might change my mind.
SPS: A few of the team here would like to know someone like Vail.
DB: They can’t have her.
SPS: Did you find any limitations writing in the shorter form?
SPS: Now would be a good time to ask if you can let us in on what we can expect in the near future from the pen (or fingers) of Dean Blake?
DB: I’m still debating whether I should write another book of short stories, or a full novel. Right now I’m leaning towards a full novel, possibly a love story. I’m not sure yet, but something is brewing in me for sure. Nothing that can form a full novel yet, though.
SPS: We like to spend a moment looking at an individual’s book covers. Can you tell us about how the cover to Surface Children came about?
DB: For sure. I went through numerous covers, making sure that the final design was the design that felt most right. My biggest challenge was thinking of something that represented all of the short stories in the book, which in turn were significantly different from each other. So what I did was, I drew out a few shared themes from each story, such as vanity, youth, selfishness and horror and tried to find to find a way to graphically represent those themes. I also wanted my cover to be different from the other covers out there. I didn’t just want some generic stock cover of a young adult grinning like a douchebag… I wanted something that stood out, something that was uncommon. I was initially not even thinking of not putting a title in the front cover at all, but after a bit of debate with some friends I decided to put a title, but with no author name at front. If you see my website, I’m a big fan of simplicity and minimalism.
Soon, I’ll be posting up a few of my earlier cover design concepts on the Generation End Facebook page.
SPS: By the way, congratulations on receiving #1 and #2 rankings in Amazon’s Kindle Store for the Satire and Short Stories categories. Was the Self-Published/Indie-Published route always your preferred route for your work?
DB: Thanks. I wrote Surface Children with self-publishing definitely in mind, especially because it allows me to give my readers instant access to my work without any red tape. It also just gives me so much more freedom to do as I please.
SPS: If you could give one piece of advice for someone looking to get into writing, what would it be?
DB: Stop fucking talking. Stop telling people you’re writing a book and actually start writing a book.
Be honest. Don’t do what other people are doing because it feels “safe” and write what’s unique to you. You’re going to get insulted, ridiculed, ignored and rejected by people you respect, but keep doing it. Stay hungry, keep perfecting your work. Don’t you dare be lazy and write half-assed bullshit as there’s more than enough of that out there. Prove to the world (more importantly, prove to yourself) that you’re the greatest person in history.
Be proud of what you can do. The ability to write is one of the greatest abilities you can have. As I said earlier, you have the ability to create a whole new universe with your fingers, so don’t fuck it up.
SPS: Before we bring this interview to a close, it’s your chance to name-drop. Anyone who you feel is deserving of more recognition at present or someone whose writing you have recently enjoyed? Now is your chance to spread the word…
DB: I owe a lot of my life to a lot of people. I’d like to thank a lot of people who helped me write Surface Children. My parents and my brother, Jacqueline, a bunch of ex-girlfriends, my cousins, my aunt and uncle, my relatives all over the world, Vail, Jude, Hamish, Bobby from Goodreads, Subarna, Lach (who volunteered to help proofread and give honest opinion on my stories) – they’ve all helped with the outcome of the book.
I’d like to give a humungous thanks to my readers. All my stories, they’re written just for you.
I’d also like to thank you guys for doing this interview.
SPS: Thank you for joining us today Dean, and good luck in the future.
DB: Thank YOU.