A friend of mine recently suggested I read The Rubberband Man and Other Stories by J. David Clarke. Always trying to support my fellow indie authers, I took a read. I then sent a huge thank you to my friend for recommending it, and followed up with Clarkes’s novel Missing Time. Since then I’ve connected with Clarke via Twitter and he’s just as fun a character as the fictional characters he writes. As such, it was my pleasure to ask him to stop by and answer a few questions.
Let’s start with a bit about you. Who is J. David Clarke?
At heart, I’m a guy who never stopped loving the worlds of adventure that I experienced as a kid. I think the first real reading experiences I had, such as reading Lord of the Rings with my dad or the works of Jules Verne at the library, were the foundation for my outlook on everything. When I pass old abandoned places, I automatically think of what strange things may have happened there, and who passed that way and never returned. This is why speculative fiction holds such appeal for me; comics, science fiction, role playing, all those nerd culture things, are my absolute joys.
One element of The Rubberband Man that really stood out for me is that you don’t seem to limit yourself to genre. Each story had its own distinct voice and tone, but while I noticed an undercurrent theme of innocence throughout, there was no real “genre” applied. Is there any genre that you find yourself going back to?
To me, it always begins with character, and the genre will sort itself out later. As an example, the story “Onion Street” had its inspiration in a road sign I passed all the time when I was in college. The name “Onion Street” was so evocative, I imagined my characters, Rhonda and James, encountering a place where the layers of their relationship were peeled away, and I wondered how they’d react to finding out that what was at its core was maybe not what they thought it was. At the Onion Street Cafe, they run into what I consider to be the enemy of love itself: time. Now it sounds very metaphysical when described in those terms, but to read it you wouldn’t know it had that genesis, you’d just think you were reading the story of two lovers who end up talking to fill the time waiting for their meal. A lot of my work is flavored by Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone, where regular people wander into strange places, and are changed as a result. Sometimes what happens is straight out of science fiction or fantasy, but sometimes it’s the most normal of places that has the strangest result.
Sort of carrying on from the question above, what were your inspirations for the stories in The Rubberband Man?
“The Rubberband Man” itself is an examination and deconstruction of power, I wanted to write a story about how easy power is to accrue and to lose, through Kevin’s meeting with the reigning school bully, Raymond. “Green” was literally inspired by a tree, in my front yard, I wondered what the tree thought about the people around it, the passing of the seasons, etc, and so began the story of the lonely little girl befriended by the tree in her yard. Of course, the story becomes that of Carla, the little girl, and the tree may be an imaginary friend…or maybe not. “Why Do Cats Have Tails” was a contest entry for a children’s story. I did not win the contest, but I’ve always liked this little fairy tale, inspired by my cat, who I saw one day licking her tail and imagined cats thinking their tails must be a terrible nuisance. Chaucer the cat goes on a journey to learn why cats are stuck with them. “Rudy with One Hand” is actually based on a person I knew, and in fact I asked him, if I were to base a character on him, what he would want him to be named. His immediate response: “Rudy.” I think the experience of having a friend who is constantly saying lewd, crude, outrageous things has got to be near universal. Everyone has a friend like this, and the narrator, Bill, is at once an apologist for his friend and also finding out slowly that maybe these jokes aren’t worth apologies. “Quantum Theory and Tube Socks” [interviewer note: one of my favourites in this collection] was inspired by a lot of bad late night television. While watching some terrible show, I imagined the producer of said shows being forced to live inside them for just one day, and how that might change him. Sam Darby goes on that journey.
I jumped right from your short story collection to your novel Missing Time, which is a really great sci-fi/fantasy superhero story. Can you tell us a little bit about the book and what your inspirations were behind it?
First of all, thanks for reading and for the compliment! I was engaging in hypnosis sessions, and some of the themes, such as false memory, and yes, missing time, kept coming back to me. They blended with a concept I had about kids who find they have superpowers after their school bus crashes. One day, the opening scene in the nightclub hit me out of the blue, and I started writing. I knew I had a story about kids who had no idea what had happened to them, and no idea that all the kids on the bus had gained powers until they start being hunted down. I knew they’d have to piece together the mystery of what happened to them in order to survive, and I knew each chapter would unfold a piece at a time, driven by each character’s journey through their change. Psychology plays a huge role in the book, as each chapter flashes back and forth through one character’s life to fit together why they are the way they are, and how they deal with everything going on, as well as putting together the puzzle bit by bit.
Is there any character from Missing Time that you related to the most?
It’s funny, I find that whatever character I’m writing at the moment feels like my favorite, because I have so much fun delving into their psyches, but if I had to choose the one who is most like me, I’d have to go with Brandon. Brandon is the comic geek of the bunch, and his reactions are probably most like mine would be, popping off with comic and movie references and feeling that becoming a superhero is the most awesome thing ever. Of course, Brandon’s quips cover a lot of loneliness, as we see in his flashback scenes. All the characters in “Missing Time” have unresolved issues from their history, which I think is pretty true for all of us as well.
I understand there are some sequels to Missing Time that we can look forward to. Do you have anything else on the go right now?
Absolutely! If anything, I have too much floating around in my head! I have to get some of it out of there before it kills me! (LOL) “Missing Time” is part of a three volume story called “313”. Volume 2, TIME SPENT, will be out later this year. TIME SPENT has more of everything that MISSING TIME had: more powers, more backstory, more mystery, and the stakes are even higher as it seems our heroes have unleashed someone who is a danger to reality itself, and none of them know who or what it is! Vol. 3 is tentatively titled TIME LOST, and I’m projecting that for sometime in 2014, at this point it’s too early to tell, but as the title implies, bad things happen.
Alongside these I’m also working on an epic fantasy series called KEEPER OF DAYS. Book 1 is called “The Book of Day and Night”, and it introduces Daniel, the Master of an order of monks whose task is to keep the count of the days and ages of the world, as handed down by the Seven Lords, the gods of their world. Every thousand years, one monk must make a pilgrimage to a place called the Eye of Stone, where he will witness the signs of a celestial event the monks know as the Godsmoot, where the Seven Lords choose which among them will rule the world for the next thousand years. Daniel is chosen to make this pilgrimage, but when he emerges from the monks’ mountain cloister, he finds that the world is in turmoil. A new warlord is trying to conquer the known world and install his son as a God Emperor, erasing the history and religion that exists, putting Daniel and his quest in dire peril. Beyond that, I have notions but nothing concrete as yet, but don’t worry I’m not running out of material any time soon!
Important question: where can people find your books?
THE RUBBERBAND MAN AND OTHER STORIES and MISSING TIME are available right now for Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Kobo, Sony, and through Smashwords. MISSING TIME is also available in paperback through CreateSpace and Amazon. I also sell signed copies directly, through the channels below.
Equally important question: where can people find you?
My Facebook page is the best place. Like and you will receive daily updates on all my work: http://www.facebook.com/clarketacular
Twitter, Goodreads: Clarketacular (you will find I am Clarketacular on most social media)
A good place to look is my Independent Author Network page because it has quick buttons to every place my work is available: http://www.independentauthornetwork.com/j-david-clarke.html