Monday, April 28, 2008

Serials and Scenarios - Athol Dickson Worth the Wait

Thanks, Athol. These were worth the wait, and you were very generous. I appreciate the time you invested in the Dregs.

Fiction character you would most like to be or most identify with and why?

The protagonist of Patrick O’Brian’s series, Captain Jack Aubrey, comes to mind. O’Brian is a wonderful writer, and I’d be a full-time sailor in another life. It blows my mind that guys really used to do the kinds of things O’Brian describes Aubrey doing.

If you could ask any person, living or dead, a random question -- what question would you ask of whom?

How could I possibly narrow this down to one person? “Jesus” is too obvious. So are “Abe Lincoln,” and “Alexander the Great” and so forth.

Maybe I’d go back in time and ask my high school sweetheart why she broke up with me. Sniff.

Some out there in writing land have strange rituals. Share yours.

A fifty-fifty mix of grape and peach juice in a coffee cup, a set of good headphones dialed into Mozart, an easy chair and a laptop. That’s all I need.

If you could change something in any novel, what would you change about it and why?

There was a line in my first novel, WHOM SHALL I FEAR?, that goes something like: “Christians don’t despair.” I’ve lived a little since writing that, and I know it isn’t always true. It would be great if is WAS true, but it’s not. So I’d take it back if I could, and try to be a bit more realistic.

What crayon in the box describes you on a good day? Bad day? Which one do you aspire to be?

These are good questions. I’m not smart enough to answer most of them. Will you be grading on a curve?

Pick one…..Pink iguana, purple cow, periwinkle giraffe. Which one and why? Can be negative or positive.

“Periwinkle giraffe”, for two reasons. “Giraffe” is a strange word if you stop to think about it. There are words that sound normal but look weird, and “giraffe” is one of them.

Plus, I’ve never been quite sure what color “periwinkle” is, so this way I get to find out. Is it kind of like chartreuse?

Favorite turn of phrase or word picture, in literature or movie.


If you were assured of writing a best-seller, what genre would it be? Give us a sliver of information, a characteristic or glimpse of a scene.

Genre, schmenre! I just write, and the marketing guys figure out how to sell it. They say it’s “suspense,” so I say, “okay, it’s suspense.” But mainly I just try to keep the reader interested. One thing you can count on: I’m going to do my best to come up with SOMETHING in the story that I have never seen or heard of anybody else doing before. It’s good to be original!

What period of history intrigues you the most?

I like it all. There are some places and times were I would NOT want to go…it would be a drag to hang with the Aztecs, for example. All those body parts on the dinner table, you know. But other than a few exceptions along those lines, I think it would be wonderful to travel around in time. I’d love to witness a Beethoven premier, or see a Titian or a Monet unveiled. But if I had to narrow it down, I think I’d like to tag along with the Israelites during the Exodus. Can you imagine seeing those walls of water? Wow.

What would you write if there were no rules or barriers? (epic novels about characters in the Bible, poetry, greeting cards, plays, movies, instruction manuals, etc.)

I’m writing it. Seriously, I don’t see rules and barriers as a problem in art. They’re a necessary framework, and art is only good if it works within them. A musician might as well complain that there are too few keys on a piano, or a sculptor that limestone is too heavy. A major part of doing art is working within the world as it is to make it something more.

What makes you feel alive?

My wife. And Jesus, when I’m not too focused on me.

How does something worm its way into your heart? Through tears, truth, humor or other?

A good comedy is fun, but it’s the sad stories I remember.

Book, music, person, food you would take with you on a very long trip.

Bible. Enya. My wife. Ritz crackers.

Where would you most like to travel ----- moon, north pole, deep seas, deserted island, the holy land or back to a place from your childhood, somewhere else? – and why.

The Holy Land would be great. I think the “why” is obvious for a Christian. Other than that, I’ve always wanted to hang out in Scotland. My father’s side of the family comes from there, which is why I was named “Athol”.

Favorite season and why?

Winter is the least favorite. I hate being cold. But favorite…I guess I’ll have to go with Spring, because of the promise of a new beginning and all that.

Favorite book setting and why?

I love Dickens’s England. I love Twain’s Mississippi. I love the high seas in Patrick O’Brian’s novels, as I already mentioned. Really, any well drawn setting is a wonderful place to go in literature.

Which compliment related to your writing has meant the most and why?

Getting a Christy Award made me feel like I really was a writer. I don’t think I had quite allowed myself to believe it before that.

What criticism has cut the deepest and why?

An editor once told me I couldn’t save a rough draft, because it was too flawed. I still plan to prove him wrong one of these days.

What would you do today if you knew you had only a week to live?

Pray, and hug my wife.

What is your favorite word?


What word annoys you more than any other?

It’s two words, but I find “No problem,” very annoying when it’s substituted for “You’re welcome.” It betrays a self-centeredness that really bothers me.

Superhero you most admire and why?

I was a huge fan of Spiderman in my youth. I think it was because Peter Parker was a regular guy. Also, I thought it would be groovy to spray that web stuff everywhere.

Super power you'd love to borrow for awhile?

The ability to fly.

Favorite chore :

Washing my boat.

Anything you'd do but don't because of fear of pain? What is it? Ex.
Bungee jumping, sky diving, running with scissors.

All of the above. But it’s not fear of pain so much as fear of death.

Grammatical pet peeve…sound off.

There’s that “no problem” thing. Other than that, I get really frustrated by all these improper apostrophes we’re seeing on plural nouns. You see it all the time anymore, like: “No dog’s allowed.” How come people all of a sudden started thinking that you have to hook an “s” onto words with an apostrophe? I don’t get it.

Societal pet peeve…sound off.

Again with the “no problem” thing. It’s really a very serious scourge, which I fear will be the ruin of us all.

CREATIVE CORNER: Pick any of the following and have fun with it.

This is too much like showing off!