David Kubicek visits with me today to chat about his new release A Friend of the Family and why he loves to write.
Click on the image to visit David's Meet & Greet
on VBT Cafe. Follow his tour for a chance to win a $25 GC from Amazon. Details below.
Louise: David, welcome to my blog! I’m so excited you could join me for a chat. When did you first decide to submit your work to be published? Tell us what or who encouraged you to take this big step.
David: Reading Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles got me interested in publishing what I wrote. I’d been writing stories for a few years before that, but they were just for friends and family. Bradbury made me think seriously about writing for publication. It was the summer before my senior year in high school when I went to the newsstand in search of a magazine to which I could send my stories, found a copy of Writer’s Digest instead, and that started me on the right path.
Louise: Ray Bradbury's The Illustrated Man is one of my favorites and Writer's Digest is a good writing resource for you new and seasoned authors who have stopped by. Please tell us a little about your new release A Friend Of The Family without giving too much of a spoiler away.
David: A Friend of the Family is set in a post-apocalyptic future where practicing medicine is illegal, and Healers—who use primitive and superstitious methods like chanting and bleeding their patients—are the accepted health care providers. The story centers around a doctor named Hank, who is estranged from the Underground—a loose network of medical practitioners who help people who have lost faith in the Healers—and only practices medicine for his own family. One night a 16-year-old girl, named Gina, knocks on his door. She is a telepath, indirect results of that long-ago war. She knows Hank is a doctor. She knows where he hides his equipment and supplies. She threatens to bring the police if Hank doesn’t come with her and cure her seriously ill father. Hank’s dilemma: If he doesn’t go with her, he risks being arrested, but if he goes with her he risks being arrested because Gina’s Aunt Rose is a Healer.
Louise: Do you plan all your characters out before you start a story or do they develop as you write?
David: I know what types of characters I’m writing about before I begin, and I usually have an idea of their physical appearance. But the characters develop as I’m writing about them. That’s more fun than planning them out beforehand. When I first started writing I would compose these long character biographies, but it always ended badly. I found that writing down their physical description, character traits, and background made them more rigid in my mind; they seemed like cardboard characters rather than living, breathing people. I need to have my characters fluid. I need to have them develop like real people. So I put them into situations and see how they respond to those situations. Anything I need to show about their backgrounds I make up as I go along.
Louise: How much research do you do for your books? Have you found any cool tidbits in your research?
David: Usually my research consists of checking facts. For A Friend of the Family I learned a little about pneumonia and how it’s treated, and I looked up the medical name for blood pressure equipment. I did much more research for my full-length novel In Human Form because there were lots of things I didn’t know but needed to know. I found a great deal of information in books, but I used some live sources as well. I interviewed a fire inspector because a pivotal scene in IHF involves arson.
The first extensive research I did was for a short story set in a morgue. I didn’t know anything about morgues, so I called one of our local hospitals and found someone who agreed to show me around. I learned lots of things about morgues that you don’t see on TV crime/dramas. I found that morgues keep pieces of organs in meticulously-labeled jars in a cupboard for future study. When I was there, they had a severed leg in one of the refrigerators; it was in a plastic bag, so my guide had to feel it to make sure it was a leg. The resulting story was “Clinical Evaluation,” which was the name plate on the door to the morgue (my guide said that the pathologists didn’t like to call it the morgue). “Clinical Evaluation” became my first published story, in an anthology called The New Surrealists, and I later reprinted it in The Moaning Rocks and Other Stories.
Louise: What is your writing process? Do you outline, write by the seat of your pants (Pantser) or a combination of both?
David: I know how I’ll begin and I how I’ll end, and I have a general idea of what will happen between the beginning and the ending. I’ll take notes on scenes I plan to write. I try to write in chronological order, from beginning to end, but usually that doesn’t work out. I’ll write scenes out of order, planning to sort them out later. I’ll write scenes that I never intend to put in the novel because they help me work out story problems. I will go back and revise what I’ve written; if I feel that a storyline is headed in the wrong direction, I’ll discard pages and nudge the story back onto the right track. Then, once I have the first draft completed, I tear into it to revise it and shape it until I’m satisfied with it.
Louise: Do you write full time? What did you do before you became a writer or still do?
David: Over the course of my writing career I’ve worked in a print shop and in a photo finishing plant. I’ve worked as a caregiver, and I’ve worked at a variety of custodial jobs. I ran a publishing company for three years, and for nine years I wrote for The Midlands Business Journal (I estimate that I wrote approximately three million words for the MBJ and its sister publications). I left the MBJ to care for my elderly parents, which I did for nine years. With my mother’s passing in December 2012, I am technically writing full time while I search for my next career opportunity.
Louise: Do you have a ritual when it comes to writing? Example….get coffee, blanket, paper, pen, laptop and a comfy place.
David: I procrastinate. I always have something to drink—early in the day its coffee (decaf), in the evening it’s diet soda. I work in the basement, far away from distractions. I use a desktop computer; laptops and I have never gotten along. I check my e-mail and do a few other things online. The internet makes it easy for writers to procrastinate; in the olden days we had to be more creative. But I limit my procrastination to about 10 minutes. Then I turn to my current work-in-progress and start writing.
Louise: I'm guilty of procrastinating. Twitter and FB can become distracting and next thing you know, you're visiting blogs. Which we all should do - but like you limit our time. Describe a typical writing day for you.
David: I usually write for two hours in the evenings on weekdays, earlier in the day on weekends. I’ve found that if I have a specific time for writing, I’m less likely to let other things get in the way. There are times when events keep me away from the keyboard at the appointed time, but for the most part I’ve been successful at maintaining this schedule.
Louise: Please give us a sneak peek at your future books. What’s on the horizon?
David: I’m currently working on Empath, a young adult dystopian novel in which the survivors of a devastating plague live in walled cities. The citizens fear mutations, which they interpret as evidence of the plague returning, so mutants are exiled into the wasteland beyond the city walls. Sixteen-year-old Cassidy Anne Lange is an Empath; she can feel what people are feeling. Her special gift is the ability to heal, to bring people back even from terminal illness and injury. Unfortunately, in this society, Empaths are considered mutants, and when Cassidy saves the life of a classmate, she suddenly finds herself arrested and facing exile into the hostile world outside.
Also, the sequel to In Human Form—tentatively entitled Transition—is in the planning stages, and I have two more short novels in the works.
Louise: What is your favorite genre to read and who is your favorite author?
David: I read many genres, but science fiction will always have a special place in my heart because I cut my literary teeth on stories of the future and of other worlds. I like the early work of Ray Bradbury and most of Stephen King’s work. I like John Steinbeck, Kathy Reichs (the TV show Bones is based on her series), Audrey Niffenegger (The Time Traveler’s Wife), and some of Margaret Atwood’s work (The Handmaid’s Tale). I also love horror stories when they are done well.
Louise: The Handmaiden's Tale; I didn't read the book, but the movie was really good. I'm a huge SK fan! Is there anything else you would like to tell the readers we have not touched on?
David: My wife Cheryl is an essential force behind my fiction. She is my first reader, and her opinion carries lots of weight. In Human Form was published because she wouldn’t let me retire it to the oblivion of file 13 (my dedication to that novel reads: “For Cheryl, who kept Wendy alive”). I can also count on her honesty. I have gone back to work on many stories because her comment was four words: “You can do better.” When I was gathering the stories for my short story collection, The Moaning Rocks and Other Stories, I cut two stories from the lineup because Cheryl didn’t like them.
I’d also like to point out that my son Sean, who is 16, read A Friend of the Family and recommends it highly. That’s significant because Sean is a very selective reader. He tends to prefer young adult series novels (and one Dean Koontz novel). So even though he is my own flesh and blood, he has shown little previous interest in the stories I write.
Louise: Where can the readers learn more about you and find your books on the web?
David: A Friend of the Family is available in paperback and for Kindle from Amazon until June 1, 2012, when it also will become available for Nook and other e-book formats.
My other books—including the paperback edition of A Friend of the Family—are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and from many other dealers on the web.
Other places readers can find me are:
One lucky commenter from the entire A Friend of the Family book tour will receive a $25 Amazon Gift card.
Louise: David, thank you again for visiting with me! Readers, be sure to follow the book tour and comment for a chance to win. Good luck!
Here's an Excerpt for a teaser:
“Are you pleased with yourself, Medicine Man?” Aunt Rose said. The rockers rolled on the floor, back and forth, slowly, creaking. Outside the wind buffeted the ancient building. A draft stirred in the musty closeness of the room “He’s going to die. You’re going to see to that, aren’t you, Medicine Man?”
Gina jumped up.
“He’s not, you old bag!”
The intensity, the bitterness of the words sent a shock sizzling through Hank’s brain.
Oh, God, he thought. Please don’t let it end now. Not yet. Just a little longer. Please.
“You’re the one who’s killing him. You!”
“Sit down, you little snip, or I’ll cuff you up the side of your head.”
“Piss on you.”
“Sit down, Gina, honey.”
“Piss on you, too, Ma.”
Vic stirred on the bed. He moaned but didn’t wake up. Gina glanced at him, the animosity draining from her face.
“Please,” Hank said, his voice hoarse. “Gina, please. . .”
For a minute, tension was thick. Then Aunt Rose looked away, resumed rocking. Gina was breathing as if she’d run a great distance.
She wants Pa to die, Gina thought at Hank.
Gina sat down cross-legged on the floor beside Hank’s chair. His hand moved slightly, raised, hesitated as if he didn’t know what to do with it. Then he laid his hand lightly on Gina’s shoulder, felt the tight muscles there and the warmth coming from her body.
You can’t mean that. He’s her brother.
Gina laughed a dry laugh which ended in a sob that she tried to choke off. Aunt Rose and Maud looked at her, but she ignored them.
Our family’s dying.
Hank sensed her sadness, her desperation, but most of all, he sensed her confusion about why this had to happen, why to them.
Pa holds us together now. My brothers are dead. If Pa di— If— If he wasn’t here, Max would’ve been head of the family. He was oldest. He was strong and gentle and wise. So was Jake, my other brother. They could’ve handled Aunt Rose, like Pa does now. Aunt Rose is afraid of Pa, even when he’s sick. Now— Now if Pa— Ma’s too weak, and I’m too young. Aunt Rose will be head of the family.
Hank tried not to let her see the random thoughts that skittered through his mind like frightened beetles. Thoughts of getting away from here before it was too late, if it weren’t too late already, because these people were strangers to him, and why did he care? But he crushed the thought and cast it away into that dim part of his consciousness where he stored thoughts and feelings of which he was ashamed. He squeezed Gina’s shoulder, gently.
She’s using you, she thought.
She builds walls in her mind so I can’t see her thinking. She’s better at it than you. She’s had more practice. But I can see more than she thinks I do. I can glimpse shadows of her thoughts.
Hank took his hand off Gina’s shoulder and sat up straighter in his chair. He cleared his throat as if about to speak, but he didn’t say anything.
What’s this you’re telling me?
You wondered why she didn’t act the way you thought she would before, when she came home and found you here. Look at her sitting over there waiting. Like a vulture. See how calm she is? She thinks Pa’s dying. She wants you here if he dies.
Hank was sweating under his jacket. A bead of perspiration rolled down the back of his neck.
What good will that do?
I told you, Gina thought impatiently, as if he were a child slow to understand. Both my brothers died. Both of them within a couple of years. Who do you think was treating them?
Purchase link: Amazon