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Duane Simolke

Interview with

Duane Simolke

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Even as a small child, I made up stories while playing in the yard. I started writing them down in my early teens, maybe sooner.

How long does it take you to write a book?

It can take years, or even decades. That was partially because of college and multiple unfinished projects. Even though I now focus on one project at a time, I still like to keep setting it aside to let the characters, plot, and phrasings simmer. Reading and social media take up a lot of my writing time, but I accept the tradeoff.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

No one will care about the action or the concepts if they don’t care about the characters. Start with the characters; let them take over the storytelling.

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?

Sometimes. Some say they relate to my characters and think I must have a lot in common with those characters to write them so well. Others say that my writing helped them understand people who are different from them or even helped them accept themselves. The most frequent comment I get now is that they like the humor or the diversity in my work. All of those reactions are great compliments.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Energize. I love the written word, both as a reader and as a writer.

What is your writing Kryptonite?

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?

I think many readers want originality. I’ve never quite blended in, and I find that my readers like characters with insecurities, imperfections, and quirks. It would probably help with marketing if I could stay within a clearly defined genre, but I let the muse take me where it will. Readers like surprises, even when tropes, formulas, and social media trends seem to take over the bookshelves.

What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?

At what point do you think someone should call themselves a writer?

When it’s something you actually do and want to keep on doing, regardless of money, fame, or acceptance.

What do the words “writer’s block” mean to you? 

Are there therapeutic benefits to modeling a character after someone you know?

What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?

How would you describe your book’s ideal reader?

Someone who likes stories with a diverse cast and a lot of twists.

How much research did you need to do for your book? 

The main characters in Sons of Taldra are an Iroquois family, and Native American storytelling influenced the plot, so a great deal. At the same time, though, it’s set in an alternate reality with a one-world government, which gave me total freedom with the many cultural and historical references. I started with reality but created a new reality, which also appeared in my book Degranon and will appear again in my next book. My scifi adventures bring up many real-life topics, but we see them in new ways, through the lens of a science fiction universe.

Tell us more about your book/s?

Degranon and Sons of Taldra are fast-paced scifi adventures. The Return of Innocence also takes place in an alternate reality, but with a medieval, fantasy setting and a teen heroine. The Acorn Stories brings us down to Earth with a fictional West Texas setting; that collection led to the spinoff The Acorn Gathering: Writers Uniting Against Cancer. I’ve also written poetry and nonfiction.

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