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An Interview with Nick DiChario

by Chadwick Ginther - Tuesday, May 06, 2008 at 11:30am

Nick DiChario will be launching his new novel Valley of Day-Glo, a post-apocalyptic comedy, at our Grant Park location May 17th in a joint launch with fellow science fiction authors Robert J. Sawyer and Hayden Trenholm. DiChario, who previously held a science fiction/fantasy writer's workshop event for us, was kind enough to answer a few of my questions via email.

CG: Who would you say has had the largest influence on your writing career?

ND: That's a pretty big question. There were my parents, who encouraged me from a young age to be creative. There are the writers who helped me: Mike Resnick, certainly, who gave me my first big break, and Anne Coon and Nancy Kress, who were my teachers for many years when I first started writing. There were the many people in the writers' groups I dropped in and out of from when I first began writing up to the present. And then of course there were all the great authors I read along the way. I would say there probably wasn't one largest influence, but maybe one massive cumulative influence.

CG: Among the high points of your career, your Hugo and John W. Campbell nominations, first published story and first novel, which do you mark as the sweetest?

ND: There's nothing sweeter than the first kiss, the first love, the first ice cream cone, the first beer. They're so good you keep going back for more. Ah, but that first one. You might match it, but you'll never beat it. Even so, along with every publication comes a special little joyful moment all its own. I often think if that thrill ever disappears I'll stop writing.

CG: Your short fiction has been included in Best of Year Fantasy and Horror collections. Do you have any plans for a long-form work in either genre? Could you tell our readers a little about your next project?

ND: I'm pretty excited about my next novel, which is almost finished. It's kind of a neo-noir mystery-suspense-contemporary-mainstream social commentary about a young guy who gets involved with the wrong woman and gets himself into all kinds of trouble he can't get out of. Like most of my fiction, it seems to cross genres, but it's definitely in the noir family. I've always been interested in noir lit and film noir, so I've finally given in to my urge to write it. I don't have any plans at the moment to write anything like traditional horror or fantasy. Even if I did, I'm not sure I could stick to the middle of any traditional genre. I'm a drifter. I think the most interesting books fall in-between genres and play with expectations. That's where all the fun is for me.

CG: Each writer has a unique approach to the craft. How would you describe your creative process? Thus far, you've made your name primarily as a short fiction writer. What do you feel its challenges and advantages are over novels?

ND: A short fiction well done is about the impact that one small moment has on the larger life experience. A novel is more about landscape. You have more complexities and layers, a wider range of issues and themes, and generally more characters and plot lines and outcomes. Both forms are challenging in their own ways. One of the things I learned is that it takes just as long to master one form as it does the other. If you've written short stories and you want to take on a novel, it's like going to school all over again, and vice versa. But if you're not up for a challenge there's not much sense in being a writer, is there? Every time we sit down to write something we're challenging ourselves to be great. As far as the creative process goes, I'm not sure I could describe it or that it would make any sense to me if someone else could. It's like mixing a salad. I'll have some of this. I'll have some of that. Mix in the dressing. Oh, that's not quite right, too much vinegar. How about some pine nuts? So you keep going like that until you've got something that tastes good. But everyone's taste is different, right? So who really knows?

CG: As an author who publishes under a smaller imprint, how important do you feel small genre presses are to the overall health of the science fiction/fantasy fields?

ND: I think that the small presses are incredibly important to the health of the publishing industry in general. They give writers whose first allegiance isn't necessarily to commercialism an opportunity to publish. Without that outlet, a lot of fine, ground-breaking books would never find an audience, and some of the most interesting writers would remain forever undiscovered. This is true for every genre, but I think in recent years it has become more and more obvious that science fiction and fantasy need the smaller presses. Almost all of the larger houses in the field have given in to pushing books that fall dead center in the middle of the genre because they've decided this is what sells. And maybe they're right. No one I know of has yet been able to answer the question of whether the market drives the buyer or the buyer drives the market. Either way it's clear that if you're not hitting the center of the target in science fiction and fantasy these days, there is not much space for you on the bookshelves.

CG: What is your favourite example of absurdist fiction?

ND: Gosh, there is so much fun stuff out there. I'm not even sure I know how to define absurdist fiction. I'd recommend Kurt Vonnegut, George Saunders, Mikhail Buglakov, Samuel Beckett, Franz Kafka. It's kind of nice to experiment and discover things on your own. For instance, I remember picking up a copy of The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break by Steven Sherrill. I had never heard of this guy before, but it looked like a fun read. What a great book it turned out to be! I had no expectations, and I just let the book talk to me. Was it absurdist? Maybe. I don't know for sure. But it definitely struck that same tender nerve. You'd be amazed what you can find if you look. I like to tell people to poke around in their local bookstores and just grab something offbeat. I think that readers generally don't do that as often as they used to. If they don't read a good review of a book, or if a friend doesn't recommend something, people tend not to take a chance. You can miss out on a lot of the joy of discovery that way.

CG: In Valley of Day-Glo you comment on future civilizations judging us by what we've left behind, and how it doesn't always depict us at our best. Given the choice, what part of our culture would you most want to be discovered by another civilization?

ND: My novels. I think that would be very cool. Who was this DiChario guy? I don't know, but he could tell a hell of a story.

CG: Do you have any concerns regarding Native American's reaction to the depiction of the tribes in Valley of Day-Glo?

ND: No, I really don't. I think they and everyone else will like it if I've done my job well as a writer. One of the things that absurdist fiction does best is turn stuff upside down and make you look at the world and yourself in a completely different way. That's a lot of what Day-Glo is about. What's important? Who's important? Does anything we do survive us, or do we live truly absurd lives? I can't imagine people reacting negatively to the book if they approach it in that spirit.

CG: Many of your characters in Valley of Day-Glo take their names from movies or theatre: our protagonist, Broadway Danny Rose, Father Outlaw Josey Wales, and Mother Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? If you were part of this post-apocalyptic Iroquois society, what would your tribal name be?

ND: Uh oh. I think that's like asking a person his favorite all-time movie. It's fun to ask that question at a party and watch the panic kick in. You can just see people scanning their brains for all the great films they've seen over the years and trying to pick out their favorite. It's impossible! The pressure is incalculable! I'm going to play it safe and say that mine hasn't been made yet. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that as soon as someone makes a movie based on one of my books, then that will probably be my favorite. That will be my name in the post-apocalyptic world.

See Also:

Valley of Day-Glo by Nick DiChario

A Small and Remarkable Life by Nick DiChario

Robert J. Sawyer, an Interview

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Valley of Day-Glo

- Trade paperback

by Nick Dichario, Nancy Kress - Robert Sawyer (series) - $9.95 - Add to Cart

Broadway Danny Rose is on the move! In this brightly satiric, postapocalyptic novel of the far future, a young Indian brave named Broadway Danny Rose embarks upon a quest across the desolate planet Earth to find the mysterious Valley of Day-Glo, where plants and animals and large bodies of water are rumoured to still exist, and where, according to legend, death becomes life. Valley of Day-Glo is a brilliant blend of Douglas Adams' farcical humour and Kurt Vonnegut's droll absurdity. Hugo Award-nominee Nick DiChario delivers a witty and poignant story that deals with the power of myth, the search for truth, and the meaning of life and death. John W. Campbell Memorial Award 2009 Finalist

Valley of Day-Glo

- Trade paperback

by Nick Dichario, Nancy Kress - Robert Sawyer (series) - $16.95 - Add to Cart

Broadway Danny Rose is on the move! In this brightly satiric, postapocalyptic novel of the far future, a young Indian brave named Broadway Danny Rose embarks upon a quest across the desolate planet Earth to find the mysterious Valley of Day-Glo, where plants and animals and large bodies of water are rumoured to still exist, and where, according to legend, death becomes life. Valley of Day-Glo is a brilliant blend of Douglas Adams' farcical humour and Kurt Vonnegut's droll absurdity. Hugo Award-nominee Nick DiChario delivers a witty and poignant story that deals with the power of myth, the search for truth, and the meaning of life and death. John W. Campbell Memorial Award 2009 Finalist

Small and Remarkable Life

- Trade paperback

by Nick Dichario, Mike Resnick - Robert Sawyer (series) - $9.95 - Add to Cart

The much-anticipated first novel by Hugo and World Fantasy Award nominee Nick DiChario puts a spin on the story of being stranded on an alien planet, cut off from your own people, unsuited to your new environment, and physically different from everyone else. This is what the young alien Tink Puddah must face when his parents are killed on their first day on Earth in the year 1845, and Tink finds himself stranded in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. A story of courage, determination, hope, and survival, A Small and Remarkable Life chronicles the journey of two people headed in very different directions: the alien Tink Puddah, a lonely outsider who finds the strength and resources within him to endure the most brutal and unforgiving conditions, and the holy man Jacob Piersol, determined to save Tink's soul, but tortured by his own past and the God who seems unable to console him. Charming, literate, and thought-provoking, A Small and Remarkable Life is a wonderful debut novel from one of the field's best-loved short-story writers. Bonus feature: Book Club discussion guide included. The John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Novel of the Year is one of the world's most prestigious awards in all of science fiction, bestowed by a blue-ribbon panel of American and British academics and authors. John W. Campbell Memorial Award short-list, 2006 Hugo Award runner-up 2007