I had the distinct pleasure of working once again with David B. Seaburn (previously, I edited his novel Charlie No Face) on his most recent work, Chimney Bluffs. David took the time to sit down with me and talk about his latest novel.
Katrina Robinson: Tell me a little bit about Chimney Bluffs; from where did you get the inspiration for the story?
David B. Seaburn: When I was working on my last novel, Charlie No Face, I read an online news article about an incident in England where a mother and father had leaped to their death from a famous cliff after the unanticipated death of their four-year-old son.
Of course, that was awful in and of itself, but what really captured my attention was that they jumped with two sacks: one had their dead son, the other had his toys. Somehow I couldn’t get that image out of my mind. They clearly wanted to be together in whatever world awaited them. The sack of toys was very poignant. They must have thought their son would need them.
I couldn’t shake this story. I began to wonder: How did the couple come to their decision? What if one of the parents had not died? Those questions helped me develop the premise for my story.
KR: You depict the death of a child in such a personal, heartbreaking way. Was this difficult for you to write about?
DS: Yes, it was difficult. In the first chapter, Clancy Brisco, a ranger at Chimney Bluffs State Park, discovers two adults and two sacks resting on the beach at the bottom of a cliff. When I finished that chapter, I pushed myself away from the computer and thought, What have I gotten myself into?
It was not easy, but it shouldn’t have been. If you’re going to take on a subject like this, it should be just as challenging for the writer as it may be for the reader.
KR: This is your fourth published novel. Are there any key lessons that you’ve learned along the way?
DS: Have a good editor! (That would be you.) I think I have gotten better at developing character at greater depth and allowing for more complexity without losing a clear and, perhaps, simple narrative line.
I’ve also learned how to live better with the uncertainty of not knowing where I’m going. When I started writing Chimney Bluffs, I had no idea where the story would go or how it would end. Unlike some writers, I don’t work from an outline. I work through my fingers at the computer. Not that I don’t have a good notion of what the whole should look like, but I tend to trust what emerges as it emerges. I think I have gotten better at living with this ‘not knowing’ aspect of writing.
KR: What piece of advice would you give to a writer who hopes to have his or her work published?
DS: I think it’s important to write about what is meaningful to you. When I start a novel, I know that for the next eighteen months I will be wrestling with issues that are of personal concern to me, that have something to do with helping me define what it means to be here in this world. I never write for an audience. It would drive me crazy. I have to write for myself first.
KR: Any ideas for your next novel? (We won’t tell!)
DS: I am actually well into my fifth novel. The working title is More More Time. The basic premise is that how we address the issue of time may be the most important thing we can do to live meaningfully. In the first chapter, the lead character, a cantankerous sixty-two-year-old high school history teacher with an obsession about Lincoln, falls down his basement steps. Soon thereafter he starts hearing this phrase: endingworldendingworldendingworld. In very different ways, each of the characters in this story will be addressing the issue of time whether they are aware of it or not.
To pick up a copy of Chimney Bluffs, visit Savant Books and Publications or Amazon.com.