Douglas Ford lives, writes, and teaches on the west coast of Florida. His previous fiction has appeared in a variety of publications, most recently Black Chaos: Tales of the Zombie from Big Pulp and Beyond the Nightlight from A Murder of Storytellers. He has also had two stories accepted recently by Cracked Eye, while his story, “Processed Meat,” was lucky enough to receive a Stoker recommendation a few years ago.
1. How long have you been writing and what got you started?
Pretty much my entire life. When I was six or seven, I enlisted the help of a friend and started a neighborhood newspaper. We went around the neighborhood collecting gossipy stuff and scores from the local t-ball league. We hand-wrote the whole thing, using carbon paper to make copies (this was before anyone had a computer), and we sold them door-to-door for a quarter. It didn’t last though. I spent all the profits on comic books, which fueled an early desire to write for Marvel and D.C. That didn’t happen, but my first “real” publication was a letter I wrote to the editors of the short-lived series, “D.C. Comics Presents.” I said something snotty in the letter, something along the lines of “Issue 13 stank, but I loved it anyway.” They published it, despite its cryptic nature, and while I hoped this would win me some notoriety in my 6th grade class, no one seemed to notice. Oh well.
2. What is the best piece of advice you have for new writers?
I teach composition and literature courses as my day job, so I’m giving writing advice pretty much all the time. I think the standard, often-repeated advice is still the best: read as much as you can, and try to write the story you’d want to read.
3. Are there any writing resources, such as books or websites, you’d like to recommend?
Jeff VanderMeet’s Wonderbook should be considered the new gold standard as far as books about writing go. It’s gorgeous, and the wisdom it imparts is amazing. VanderMeer is also one of the few guys who will include contrary views to what he’s presenting. His Wonderbook workshop is well worth taking, too, if you get the chance. His earlier work, Booklife, is also worthwhile for learning to navigate the life of being a writer, something which I’m still learning to do.
4. What is your favorite type of fiction and who are your favorite authors?
I like fiction that clings to me like a spider web, so I’m partial to horror and “weird” writing. Since I’m not disciplined enough to be a novelist and primarily write short stories, I idolize authors who are good with that particular form. Shirley Jackson, for instance, is a huge influence on me, as well as Robert Aickman. There are some contemporary writers I adore, especially with all the exciting things happening with short fiction: Kelly Link, Julia Elliott, John Langan, Brian Evenson, Thomas Ligotti, Helen Marshall, Neil Gaiman, and (oh my god) Nathan Ballingrud, who might be the finest short story writer working today. I wish I were half as good as the people on that list.
5. What tips do you have for finding time to write?
Carry a pen everywhere. Most of us need that day job to get by, so have a pen with you always to write things down when the boss isn’t looking. Or make friends with people who have pens with them all the time. I’m always losing my pens and constantly have to ask someone to borrow theirs.
6. Do you prefer to outline a story in advance or write on the fly? Why?
On the fly, for sure. I revise quite a bit, and for me, it comes down to finding the emotional core of a story or experience and building a character around it. Then the character determines what happens, and I go along for the ride.
7. How do you deal with rejections?
I save all of them. It’s like building scar tissue. And I have a lot of scar tissue.
8. What are your writing goals for the next twelve months?
I wish I could follow Ray Bradbury’s advice, which was to write a story every week. I’m far too slow in my process for that, but I’m going to try to get as close to that goal as possible.
9. For the next five years?
There are so many wonderful short story collections being published right now, and I don’t know if my work could live up to the quality I’m seeing in others, but it would be wonderful to publish a collection of my own work in the next five years or less.