Monday, October 6, 2014

Flashpoint Interview: Donald Tyson

Today's Flashpoint interviewee is Donald Tyson, a prolific author of short fiction, novels, and non-fiction on all aspects of the Western esoteric tradition. You can find out more about his writing on his website, His story in Flashpoint is "The Fire-Eater."

Third Person Press: Where did you grow up? Do you think your childhood influenced you to be a writer?
Donald Tyson: Halifax, Nova Scotia, is where I was born and lived most of my life. When I was young it was a quiet little city, but as I aged the city grew. All of the places that were green forest or old farms when I was a kid are subdivisions or industrial parks today. I was happy to move to Cape Breton five years ago and get back to the scale of community life that I remembered from my childhood. I like a slower place. The rush of the big city never appealed to me.

I started to read adult novels on a regular basis when I was nine years old. The very first paperback novel I read was Robert E. Heinlein's The Puppet Masters. I was spellbound by it and read it in one sitting. I couldn't stop reading it until I finished it. I began to spend all my allowance money on paperback books. They were mostly science fiction novels, but there were also horror anthologies and novels, some mystery novels, and of course the classics.

I actually read Jane Eyre when I was seven. We had large hardcover editions of both Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights in the house. I remember that the quality of Charlotte Bronte's prose fascinated me. I had to stop every few sentences to look up words in the dictionary, but I loved reading it, and I finished the book. I tried Wuthering Heights at the same tender age of seven, but Emily Bronte’s story was too much for me, and it was several years later before I was able to read and understand it.

As for influences that made me a writer, there weren't any. No one on either side of my family that I was in contact with wrote or had any interest in writing. My father was a reader, which encouraged me to read at an early age, but he never suggested that I might have talent for writing. Neither did anyone else, including my teachers. I had to figure it out for myself and that took me some time. I always knew I could write. That was never a question for me. But the idea of becoming a professional writer just never occurred to me until I was in university, and I realized that I didn't want to do anything else. But I was definitely hindered as a writer by the complete and utter lack of any kind of support or encouragement.

TPP: Who were your three favourite writers when you were young? Who are three favourites now?
DT: When I was young, my favourite writers were science fiction writers. Robert A. Heinlein was far and away my favourite. He was my god. I’d have to say that these three were my favourites, in descending order of importance:

Robert A. Heinlein
Arthur C. Clark
Ray Bradbury

Presently, I read mostly horror, mystery, suspense and action-adventure fiction. I stopped reading science fiction around the age of twenty. I just lost interest in it. I’ll rank my three favourite writers that I’ve read recently as follows:

Robert Crais
Cormac McCarthy
Hunter S. Thompson

TPP: What are you most likely to be doing when you're not writing?
DT: I hike in the Cape Breton woods, and kayak on the lakes and ocean inlets. Lately I’ve taken up motorcycle riding. I got my motorcycle license last year. When I was a teenager, I rode for two summers, but I didn’t have a license at the time. I wanted to get back on two wheels while I was still young enough to enjoy it.

TPP: Do you have any writing habits or rituals?
DT: It’s always been the case that I do my best writing after midnight. When I’m working hard on something, I tend to stay awake until four in the morning, and then sleep in to noon. That’s just always been my natural creative cycle. I can write at any hour of the day or night, but when the air is still and quiet in the wee hours of the morning I probably do my best work.

When I write, I fall into a kind of trance. Even though I’m not consciously aware of this trance state, time will pass without me noticing its passage. Three hours will seem like a few minutes to me when I’m working. Often I’ll end up writing all night.

TPP: What's your favourite beverage while writing? While not writing?
DT: I drink tea, and a lot of it. This habit I picked up from my parents, who were both heavy tea drinkers. I don’t really drink much of anything else. I’m not fond of coffee because I find it too harsh on my stomach.

When I was a boy I made a conscious decision not to drink anything with alcohol in it, because I didn’t want to turn into a drunk in my later years. I’ve never drunk any hard liquor, wine, or even beer for this reason. It’s not that I don’t like these alcoholic drinks (I have tasted them out of curiosity), but I just believe that it would be too easy for me to like them too much. Around the age of nine or ten I decided to stay away from them, and I’ve done so ever since.

I also decided when I was a boy that smoking was a bad idea, and I’ve never smoked for that reason. By the same logic, I don’t take illegal drugs of any kind – I think they are bad for my brain, and I need my brain in order to write well. I even avoid prescription drugs, although I have asthma and can’t entirely keep from taking medication for it.

TPP:  If you were a superhero, what would your name and power/ability be? Or would you be a supervillain instead?
DT: If I had to pick an existing comic book hero to become, it would be Doctor Strange. I’ve always been fascinated by the occult and have made an extensive practical study of Western magic. Most of my nonfiction writing has been on various aspects of the occult. Dr. Strange is a superhero who achieves his goals with his skills in magic, which he acquired through years of intense study and the discipline of his mind and body.

TPP: What are you working on now? What's your next writing project?
DT: At present I’m working on a connected collection of contemporary occult stories that have the same central group of characters and take place in the same city. The circumstances of the characters progress over time from one story to another. What happens in earlier stories affects what happens in later stories.

It’s very similar in this regard to my collection of stories titled Tales of Alhazred which is due to be published in an illustrated edition by Dark Renaissance Books later this year or early next year. This also concerns the adventures of a single character, the poet and necromancer Abdul Alhazred, author of the infamous Necronomicon, who interacts from story to story with the same locations as a backdrop and the same general set of central characters.

I am fascinated with this creative form, which as far as I know doesn’t even have a name. I believe its potential to be enormous yet largely untapped. It is intermediate between a novel and an unconnected collection of stories. By making events progress in time from one story to another, so that the characters evolve and change from story to story, in effect the stories become chapters in an interesting kind of loose, episodic novel.

Thanks, Donald!

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