I met Dan Pankratz years (wow…that’s weird to write) ago. He is one of those writers who always makes me want to read just one more thing by him and so luckily he lets me be his friend and read his stuff. I think he deserves a much wider audience though (I know despite my awesomeness, Dear Reader, I do not equal out to every reader in the world) and so for my second Extremely Brilliant Creative Person interview (EBCP), I have selected him. Dan was willing to answer some questions and give us a sneak peek into the unique world of his novel series that he has been working on. So, enjoy Dear Reader, and please check out links to more of his work.
When did you begin writing? And why?
I started creating things in second grade. I was a huge fan of the Captain Underpants series then, so I drew comics. I created a Marvel-sized universe of superheroes—Flame, Windgirl, Waterboy, to name a few. Flame was my favorite. He was a ninja garbed character with a hand cannon. I was terrible at drawing, though. My best friend Keith in grade school used to draw a lot of things back-to-back with me, but eventually we split the work and I did the writing while he drew. By the time I was in sixth grade I’d turned completely to full-length prose. I started off by writing a really bad high fantasy novel. Though I’ve kept the scripts, I don’t think I’d even show them to a future spouse if it comes to it.
I started writing because I was compelled. Writing made me feel powerful, too, which is super important for kids. Writing gave me the space to play god in a social hemisphere where I was otherwise powerless. Kids at my elementary school were vicious, and I didn’t have many friends. A lot of kids got bullied worse than me, though. I was lucky. I was just the kid that wrote in the corner. Nobody really paid any attention to me.
When I went to high school I stopped writing for two years. I’d like to think that was because of the necessary adjustments my life had to make. I was figuring out who I was and where I was going. After visiting Italy with my mother my junior year, I started writing a fantistorical (we’re not sure if this is a real term…but I, dear reader, want it to be a real term…so we’re going to just go with it) novel set in a realistic Roman Empire type universe. Even though I’ve long abandoned the project, I’ve been writing every day since.
Describe how you approach an idea for something you’re going to write.
Hey Dan, are you having fun? Yeah, seems like. Will others have fun reading this? If yes, then get to work, fool.
My instincts have never failed me when it comes to understanding the difference between personal writing and the kind of writing that can be shared. A lot of my poetry is personal and will never see the light of day. It’s the kind of stuff I write to help myself cope and understand the universe. But that’s for me. My writing that I consider shareable has some personal elements, but it’s more disguised.
You’re currently working on a series of novels…tell me everything about that process and also what you’re working on.
This seems like a tease for information about book two. I’m not biting. (It totally was a lure, of course. Curses! Foiled again!)
At current, I’m finishing up revisions for book one. It’s an insane amount of work. The novel is almost at 800 pages now, with nine unique perspective characters and almost forty or so others on the side. It’s hard to keep things consistent.
My schedule every day goes like this: I wake up at about eight, then write or edit until lunch. A lot of times I’ll write beyond that, or have an evening crunch, but I do my best work in the morning. I have several types of days beyond that, depending on where I am with a particular writing project.
First and foremost, I have free-write days. On those I just spew crude drafts of chapters. These usually happen when I’m starting a novel. The further I get in, the more specific certain days become. For instance, in my upcoming novel House of Spiders, I have seven perspective characters that I alternate between for each chapter, sort of like how Game of Thrones. Some days I’ll write or edit only from a specific character’s viewpoint. This morning was a Ben day, for instance, while yesterday was a Desna day, and so forth. It helps keep things consistent.
Right now I’m finishing up the end of Part Two for my novel and digging into Part Three, though by the time this interview gets posted on the internet I’ll hopefully be done with the whole thing. Halloween is my absolute deadline for the entire book, after all, so I should be in the thicket of writing the crude draft of book two, Garden of Fire. That’s the hope, anyway.
Do you mostly want to work within the bounds of novels? Do you write anything else (poetry, nonfiction, scripts, etc)?
My next project after finishing the five novels that comprise The Glass Towers will be either be a series of television scripts and/or a graphic novel. I think I’m lucky among writers in that I have way too many ideas. It makes me excited.
Could you describe the style/ types of writing you do:
I focus almost entirely on character and as diverse a cast as possible. I infuse a lot of personal questions and issues from my life into my writing, usually disguised. I like visual descriptions, probably more than you would like, or so you’ve told me! (Pints is kind of a harsh critiquer, folks. It’s shocking but true)
I like capturing the most important moments of a person’s life in a bottle, and letting that firefly blink or wither. That’s what my scenes feel like to me, at any rate.
What got you interested in the idea of doing a series of novels?
This might sound insane and egomaniacal, but I want The Glass Towers to cast a shadow alongside Harry Potter and Twilight (Twilight? Maybe Pints is a little frightened about recommending him now…). The level of prestige and depth that can be obtained from writing is staggering, and the stakes are high. I crave that. Above all, though, I want to reach people and make them feel something valuable. Urban fantasy has a horrible reputation for being all about vampires and shitty romance, and that territory needs to be taken back. There’s treasure to be found beyond all the bad gothic make-up and fake plastic teeth. I just know it.
Dream projects you’d like to work on
There’s a graphic novel series about anthropomorphic fish that I intend to write and draw before I die. It’ll probably end up being a web comic, but we’ll see.
You do a lot of visual work to incorporate into your writing (character sketches and such). What got you into adding that component?
I play a lot of video games and watch a lot of television, probably more than I read novels, I think. There are just so many amazing stories on so many platforms that I can’t help but explore a wide berth. It’s wired my brain towards specific visual interpretation, though, and that definitely appears in my writing. I had a professor once refer to my writing as cinematic.
Thing you think every writer should know.
Whenever you resume working on a particular project, don’t ask yourself, where do I pick up from here, but rather, why did I stop?
Also, if you’re not writing on a daily basis, you’re doing it wrong.
Things you’d most like people to get out of your work.
Value, mostly. I want people to forget who they are and dissolve in the page until they’re done with the book.
Writer you’d most like to meet.
Patrick Rothfuss. Because, beard. No, more than that. He’s like my chaplain of the word. His writing is a cornucopia of radical. I bow at his altar. But most importantly, I just want to be friends with him. He’s a phenomenal guy, and I’m not friends with many fellow writers. (Well, thanks, Dan…Dear Reader, your easily offended blogger storms off the set).
Thing you are most proud of in your writing.
I think I write children in a unique and fresh way. I always have the most fun writing from their perspective, at any rate. I also think I handle the introduction and understanding of fantasy elements at a natural pace. A lot of fantasy writers throw strange things at the reader too early, and that’s part of the reason why I love urban fantasy over high fantasy. It takes the world we know and slowly coaxes you in like a warm bath—at least, that is, until you realize those bubbles aren’t exactly what you thought they were.
What is coming up next for the world of Dan Pankratz?
After House of Spiders is done, I need to find a stable job for now and seduce an agent into taking up the introduction of the book to the publishing world. I’m honestly terrified in a sharp, knife-sinking sort of way. It’s really hard to publish right now and this is all I ever really want to do with my life. We’ll see how things go.
The most difficult thing you find about writing in ten words or less.
Writing women for what they are: as people, as human. (The blogger sighs…. But, seriously, Dan is making himself sound like more of a man-jerk than he actually is. I think?)
For more information check out Dan’s blog or feel free to send an e-mail!
Dan Pankratz is an alumnus of University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in English-Creative Writing. He is currently seeking an agent for his first novel, House of Spiders, while working on the book’s sequel. Be sure to check out his blog at http://danpankratz.blogspot.com/
Contact him: Danwpankratz@gmail.com