March 25, 2013 by Nathaniel Tower
Today I have the pleasure of uncovering some details about one of my favorite writers. CS DeWildt has been on my reading list ever since he first submitted “The Bull” to Bartleby Snopes a little over three years ago. After reading his novella Candy and Cigarettes (Vagabond Press, 2011), I was hooked and had to get my hands on anything by Mr. DeWildt. CS writes with fierce prose that combines 21st century punch with a nice classic literary touch. His subjects are always fascinating, but the writer himself is shrouded in mystery. Until now.
Chris, thanks for chatting with me. I’ve been a fan of your work for a while now. It’s nice to sit down and get to know the man behind the mask a little. Literally. You always wear that darn mask in your picture. What’s up with that?
Thanks. I’m a fan too. In fact, you’re a personal hero. You published my first story ever and therefore, you’re a major factor in everything I’ve been able to do as a writer since.
But you asked about the pic. It goes back to my MySpace days. I mask my insecurities as a writer with irreverence. And I just love it. The intensity in the eyes, you know the guy isn’t on a ski trip. He’s up to something.
MySpace. Wow. That takes me way back. Actually, I never used MySpace. While we’re on the subject of the mysterious aura that is CS DeWildt, tell us a little about your bio. When did you start using that little two sentence bio? In what way do you want to hurt us? And if you’re a liar, how can we believe any of this interview, or even that you want to hurt us?
The lines just came to me as I was sitting, trying to think up a new bio to accompany a piece. I think the first time I used it was for my first Martian Lit piece Just One Look. I try to be honest in my writing, and what’s more honest than an admission of guilt? Admitting you are a liar is truth, and I thought honesty was the way to go with my bio. Hurt and lies seem like bad things at first blush, but in truth, you can’t have any kind of meaning without them, whether we’re talking a story or a relationship with another person. My best friendships have the occasional hurt and lie in their back story. I don’t hurt my enemies, I don’t waste the energy. I hurt my friends and my friends hurt me. It makes for a richer communion.
Or maybe it’s more irreverence. It’s hard to keep my truths straight.
Okay, let’s talk about your writing some. Boring stuff first. How long have you been writing and what made you get into it? Was it lightning knocking you off a horse? Spill your secrets.
I don’t really have any kind of poignant anecdote or moment of epiphany to share. Writing was just something that I’ve always enjoyed writing, any writing: Stories, articles, letters, term papers, scripts, to-do lists. I don’t care. I pursued it because it gives me pleasure. I love getting a reaction out of people, I like to see people moved by my words. Like an actor on the stage, I crave attention.
I understand that you are a teacher for your day job. Would you classify yourself more as a writer, or do you associate more as being a teacher?
Writer. I am a writer. I teach school and it’s fun and I love being in front of a classroom, but if I could write and do nothing else for a living, that’s what I would do. Teaching was never part of the plan, in fact, I used to say “I will never be a teacher.” But I fell into it and as you know, it takes a certain personality and whether I like it or not, the job suits me. I’ve been teaching for five years and that’s longer than I’ve lasted in any other gig.
So how do you find the time to balance writing with your day job and responsibilities? How does a typical CS day go?
I get up early. I write. I go to work. I write at work when I can. I write after the kids go to bed. I used to try to set aside large chunks of time, but with small kids, that’s nearly impossible. They don’t care that Daddy “closed the door”. Kind of like how Einstein is said to have slept only a couple hours at a time, that’s how I approach it. However, I do dream of being able to get away someday, lock myself away in a crumby motel, and pound out something great. That’s my dream vacation.
Do you like C.S. Lewis?
No, Nate. No, I do not.
It’s been a great experience. It was, at the time, the longest project I’d written. I was of course thrilled beyond belief to get a contract and am forever indebted to Vagabondage Press for publishing it. If each publication is a stepping stone, this was a major one for me. The reviews have been great for the most part (except for the anonymous jackass who left a 2-star rating on B&N with no feedback for me), and I’ve met a lot of new people as a result of the hustle. Sales, hmm. The fact that anyone would buy it is a thrill. And so far, each successive royalties’ statement gets a little bigger. Not that it makes much of an impact on the old bank account…yet. Overall I’ll chalk t up to a hell of a learning experience.
So you have a BA in film production and an MS in Biology. The latter doesn’t sound very writerly. How have these educational experiences influenced you as a writer?
As a film student I was always much more focused on screenwriting. I think the cinema has influenced my prose as much as anything. The biology is a little harder to explain. I refer to the period of 2001-2003 as my quarter life crisis. I was done with undergrad and had a job dubbing corporate training videos. Imagine yourself in a dark room, lit by the flashing lights of high end video and audio gear, loading tapes into a bank of 150 VHS decks. Loading and unloading and labeling and packaging and shipping, over and over for 8 hours a day. I hated it and it sucked away all of my creative drive. Couple this with the fact that I had received nothing but rejection with regards to my writing. I don’t want to get too melodramatic here, but it was a low point for sure.
So I decided more education was the answer, something completely different. I thought about vet school and entered Western Kentucky University as a pre-vet student. I also got a job as a tech in a veterinary clinic. I decided medicine wasn’t for me, however, I loved the introductory biology course I was taking. Then I found out that with my undergrad degree I could weasel my way into the MS biology program, which I did. And it was the best thing I’ve ever done for my writing. I was exposed to a whole new world of people and ideas, I got a new job as a biology technician at Mammoth Cave, and my working on my thesis (Population Dynamics of the Blind Cave Beetle Neaphaenops tellkampfi) was an excellent crash course in grammar and mechanics. Living in Kentucky was like putting my writing in a rock tumbler for five years. I absorbed life and became me. When I went back to writing I was much more realistic, patient, and mature about the process. And it’s paid off (just not monetarily).
What are your ultimate writing goals?
To be in a position where I can say I am a writer and not I am a writer-slash-whatever. If I can pay the bills with my words, I’ve made it. I’d also love to see something I’ve written adapted and produced for the screen. And I guess being invited to speak at my alma maters would be nice too, to have something to offer those who aspire. Maybe I am a teacher after all.
As long as you keep writing, I’m okay with whatever pays your bills. What can we expect next from CS DeWildt?
I’ve got a couple small presses looking at my rural noir novel Love You to a Pulp, so hopefully that will happen in the next year or so. I’ve also got a collection of shorts–tentatively titled Dead Animals–that I’m working on. And I am in need of an artist who’d like to partner with me on adapting Candy and Cigarettes as a graphic novel. And of course, many more stories. Oh, and I’ll be the featured writer over at Pure Slush in May. My theme is technology. Actually, when I’m done here, I have some revisions from PS editor Matt Potter to look over. Just have to give a shout out to Matt. He’s awesome. Great editor. Not just a bunch of talk with that guy. He hustles non-stop and my stories are so much better after he’s ripped them apart.
Thanks for chatting with me. Now it’s you turn to ask me one question. It can be anything in the world. Don’t waste it.
My question is this: What is the physical characteristic that separates the beetle family Carabidae from the others in the order Coleoptera? Impress me with your research skills.
Interesting question. I’m glad you asked. I get tired of answering questions about writing or publishing. And then there’s the questions about juggling. And the questions about all the other stuff. When I tell an interviewee to ask a question, I want to be surprised. This is what I’m talking about. Of course, you know I’m stalling right now. Okay, so much of my research was inconclusive, but I’m guessing it either has to do with the grooves on the back or the flexible abdominal tip. Or it could be the antennae position. Am I close? Help me out, Mr. Biology expert. Biology was always my worst subject. Physics and Chemistry I can do. Biology always gets me.
If you want to know more about CS DeWildt, the best way to figure him out is by reading his great fiction. Buy yourself a copy of Candy and Cigarettes. You won’t regret it.