For the month of November, we got the chance to talk with Nighteyes Dayspring about his writing.
Tell us about your most recent project (written or published). What inspired it?
The project I just finished is a story called “Mile High” I submitted to Heat, that I’m hoping to see get included in the next issue. This story follows a charter pilot on a trip to the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe where he and his crew are picking up a mysterious passenger to take to New York. Jonas, the captain of the aircraft, has been paired with a new first officer he doesn’t like very much. This piece deals with the tension between Jonas, his first officer, and a hyena who catches Jonas’s eye.
I’ve got a friend who is currently training to be a pilot, and he’s been telling me about the experience, so it sparked an interest in me and served as an inspiration. I like to make stories like this as accurate as I can, so there were a lot of technical details for this story I had to conduct research on to get right. I had to run certain sections of dialogue by aviation-oriented friends to make sure they’re correct. I watched a number of different cockpit videos just to get the feeling of landing and handling a plane right. I also used a tiny bit of French dialogue to help establish the feeling of being in Guadeloupe, which I ran by our resident French speaker, Erkhyan, to make sure what Google Translate suggested was correct. Also, since Guadeloupe isn’t a place I’ve been, and it’s not on Google Street View, I also watched dash cam video shot in Guadeloupe of someone just driving around the island in order to capture the feeling of the setting.
I know some people might consider this overkill, especially for an adult story, but I feel it’s important if you are using a real place, even in a world inhabited by furries, to try and get the details right. In anything based on reality there are going to be small things you might fudge, either because you can’t find out about something or you need something to be setup a certain way for the purpose of the story, but I like that to be a conscious decision on the part of the writer.
Now the fact I called the story “Mile High?” I just couldn’t resist the word play.
What’s your writing process like? Are you a “pantser,” an outliner, or something in between? How do you find that this helps and/or hurts your writing style?
I’ve always been more of a pantser than an outliner, but that’s started to change. As I’ve worked on longer work, I’m finding that pantsing just doesn’t work for me. I can’t just write a novel without an outline and clear direction. I’ve tried it twice. One time it was an abysmal failure; I will someday figure out how to fix that piece. The other time, I took a half-written novel and rushed it to completion. I’ve been working on that book, Scars of the Golden Dancer, on and off for years, beating the back half into some semblance of readability. It’s only recently reached a state where I’m ready to start shopping it around.
I think there are merits to both approaches. There is something about taking a few tidbits, sitting down and seeing where it’s going. I love doing that, but in order to get the type of stories I want to write, and produce longer work, I find I need to invest more in planning and worldbuilding. I’m sure someone out there can pants a whole novel and it will be brilliant, but that’s not me. A consequence I find with pantsing sometimes is that I’ll do that to explore an idea, and then it will click what I want it to be. This aha moment is great, but that often requires rewriting large chunks of the story in order to make it smooth and even.
What’s your favorite kind of story to write?
I like to write stories with well executed details in interesting settings. Even when I’m writing erotica, I think it’s important to make your world feel real. If I can create a setting and story as a writer where I get to explore, I can generally take the reader along with me for a fun ride. Of course, I still need good characters with their own personalities, strengths, and flaws to make the story complete. When I successfully bring together a rich setting and fun characters to write, I find the story will flow much easier. I think an element of exploration is important with writing. If I want to see what’s going to happen, if I want to be there with these characters, the reader is going feel that same passion, and they’re going to keep reading.
Like anything though, there are exceptions where I’ve focused on just the characters, letting the setting fade away some. I’ve written two stories about a couple that have yet to leave their apartment. There is a tight focus on their interactions, and while it’s outside of my typical wheelhouse, I still think it worked well.
Which character from your work do you most identify with, and why?
The character I most identify with is a jackal character called Zayn. He’s the primary subject of Scars of the Golden Dancer. This project has taken me eight years to shape, but in that time, I’ve gotten to explore Zayn’s personality in great detail, and I feel a strong attachment to him. At his core, Zayn is quintessentially a survivor. In the start of the novel, he’s working as a prostitute and he’s done things to support himself that others would shy away from. This makes him a broken character, but I love that I’ve gotten to take him from his lowest point and rebuild him. I’ve never personally been as desperate as Zayn, but I know this feeling of having to rebuild yourself well. Watching Zayn work to heal, to learn to love again, has been cathartic for me, and these emotions bring back memories about parts of my youth.
The first part of his journey will be included in FANG Volume 9 in the story “Silk and Sword”, which will be out next month.
Which authors or books have most influenced your work?
It’s tough to answer a question like this discussing furry writing without mentioning Kyell Gold. Back when I was first exploring furry books, Kyell’s writing was starting to get well known, and it was a real inspiration to try achieve something like he was doing. I took a break from writing for a while, but around 2010, I got my first sale with FurPlanet, and I started seeing writing as a more serious activity. Since then I’ve met a number of writers who’ve influenced me, and that I get to beta swap with. There are so many great writers in the Furry Writers’ Guild I’ve met, I don’t think I can fairly name a few without making it a long list.
For writers outside of the fandom that most inspired me, Ray Bradbury would be at the top of that list. Bradbury wrote a lot of great stuff, and reading book like the Martin Chronicles, which is a fixup of short stories, really helped me get the confidence to start stringing my small ideas together. If someone of Bradbury’s stature could create a book out of disconnected stories, I too could start linking some of my short stories into bigger work. This is still a transition I’m going through, but I’ve kept Bradbury in mind as I’ve laid out the groundwork to build a novel series.
What’s the last book you read that you really loved?
This is another tough one. I’ve read some great stuff. I’m going to have to say Kismet by Watts Martin. It’s got a great plot, and the world building is really exciting to read about. I love the way Watts’s protagonist Gale has a deep back story that she can rely on and yet struggle against. Gale inhabits a world where bioengineering can make you an anthro, called totemics in the book, but she also inhabits a world where not everyone is happy about that. I think the way Watts investigates humanity’s struggle with what totemics represent to the future of humanity, against the backdrop of the River, space colonies built along the asteroid belt, is really exciting. He’s got a very rich world, and a great story coupled with pertinent questions about identity I think readers can really ponder as they read the book. It’s a book that explores some of same kinds of issues we currently see in the news, but it’s also a story that gives us some distance from the news of the day.
Besides writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
I enjoy board gaming a lot. I’m a fan of both competitive and cooperative games. My currently favorite games are Scythe, The Red Dragon Inn: Battle for Greyport, and Glory to Rome. I’m also an avid fan of music, although my tastes are quite diverse. Being a writer, I’ve got different albums for different moods. When I was working on editing Dissident Signals with Slip-Wolf, I had over a dozen albums I was using as background music for the project.
Advice for other writers?
First, read. I know everyone is busy with their life, but if you want to be a writer, you need to read. Also, don’t be afraid to take chance and try new things.
I’d like to point out, there’s a lot of writing advice out there. I think it’s critical to keep in mind you should do what works for you. The way I write may not work for you, and the way you write may not work for me. And you know what? That’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. You need to find the techniques and styles that work for you. Writing has a lot of guidelines, but not a lot of hard and fast rules. Even grammar is something that has its subjective elements. People have been arguing about the Oxford comma and split infinitives since before any of us were born, and someone out there will likely be arguing about those long after we’re gone.
Where can readers find your work?
Most of my work is for sale through FurPlanet. I also maintain on my website a comprehensive list all of my published stories. My next published story is going to be “Silk and Sword”, and will be in FANG Volume 9, which is coming out at Midwest FurFest 2018.
What’s your favorite thing about the furry fandom? Why write furry?
Furry helped me find who I really was. I spent my teenage and adult years in a part of the United States where you just don’t come out as gay. I know people did back when I was a teen, but I never know anyone who just went around saying they were gay. I had a friend who told me about the fandom back in High School, and the fact I could just be me without layers was something I found very appealing. Getting involved in the fandom was a slow process for me, but I’ve always loved how it has connected me with other people, without having to hide who I was.
As for writing furry, I’ve been interested in writing about animals my whole life, so once I found out about furry writing, I knew I had to try my hand at that. Even though I now have over twenty published stories under my belt, I’m still loving the genre.