Dara Fogel holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Oklahoma, specializing in social-political philosophy, ethics and philosophy of the self. She teaches ethics and humanities in the American Southwest, where she lives with her husband, mother, young son and two cats.
What inspires you to write?
This book is a prequel to the soon-to-be-released GrailChase Chronicles series, which kicks off this fall. The GrailChase Chronicles envelopes my many interests in history, conspiracy theory, metaphysics and the evolution of consciousness… and of course, my newest obsession: Steampunk.
I began writing the story 20 years ago, during the breakup of my first marriage, as an outlet for my intense emotions and weird interests. At the time, I knew nothing of writing, but I read voraciously. I learned as I went, reading books on writing, filling out index cards, diagramming plot twists, editing & polishing… polishing & editing.
I approached a few agents, but no one knew what to make of my weird story. This was before the DaVinci Code came out, so the heretical theories my stories are based on were pretty far out. I got a lot of “Nice story, but we don’t think there’s a market…”
After my divorce, I went back to college & found myself fascinated with philosophy, especially ethics, philosophy of religion & what I call the philosophy of the self. My studies forced me to table work on my grand opus, but I vowed to get back to it asap. Well, 3 degrees later, I found myself with no more classes to take & a huge student loan to pay off. So I went to work teaching philosophy – still no time for writing… But I never forgot about my book, and refused to toss out the multiple binders of dot matrix manuscripts sitting on my shelf.
Then, in 2010, the week before he died, my father, knowing of & sharing my literary aspirations, extracted a promise from me to revise & publish this grand dream of mine. He said the one thing he really regretted in his 86 years of life was that he had never seriously pursued his dream to be a science fiction author. He strongly urged me not to make the same mistake in my life. This anthology is the start of the fulfillment of my last and greatest promise to my father… myself.
Tell us about your writing process.
These days, writing time is scarce, but when I do write, I need large blocks of time. I’m not one of these people who write for an hour every morning. I have to have at least 4 hours (preferably more) to coax my quixotic muse from her cave. Because GrailChase is a historically-based story, I do a lot of research. Research turns me on. I like to gather lots of research materials (books, images, textures, music, videos, etc) & wallow in them.
I did not start with an outline when I first began GrailChase. But as I learned more about plot and character development, I became an old school outliner. Since I began before the advent of the internet, I started out with index cards. But truth be told, the story told itself. The outlining was of only minor benefit.
At the risk of comparing myself to Mozart, I must admit that my process is much like his was – he reported that he heard the music in his head & he merely took dictation. I also feel the same with GrailChase. I merely try to find the best words to describe the pre-existing story. Michelangelo claimed the same thing of his magnificent sculptures – that the finished statue was already there in the rough marble. All he said he did was chip away the unnecessary part, but he did not create the David or the Pieta.
This raises some interesting philosophical questions of free will versus determinism, as well as questions about the nature of reality.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I listen to. Or rather, watch.
What advice would you give other writers?
Have faith in yourself. Learn your craft. Hone your skills. And if it is really what you want, go after it with all you’ve got!
How did you decide how to publish your books?
As I mentioned before, I originally shopped GrailChase around to a few agents back in 1994, but got no nibbles. Admittedly, it was a lot rougher storytelling than it is now, but my premise was pretty far out for its time.
In 2010, when I decided to really give it a go, it was a completely different playing field than the mid-90s. After joining a local writing club and speaking with published authors, I became apparent to me that the days of agents and publishers holding all the cards are over. In light of the self-publishing revolution, and the fact that publishing houses don’t do a whole lot to promote new, unknown writers, turning my opus over to a publisher who might promote it for 15 minutes didn’t make a lot of sense.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
Self-publishing is the way of the future. It has democratized publishing. Now, the merits of the writing and the determination of the author are what controls which books get published, not a small elite.
What do you use?
What genres do you write?
Alternative History, Historical Fantasy, Steampunk, Historical Adventure
What formats are your books in?