Dave Creek, a former web producer, is a Kentucky native who lives in Louisville. He’s the author of numerous stories and novels set in the same shared sci-fi universe since 1994. Creek recently took the time to answer some questions:
Wes Platt: How did you get started as a writer?
Dave Creek: After several years of trying, I sold my first story to ANALOG in 1994. I thought the floodgates were going to open. I sold my next story six years later. But since then, I’ve sold over twenty stories there and several others to APEX and various anthologies.
WP: What was your career? And were you able to transition easily to full-time writing or was it something that had to be more of a freelance hobby?
DC: I retired about three and a half years ago from WDRB-TV in Louisville. I was a web producer, writing stories for WDRB.com, and also produced newscasts. Most of my career I was a show producer, but at others times was an assignment editor, tape editor (back when you used tape), and other things.
WP: All your stories take place in a shared “future history”, correct? What made you decide to approach your work that way? And how do you keep it fresh and exciting for yourself as a storyteller?
DC: I’ve always enjoyed other writers’ future histories, such as the Isaac Asimov FOUNDATION series, Poul Anderson‘s stories of Dominic Flandry, and many others. I keep it fresh and exciting by making a rule with myself that I have to learn something new about my characters and/or background with each story. I can’t just recycle elements.
WP: Who do you count among your influences as a writer? What other authors captured your attention when you were younger and why?
DC: For me, the Big Four were Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, and Robert Heinlein. I have to go back and re-read some of those!Other influences include Poul Anderson, Harlan Ellison, Ursula K. Le Guin, Robert Silverberg, Lois McMaster Bujold, C.J. Cherryh, many others.WP: How do you define success as an author?DC: Connecting with readers, having them tell me they enjoyed a story. Having a discussion about your characters or ideas is always great.
WP: What’s your process as a writer? Example: Lots of outlines and pre-planning or more freeform, seat-of-the-pants storytelling?
DC: The more I do this, the more detail I put into outlines. I’ve tried “pantsing” a couple of times and I end up going down into a wormhole. But I always keep in mind that the outline is not the story. If I get a good idea along the way, I incorporate it into the outline or change the direction of the outline.
WP: What do you do for fun when you’re not writing?
DC: My wife and son and I are big music fans. In the last few years, with either or both of them, I’ve seen The Who, Roger Waters, U2, Lake Street Dive, Paul McCartney, and Stevie Wonder. My favorite of all time is Yes, which I’ve seen countless times.WP: Do you prefer independent or corporate publishing? What do you find are the trade-offs of each?DC: I haven’t been a part of “corporate” publishing, only small presses. My current publisher, Hydra Publications here in Kentucky, is great to work with. I have a lot of input into promotions, cover art, all the aspects of publishing. I put out more than they can publish in a single year, so I self-publish novellas and short story collections and that kind of thing. It’s satisfying, but I hate dealing with formatting. There’s a program called Vellum that’s supposed to be great that I hope to buy soon.
WP: What advice do you have for young writers – or older writers who just haven’t been published yet?
DC: Study the markets if you’re submitting short stories to magazines, whether print or online. See what markets might be best for your story and submit it to the market that pays the most. That will generally also be the one that gives you the most exposure. If you’re rejected at that first one, work your way back down. Don’t fall for editors/publishers who tell you how great the exposure will be in their publication, rather than money. If they don’t have a big enough audience to pay you, they won’t be giving you that much exposure.
As far as books, aim high again. See what traditional publisher might be interested in your work, then submit. You may have to wait as long as a year. If you get tired of waiting, or if your work isn’t commercial enough for the trad presses, go to the small presses. But if that’s what you decide to do, beware of outlets that promise a lot but don’t deliver. No one certifies publishers or editors. Some people who claim to be “publishers” are really printers. And you shouldn’t pay for ANYTHING. Not promotions, not printing, not editing, ANYTHING. Money flows toward the writer.Or you can self-publish. Then you’re legitimately putting out your own money. You need to hire an editor, though if you have some great beta readers, that can work too. You have to learn how to format or hire someone to do it, and you have to pay for cover art. It’s a lot to do, but it can be satisfying.No matter what you do, I always recommend checking out writerbeware.com. It’s maintained by the Science Fiction Writers of America, but anyone can check it out. Study the pitfalls other people have coped with, find out who some of the bad players are out there, and just make sure you’re informed.
WP: Name some modern authors whose work you enjoy and share why they appeal to you.
DC: I love Jason Sanford‘s use of language, N.K. Jemisin‘s fantasy worldbuilding and strong characters, Nnedi Okorafor‘s Binti stories for a progressive take on alien contacts and worldbuilding, and Rosemary Claire Smith‘s time travel stories featuring dinosaurs. There’ s lot of great stuff out there right now!
Thanks so much to Dave for sharing his thoughts and experiences! I’m always interested in hearing from other writers and their perspectives, so feel free to reach out to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.