Interview: with Joshua Drummond

Joshua Drummond is 34 years old and lives with his wife, two cats, and a citywide housing crisis in Auckland, New Zealand. He can't bear to watch horror movies, but for some reason enjoys writing horror stories. His first book, which is about accountants and accounting software, is to be published soon.

Hi Joshua, please tell us a bit about yourself.

I'm 34 and I live in Auckland, New Zealand. I love telling stories but I have been until lately a world-class procrastinator when it comes to my writing and I'm almost disappointed that having a story published in Breach has broken my streak. I've got a comic book script I've written and haven't done much with yet in the way of drawing, so I suppose I should probably get on to that now, as it's been about a decade since I wrote the goddamn thing.

Given the wide amount of fan fiction being published in countless places online, what are your thoughts on fan fiction in general?

I think fanfic is fantastic, for writers and authors. Many stories are defined more by the universes in which they take place than their characters - Star Wars and Harry Potter come to mind. These universes deserve to be expanded by the collective scribblings of the people who come to love them. Sure, I think the original authors should enjoy the copyright of their works and so on, so making money from universes still under copyright might not be a thing, but I know I'd be personally honoured if someone was to write fanfic of a universe I've invented. It just seems like a great way to practice and have fun. Fanfic reminds me of a single player role-playing game more than anything else, and I'm into that sort of thing, so I'm all for it. I also love the inventiveness. If you can think of it, there's fanfic of it. I once jumped on just to see if someone had thought of Jesus/Satan Bible slash fanfic. Perhaps unsurprisingly, lots of people had.

Are there any horror/fantasy/sci-fi tropes or sub genres which you feel are played out? And vice versa, what tropes would you like to see more of?

I think we could do with less talk of tropes and more of the importance of actual story. The Internet, and especially TV Tropes, seems to have driven a huge groundswell of tropes chatter. Well, in my opinion, TV Tropes is a putrid hellscape that has probably ruined a whole lot of would-be storytellers. Thanks to them, I think some people now think that all stories are played out, or that they must avoid tropes at all costs, or that because they know all the tropes out there, and they're real good at spotting them and talking about them in forums or in Twitter messages to an author, they must then be very smart master storytellers. The vibe I get from people who live on TV Tropes is a bit like if foodies said "oh, food has all these common ingredients, and a lot of restaurants use all this salt, so obviously you should avoid using those common ingredients and also salt." Fuck that noise.

I reckon over-awareness of tropes means your writing is hindered from the start. You need time to practice, to get good at storytelling, without worrying too much about which trope you're indulging or not. If you're a new writer, write what makes you happy. I don't care if it's Zootopia furry fanfic with every trope you can shoehorn in; just write the best damn trope-laden Zootopia furry fanfic you can, and then when it's shit, write a better one, and so on. If you care about your craft and practice, and listen to feedback, you'll get better and you'll start to figure out your own way around, and you'll naturally avoid the tropes you don't want to see and embrace the ones you do. All without ever needing to visit a smug, sanctimonious, well-poisoning, time-sink website.

Sorry for the rant there. I don't know if I made it really super obvious, but I don't like TV Tropes very much.

All that being said, I think whatever the trope is where no-one accepts that something supernatural is going on when it clearly fucking is is pretty overdone. I like the idea of horror where instead of dithering and denying the obviously supernatural or otherwise abnormal things that are happening, the characters accept that clearly there's something seriously awry and start getting on with things accordingly. Then there's the thing with tropes that are prevalent and actively harmful, like the weirdly common thing where gay characters tend to suffer sudden or gruesome deaths, or where trans people are portrayed as criminally deviant or insane. I guess there's plenty of writing opportunity for subverting or avoiding that sort of thing, and awareness of those issues can't hurt. So long as that's not all you've got in your writing toolbox, and that story comes first.

There are millions of people around the world with great story ideas, but who never even start to write them down. What drives you to sit down and aim for finished, published stories?

Inertia. I find it very, very hard to get started on things, but once I'm rolling I find it very, very hard to stop. As superpowers go it's total shit, but it's what I got so I have to work with it.

What books are beside your bed right now?

I semi-intentionally alternate between fiction and nonfiction. I just finished Hillbilly Elegy on a plane, I've got John Clarke's Tinkering on the go, and - wait up, just gonna go check the bookshelf for a fiction book I haven't read yet.

*reader, please imagine a moment of time passing during which I got up and found a book*

I just picked up In My Father's Den by Maurice Gee. I've been wanting to read it for a while - the movie is a bloody masterpiece, make sure you watch it.

Do you have any particular writing rituals you are comfortable sharing?

Not really, because I don't currently have any. I should. Perhaps this is my opportunity to start the only one that's ever worked for me up again; setting aside one hour, in the evenings, where I'm not allowed to do anything but write. Internet unplugged, devices well out of reach, no-lyrics music (proggy po-mo noise rock or drum 'n' bass, maybe) up nice and loud, missiles to hand to chuck at any visitors.

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