Erica Ellis, of Ink Deep Editing, interviews author Daniel J. Rice about his writing process, inspiration, and what he's working on now. You can find more of her interviews and blogs at: www.inkdeepediting.com
Today we are talking with Daniel J. Rice of Bemidji, MN. Dan is the author of two books; the owner of Riverfeet Press, a small publishing company specializing in nature-based fiction and non-fiction; and ice-cream seller extraodinaire at Big River Scoop, the best ice cream shop in the world! (I say this based on extensive "research" into his ice cream.) Dan is one of the most interesting people I know, and I am sure you will enjoy this look into the mind of a modern-day Renaissance man.
1) How are the processes of writing fiction and nonfiction different for you? Do you prefer one or the other?
I prefer to read fiction, and this certainly influences my writing behavior. With that said, I do enjoy reading and writing creative nonfiction (something that reads more like prose than a textbook).
The most enjoyable part about writing fiction is that this genre is entirely dependent upon world development. Even when it is loosely based on actual events, those events and places are being changed, refined and molded into something new that only the writer can create. This applies more comprehension of the imagination, taking a dream world and making it real. It is enjoyable because the dream world often overpowers me and takes me on its own course, and I am doing all I can just to keep up and make the words follow.
Nonfiction is enjoyable as a tool in attempting to understand and explain real events that have happened. Nonfiction is a little more difficult for me because my imagination wanders and searches for the “what-if’s.” This is good for fiction because I can recall a real conversation and wonder “what if” so-and-so responded differently, then where would the conversation have led, and what would the characters have felt differently. Nonfiction requires reproducing the past as accurately as one can remember, which isn’t necessarily the truth, because memory is fluid, but should be kept as fact-based as possible. I find nonfiction is best performed during or immediately after the story that is being told.
2) Are you an outliner or a pantser (someone who writes by the seat of their pants)?
I write as things come into my head, which doesn’t always follow the time sequence of a given story. For example, while working on chapter two of a book, I may have a vision for an event that will happen later in the story, and so I write that while it is vivid and present. I write while the story is active in my mind, and when it is not active, I work on character clouds and fact research. A character cloud may contain physical descriptions, but more important are the psychological processes: a dramatic event from their past, how they respond to certain stimuli, their favorite book or food, what makes them smile, what is the force that guides them, etc.
3) With a business and a family, how do you find time to write? Do you have a writing schedule?
Schedules don’t really work for me because planning makes it feel like an obligation. I find I am often most creative when completely distracted from writing. I often work long days at the shop, and after the employees have all left for the night I sit down to recap the day, and then the ideas start coming. Some of my best writing in the past year has happened after working a fourteen-hour day when I’ve stayed at the shop long after closing, trying to get the words out.
At home I have two writing studios: one upstairs in a cubby type of room with low angled ceilings and photographs scattered across the wall, and another in my woodshop surrounded by camping and fishing gear with a window that overlooks our garden. The time I have at home with my family is generally brief, and so this makes it valuable. As a result, the writing I do at home is most often done late at night after my wife and daughter have fallen asleep.
I utilize what time is available for writing, but always with spontaneity, because the thoughts need to develop on their own until they reach a magnitude that requires release.
4) Have you learned anything from your foray into publishing that you will apply to your writing in the future?
Take the time to do it right the first time. It is easy to get excited about a finished manuscript, but be patient and work on a platform, so when your finished book is released it has a place to land. Make it the best you can. This may require spending a little time and money on editing and design, but it will be worth it. There are many outlets for people to get their books out fast and easy, but if you don’t do it properly, these projects will bring down the value of the market, and will likely only be read by your family and a few close friends. You’ve taken the time to write your book, now take your time to publish it correctly.
5) Anything in the pipeline?
Always. More than I will ever have time to write. Currently, I am working on material for two full-length novels and one novella. I keep the stories for them all in my head, and when the writing time comes, I focus on whichever is most vivid and immediate. I often find myself thinking about them while preoccupied with other tasks and, when possible, I will sit down for five minutes to write a few lines that secure the place and feeling in my memory so I can return later. This has worked for me, and I often build entire chapters around one single line that may occur in the middle of a paragraph several pages into the chapter. If the line was strong enough, I can return to it later and remember what led me there, and design what follows.
Daniel J. Rice was born in Wiesbaden, Germany, in 1979. In 2011 he resigned from his position as a hydrographer for the US Geological Survey in Wyoming to dedicate time to writing. While spending four months living alone in a tent, isolated in a northern Minnesota forest, he wrote the novel This Side of a Wilderness and the journal The Unpeopled Season. Currently, he owns and operates an ice cream shop—Big River Scoop—in Bemidji, Minnesota, with his wife, Mayana, and daughter, Amelie. He is an avid fly fisherman, outdoorsman, and hockey player, and all these come through in his writing.