David watched the old man through the shack’s window, his body raised on tiptoes. A summer storm had come through the night before and the heat-baked ground had turned quickly to mud in the rain. The boy could feel the slick movement of the earth beneath his sneakers, and he grabbed hold of the window ledge to balance himself as he watched the old man at his trade.
There was some object in the old man’s hands, something that he turned over and over before him, though from this distance David could not decipher what it was. All he could tell were the movements of the old man, the fingers as they twirled, stabbing and pulling. Constant. Constant. Pull and twirl. In and out. Pull and cut. Repeat.
There was no smile on the old man’s face, the boy could see that. Instead, his face was set like a rock, stern and full of thought, though there might have been a pain to the old man, the way his mouth was turned down, the way his lips quivered just slightly. Sweat settled on the old man’s eyelids and nose and was held in the other caves of skin that ridged his face. Yet his body looked peaceful. It was only his hands that seemed to dance about in the lamplight, creating various shadow animals that chased one another across the walls and floor, animals that dissolved into yet stranger beasts.
After several more seconds of moving his fingers before his dead eyes, the old man brought his hands away from his face and set the mystery object on the table before him. His hands rested in his lap calmly and a deep breath filled his scrawny chest. But David did not see this; he did not notice the old man. Instead, the boy’s eyes were set only on the object that rested on the table—it appeared yellow and black in the lamp’s glow.
David raised himself higher onto his toes, pressing his face hard against the window so that smudges of grease were left on the glass. Beneath him, the boy could feel the mud moving under his newly shifted position, but he did not care. He only raised himself higher up, placing his full weight onto his elbows and forearms that rested on the window ledge.
His hand was still gripped tightly to the wood when the ledge gave way and snapped off and David found himself lying on his back. His arms thrashed about him and stirred up the earth so that his whole body became spotted in a leprosy of mud. His right hand still held tightly to the window ledge that had broken off a moment earlier, and his chest was littered in shavings of rotted wood that stuck to his new body-coat of mud. A separate skin of earth and wood. Air and sky. His back and side throbbed in hurt, though he did not worry about the pain. Instead, he stood quickly and ran off into the woods, ducking his head low under hanging branches, making his way over the soft earth beneath his feet.
Inside the shack, the old man had heard the loud snap of the window ledge, and he turned to face it. With his dead eyes, there was nothing but darkness before him, but he knew he’d been found out. And he smiled at this.
Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
I currently live in Southern California with my wife and two kids, an almost five-year-old boy named Sawyer and a two-month-old girl named Elliette.
I was born and raised in California, but I lived for three years in Macon, Georgia, which inspired my fictional worlds more than anything I could have imagined. In addition to writing, I am a teacher.
Tell us about your book? How did it get started?
Darkening is a collection of thirteen stories, which includes a play (which was performed in 2012) and a novella. Some of these stories have been published before in magazines or journals while the rest are seeing their first light of day in this collection. What I love most about this book is that these stories stretch from my first published story (the short story “Darkening”) to stories that I wrote as recently as last year. Though I didn’t include all the stories I’ve written or had published, I did pick these specific stories because of the running theme of light and darkness, or rather light within the darkness. I’ve always been interested in this concept, the importance of hope within the bleakest moments of life, and I think this comes across in these collected stories.
How do you create your characters?
The characters are, for the most part, created secondly. I start with the conflict and then build stories around the conflict—and it all starts as a hypothetical, thinking, “What would someone do if . . .?” I love to examine these hypotheticals of life, and more than anything, I love the idea of analyzing specific emotions and themes. When I have those aspects nailed down (for the most part, since stories shift and change from the imagined stage to the actual production stage), I flesh them out with characters. It’s at this point that the characters become central, and I get the chance to watch how they play out the situations they’re put in.
What inspires and what got your started in writing?
My parents can and should take all the credit for starting my love of storytelling. From my dad giving me a love of stories to my mom inspiring me to use my imagination and find the good in life, they never once downplayed the importance of literature within the world or stories in general. So, a very serious and meaningful thank you to them. There’s no way I could be doing any of this without their starting me in this direction. And secondly, I’m constantly inspired by the authors who’ve come before me. I read a lot, and every time I read a perfectly structured sentence, I get a desire to keep writing.
Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?)
I like to write at night after my wife and kids have gone to bed. The house is quiet (inside and out) and it’s like this stolen moment in life that is just mine. I put music on (I’ve been listening to the Vitamin String Quartet station of Pandora for the last couple years while I write), and I sit on the couch and let my fingers run free on the keyboard.
How do you get your ideas for writing?
As I mentioned earlier, I start with hypotheticals, and these hypotheticals usually revolve around the aspects of life that confuse me (violence, pain, hurt, loss, sadness) and those things that inspire me (love and hope). I want to see how a person might respond to these situations. And while a lot of readers see the negative in what I write, I see my writing as positive and hopeful, for the most part. Not always, but a good portion of the time, things work out in life. And even if things don’t work out like you’d like, there is some answer, and it’s not always that bad. In a literary way, I want to capture that feeling while also trying to make sense of those painful moments in life.
What do you like to read?
I read literary fiction, whether it be contemporary or classic. I’m not a genre reader for the most part, so I tend to stay away from strict fantasy or sci-fi. That said, I am a glutton for magical realism, which I think translates pretty clearly in my own writing. What I love most about Darkening is that the stories run the gamut of genre, though they are all very literary, focusing on the characters rather than pure plot. In everything I write and everything I try to read, I want to focus on the human condition and seeing what it is that makes us who we are—in all our blemishes and all our beauties.
What would your advice to be for authors or aspiring in regards to writing?
Write and don’t talk yourself out of writing. There are so many reasons not to write or to put writing off (it takes too much time, it’s hard, the thoughts don’t always flow smoothly, what if it’s not good?), and there’s only two reasons to write (it’s therapeutic and a way to find out who you are within the world). The way I look at it, these two latter reasons outweigh any of the former reasons any day. Yeah, what you write might be terrible . . . but it also might be amazing. And I believe that anything has the ability to positively affect someone in the world. In this sense, a writer owes it to the world to tell his or her story.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I can’t thank my publisher Jeremy Stabile and ABC Group Documentation enough for all they have done for me. Also, I need to thank my family, from my parents to my siblings to my wife and kids to my in-laws, for all their love and support. Also, I want to thank you for giving me the chance to reach out to readers and share a little about who I am.
Darkening, as well as my two previous books (A Murder Country and The Valley), are available on Amazon or any bookselling website, and I can be found on Facebook at Facebook.com/brandondaily38. I sincerely hope you enjoy the read . . .