Wednesday, January 19, 2011

NINE FOR THE NEW spotlights Author/Creator Don Gates!

NINE FOR THE NEW (New Creator Spotlight)

DON GATES-Writer/CreatorWriter/Creator
AP: Don, welcome to ALL PULP! First, can you tell us about yourself, some personal background?
DG: Thank you, it’s a pleasure to be here!

There really isn’t much to tell: I was born and raised in Florida and I’ve lived here all of my life. I’m currently 36 years old. My dad was a police detective in Tampa and through him I got to see the reality of police work in the 80’s (“Miami Vice” it wasn’t!) Being one of those people who floated around while trying to find themselves, I’ve worked a lot of jobs, including stints at a bakery; a trophy shop; working with developmentally disabled individuals; Toys R Us (which probably remains the most fun of all my jobs, particularly during the holidays); and doing customer service on the phone, first for magazine subscriptions and now currently for a phone company’s repair department. I am currently going back to school for digital design and animation. My wife Annie is a wonderful and supportive woman who has improved my life 200% (and she deserves a medal for putting up with me), and we have a small horde of pets: 4 dogs and 2 cats.

AP: As a writer, what influences have affected your style and interests the most over the years? Do you have a particular genre/type of story you prefer to write?

DG: I think that anything I’ve read has influenced me in one way or another. I’ve always had a love for science fiction and comic books, and though my tastes have changed a little over the years I still think that the books I’ve read when I was younger still hold sway and nudge me in the directions I’m going as a writer. I think the three works that have affected me the most are Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea”, William Gibson’s “Neuromancer”, and Dave Stevens’ “The Rocketeer”, which was like the word of God to me when I discovered it as a teenager. I also think that other media influences me as well, in particular I enjoy movies and some video games and the effects those have had on me trickle down into my writing too.

As far as one particular genre or type of story that I prefer, pulp in general is turning out to be a blast. I’ve tried to write a few other kinds of things- fantasy and such- but just couldn’t keep my interest in it up like I can with pulp. Within pulp writing, I prefer the adventure sub-genre, but I wouldn’t mind branching out into other areas, particularly more of the hero-pulp stuff.

AP: What about genres that make you uncomfortable? What areas within pulp are a little bit intimidating for you as an author?

DG: Oh God… without a doubt, that would be the mystery genre. I’m the guy that has to re-read sections of a mystery sometimes to get the gist of what actually happened, or has to see a movie a few times sometimes in order to get all the plot info processed. I’m constantly in awe of Walter Gibson’s writing in The Shadow, with all the various Chinese-box-like puzzles and such… I’m jealous that I can never seem to come up with things that intricate.

AP: Are you a pulp fan? If so, how has that affected you as a writer of pulps. If you aren’t a longtime fan, then why pulp?

DG: I’ve been a huge fan of the pulp genre for years, ever since the age of about 13. After falling in love with The Shadow radio show, I ended up tracking down some of the pulps and it was like a gateway drug: The Shadow hooked me on Doc Savage, then The Avenger, and on and on. And then of course, there’s all the awesome new pulp fiction that’s coming out from so many great writers out there, and the modern equivalent of pulp by guys like Clive Cussler and Preston & Child… geez, what a stack of as-yet unread books I have. I still haven’t read as much as of everything as I’d like to, but I’m working on it!

I think that being a fan of pulps, “getting” what it’s all about, has helped me understand what’s expected from that kind of writing somewhat. It helps to understand that in some ways, a pulp fan is looking for certain clich├ęs but wants them to be “remixed” along with new elements. And plus: it’s a great playground. Who wouldn’t want to write about high adventure, dark & gritty crime, or mad science gone out of control? It’s melodrama, and it’s a kick.

Author's concept sketch of CHALLENGER STORM
AP: What do you think you bring to pulp fiction as a writer?

DG: I think that what I bring to the table is maybe a bit of modern sensibilities as an undercurrent to some of my projects; at least I hope that’s what comes through. I’m hoping a lot of my characters come across as relatable, even if they’re still that larger-than-life type of person that saturates pulp novels. I notice that a lot of writers bring in figures and events from history- and I love that- but a lot of times I’ll try to bring in more imaginary elements. For example, there were no “commandos” as we know them during WWI but in my writing they were there, although they were a secret military unit and largely unknown. I’ve always had a fascination with hidden history and the concepts of alternate history, and I think that will show up throughout my writing.

I also occasionally drop some obscure references to 80’s sitcoms into some of my writings, lol. There were two references to “The Golden Girls” in CHALLENGER STORM: THE ISLE OF BLOOD and I wonder if anyone but my wife will pick up on those little Easter Eggs.

AP: Your first work to be published is coming very soon from AIRSHIP 27 PRODUCTIONS. Can you tell us a bit about CHALLENGER STORM?

DG: I often describe my character Clifton Storm to people who aren’t versed in pulp terms as “a cross between Indiana Jones, James Bond, and Howard Hughes”. He’s yet another one of those rich playboys that dominate pulp and comic books, and he grew up mean and cold and very elitist despite the best wishes of his philanthropic parents. Long story short: his parents were killed in an accident, and while flying back home to attend to their funeral the plane carrying Storm crashes in the mountains during a freak blizzard. Storm is the only survivor and the events changed him as well as scarred his face, and ignited within him the need to redeem his past actions and to do everything within his power to help those in need. From then on, Storm threw himself into schooling and training in order to strive to be the hero that he feels people need to have. He starts a collective of scientists, engineers, and troubleshooters based out of a complex on a private airfield and this organization is known as the Miami Aerodrome Research and Development Laboratories, or MARDL for short. He and his associates quickly make a name for themselves after several high-profile incidents and the media gives him the nickname “Challenger” because of his habit of challenging the odds. At heart, though, he’s very human and grapples with things like self-doubt and fear. He’s like us: he’s not perfect. I guess you could say that he’s not Doc Savage, but he would like to be.

The first Storm novel, THE ISLE OF BLOOD, concerns Storm’s efforts to rescue the daughter of a wealthy aviation tycoon from the Villalobos Brothers, a band of warlords and guerrillas operating on the tiny island-nation of La Isla de Sangre. Once on the case, however, things come to light that tasks Storm and his team with saving the entire island from the Villalobos Brothers’ super weapon, known only as The Goddess of Death. There’s also a subplot that involves a secret government group’s efforts to recruit Clifton Storm’s services, and this will resonate throughout other plotlines that (hopefully) will be published as well some day.

Something that I’m very, very excited about in THE ISLE OF BLOOD is the artwork, both interior and exterior, is being handled by a super-mystery artist. I’ve been sworn to secrecy by my publisher, Ron Fortier, and so I can’t divulge the identity of The Artist just yet. Trust me when I say this though: I’ve seen rough sketches of what he’s doing and it is amazing, exciting stuff. Also: this guy is my all-time favorite artist, and to have the chance to work with him is literally a dream come true. I’m busting inside, really going nuts with this.

AP: Many writers in the pulp field break in these days by working on someone else’s characters, but you’re going full force ahead with your own. What made you decide to take the step and on the first time out put your own creation out there for the world to read?

DG: To be honest with you, I never considered myself worthy of writing those great old characters. I thought that it would be much easier on me to try my hand at my own character rather than attempt and potentially sully the history of an established character. Hopefully, people will like what I’m doing enough and show an interest in it… friends have been telling me for years “You should write this stuff you come up with!” I’ve been coming up with characters and stories in my head since I was a kid, and it’s only recently that I’ve felt that I’ve had worthy creations. Some of the stuff I came up with when I was a kid was ridiculous, lol.

AP: What is your creative process as far as developing a character? What techniques or steps do you take?

DG: When I develop a character, I often get a rough idea first about what kind of a character they will be. Will they be an adventurer? A vigilante? A villain? Then a short time later, I will unexpectedly come up with everything, all the details, etc., all at once for that character. It’s weird, but once I’ve had this “vision” of the character, there’s very little that I want to change about them, and I almost feel like I can’t change a lot of details. It’s almost like meeting someone: they are who they are when you meet them and you have to accept it, good or bad. It sounds simple, but that’s the way it works for me: most of my characters pop into my head, nearly fully-formed and whole.

AP: What’s coming from Don Gates in the future after CHALLENGER STORM? Any projects you want to discuss?
Mock up of
Challenger Storm Movie Poster
DG: Well, I’d love to continue writing Challenger Storm novels. I’m already working on the follow up, THE CURSE OF POSEIDON, and have about eight or nine others being developed. The third book will tie-in with the subplots in the first book and will introduce Storm’s arch-nemesis… his Lex Luthor or Joker, if you will.

There are several more series that I’d like to work on as well, and they all tie into the same universe (the MARDLverse?). If Challenger Storm is my Doc Savage, then The Cipher would be my Shadow: a mysterious vigilante with a twist when it comes to secret identities. Another planned character, Codename: Shanghai, would be my Secret Agent X: a masked secret agent with a mysterious past. I have a couple of other characters I wouldn’t mind doing in either one-shot books or a multi-part series as well, and some friends and I are working on producing comic books, so there really is a lot that I’d like to do creatively. The problem is finding the time to do the actual writing, though. It took a longer time than it should have to write CHALLENGER STORM: THE ISLE OF BLOOD and I really need to streamline the writing process and to force myself to find the time and energy to work on this stuff. I’ve had a taste of writing, and now I want to do more, much more.

AP: Don, it‘s been a pleasure!

DG: Thank you, the pleasure is all mine!