David Anthony Durham is new to the speculative fiction world, but has authored historical fiction books such as Pride of Carthage, Gabriel’s Story, and Walk Through Darkness. His newest book is Acacia (my review), an epic fantasy that has quickly gained a lot attention.
I am pleased that David could take the time to participate and answer Questions 5.
Haggis or cow-skin soup? Why?
DAD: What a way to start and interview with a vegetarian! (Okay, I’m not a real vegetarian. I’m one of those fish-eating veggies. I haven’t eaten anything from a sheep or a cow in twenty years, though, and I won’t be going back soon.)
I have enjoyed veggie-haggis on occasion, but I wouldn’t go near the real thing. In case you don’t know, dear reader, Haggis is a traditional Scottish dish made from sheep’s heart, liver and lungs, some oatmeal and spices and then boiled in an animal’s stomach. Yum.
Cow-skin soup I’m not as clear on... I certainly ate my share of curried goat and pig’s feet when I was young in Trinidad. Been known to suck on chicken toes… But this was in my youth. No cow-skin soup as far as I remember.
I appreciate you opening with a question that draws on my Caribbean ancestry and my more recent sojourn in Scotland and marriage to a Shetland lassie. So, if I could offer alternatives…
How about Codfish Cakes (fishcakes made from dried cod, onions and chives and fried until golden brown) from Trinidad and Cullen Skink (a soup made from smoked Haddock and Onion cooked in milk) from Scotland? Yum.
Name one thing a pretentious literature professor will hate about Acacia.
DAD: Ah, only one?
Okay, how about this. Pride of Carthage has earned out its rather substantial advance. Acacia – part of the same book deal – looks set to do the same. It’ll take a while, and my publisher will hold out as long as possible and bookstores can return books whenever they want to… But the earn-out is gonna happen!
What’s that mean? It means I haven’t failed at writing the books I really want to, books full of plot and drama and substance, books that people seem to want to read. It may seem strange, but I can tell you from experience that success at things like that rubs some people the wrong way, especially (some) pretentious literature professors.
Please describe one reason Acacia would inspire a reader to strip naked and run screaming into the desert?
DAD: I’d suggest it should inspired readers to strip naked. Focus on the plural. This need not be a solo activity. The things that go down on the battlefields of Talay provide a great excuse to stage a mass nude event. Chances are, the scene I’m thinking of can’t quite make it into film (should that lucky hope become reality), so I think the only way fans might get to see that scene in living, breathing detail would be if they brought it to life themselves.
So somebody stage it; I might even come and participate, hang out, so to speak.
What other peculiar qualities of Acacia should readers be aware of?
DAD: Honestly, I think readers will find that Acacia offers all the things people love in epic fantasy and a bit more. I tried to take care of business in terms of crafting a grand adventure with engaging characters facing massive struggles, with quite a few twists and turns of fate along the way. I also brought to it all the tools I have as an experienced writer of literary and historical fiction. My first three novels were well received and each award-winning. I could have stuck to that material, but I saw fantasy a wonderful challenge, a genre so full of potential that I couldn’t resist it.
I also wanted to craft a large-scale fantasy suited for our new century. Like our globalized world, the Known World of Acacia is a complex stew of races and ethnicities, languages and beliefs, complicated politics, economic realities and compromised idealism. I just don’t think there’s anything quite like it out there right now.
Why should Acacia be the next book that everyone reads?
DAD: My kids need to go the dentist… No, wait, I take that back. Pity doesn’t have the selling power I’m after.
If all that stuff above sounds groovy I’m glad. If it sounds a bit too grand… Well, know that I’m also out to tell a great story that gets more exciting as it progresses. Acacia’s got mass battlefield nudity, tusked-beasts, a good bit of spilled viscera, pirates, a love story or two, wacked-out sorcerers that call giant worms from the sky, undead ancestors hungry to walk the earth again, a sword-wielding warrior princess, invading marauders from the other side of the world...
Hey, when I think about I kinda want to read it again myself. Of course, I’d rather you did.