For this interview, I ventured into a sci-fi convention to ‘meet’ with FANTASY/HUMOR author, Dave D’Alessio. After finally locating each other in the crowd, we sat down in a quiet corner and talked about his book. As always, ‘Kelly’ was written by me, Kelly Blanchard, and ‘Dave’ was written by Dave D’Alessio.
Kelly parked her car and started at the crowd going into the sci-fi convention. She had to admit, she’d never been to one of these in her life, so this was new. The only question was, how was she going to find her interviewee in this mass of people? “I’ll be dressed as Brigadier Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart,” he had told her, At least that narrowed it down…to the cosplay people.
Getting out of her car, she sent Dave D’Alessio a message letting him know she had arrived. She decided to get through the crowd and find a quiet place and let him find her. Otherwise she’d spend all her time here lost, and that wouldn’t be beneficial.
Once she found another place, she sent him another message, letting him know her location, and then she began to watch people as this was a wonderful opportunity for that.
A man in a green commando sweater and a tan beret with a UNIT badge pinned to it made his way through the gang, stopping once to admire a young lady in a purple cadet’s uniform and carrying a katana. “She’s here every year,” he explained. “Once someone asked her if this was just a bunch of people playing dress-up games and she recited the program to him from memory. Poor guy was dying.”
When Kelly heard this, she laughed. “Oh, that’s hilarious. You must be Dave D’Alessio.” She rose to her feet and extended her hand to shake his. “Great cosplay. Is this a good place to hang out? Or do you know someplace quieter?”
“Dave” took his beret off and put it down on the. “Now I’m out of character, so, yes. You must be Kelly. It’s nice to finally meet you.” He looked around the floor and then up into the air, as though visualizing the floor above. “We could look for an empty panel room, but people here are pretty cool. They won’t take pictures without asking permission, and they’ll leave us alone. That’s the rule. Cosplay is not consent.”
“That’s a pretty good rule to have. As long as we don’t get interrupted too much because an hour time is really not that long.” Kelly shook her head, and the two of them sat down. She glimpsed around at the crowds then looked back at Dave. “I tend to avoid these events because of the terrible headaches I get, so it’s nice to actually experience it.” She smiled at him. “I want to ask you about your life as a writer, but first I’ve got to ask, how did you get involved in cosplay?”
He rubbed a hand over his bald head, clearly older than most of the others. “I started coming here to listen to the writing guests. The first year I came they had Brandon Sanderson, Leona Wisocker, and Michael J. Sullivan, and they blew my mind. Sanderson is a really giving guy, and just took over the panels and made sure we got lots of great information. But in between I saw how cool everyone was with everyone else, so it seemed like a fun way to participate to get into character. Last year I came as Doctor Who #2 and got hooked up with my new friends in the Connecticut Whovians, so I guess it worked.” He smiled and ran a hand over his bald head.
Kelly smiled. “Sounds like a lot of fun. I’m glad you get to participate like that. Now though, let’s talk about your life as a writer.” She shifted in her seat to turn to look at him more fully, and she smiled at him. “When did you first become interested in writing?”
“High school,” he said immediately. “But I didn’t do much with it for years. Too busy having jobs.” He laughed. “But in 2007 a friend of mine from playing online RPGs, Jennifer Lautenschlager, told me about this NaNoWriMo thing. ‘You’d like it,’ she said, so I tried my first one starting on November 7th. Man, that book sucks!” He laughed again. Stuff just seemed to crack him up all the time.
Kelly chuckled when she heard this. “Well, NaNoWriMo is always supposed to be a rough draft, so…” She gave a shrug but smiled at him. “But that was when you became interested in writing once more? How have you progressed from there to here?”
His eyebrows went up. “Good one,” he said. “Let me see…By 2008 I was ready for NaNo, so I was really excited to start. And I found a local group, the Fairfield County Writers Group, and they meet year-round, so even when we’re no NaNoing, we’ve got something going on. I got my first published short…well, no, second. I got one out in the 1980’s…I got my second published short story out of a game we played at one meeting. Have you seen Rory’s Storycubes?” He takes an aging iPhone from his OD green pants. “I’ve got the app here if you haven’t.”
Kelly shook her head and looked at his phone as he showed her the app. She furrowed her brows. “So what exactly does it do?”
He fired up the phone and tapped the icon. “There are nine dice here, nine d6, and they each have different pictures on each side. So you roll them and try to make a story from the imagery…” He shook his phone and the cubes danced. “There’s um…keyhole, flashlight – that was one of the one’s I got that time – clock…I’m not sure what that is, a rainbow maybe…the scales of justice, or maybe just scales…” He poked at the screen, moving dice around. “I dunno…moon…It’s a way of generating visual prompts. The symbols can mean whatever you want them to.”
“Very interesting.” Kelly nodded. “I’ll have to look up the app once we’re done.” She smiled, sitting back in her seat. “So is that how you came up with the idea for your book? Or were you inspired some other way?”
“You mean this book, The Yak Butter Diaries?” Of course he had a copy. He took it from his backpack and riffled through the pages. “This was my 2014 NaNo project and I wanted to do something other than another space opera. So I made a list of things I thought people think make the world go around…you know, love, money, stuff like that. I threw it to the group, too, and they came up with some doozies. So, then I created a character, a sort of naif, and had him react to those things. It’s the journey of discovery,” he finished naming one of the seven basic plots.
Kelly looked over the cover of the book and nodded then had to smile at Dave’s simplistic way of describing the book. “Well, there’s a lot of stuff for sure. Who exactly is the main character? Tell me a bit about the story world you created.”
He grinned again. “Tamosan Acorn,” he said. “I was watching Yojimbo and there’s the one scene where the geishas come out and play the shamisen, but I couldn’t call him shamisen because I couldn’t spell it. And Acorn because he’s a founding brought to the monastery at the top of the Temple of Enlightenment, and the monks name all the foundlings ‘Acorn.'” He fingered a curving road on the cover of the book, leading into, or away from, the mountains. “The monks teach that each person has to find his own place in the world, so they send him off to find his place.”
“And so the story is about him finding his place in the world?” Kelly lifted her brows, looking back at the book. It sounded intriguing for sure.
He nodded. “Yes. It’s a bit of an allegory, so he runs into people in isolated villages who have their own view of the world, you know, that the world revolves around…Oh, sport, in one place, or fitness in another.” He smacked a hand across his mouth. “Sheesh, I actually said ‘allegory,’ and almost came out with ‘weltenschauung.’ That would have been a killer.”
Kelly laughed. She appreciated Dave’s sense of humor. “So, was there anything in the book that surprised you when you wrote it? Don’t need any spoilers! But…I’m curious.”
“I know the answer to that is supposed to be yes,” he said, “But the truth is I had that list of places, and I laid them out ahead of time, so I knew what he was going to run into.” He though back two-and-a-half years to the first draft. “The only rule I had was that he had to have a crock of yak butter and a staff, and for most of the book his friend Singhan, to get him out of trouble. Sometimes I caught him using one or more of them with a little more ingenuity than I would have shown.”
“Why did you have those requirements though?” Kelly furrowed her brows. She noticed the bold digital clock on the wall and saw their time was nearly up, but she turned her attention back to Dave to hear his answer. They still had a little more time.
“I caught you,” he said, looking at the clock himself. “Got a panel at 1 myself. Why those? Well, I wanted yak butter, or I couldn’t have called it The Yak Butter Diaries. I just thought it was suitably absurd. And as for his staff, well, he’s a monk so he needs a staff, and as for Singhan, I needed someone to tell the jokes. Tamosan is not an especially funny guy.”
Kelly nodded when she heard this. “Well, all of that makes sense. Now, is this the first of a series, or is it a standalone book?”
“Standalone,” he said immediately. “Part of it was an experiment…I mostly write space operas, so I have one series of seven books plus a prequel and sequel. I’m working on a alternative history trilogy that turned into a quadrilogy, got a new series of what I call space light opera, comic space operas inspired by Gilbert and Sullivan plays…I just wanted to write something that stood on its own for a change. That’s why I self-published it,” he added. “They others I’m looking for agents and publishers for, but,” he held up the book, “This is so unlike what I normally write, except for the jokes, that it didn’t make sense to keep it with the others.”
Kelly smiled. “Well, it sounds like a wonderful experiment, and I really wish we had the time to talk more about your other work! But maybe another time! For now though, I need to get going, but I’ve really enjoyed this chat. Am quite curious how the character interview will go.” She rose to her feet with a smile. “Thanks for meeting with me and for answering my questions!”
Dave got up as well, and gave a polite half-bow. “Thank YOU! This was fun.” He looked around. “You’ll get out okay, right?” A giant Groot cosplayer walks by, twelve feet tall.
“Yep, I’ll find my way!” She saw the tall cosplayer and shook her head. That must have taken a lot of work. But then she looked back at Dave with a smile. “Have a great day!” With a wave and a smile, she headed out.
Dave D’Alessio’s novel, ‘The Yak Butter Diaries’ can be found on Amazon. Also, be sure to follow him on social media for more updates on his work!
Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/Dave-DAlessio-595586537188347
Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/David-W.-DAlessio/e/B0070GLS9E