Character Interview: Dave D’Alessio’s Forest

I ventured into the world of FANTASY/HUMOR author, Dave D’Alessio’s, story ‘The Yak Butter Diaries’ to meet his character, Forest, and asked him some questions. In this interview, ‘Kelly’ was written by me, Kelly Blanchard, and ‘Forest’ was written by Dave D’Alessio.

16129336_10154432372362893_769076985_o

A light snow fell the night before, and for long stretched the prairie was nothing more than a white sheet. It did not snow heavily this far south, and the warmth of the sun rising to the east suggested that the blanket would not last long.

The road was empty. People around here had hunkered down for the winter, living off what they had stored, and what they hunted, and what they could draw from their herds. During the winter here people kept each other warm inside. They had plenty of traveling to do once the spring muds had hardened up, driving their herds north to the great stockyards of Chikasa.

It was noon and the snows had started to turn to slush. In the distance, there was a herd of dark shapes standing quietly. Shaggily furred, with large faces and curved horns and strong shoulders: these must be the musk oxen the city was known for. A solitary bull, head up, kept an eye on the herd, and also, it had to be said, the traveler. It was the wrong time of year for the cows to interest him, but as far as he was concerned they were his cows, and no one was going to take them away without a good head butting.

The cows, more sensible by far, pawed at the ground, turning up tufts of prairie grass. Many were accompanied by a calf or two, each less than a year old, their spindly legs barely able to hold up their stately shoulders.

A man was with them. He wore a fringed leather jacket that looked plenty warm enough for the weather, and soft leather trousers, and a flat, broad hat that he took off and waved. “Howdy!” he shouted. “Town’s thataway!”

The town was indeed thataway. It was a good town, a happy town. It sprawled across the prairie willy nilly, houses built wherever the builder felt best building them, daub smeared on wattle, with a good, warm straw roof atop. Smoke rose from each, a fragrant, pungent smoke that made it clear the people knew which end of the musk ox was in, and which was out (in much the same way that big city folk claim, against all evidence, to know which end is up). Happy children played in the street, and here the riches of the town first could be seen, for the toys the children played with, the geegaws and fozwazzlers, had been made in the workshops of Wenyork, many days travel to the north, or even brought across the great ocean Wenyork sat upon. The men and women carried steel knives and kitchens were lined with copper and iron pots, despite the fact that no one could see a mine or smelter or tinker for miles.

One man watched the playing children, a tall, lean man with a broad smile across his leathery face. He looked up. “Howdy,” he said. “I’m Techs, the headman here. Are you lookin’ fer someone special, or just lookin’? Either way’s good.”

Kelly took a look around at everything, and she set her gaze on the man. “I’m looking for someone named Forest. Could you direct me to him?”

“Figured,” Techs said, amiably. A child’s ball skittered near his feet, and he flipped it back with a twist of the ankle. “This time of year he’s about our biggest attraction. Come on along.” He turned and strode off, clearly knowing his way around the randomly constructed streets.

Kelly furrowed her brows as she followed him through the streets. “What do you mean biggest attraction?”

Techs grinned and clarified. “He ain’t from around here. And then he’s his daddy’s boy. That Tamosan Acorn…he was a strange one.” He looked back at her, and added, “No offense but you to be a pretty strange one yerself, and you know about them birds and feathers and such.” He tipped his broad, flat hat to a passing woman and said, “Mornin’, ma’am.”

Kelly was a little confused but smiled. “Well, I’m not from around here either, but I was told to find Forest to ask him some questions. Don’t worry though, I won’t be hanging around too long. Just long enough to have a chat with him, and then I’d be leaving”

“Sure.” He led the way through the twisting paths, chatting amiably about such esoteric topics as differences in preparing roasted bean broth between cities along the Great Ocean and extinction rates among musk ox predators. “And we’ll never know fer sure, since they’s dead,” he concluded at the door to one hut. He raised his voice. “Howdy, you all. Anyone home?”

The hut was constructed much like the others, although the snow in front of the door, what was left of it by now, had been carefully brushed away. Like the others, it was made up of interconnected domes, rooms for cooking and sleeping and entertaining, typically. Unlike most of the others, a fourth, larger dome was connected. “That there’s the buttery,” Techs said. “His daddy built that.”

A hide drape…from the look of it a musk ox hide of a faintly bluish tint…opened up. The man pushing it aside said, “Howdy, Techs. What’s up? Want some hot broth?” He took in the guest and added, “You look like you could use something warm. Come on in.”

Kelly nodded as she followed him inside. “Are you Forest? I was told I could find you here. I’m Kelly. I’m not sure if you were expecting my visit though.”

The man called Techs waved amiably and ambled off as the man led her inside. “Yes, I’m Forest, this is Bethan, and our little girl, Singa,” the man said. He stood out from the others of the town in small ways that the woman did not. Like the other villagers she was very lean, her skin burned dark, and her hair blond and curly. Her eyes were bright, clear, and happy, and she smiled straight white teeth. He was, well, not quite like that. He seemed rounder, somehow, not fat, but rounder at the joints and rounder in the face. He seemed naturally darker of skin, not sun burnt but naturally the color of roasted bean broth with a lot of milk in it, and his short-cropped hair was black and straight. The others seemed athletic, while he appeared graceful as well. And his smile seemed crooked, somehow, as though he’d been fed oddly early in life. “Kuuky’s around here somewhere, too,” Forest added, peeking through the door flap. “I think he’s gone to get some water from the well.”

The hut, for being a daub and wattle hut, was remarkably clean and nicely appointed. Furniture was simple, most just rugs and cushions scattered across the floor, but the rugs and cushions were clean, well-made, and attractively patterned with geometric shapes in primary colors. Clean whitewash on the walls brightened the room. Again, many of the objects scattered around the room informally had a foreign look to them, as though they had been made elsewhere. One, a doll figure of a man with grotesquely padded shoulders caught Forest’s eye. “My dad brought that back from Chikasa,” he explained. “It’s a game they play there.” He pushed the doll into his daughter’s arms. Typical of a child that age, she promptly threw it across the room.

Kelly smiled at the small family. She nodded specifically toward Bethan. “My niece’s name is Bethan. She’s wonderful.” She smiled at her then set her gaze on Forest, watching as he dealt with his child. “So this place seems to be a ‘everyone-knows-everyone’ kind of place, and outsiders are quite obvious. Has that made your life easier or difficult?”

Bethan smiled at the implied complement. “Thank ‘ee,” she said, snatching up little Singa before she could hurtle into the fragrant fireplace. As for Forest, he just shrugged. “For me, no. I love it here. I must have been one when Daddy brought me here, something like that. I’ve never lived anywhere else that I remember.” He glanced to his wife and she said, “Don’t ask me. I don’t remember those days any better than you do.” Forrest waved his hand toward the west, toward the high ground barely visible on the horizon to the west. “Daddy carried me down from out there, and I’ve never seen a reason to go back.”

“So you’ve never left?” Kelly lifted her brows then glimpsed out the window to the horizon. “You’ve never ventured too far?”

“North,” he said immediately. With Bethan holding down the child fort, he got up to pour mugs of fragrant liquid from a pot hanging over the fire. “Want some roasted bean broth?” he asked, handing a mug to Bethan and taking one for himself. “North,” he repeated, “and east to the ocean. Every spring we run the muskies up to Chikasa, trade em up for food and such, and run that over the hills to Wenyork.” He shook the kettle, swirling it. “It’s good Wenyork bean,” he offered. “We make out pretty good working the triangle route for trede.”

“I’m good, thank you.” Kelly declined politely. “It’s definitely beautiful countryside. And it looks like you are very happy here…all of you.” She smiled at the family before setting her gaze on Forest. “Yet I understand that your father isn’t your birth father but rather adopted you. Do you know what happened to your birth parents?” She furrowed her brows.

“I told him,” Forest recalled. “I musta been thirteen, something like that. I told him, ‘You’re not my father, but you’re my daddy.'” He pulled up a cushion, sat on it cross-legged, and blew across his mug. “He helped my mama birth me. She died, and he carried me to the nearest town and took care of me. As for my real father, I don’t know him, I don’t want to know him, and if I meet him I’ll probably punch him in the eye.” “You could hit him with your stick,” Bethan suggested, smiling to indicate she was joking, but he answered seriously, “Do-se-d’oh is for self-defense. If I want to hurt someone personally…” He rubbed his hand across his knuckles and laughed. “But I ain’t gonna see him, so it won’t come up.”

“I don’t blame you for your hostility toward him even though you’ve never meant him, but have you ever simply wondered ‘why’ he wasn’t there? Why he left?” Kelly looked at him. She hadn’t been invited to sit yet, so she didn’t sit. She wasn’t sure what the customs were of this place, but she knew to wait until she was invited rather than simply presuming. “I’m good friends with some siblings that were adopted, and they’ve always had questions. Not because they are unhappy or discontent in their life. They just want to know why. Has that ever plagued you?”

Forest leaned back on his cushion and stretched out his legs. Jokingly, Bethan pushed him aside. “Make room for someone else,” she said, still hanging on the the squirming little girl. Forest pulled his legs back and said, “Take a load off, Mary…Sorry. I know your name is Kelly. It’s a line from an old song.” He smirked to himself. “My daddy couldn’t sing at all…Him I miss. He headed off north a couple years back and no one’s seen him since, not even in Chikasa.” He pulled his legs in and wrapped his arms around them. “You know who I’d like to see? My godmother. But all I know about her is that he name was Mother Nanaw, she gave me my baby name, and she owns a couple donkeys.” He glanced toward the west and asked, “There a lot of ladies that own two donkeys that way?”

Kelly sat finally and furrowed her brows, a little uncertain what he was asking. “Neighbor’s family owns donkeys, but not me or anyone I know other than that.” She shook her head, but then she set her gaze on Forest. She realized he didn’t answer the question she had asked, and she would let it slide–for the moment. “Why did your daddy leave?”

Forest sighed, probably unconsciously. “He was raised by monks, you know?” He voice is quieter. “They send him out down the mountain to find his place in the world…That’s what he was doing before he found me, looking around the world for his place. Man, the stories he used to tell. I think half of us here didn’t believe any of them. Then a couple days before the wedding, a stranger come to town and gave him a walking staff and a pot. It had real yak butter in it,” he said as Bethan reached out to take his hand in hers. “That told him it was time he was on his way again. ‘Now you have your place,’ he told me, ‘and I must find mine.'”

Kelly frowned as she leaned forward.  “But if he was here with you, had a life here, wouldn’t that be his place?”

Forest shrugged. “I guess not. Everyone here thought he was a little strange, so maybe you could say he had a good life in the wrong place.” He thought back, eyes looking away to nowhere. “He used to get up every morning, to meditate and practice his do-se-d’oh, when a regular fellow would have just stayed in the sleeping furs. And he set up the buttery.” He laughed. “We made out good with that. They give us great trades on musky butter, don’t they. After that cow butter they get in Chikasa, they can’t get enough of the musky butter…But dad always said yak butter was better.” He fell silent for a second and said, “Maybe once you’re raised on something, a substitute just isn’t right, if you know what I mean.”

Kelly nodded. “But you’ve settled in quite well, it seems. Even though you too are a bit different, it seems you’ve found your place.” She smiled at him. “So do you wonder about him? Where he is now? If you could tell him anything, what would it be?”

Forest glanced over to Bethan, but she wasn’t looking. Sometimes a mother has nothing better to do than fuss with her daughter. “I think about him all the time,” he said in a quiet voice. “I mean, I’ve talked to old Kuuky. He’s like sixty, and he says you never stop missing your daddy. When he is?” He shrugged. “We went outside that night, out in the dark after the wedding. I asked him where he was going, and he tossed his staff in the air, and in came down pointing north, and he said, ‘North.'” He thought back to day night. “It was pushing fall, so north was not best way to be going that time of year, but the stick pointed north, so north he went. He was like that.” He shrugged his shoulders. “If you see him, tell him he’s welcome back any time. Maybe it’s not his place, but he’s welcome to put his feet up for a while.”

Kelly nodded as she smiled. She thought about the course of the conversation and determined that this was a good stopping point. “Well, I would stick around to ask more questions, but I have elsewhere I need to be, and I think I’ve imposed on all of you for long enough.” She rose to her feet. “Thank you though for agreeing to meet with me and for answering my questions. It was delightful to chat with you.”

Forest got up to his feet, standing politely for the guest. “Sure, you, too,” he agreed. “Want a pot of butter for the road? It’s good musky butter, fermented for three months. Real good on a stack of flat cakes or a porridge.”

“I’m afraid I won’t be able to take it with me where I’m going, but thank you.” She smiled at him. “I’ve got to get going. May all of you have a wonderful day. And thanks again for the meeting! Take care of yourself.” She nodded to them before heading 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!

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N202JXA

SOCIAL MEDIA

Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/Dave-DAlessio-595586537188347

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/David-W.-DAlessio/e/B0070GLS9E

Twitter: https://twitter.com/dalessio_dave

Author Interview: Dave D’Alessio

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.

16129336_10154432372362893_769076985_o

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!

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N202JXA

SOCIAL MEDIA

Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/Dave-DAlessio-595586537188347

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/David-W.-DAlessio/e/B0070GLS9E

Twitter: https://twitter.com/dalessio_dave