Genre Chick Interview: David Steffen

Today, May’s Month of Writers Blog Festival brings you an interview with my friend and fellow Codexian David Steffen. I was the subject of David’s first interview over at Fantasy Magazine back in 2009! Ah, the great circle of a writer’s life…


Mac or PC?
PC, though I’m sure Justin Long is a very nice person.

Coffee or Tea?
Definitely Tea.  Well, unless I have some tasty flavored creamer for the coffee.  And then the presence of coffee is really only to justify ingestion of delicious creamer.  People look at you funny if you just drink shots of flavored creamer.  I know this from experience.  Coffee is to creamer what cake is to frosting.  Each only serves to legitimize my consumption of delicious sugary goodness.

Travel the World or Travel Outer Space?
Definitely the world.  Lots of interesting places, cultures, people. Space travel involves lots of really dull travel time, and all that wait to arrive on a dead space rock.

Fantasy or Science Fiction?
Hmmmm…. I guess I’d say fantasy.  I like many SF stories, but generally not the hard SF, because it tends to spend too much time explaining the scientific details that I don’t really care about. I’ve taken enough science classes in my lifetime; when I read a story I don’t want to feel like I’m being educated.

Music or Silence (while you write)?
Usually silence, unless a particular story has particularly well-matching music to the story at hand.  When I was writing “The Utility of Love”, a horror Wizard of Oz story, I listened to the “Wicked” soundtrack incessantly, but even then I didn’t listen while I was writing, I just listened constantly when I wanted to brainstorm on my commute.

What weird food do you like?
One of my favorite breakfasts is toast topped with peanut butter, honey, and garlic salt.  Yum!

What is one of your most irrational fears?
A couple of them come to mind.  After reading Stephen King’s Dreamcatcher, I have a occasionally recurring anxiety about toilets, because of King’s charmingly dubbed shit-weasels, sharp-toothed monsters who chew their way out of a person’s digestive system, and in one scene one of these was found inside a toilet.  I’ll forget about it for months at a time, until Dreamcatcher pops into my mind and then it’ll bother me again for a few weeks until I forget about it. Another one is that I have occasionally recurring nightmares about the house being infested by large insects, usually the size of cats or larger.  One nice thing about living in Minnesota is that it’s too cold for the nastiest creepy-crawlies.  Mosquitoes and ticks are bad enough, but I never have to check my bed for scorpions, and poisonous spiders are rare.  One time we cut off a major ant offensive just before leaving for vacation because one  of the dogs started freaking out when she found them.  Earwigs creep me out as well, with those grotesquely huge pincers on their butts.

Will you be watching the Royal Wedding? Why or why not?
Definitely not.  Nobody invited me to the wedding, so they’re on my List.  Can you imagine how delicious a royally funded cake (frosting vessel) would be?  Woe to any who deny me frosting.  You have been warned.

How many novels/short stories/screenplays/poems/etc have you published?
Four short stories to date!  I could use another sale about now…

How much do you write every day?
That varies depending on the day.  On a good day, maybe an hour, though generally not in one contiguous block.  On a bad day, more like 15 minutes.

How much do you WISH you could write every day?
One part of my mind says that I’d love to have 3-4 hours of uninterrupted writing time a day.  But if experience bears out, my writing production would actually plummet.  I work much faster when I have less time to work, to the point that I think if I quit my job and wrote full time I would actually write less then I do now.  My productivity always spikes during the busiest times of my life.  I think it has to do with my brainstorming:writing ratio.  I do a lot of my brainstorming while I’m doing activitiies that don’t require a lot of higher thinking processes, like mowing the lawn, or driving on the interstate.  The ideas tend to flow in those times, and if I have much more time to brainstorm then to write, then the writing time is spent furiously transcribing those brainstormed ideas instead of just staring blankly at the empty page.

What are you working on now?
I’m just at the beginning stages of writing a second novel.  I’m trying to work up a loose high-level outline to give me an idea where I’m going, and then I’ll get going on the prose itself.

If you could write like one author, who would it be?
Lewis Carroll.  I wish I could write nonsense in such an entertaining way.

If you could be one superhero, or have one superpower, who/what would it be?
I think, of all the superpowered, I’d choose to be Hiro Nakamura. Bending space and time at your will–awesome.  Not only the superpowers, but I also really like the ethics he imposes upon himself from all of his obsessive comic reading.

What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done?
One sunday morning my wife and I found a pig sleeping in our bathtub. Okay, so we’d rescued the piglet from the side of the road the day before, and had put it in the bathtub ourselves, I just like to start the story that way.  We’d found the two-week old piglet on the side of the road on a brutally hot August day, bruised and sunburned, probably having fallen off the back of a truck.  Heather saw it in the ditch as I drove past and asked me to turn around.  I decided to humor her in this hallucination, no doubt caused by being in the sun too long, and I turned out around, and I was surprised to find there was actually a pig in the ditch as she’d said, trying to bury itself in weeds to get out of the sun.  We were on our way home from a funeral, so we grab a soft-sided dog carrier from our trunk (looks sort of like a duffel bug), and we lifted the pig in there and headed on our way.  We called animal control, but they were closed on the weekend–it’s a good thing that animals needing control in South Dakota are all polite enough to wait for business hours.  We stopped at a gas station and grabbed some Cheerios and water for the little piggy (which we’d named Daphne by this time), and soon it was slurping and munching away contentedly in its carrier.  We couldn’t figure out what to do with it that day, so we took it home, where it slept the night in our bathtub.  We ended up taking it to a vet as well, because Daphne wasn’t using her back legs, and happily learned that it had no spinal damage or broken bones. You’ve heard the expression “squeal like a stuck pig”?  She actually took the steroid shot they gave her very stoically, but when they tried to lay her on her back to take an X-ray…  I have never heard a sound so terrifying as that pig squealing during the x-ray.  It sounded like a human baby being tortured.  What a haunting noise! Anyway, Daphne was very cute and very gentle, and if she were going to stay 12 pounds we might’ve thought about keeping her.  But she’s a hog and likely to grow to weigh more than I do, so we handed her over to a hooved animal rescue, where they could care for her properly.

What’s the coolest thing you’re about to do?
If I could predict the future, maybe I could tell you for sure!  We have a vacation to Washington state planned, which should be fun. Otherwise, not a great deal on the scheduled side in my near future. I’m always trying out different creative pursuits and discarding them, sort of like throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what will stick.  At the moment I’m trying out sketching, so we’ll see how long that lasts.

Name three things on your List of Things to Do Before You Die.
-See the Pyramids.
-Get a major book deal.
-Climb Mt. Kiliminjaro.


David lives in Minnesota in a house where the dogs outnumber the humans, pigs are known to sleep in the bathtub, and vicious attack penguins guard the front stoop.  Besides writing fiction, David also
writes code for computer vision applications.  Also, his archnemesis is a parrot.  You can find his fiction in Bull Spec, Pseudopod, Brain Harvest, and the Shadows of the Emerald City anthology.  For a full list of his published work, as well as interviews and reviews, check out his page Diabolical Plots (