Interview with David Berger

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The first story I actually remember writing was one about the Smurfs back when I was a teenager. My sister was an avid fan of those little blue creatures, so she and I would construct stories about them. I don't think they were my finest work, but they provided us with endless hours of creativity and story building. Other than that, I have a vague recollection of stories about the adventures of Greek gods, especially Apollo. He and his sister Artemis were two of my favorite Olympians, and I know I must have written more stories about them over the years.
What is your writing process?
The process largely depends on what I am writing. If I am working on a short story, I try to develop characters first and then let them tell ME what they want their story to be about. Interpersonal relationships (siblings, friends, lovers, etc.) all have different levels of tension and understanding, so when I want to write something longer, I tend to block out events that I see happening between characters. For my first novel, I had adapted a short story I had written in high school, but for my sequel, I used the block technique, and it worked quite well in establishing chunks of action in between other scenes. I also try to overcome writer's block by just writing whatever comes into my head related to the topic. Or, I write a letter to one of my characters. That tends to unstop the blockage.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
My earliest stories were comic books, to the best of my recollection, and they had a profound impact on me. Superheroes were like gods to me, and I had already become smitten with the Greek gods as a child. My favorite character, Wonder Woman, spoke to me in ways that no other character has, largely due to her origin and the reason for her existence. A strong female character needed to have her own epic tales, and seeing this Amazon tackle worldly issues, everyday ones, and mythological ones gave me hope for my future. To this day, I prefer comic books as my "go to" for relaxation. They're not always the simplest of stories, but they do provide an escape from the mundane.
How do you approach cover design?
I work closely with the artist, Michael Hamlett, in designing the front cover. I basically tell him what I am looking for overall, and he comes up with concept after concept. The spine and back come from me. I've done graphic design in the past, so I have a good understanding about placement of images and the use of text. I think the cover should reflect important aspects of the story between the covers, so the images shouldn't always be people. Objects and symbols generate as much, if not more, interest in the story because then readers read with the goal of seeing when these things emerge.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
I honestly don't have "five favorite books". I have a favorite genre: science fiction and fantasy. Within that genre, I enjoy authors such as Neil Gaiman (American Gods, Anansi Boys, Neverwhere, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane are must-haves for their epic storytelling and character development), Tolkien (Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit. 'Nuff said), Terry Goodkind (Sword of Truth Series), Marion Zimmer Bradley (The Mists of Avalon, The Firebrand), Homer (Iliad, Odyssey), and many others. The genre touches a part of me where I can be creative and tap into the magic of the ancient past or the mythical lands where epic heroes were commonplace. These books speak to me, each in a different voice, and they produce a euphonious singular sound that I enjoy.
What do you read for pleasure?
Anything sci-fi/fantasy related or books about mythology. I'll read other books, especially if they come highly recommended, but only in certain genres.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I primarily use Facebook and Twitter, but also Goodreads, LibraryThing, and, to a limited extent, other sites like Authors.com, Authorsden.com, and AuthorsDB.com. Social media is swamped with dozens of authors and books, so it's hard to know what actually works well in marketing. I do my best to promote meaningful things, including things about me, so readers will see who I am beyond being an author.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up on Long Island, NY, and I don't really think it influenced my writing at all. As most of my writing is fantasy-based, nothing from my childhood home would have helped me. If anything, having a loving and supportive mother helped me the most. She encouraged me to be an independent thinker which is why, I truly believe, I am who I am now. Having her to support my creative endeavors made me the abstract thinker I became later in life. So, as much as I would like to say that Commack, NY had a profound effect on me, it was more the people there than the place.
When did you first start writing?
I started writing for kicks when I was a kid, probably around 8, but I started writing with purpose in high school, and I dove right into poetry and short stories. Over the years, my style has evolved, but my initial love and reverence for writing is as much part of the child in me as anything.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Task Force: Gaea—Memory's Curse follows its predecessor, Finding Balance, directly, and shows what happens when an ancient primordial evil emerges from the depths of Tartaros in search of the gods—for pure vengeance. She scours the earth in search of them, but, ironically, they have vanished, leaving only Apollo behind. The Task Force team (Gaea) needs to find and vanquish The Nebulous One, as she is called, before they fall prey to her dark power. Ideally, this should have been part of the first novel, but then I would have had a 600+ page novel on my hands. This sequel draws on some Lovecraftian influence with elder gods, horror of a different kind, and draws on the fear that sometimes our memories can be a curse instead of a blessing.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Quite frankly, I didn't want to start out with a pile of rejection letters from agents or publishers. I know that might sound haughty, but at 45 (when I published Finding Balance), I didn't want to wait a few years to get my story out into the world. Now, someday, I will pursue the traditional publishing route, and I'll be willing to accept the rejections since the novels are already out in the world. I can always stay with indie if things don't pan out. I think this also teaches me how to market better, something I had never done before. I have to do it all on my own (except for friends who retweet posts or share on Facebook). I'm not looking to retire on my royalties, but I would at least like to have a little following.
Published 2013-12-20.
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