The Best Slices of Brandon Carbaugh & his fantastic Novel – ‘Deep Sounding’
Firstly, the generic a little about yourself? Any weird quirks or outlandish dreams?
I play a metric shitload of video-games. If I’m honest, in terms of which medium is closer to my heart, I probably consider myself a “gamer” more than I do a “reader”, which feels downright blasphemous for a writer to say. For example, as a piece of fantasy-fiction, the Elder Scrolls games occupy a much larger chunk of my consciousness than 99% of the books I’ve read in the last few years. I think it’s something about how young the medium is. There’s still room for batshit off-the-wall experimentation, and I feed on that stuff like a psychic vampire. I’d love to write for games some day.
How Lucky are you?
I have no luck at all. Well, wait, actually, I’ve got a lottery ticket in my wallet and the Powerball draws in half an hour, so I’ll get back to you on that one.
EDIT: Nope, no luck at all.
What is your least favourite thing about Humanity?
In the broadest way, that whole “killing each other over invisible sky-monsters” bit is pretty lame. But in the present-day here-and-now, lately I’ve become acutely aware of how difficult it is for two people to actually communicate. Particularly on-line, I feel like I just spend the majority of my time watching people talk over and past one another, and it seems like every petty disagreement is the result of some hair-splitting semantic trip-up, where two people are using the same word in different ways. I probably spend way too much time thinking about this crap. Twitter scandals keep me up at night.
Tell us, do you remember where you were when you had the initial thought for Deep Sounding?
Not particularly. Most of my ideas are stories which have been germinating, in one form or another, for years; some since back into my early teens. To put it another way: I have this folder on my desktop named “Ideas”, where ideas go to age, like expensive booze. And this folder is 1.3 gigs in size. And that’s all text files.
I like their hearty nature. Of the cliché fantasy races, they’re the one that seems to have the most sense of heft to it. They work. They struggle with issues of practical societal import: population control, dwindling resources, etc. Even in their earliest incarnation (Tolkien) dwarves are this race of crazy, greedy industrialists, who get into all kinds of trouble because they dig up half the world and unleash titanic forces they’re not equipped to deal with. (In retrospect, as a metaphor for humanity, that’s eerily prescient!)
Which themes did you feel were most important when writing the book?
For me, Deep Sounding is about work. It’s about the relationship between your sense of self—who you think are—and what you actually do, on a day-to-day basis. And it’s about the conflict and cognitive dissonance that arises when those aspects don’t sync up. What happens to your identity, when you’re forced into work that runs counter to it? Or when the product of your efforts is taken away from you? How do you find peace-of-mind and fulfilment when you’re shackled by menial drudgery?
For me, writing isn’t so much about trying to convince the reader of a certain point of view, as it is about the attempt to untangle and explore a particularly knotty idea – and hopefully tell a good story at the same time.
When can we expect the next instalment?
Soon! I’ve got a “short” story (about 10,000 words long) which is set in that world coming out in early August, called “Top to Bottom”.
As for the fate of the dwarfs of Whitemount…some day!
The far-away distant goal (when I’ve arrived at a place, career-wise, that I can finally launch headlong into a sprawling, zillion-books-long epic series) is to follow Whitemount through the collapse of the entire dwarfdan empire. The whole premise of this world is that all dwarfs and all mountains depend on one another to survive – so, what if that system collapses? How might one small community adapt to survive?
Why Self publish? Did you contact any major publishers?
Nope. In mid-2012, self-publishing was in the midst of an explosion, from which would emerge runaway success stories like Hugh Howey, whose Wool series regularly tops the e-book charts right there alongside stuff like Song of Ice and Fire. I saw that happening all around me, and I said, “I want to be a part of this.” So I blasted the book out in about two months, threw it online, and I have not regretted it even once since then.
You are a crayon! What colour are you and why?
Gray like my soul. [breaks out the eyeliner and cues up Linkin Park]
If you had to be reincarnated and you were given a choice of any living thing, what would you choose?
Seagull. Seagulls got it all figured out.
Any pets at home with you? Names?
I have a cat named Piper, with whom I share a borderline unhealthy codependency. When I come home and park my car in the evening, she runs down the alleyway screaming and jumps into my arms. It’s absurd, and friends of mine are right to find it disturbing.
So we got the vibe that the bird was a symbol of that real thirst for life, the kind you see in people who have stared death in the face, what was its purpose?
You nailed it. Half-Beak is the shrivelled, black, calloused, stubborn heart of the whole damn book, and gradually figuring that out was a blast.
Any other projects on the horizon?
Yeah! My new novel, Crittertown, is releasing in five volumes, starting (if all goes as planned) in late August.
When you’re not writing, what are you doing?
Playing games, reading books, wasting too much time on Twitter, and cruising the mean streets of Central Pennsylvania in search of a fix.
Were the blurred lines between gender specific for a cause of just part of being a Dwarf?
Yes to both.
On a meta-textual level: part of building a fictional society is that you get to define ways in which it is different from our own, for purposes of reflection. For example, the dwarfs live in a world which is staunchly pragmatic, so their societal views on suicide can be a bit…merciless? And that’s a troublesome thing, which we’re meant to reflect on. But on the other side of the coin, in the “ways they’re better than us” category, their society is pretty much totally gender-equal. A dwarf’s gender is practically arbitrary. And that’s something to think about, too.
On a purely narrative level, though, these guys live in a world where everyone must work, to the best of their ability, in the way that is most efficient and useful. If you can swing a pick, that’s all that matters; get your ass down to the mines and get crackin’. It’s like, “Gender-stratification? Ain’t nobody got time for that – we got quotas to meet!”
The work scene between Silva & her boss really hit a nerve. Was this from personal experience or just a clever way of describing the general 9-5 minions that we are? (5 minutes of good work… is this someone who just wants someone to show their full potential, or someone trying for as much as they can get?)
That scene—and the whole book, and everything I’ve ever written—is practically masturbatory. It’s like a Freudian purging of my own inner demons. Jo and Silva are, literally, me having a conversation with myself about questions which haunt me.
The gist of it is: how do you feel fulfilled as a person when you’re stuck flipping burgers (or, in my case, picking parts in a warehouse)? How do you reconcile the legitimately merciless and soul-crushing nature of capitalistically-driven menial labor with a worldview that emphasizes mindful attentiveness in all activities as a means to internally-derived spiritual fulfilment? How do you “take pride” in work which actively erodes your sense of dignity and self-worth? Why “give your all” to a vast, soulless system which doesn’t give a damn about you? But in the same breath: how can you face yourself in the mirror, if you give anything less?
I still don’t know the answers to those questions. Writing Deep Sounding was my way of exploring them.
Your Dialogue is beautiful, a true dance between minds. How do you come up with their speech? Do you get into character and say it out loud, or just jot it all down?
Thanks! So here’s a cool story:
The first draft of Deep Sounding actually had entirely different dialogue. And it was awful. It was written contemporaneously, in a very “real” way, which, in a novel set in the real world, in the modern day, would have read wonderfully. But for a fantasy book about dwarfs, it was just terrible. It clashed against the voice of the prose, it felt weird on the page, and it took some very stubborn and persuasive beta-readers to help me understand that.
So then I went back and re-evaluated. First I had to decide on a common flavor for the dialogue. It was important to me that I be able to convey something close to real conversations (which I often think that extravagant “my liege!” dialogue-style is fundamentally incapable of) but it also had to have a degree of abstraction to it, so it didn’t feel too “modern” and jerk readers out of the story.
In the end, I decided on “Midwestern Coal-Miner”. I said, “If I can’t imagine a line of dialogue coming out of the mouth of a coal-miner in 1950’s Nebraska, I’ll rewrite it.”
So I rewrote every line of dialogue in the book. And I guess it was a good call!
And the moral of that story is: find some good readers who will call you on your pretentious bullshit, and really listen to what they have to say.
If you could give any advice to new writers, what would it be?
Commit. Stop jumping around between projects, stop building castles in the sky, stop plotting 8-volume best selling trilogies which will never come to pass. Pick a project, SHACKLE YOURSELF to the confines of a small, achievable scope, and then throw away the key and make it happen. Five-hundred pages of ideas mean absolutely nothing. But a 500-word short story is something. Ask yourself: are you an “idea guy”, or a writer? And if your answer is the latter, then stop fantasizing about being a ~Writer~ and WRITE SOMETHING. And finish it. And move on to the next thing.
Lastly, do you have a favourite place or time of day to write?
My best work seems to creep out of the shadows between 11:00 at night and 2:00 in the morning. I’m not sure what that says about my lifestyle.
Thank you for all your time, and keep writing!!
Buy Deep Sounding here….