“Close enough to the cross” – An Interview with Catholic Writer D. A. Knight
Most Recent Book: Cretaceous Clay & the Black Dwarf
Education: I hold three degrees in chemical engineering, environmental engineering, and a J.D. I also never finished my BS or MS in civil engineering, but that’s another story.
Current Employment: Unemployed.
Profile: I don’t have to think about it. Publically, I can maintain the fiction of being a nice guy who finishes last for up to seven consecutive years. Privately, I have a good sense of humor, but I’m pretty quiet and introspective. Don’t worry about my stand-up comedy; Robin Williams and Tom Hanks are in no danger of being displaced by one of my jokes. On almost any topic I choose to discuss, I guarantee I know too much about it and I can probably cure your insomnia. But I have reached an age I no longer try to educate those refined souls who have educated themselves into imbecility nor will I suffer their foolish ideologies any longer.
List of Books Published:
Cretaceous Clay & the Black Dwarf
Cretaceous Clay & the Ninth Ring
Author Website: http://blackdwarves.com/
Author Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/dana.knight.7127
Author Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6940944.Dana_Alan_Knight
Author Blog: http://blackdwarves.com/
Author Twitter Account: https://twitter.com/danaknight1984
Favorite Quote: “If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t wear it. “
Favorite Poem: “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ties with the “The Cremation of Sam McGee” by Robert Service.
Favorite Novel: The Lord of the Rings
Favorite Movie: The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003).
Favorite Painting: The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch.
Favorite Piece of Music: The soundtrack to Godzilla 2000 (1999).
Favorite Song: “Into the West” sung by Annie Lennox.
Favorite Place to Be: The love seat in my living room.
Favorite Meal: Pizza.
Favorite Cocktail: Margarita.
Last Book Read: Everville by Roy Huff.
Last Movie Saw: Despicable Me II (2013).
Last Trip Took: Washington DC – job interview.
Last Non-literary Feat: Fed the cat.
CatholicFiction.net: Why do you write?
D.A. Knight: I want other people – lots of other people – to react to what I write. In my bio, I wrote that I have made a living writing non-fiction for over twenty years. No kidding. Thanks to my work, the largest oil field in North America started the first waterflood of a residual oil play; General Electric was forced to accept its first Title V Air Operating Permits; and the EPA decided mayonnaise was an air pollutant. But no one really cared, and still no one really cares. The positive and negative impact of a lifetime of work amounts to very little influence on the destructive forces plaguing the world. For once, I’d like to see some results from my work – good results.
CF: What first inspired you to become a writer?
DAK: Setting aside speculation, I cannot tell you. I have written works of fiction and non-fiction since I was eight years old. In the fifth grade I wrote a hundred-page essay on Mayan religion for my fall semester project. That same year I completed the first chapter of a novel about an inter-galactic space hero. As near as I can tell I have always wanted to write. The trouble has been finding a topic someone would read – and pay for.
CF: If you were a critic writing about your own books, how would you describe the defining characteristic of your writing style?
DAK: I write in passive voice using complex sentence structures. Good for burying an unpleasant truth in an environmental notice of violation, but poor form for trying to get a point across to someone with limited patience, and very poor form for writing entertainment. On the other hand, if you don’t mind too many clichés, I have no limit of material for hundreds of subjects. I have a list of over a hundred propositions for graduate theses: If anyone needs to end their career by researching and publishing an original thought. As Monk likes to say, ‘It’s a gift … and a curse.’
CF: Is there a favorite place you have to write?
DAK: No, and none respectively. Oh, I mean I would love to write at my desk in blocks of three to four uninterrupted hours and two to three blocks a day. Preferably I would start at about eight or nine in the morning and run all day. But really, who has time for that? I’m lucky if I get sixty straight minutes without an interruption or an eruption, and that’s being unemployed! Ha!
CF: What is your cure for writer’s block?
DAK: What’s writer’s block?
CF: What is your cure for procrastination?
DAK: Okay, I already used the short answer joke. I should tell you that I’m so thick I became a chemical engineer. Yes, it’s true. I thought I was signing up for ‘Comedy Engineering’ and didn’t wise up until it was too late. Actually, life has always managed to prevent me from achieving my priorities on time. That’s because generally everyone else’s priorities come first.
CF: Describe in your own words what the “Catholic imagination” is – or what it means to be a “Catholic writer.”
DAK: Catholic fiction has to work close enough to the Cross that most of us would agree it is Catholic and most certainly Christian. It does no good to simply be Catholic if no one is actually reading the book. If someone is reading Catholic Fiction, they likely have an idea of which way to go. True not all Catholics are in the choir, but those who reject the Church’s teachings probably are not reading much Catholic Fiction.
CF: What three writers – alive or dead – would you like to invite to dinner? Why?
DAK: Jules Verne – to ask how he got his start? I’d like to know if that was his decision or if his incredible success simply turned him into a yachtsman. Edgar Rice Burroughs – to discuss life with a nut and surviving years of spectacular failure. G. K. Chesterton – just to listen … and name drop. Well also, I’d like to invite the people I need to forgive to dine with us and let Gilbert have a go at them.
CF: What would you serve them – appetizer, main course, dessert and drink? Why?
DAK: Verne: Chicken cordon bleu – it’s the only French dish I like. Edgar: Barbeque and beer with a side of grilled Alaskan salmon. I know he’d love it. Gilbert: I have no idea. Fish and chips? Since he’s English.
CF: What is your latest book about?
CF: What inspired you to write this story in the first place?
DAK: Actually, I was hiding in a closet. One of those things you know. I was about nine or ten. I thinking about all those wish-fulfillment stories one reads about the heroic little boy (or girl) with magic power who finds a Dragon’s egg (or is it a magic wardrobe?) or meets a space alien who befriends him…. So I began daydreaming about a story about a boy who had nothing except the talents given to him by his secret father. He was adopted, but he didn’t know it, and he wished for a secret father who had given him the talent to overcome the obstacles he faced.
At the time I had little idea of how this familiar this story might sound to a Christian. I simply wanted to write a story to encourage little boys and girls who had no one on their team or side, if you will. And I did not want to resort to the usual fantasy tropes. No magic, no gold, no finding a cool device or car or relying on a dad with a garage stocked better than a hardware store.
In the story, the little boy is a black dwarf. A dwarf because he is short, no relation to dwarfism, and black because he has a black spot in his forehead, after the black spot the pirates give to Long John Silver. One of the Black Dwarf’s classmates takes pity on him and gives him a book, then called ‘The Black Dwarf.’ The Black Dwarf is an evil magician who tries to conquer the Solar System. He obtains magical power sacrificing children to his false god. A good magician named Cretaceous Clay challenges the Black Dwarf and vanquishes the villain. Cretaceous Clay & the Black Dwarf is a revised version of that story.
CF: Did you hold onto the idea for a long time before giving it shape, or did it come together in a flash?
DAK: Roughly, the story came to me in fits and spurts over a long time. The heart of the tale never changed, but over the years I realized that the secret friend I was looking for was Christ. With a spiritual awakening, the plot and characters made more sense, and I actually doubted that I had invented it. Also, I modified the plot to extend it into a series of ever greater challenges over seven books rather than one thick book.
CF: All fiction comes from a mix of past influences and impressions—things we’ve lived, seen, imagined, or read. Can you talk about some of the elements that came together to shape this particular fiction?
DAK: Endlessly. The most significant influence was the Bible in the sense that the forces driving the characters are personal. The Bible teaches us about the Fall and why man has free will and how to satisfy our greatest desires and wants by turning to God. Cretaceous Clay is driven by shame, frustration, and a desire to be loved and justified. He doesn’t know it, but he is trying to earn God’s love. And he doesn’t understand that he already has it, but he’s living in a fallen world without a guide. The Black Dwarf is driven by pride, anger, a lust for power, and cosmic conceit. The old villain wants to be a god. (Never mind his master, Moloch) The lives of the minor characters are pawns in the game and it is the magician’s game which drives the plot. From there I could go on and on. Gilligan’s Island influenced the style, but a closer read will find Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Henry the V.
CF: What did you learn about yourself in writing this book?
DAK: I don’t know how to write. Really, I’m a terrible writer. I had to learn writing all over again just to make sense.
CF: What did you have to do to prepare for this book in terms of research?
DAK: Very little research went into the book. The book is set three hundred years in the future. Almost all of the theological, spiritual, character points are ones I am familiar with. As for science, I had to edit most of it to the cutting room floor. The only research I did was on Nimrod, and then only to give his backstory some tangible details. He’s the villain, you know. Does it matter who he wiped out first? Or whether he founded Babylon or not? He’s a megalomaniac anyway who would remake his history to suit his plots, so if there’s a mistake, it’s because Nimrod’s a liar.
CF: How does this book differ from either a) previous books you’ve written or b) other writing work you’ve accomplished?
DAK: Cretaceous Clay is my first book. My novel is nothing like my thesis on unreasonable search and seizure law, or the report I wrote on the efficiency of waterfloods in high permeability sands saturated with thick oil, or anything else I’ve written. It’s all non-fiction … well, supposedly non-fiction.
CF: What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book?
DAK: Active voice. Yeah, I even speak like a bureaucrat. It’s always … “if the pressure in the vessel is not relieved, the tank may spontaneously rupture.’ That’s much easier for me than writing, “The tank exploded.”
CF: Which characters in this book did you find most challenging to work with, and what was it like to write with them? Conversely, do you have any characters that came particularly easily to you?
DAK: The villains. I discovered I couldn’t think like them at all. And I could barely describe what they wanted to do. It’s not fit for a kid’s book. I know what it is. Thanks to my pro-bono work I’ve seen photos no one should be seeing. Conversely, with the good guys or even with the minions, I could just ‘run at the mouth’ and I had to come back and cut lines. Also I couldn’t write the graphic scenes. I came upon an inspiration and avoided the need to shoot the minions.
CF: Creating a work of fiction is a spiritual journey in itself. Can you talk about your own spiritual life—realizations, doubts, crises, etc.—that came during the writing of this work?
DAK: Among the realizations were many private revelations. I often doubt I am the main character in my own life, much less in any life. Meanwhile, though He has reached out to reassure me, there has been nothing I can share directly.
CF: Name one good habit you do have as a writer and would like to continue to cultivate.
DAK: I’m diligent and work hard. This overcomes many faults.
CF: Name one bad habit you have as a writer that you would like to break.
DAK: I forget to include words as I type and also switch tenses. And I swing from singular to plural and back again without warning. I have to catch this in post-writing edits.
CF: Name one good habit you would like to have as a writer and do not have at the moment.
DAK: Action scenes and suspense…. It’s elusive and surprising at the same time.
CF: What one book by another author do you wish you had written?
DAK: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.
CF: What one book by another author are you glad you hadn’t written?
DAK: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey.
CF: What is the most discouraging aspect of being a writer?
DAK: Getting paid … not.
CF: If given the chance, what fictional world would you like to inhabit?
DAK: Middle Earth …
CF: What one project do you daydream about accomplishing as a writer – your magnum opus?
DAK: The Black Dwarf … it’s actually a 28 novel suite if I can finish it. Cretaceous Clay is involved in the first seven novels in the series.
CF: If you could no longer work with words, what medium would you work in to create art?
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