by Rachael Quisel
Nate Streeper's story "A Bag of Stardust or David Bowie Explains" is featured in Volume 4 "Stardust."
Rachael: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? What steps did you take to pursue this dream?
Nate:I’m not one of those people who gets to say “I always wanted to be a writer.” I actually spent most of my childhood and adolescence wanting to be a game designer---board games, card games, role playing games… not computer games. I started writing short stories after I graduated from UCSB and I quickly discovered I enjoyed writing fiction more than term papers. I finished my first novel-length manuscript, Another Year in Little Denmark, when I was in my mid-thirties, and since then, I’ve been “all in.”
Rachael:How long does it take you to write a book? What is your writing schedule like?
Nate:I wrote the first draft of Little Denmark over the course of a year. It was a mess. Since then, my method has changed. I now use NaNoWriMo to hammer out my first draft. I end up with a very rough version of a story within a month, but hey, it’s got a beginning, a middle, and an end, and it’s plot is pretty tight considering I’ve obsessed over it for three hours a day, every day, thirty days in a row. I then edit that draft over the course of… years. It took me three years to turn my first draft of Murder on the Orion Express into what I considered a publishable book. First drafts are fun. Final drafts are work. Having said that, I think my first drafts are getting better right out the gate. I wrote the first draft of the Orion Express sequel, The Big Cryosleep, last November, and I hope to publish it this year. But I’m either on warp drive or impulse power. There’s no in between.
Rachael: Where do you get your idea for your short stories? How about for your Alan Blades adventure series?
Nate:I enjoy writing short stories more than novels. My short stories are always meant to convey an idea. I’ll have something I want to say, and I’ll wrap a story around it. Novels are quite the opposite for me. I base my novels on plot and character, and hope that as I write them, themes will emerges on their own. But I’ve discovered that if my characters ring true, themes always emerge. It’s impossible to tell a story involving the human condition without a theme floating to the surface. As for where my idea for Orion Express (Alan Blades) came from… I was shelving a copy of Murder on the Orient Express at the library I worked at one day, and just thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool if this story happened in space?” Then the slightly-adjusted title smacked me in the face, and the book demanded to be written.
Rachael: What is one of the most surprising things you’ve learned about publishing and/or, more generally, the creative writing field?
Nate: To be clear, I have only self-published one novel, with plans to self-publish future books in the series. I have another manuscript I’ve written, Flame Tarek and the Galactic Cup, a stand-alone, young adult science fiction novel, and I believe it has the potential to be published “for real.” I’ve shopped it around, and it’s been hit with rejection for very legitimate reasons, from a marketing standpoint. I think the same thing would have happened with my first Alan Blades book, which was why I didn’t even bother to submit it to agents in the first place. So with regard to Flame Tarek, I’m faced with this decision: Do I want to make all the adjustments to it that agents claim would make it marketable? Or do I want to keep the story as I originally envisioned it, and just put it out there? Self-publishing versus real publishing, to me, amounts to this: Do you want to write what you want, or do you want to write what they want? I’m leaning toward the former from here on out.
Rachael: What do you think makes for a great story?
Nate:Emotional evocation. Plot, character, and theme all matter, but to what end? Emotional evocation. If a story makes you laugh, or makes you cry, or makes you “feel,” it will stick with you for the rest of your life. It will shape, to some extent, who you are. Do I pull this off in my own work? I certainly try to. But I mean, holy shit, you know? The power of stories.
Rachael: What advice would you give to aspiring fiction writers?
Nate: Write the stories you want to tell. You may not end up with a large audience, but you will end up with an intimate following. You will end up with friends.
Rachel Quisel has written articles on fitness, food, lifestyle, marketing, and entrepreneurship that have been published in magazines, newspapers, and professional blogs. When she's not writing novels, she's freelancing and managing her hospitality business, La Maison. She lives for stories, second tries, and running up mountains.
Nate’s science fiction novel, Murder on the Orion Express, recently garnered a positive review in Publisher’s Weekly. Streeper has received two Honorable Mentions at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference. His essays can be found at natestreeper.com, and his short stories can be found in the Santa Barbara Literary Journal.