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Welcome to “8 Questions with…..”
I met our next guest,writer and author Darnell Cureton around two years ago at a blogging party. A blogging party is hosted by a person and you are encouraged to come by and read other blogs and share your own.
I popped on Darnell’s blog and and was blown away with his writing talent. I hit the “Follow”button and during the course of the weeks after doing so,I started reading Darnell’s writing and commenting. Soon we started commenting and supporting each other’s work. Its always a joy to see a good friend achieve a hard earned goal and I was some happy to find out that Darnell’s work was being published in a magazine which is no mean feat.
I have many very talented writer friends who have yet to achieve that so this should tell you just how good of a writer Darnell really is. His latest short story “Life Changes” is one of the most unnerving mix of sci-fi/horror I have read in a good long time and I highly recommend it.
Darnell has a interesting series on his blog called “Diary of a Bad Writer” in which you can get a idea of what a working writer goes through in sharping a new story,character or just sitting down and WRITING. This series has encouraged me when I find myself sitting and unfocused,I find myself re-reading Darnell’s tips and ideas on how to just start WRITING.
I really hope you enjoy meeting one of the kindest and most talented artists I know….as I ask my friend Darnell Cureton his 8 Questions……
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your current WIP.
Hello everyone. My name is Darnell Cureton. I’m a blogger and writing coach. My blog features writing encouragement in a post I call the diary of a bad writer. It’s a play on words that I use to get readers to stop by. I provide writing tips and talk about personal experiences with writing in a three to five line format. I also write fiction. My stories are about 1,500 to 3,500 words long. That’s works out to something like a 10-minute to 25-minute story to read in various genres.
My latest story is called “LIFE CHANGE.” It’s part science fiction, part fantasy, about a woman on a date. She is so paranoid about someone putting something in her drink that she doesn’t see what the real threat is. I had fun writing it and I encourage all to read it. It has a nice twist at the end.
How have you been handling the pandemic? What have you been doing to stay active?
I am considered essential personnel on two jobs so I’ve been steadily working through the pandemic. It has taken a toll on me as I have to gear up daily with personal protective equipment including gloves, masks, hand sanitizers, and disinfecting surface wipes. Covid-19 has affected my writing as well. I have ideas for short stories but getting them on paper is slow.
It’s not writer’s block. It’s more like losing the desire to write because of the depressing current events happening worldwide. I’ve discovered this is happening to other authors in our community so I’m not alone. To continue actively writing, I pen a paragraph or two to take the pressure off creating, then stop to do something else. After a couple of days, I’ll resume with fresh eyes and write a little more. Since I’m out and about, I listen to audiobooks throughout the day and stream movies like everyone else. I keep in touch with family and friends using video and text. It’s the new way.
What was growing up in the Cureton house like? What are three of your favorite moments growing up?
Growing up in the Cureton household was for me… pretty much vanilla. My parents were old school, meaning they handled family matters between themselves. Seldom did they raise their voices at each other or me. When times were hard, I never knew. I always had 3 meals a day and a stable roof over my head. By age 10 I had my own room, a huge tube black and white tv, and a 3 tier electric Ho scale race car track in my room that my dad set up on a table made just for it. I walked a half-mile to school and back home… alone. There was no need for protection in numbers. I could stay out on Saturday all day without checking in. Nobody thought twice about where I was or what I was doing. It was a different world back then. For me, it was all vanilla and no drama. Favorite moments were:
(1) When I got to choose the movie we would go out to see as a family. I, of course, would pick a horror flick with Christopher Lee doing his Dracula thing. Another time I remember asking to see Night Of The Living Dead…and they took me! Scared the hell out of me but they gave me the victory of seeing it.
(2) My dad buying me a red Schwinn 5 speed bicycle. It had a skinny front wheel and a fat rear one that resembled a dragster. I was the only kid on the block with one.
(3) I had asthma as a child so when I asked for a pet the answer was always no. To my surprise, one day I came home from school and there was a pup staring at me when I walked in the door. It was a mixed breed German Shepherd and Great Dane. That dog grew bigger than me and provided me with some of the happiest moments of my life.
When did you get the writing bug? Who encouraged you to start writing and how did they do so?
I got the writing bug by accident. A friend of mine was performing standup comedy at a local club. I wanted to support him so I show up wearing a dress shirt, pants, tie, and polished shoes. I stood out like a sore thumb! All around me were a sea of twenty something’s dressed casual in denim shirts, jeans, and Timberland boots. It didn’t help when a comedian (not my friend) saw me and called me pops! I was 25 years behind the bar scene! The experience was laughable, so I got the idea to post it on Face Book. I later decided I wanted to provide details, so I created an account on WattPad, the writing platform used to create your own stories. Well, I wrote about the experience and posted it there. Only friends I told about it read it. It was bad writing, but I’ve been hooked ever since. I told a childhood friend, Victor Kates, that I wanted to write, and he has been supporting me along with the WordPress community since that day.
What do you enjoy most about the writing process?
Can you walk us through what your routine is when you write?
How many hours a week do you write?
I like dialogue. Giving my characters a conversation that sounds real makes the story come to life. The main thing is to get the idea or the scene down on paper. It’s okay at this point to have typos, too many – he said… then she said… or using the word LIKE 4 times in 1 sentence. Once I get the idea on paper, I can go back and clean up the mistakes and dialogue. How much time I write varies. Covid-19 changed much of my writing habits. In general I write when an idea is fresh in my mind. I pen those thoughts as soon as I can. Sometimes inspiration comes at a time when I should be doing something else. When that happens I get out my phone recorder and I dictate the idea or scene so I don’t forget when I get back to writing. I’ve learned from experience to write down the idea or voice record it because 2 hours later I won’t remember a damn thing about that scene or idea.
Tell us about your blog. When did you start it and how has it helped you in your writing?
I started my blog back in 2014. It was called “Writing Block,” but I didn’t do much with it. In fact, I only had two postings that year and two followers. Sometime in 2018, I decided to add content and post 3 or 4 times a month. I didn’t think “Writing Block” had enough content so I also blogged about favorite movies, books, and TV shows. That stuff was mostly filler. With experience under my belt, I’ve learned how to dedicate the entire blog to writing original fiction and providing writing encouragement. With that dedication, came the blog name “Fictionista.” The website helps me with my writing by keeping me focused on writing. The diary postings are for me as well as other writers. I follow my own advice and project the message – “just keep writing.”
What is it like telling folks you are a published author? How do you handle it when you get a rejection letter from a story you sent in?
Telling people that you are an author is a wonderful feeling. It means that you have written something that a company wants to share with the world. When my first short story was published, I did a happy dance that would make NFL players envious! Rejection letters have the opposite effect. They can make you angry, depressed, and withdrawn. They can make you stop writing altogether. The thing to keep in mind is a rejection means the publisher doesn’t want to use what you wrote. It doesn’t mean that the work is bad. I received my first rejection letter in January. I plan on sharing it and the story I wrote with readers to show them that sometimes a publisher may not “get” what you wrote, but it doesn’t mean the work is bad. The story and rejection letter will be posted for Halloween since the story has an All Hallow’s Eve – LGBTQ theme.
What are the three most critical elements in writing fiction?
There are a few things but I will focus on three.
First is the PLOT. To keep a reader interested and turning the page they should know what they are reading. If it’s a crime story, establish what the crime is and who is trying to solve it in the first chapter so the reader can identify with the protagonist. Who wants to read a story in which you don’t know why someone is risking their life to save someone you don’t know?
The second is CHARACTERS – The people in your story should be believable types that could live next door to you. The neighbor with the bad tattoo, the obnoxious 10-year old that curses and calls the parents by their first names, or the young blond that goes jogging at night in a bad neighborhood with a colt 45 in a granny pack. Id love to read about any of those people.
Third – DIALOGUE – Conversation between characters should sound real. If my protagonist is defending a homeless person against three aggressors, would he say “hey, homeless people matter guys,” or “the first one touching him losses an arm!” Dialogue matters my friend.
Who are your three favorite writers and what makes them special?
That’s hard to answer but I can tell you who I’m thinking about today. Let’s start with Octavia Butler. She was recognized as the first black woman to write compelling science fiction stories. Her novels mix science fiction with historical fiction and African American themes. If you’ve never read her work, I recommend her novel “Kindred.” It involves time travel and human rights.
The next favorite is Stephen King. What I like about him is he can write in various genres, and do it quite well. I’ve read his horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, crime, and science fiction. I’m doing the same with flash fiction. My stories have different genres. I think that gives you the experience to make the best story. Three favorite King stories are “The Mist,” “Carrie,” and Geralds Game.”
Last, Michael Connelly. I choose Michael because of the fictional character he created called Harry Bosch. Bosch is a well seasoned Los Angeles homicide detective that is hard working. He has made plenty of enemies and has a teenage daughter that he cares much for. The genre is a crime drama, with police procedurals built-in. Michael Connelly has written 21 novels (to date) with the Bosch character. The first novel with Bosch was “The Black Echo.” Connelly has written Bosch so well that it has become a popular series on Amazon Prime Video. The actor Titus Welliver was cast perfectly as the silvered haired detective that people love and hate. I hope to be able one day to write a character that people know very well, like Bosch, or Batman.
Which three bloggers are your favorites and what do you like about their writing?
Well, you support and encourage me to write and that’s worth a mention, but since you are interviewing me, you are disqualified today, but there is always a next time!
I’ll start with Chris Hall. She is a published author that supports and encourages other writers by reading and commenting on their work. She dabbles in different genres including adult fiction. My favorite is fantasy flash fiction on her website. I become immersed in the world she creates and the characters. She can be found at Lunasonline.wordpress.com.
In between writing, I visit a blog that I find helpful in managing a healthy lifestyle. Caz, who suffers from a chronic illness, reminds us that our struggles may be invisible, but we are not. I’ve found the information on her website to be useful to everyone. A tip about natural ways to find peace and tranquility comes at a time when the world is stressing us out more than ever. Do you know what mask to use during the coronavirus pandemic? Caz covers that in a post describing various mask types and where to buy them. I look forward to her Frugal Fridays for things on the cheap that I may need. Spare a minute and take a look around her site at Invisiblyme.com.
When I return to writing, I follow author Sam Kirk’s blog. He is very good at creating stories using writing prompts. A recent story written by Sam used the second point of view. It generated a lot of comments. Sam took the feedback about the story and improved it with minor editing. Authors doing this show writers to embrace helpful criticism. It will make you and your work stronger. In addition to the creative writing, Sam writes a news related opinion piece that is based on current events. It is written in a way to generate comments. He also has thought-provoking topics in the hashtag category. Find Sam at dailyflabbergast.wordpress.com.
What do you like doing for fun when you’re not writing or avoiding the Covid-19?
I love to grill meats outdoors. In our backyard, I start with burgers and hotdogs then work my way into chicken and pork ribs. My dad taught me to grill them with low heat and high smoke. I finish cooking the meat inside using steam for tenderizing, seasoning for flavor. When tender, I add BBQ sauce hot enough to make the devil ask for water. Homemade potato salad goes on the side. I do this in the summer and winter. I’m a true BBQ carnivore!
The cheetah and I are flying over to listen to you read from your latest flash fiction but we are a day early and now you are stuck playing tour guide. What are we doing?
Well, its summer so I’d invite you over for…guess what? BBQ Chicken and Ribs with homemade potato salad. After we eat, I’d take you on tour to the Prudential Center, home of the New Jersey Devils. If there is no game, we’d get a drink. Most likely a Gray Goose Bump, the drink I made up in my story “Life Change.” Not far from there is the Little Theatre, a landmark adult film movie theater that opened in 1928 and closed in 2018. It’s a piece of history along with Newark Symphony Hall, a very old performing arts center that was the pride of Newark. It had status like The Apollo Theater in New York City. A ten-minute ride will bring us to the Newark Museum, the largest in the state. We’d check out a treasure chest of Buddhist exhibits, science rooms, and planetarium. The Buddha stuff might bore the cheetah, so I figured we’d head over to the City With Out Walls on Crawford street. It has cutting edge artwork created by young contemporary artists living in the city.
My feet are tired so I’m calling it a day, but everyone can find me at:
I like to thank Darnell for taking the time to sit down and doing this interview with me.
In this most uncertain time,it is comforting to know that creative souls like Darnell are still making art for us all. I encourage you to follow his blog,Twitter and InstaGram to keep in the know of what Darnell is creating next.
This is part two of a special series of 8 Questions that I’m doing,please click here to meet Stacey Bryan as she is also pretty important to me and my blog.
If you’re new to the 8 Questions with series…….you can catch up by clicking here and reading over 110 different interviews.