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Adam Interviews...Darren Lipman


The Adam Interviews logo - a hand with a pen over an old-fashioned typewriter

Good morning!

April continues - hopefully your month is starting to flower!

Today, my first interview is with Darren Lipman, whose book, Space is the Place, just launched!


Darren is an award-winning high school math teacher who hopes to become an award-winning author. His fiction has appeared in Literally Dead: Tales of Holiday Hauntings, the Fairy Tale Magazine, and Space and Time. He lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with his Alaskan Klee Kai, Hoonah, in a house full of overflowing bookshelves. Find him online at thewritingwolf.wordpress.com.


Star Trek or Star Wars?

Star Wars for me. I vividly remember catching bits and pieces of the original trilogy whenever it aired on TV, and when the prequels came out, it was all my close circle of friends could talk about. Later, when the sequel trilogy arrived, I was able to watch them all with a good college friend. Each of these moments connected me intimately to the story, making me love it even more.

 

Reboots – a great idea or a lack of creativity?

Reboots can be a mixed bag—sometimes they result from a lack of creativity, but sometimes they inject new perspectives and themes into pre-existing worlds. One good reboot I’m excited about is the Netflix adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender. While it’s not perfect (which is an unfair expectation on any creative endeavor), I felt it captured the original story in a lively and exhilarating new way.

 


A bald man with beard and mustache sitting on steps in the sunshine

Coffee, tea, or cacao?

I was a tea connoisseur as a child and teen, but when I started college and began working full-time, it was coffee that became a staple in helping me get through the day. Now I enjoy both.

 

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I was ten or so when I first gave writing a try. I was incredibly imaginative and wanted to make movies—but what ten-year-old can make movies with special effects that weren’t even around at the time? So I really liked reading and thought, “Why don’t I try writing instead?” My first few attempts were failures, but a couple years later when my family got a computer and I learned I could type instead, I truly fell in love with writing and decided I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.

 

When did you write your first book and how old were you?

I wrote my first book when I was twelve. It was about 47,000 words long, with a lot more telling than showing. The story would become the basis for a mythology I’ve been building in my mind for even longer than that, and I hope to someday revisit the story and give it the retelling it deserves.

 

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love playing with my Alaskan Klee Kai, Hoonah, and I’m a big fan of video games. Some of my earliest adventures in writing were fan fiction set in the worlds of the Legend of Zelda and Pokemon, both of which I play to this day. I’m especially fond of hunting for shiny Pokemon while listening to podcasts. Of course, I fill a lot of my time with reading—but that’s so fundamental for a writer, I’m not sure it even needs to be said. And I can’t forget mentioning what occupies most of my non-writing time: I’m a high school math teacher, and I love designing novel ways to teach concepts and working with my kids.

 

What does your family think of your writing?

My family has always been supportive of my writing, especially my mom. I was homeschooled, and in high school, my mom paid for me to attend a creative writing class at the local community college and drove me to and from a local writers’ group every month. She never pressured me to read what I’d written, which I think helped me grow as a writer without worrying about how I might be judged by those closest to me. Now, she’s a big fan of writing and buys every book my work appears in.

 

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I’ve written at least ten books, although most of them aren’t polished enough to see publication; the plots and characters aren’t bad, but the writing definitely was (what’s that they say about your first million words?). My favorite is a YA epic fantasy story called Starfall. I recently had the opportunity to pitch this book to an agent, and she requested a sample, so we’ll see what the future brings.

 

Do you have any suggestions to help someone become a better writer? If so, what are they?

There are two essential actions to improve as a writer: read a lot and write a lot.

I like to think I learned most of what I know about writing from reading voraciously as a child; I’ve said many times I learned grammar from The Lord of the Rings (which I definitely emulated in my early days writing before I found my own footing). Read in the genres you want to write and at the length you want to write—you can’t learn the art of short stories if you only read novels, and the reverse applies as well. Next, read widely. A narrow reading list can hole you in, while a broad list can reveal secrets and styles you might never see if you don’t branch out. Finally, read other emerging writers—the chance to see a work in progress and help provide feedback on how to improve it can do wonders to improve your own skill. I was an active critique partner on multiple writing forums in my teenage years, and my interactions with other developing writers and their stories was one of my best teachers.

While you read, write. Don’t fall into the trap of rewriting the same story over and over again. Write fresh stories that push your creativity in new directions. Some will flop, but every word written is another step taken toward mastery. If you get stuck on one story, go write a different one. It’s okay to work on multiple projects at the same time, and it’s okay for your first draft to be badly written. Even something badly written is better than something not written at all.

There’s a secret third essential action, and that’s cultivating a growth mindset. Writers face countless setbacks, challenges, and rejections, and it’s important to view every defeat as an opportunity for growth and improvement. Writers almost never achieve overnight success, and when it looks like they have, there’s usually years and years of practice that happened before that success was achieved that simply isn’t seen by the readers. Besides, comparison is a senseless activity and a waste of valuable brain space that could be better spent elsewhere—like improving your craft.

So that’s it: Read, write, and cultivate a growth mindset.

 

What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?

I haven’t had the pleasure of taking any intentional literary pilgrimages, but I have often found myself inspired while traveling. A ski trip in college, riding the ski lift and seeing the snow-covered mountainside from above, inspired multiple settings in a novel I wrote. A hike through the woods during a work retreat filled my mind with sensory details that enriched the stories I wrote afterward. A vacation in Iceland exposed me to so many new experiences that have deepened my worldbuilding. Any foray into nature is a kind of pilgrimage for me, and I hope to have many more in the future.

 

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Both? If I’m really excited about a story, then I’m eager to sit down and feel energized with every word that gets on the page. If writing starts to feel exhausting, however, I have to stop and ask myself why. Sometimes it’s a matter of managing time and energy levels demanded by other responsibilities; sometimes it’s a matter of taking a break to focus on mental health or recharge my creative batteries; and sometimes it’s a matter of rethinking my work-in-progress until it excites me again. My best writing tends to be what excites me the most, but being mindful of how my writing makes me feel is a critical component of my writing habit, one that helps me build deeper stories while avoiding burnout.

 

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

Seeking opportunities to learn has helped me connect with other authors who have become both friends and mentors. After backing DreamForge magazine on Kickstarter, I met Scot Noel and Wulf Moon; their workshops have provided instruction to a scale I never could’ve imagined, and I now belong to both of their writing groups, DreamCasters and Wulf Pack Writers, respectively. In the latter group, my first critique swap was with David Hankins, who has gone on to become a Writers of the Future winner and recently Kickstarted his novel Death and the Taxman. In February 2023, I attended Superstars Writing Seminar for the first time, and I connected with so many authors I now consider friends. Not only have they been a constant source of encouragement and motivation, but there might be some anthologies we’ll work together on in the future (keeping my fingers crossed there).

For new writers, I think building a community can be challenging and intimidating. For me, joining online writing groups like the Wulf Pack and DreamCasters has allowed me to join existing communities when local options aren’t as accessible. I also think most writers want to help emerging authors be successful, so don’t be nervous to enter spaces where you can build and deepen author connections, such as conventions, including in-person events like Superstars or even all-online options such as FyreCon.

 

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you building a body of work with connections between each book?

It depends entirely on the story. I have multiple worlds that I’ve invented, one which has a mythological scale that I’ve been imagining for the majority of my life. Some stories in this world exist as stand-alone pieces, while others belong to series intended to be read in a specific order. I also have a few short stories that, when published, have inspired me to keep building upon the characters and worlds in future stories, but because they’re short stories, it’s important each one can stand on its own even while it connects with others. One example is my Mordecai Weiss series, which can be summed up as Supernatural meets Jewish folklore and tradition. I have a special connection with Mordecai: my first foray with the character became my first professional sale. Right now I’ve got two other Mordecai Weiss stories on submission, and I feel strongly about both of them. One day, I’d like to gather all these stories into their own collection so readers can experience them as a single, interconnected whole.

 


A book cover showing a spaceship in flight, the title of the book is Space is the Place

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Enter Writers of the Future. I didn’t learn about the contest until the summer of 2022, but had I known about it sooner, I believe it would’ve helped keep me writing more consistently and developing my craft earlier than I did otherwise. (Not to mention the chance I could’ve won in all those years, a goal I’m actively pursuing.) That being said, I don’t regret not knowing sooner. I’m proud of my development as a writer and the stories I’ve written, and if I had followed a different path, there’s a chance some of my favorite stories never would’ve come to be.

 

What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?

Stephen King. He’s always been a household name, so when I had the chance to pick up one of his books, I decided to avoid the well-known titles (the ones that generated all the hype) and grab something lesser-known. I read The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon and absolutely hated it. I had no idea why anyone loved Stephen King and I ignored his writing for a good decade, if not longer. When IT (2017) was in theaters, I saw it while on a date, and though the date led nowhere, I fell in love with the movie. Two years later, I eagerly made a friend of mine watch IT so we could see the second part in theaters together, and the opening scenes—in which a character is assaulted for being gay—were an unexpected shock for both of us. That night, needing to know if this had happened in the original, I bought the e-book and began reading. It took me nearly two years to read the book (IT is massive, and I’m pathologically incapable of reading only one thing at a time), but by the time I reached the end, I had been sold on Stephen King. I soon devoured The Shining, Carrie, and Doctor Sleep, as well as a number of his short stories. I’m eager to read more, but goodness, where’s the time to read it all?

 

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

I’m Jewish, and I was first introduced to the Jewish mystical tradition of Kabbalah around the time of my Bar Mitzvah, when I was thirteen. A central idea of Kabbalah is that the Hebrew letters each have an identity, and the way they come together to form words gives each word or name unique power and meaning. I became fascinated with Kabbalah, and what I learned has deepened my faith and become central to my worldview. Words have power because words convey meaning, and that meaning is imbued by the Creator onto everything. There’s a passage in the Bible that says humans were made b’tzelem Elohim, “in the image of God.” Some people take this to mean that God physically looks like humans, but a more mystical interpretation is that humankind was made with the power to create and destroy—just as God can. God created the world through words, and so it’s through words that we—his creations—can ourselves create and destroy. Obviously, in a writing sense, this is made true in the act of creating speculative worlds, but in a more mundane, daily sense, it’s a reminder that the words I use—talking to others as well as myself—have power and should be chosen carefully.

 

What is the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything?

42.

 

What does literary success look like to you?

For me, long-term literary success looks like publishing all the series and novels I’ve been imagining for the better part of my life and connecting with fans over a shared experience. In the near future, however, I’m happy getting my stories out there in any way I can. Obviously I’m aiming at pro- and semi-pro markets primarily, since they have the readership that builds careers, but I’m not opposed to smaller sales for anthologies and magazines that pique my interest. After all, and this may sound pretentious, why should good writing only go to those capable of paying the most? Art should be accessible to everyone, and sometimes that means a smaller sale to help a story go further. Besides, a lot of smaller presses are still building their readership, and I hope my support can help them grow as well. In the future, I’d love to write full-time, but I also love teaching, and I don’t plan to leave my day job any time soon. So, until then, the most important part for me is having fun and loving every word I write.

 

What do you have coming next?

My latest story is a YA science fiction story called “Keepers of the Prophet.” Seventeen-year-old Elijah is part of a generational crew in search of a new earth, but when they encounter a wormhole that sends them far outside our galaxy, tensions rise as new opportunities present themselves and this group of teenagers must work together to create something new. Ultimately, it’s a story about finding your place in the universe, and all the confusing feelings that pop up as you get there. “Keepers of the Prophet” appears in the anthology Space is the Place, and all profits for the book will be donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. I’m incredibly excited to be part of this awesome project, and I hope you’ll consider grabbing a copy to support a good cause—and to read some great science fiction.

Space is the Place launches on April 16 and can be purchased here:

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