Author Dylan Orchard sees the world differently than most, with a eye for dark comedy and surrealist fantasy. A London native, Orchard is prone to bouts of enthusiastic swearing to mark moments of anger, joy and indifference. And most things in between.
In March of 2014, Orchard published his debut, Laikanist Times, a blending of humor, satire and sci-fi that explores the wonders and woes of religion, science, belief and talking animals.
Orchard followed that up in May of 2014 with his first full-length novel, Crashed America, which features guns, demons, backwoods mysticism and a Satanic Ronald Reagan, all set against the backdrop of an idealized America and the ominously looming End of Days.
Readers can learn more about Orchard and his works at www.dylanorchard.com.
What was your childhood like, and how did it shape who you are today?
Good and bad, ups and downs, things of that nature. It’s hard to quantify the effect really, from this distance at least (with all of my 29 years). Travelled a lot from a young age though, which I think can only have had a positive effect. And following a less than usual path through (or rather directly away from) things like education certainly set me on a path of taking my writing seriously.
What initially drew you towards writing? And what do you enjoy most about the writing process?
I don’t know that I ever was drawn towards writing really. From the age I could put pen to paper it’s always just been what I do without any real conscious choice to do it. Wouldn’t go so far as to frame it as a hippy-ish “higher calling” or anything, but it’s certainly always been an integral part of who I am and what I do. As for the process, I’ve got a love-hate relationship with it. Creating a story and crafting the characters and the world within it are both aspects I certainly enjoy but the act of writing itself is more a process of self-flagellation. Forcing myself to write and get things right to validate the time invested in the self-obsession required to build the ideas at the core of it.
Not to say that I don’t occasionally find myself deep in the flow though and that’s certainly an enjoyable experience. To a degree I’m a bit pretentious/old school in that if you’re not suffering for your “art,” then you’re probably not putting enough effort in.
How has your writing evolved over the years?
I reckon it’s probably evolved in pretty much the same way as I have. The sort of drive and determination to prove something through your work and identity that a lot of people find themselves with when they first start out fades to a more comfortable indulgence of who and what you are. Certainly a lot more comfortable to just write the stories I enjoy and assume that whatever meaning might be there shows itself in the end rather than feeling compelled to force meaning on a story to prove a point.
What other authors have influenced you over the course of your life?
Kurt Vonnegut by being generally excellent and enjoying the framework of genre writing while retaining a lot of depth. Tolstoy for having some of the best character development there is across the course of vast narratives. Dostoevsky and Knud Hamsun for the force of feeling they can capture. And Robert Anton Wilson for revelling in completely absurd nonsense without pausing for a second to let you catch up. I’d say they’ve all influenced my standards if nothing else, giving me something to aspire to by showing me what can be done.
What is your writing process? Do you start with a structured outline and work chronologically, or is your process more haphazard?
Usually I write out a framework for what’s going to happen so I at least have an end point to aim for. Then I tend to completely ignore it as things take their own direction. I think the best stuff comes from a bit of chaotic excitement in the process — plus editors exist so I’m always happy to leave the organisation to them.
How much of your stories are inspired by your own life experiences? Do you base characters on people you know, or do they all reside solely in your imagination?
Seldom based on real life experiences and never based on people I know, not directly at least. Everything I do is, to some degree, a distillation of my experiences and the influences of the people around me of course but what comes out at the end is unrecognisable really.
Mind you, surreal as my stuff tends to be I’ve often found real life to be too strange to fit into any sort of coherent narrative. So not much scope for wholesale character or plot lifting.
What were your goals with Crashed America?
Get rich or get mildly disappointed trying. Failing that, though, just getting my work out there was a big step. I’ve been writing for years, did a degree in it in fact and I know a lot of writers (and artists in general) who have no lack of passion or dedication but who’re waiting to create that perfect thing before facing the self exposure. Both Crashed America and Laikanist Times were my big steps towards saying “Fuck that, here’s a thing.” Fortunately, the reaction so far has been very positive so that goal at least seems half-accomplished.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve recieved?
Make sure you are actually writing, or at least thinking about writing. If you’re not doing one of the two this might not be the gig for you. Beyond that, ignore pretty much all writing advice. Probably the biggest challenge in writing is being honest in your work, fixating on other peoples experiences, while occasionally useful, can be a big distraction from that.
If an afterlife exists, what do you hope it looks like?
Like nothing I can possibly imagine. Although an open bar might be nice too.
What’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
Ox cheek prepared in some mysterious and high cuisine way. Washed down with expensive wine in a classy London restaurant that I’m fairly certain I lowered the tone of.
What’s the best concert you’ve attended?
Couple of stand outs, I think seeing Gil Scott Heron at a festival not long before he died would have to be the top one given the historical nature of the event. And more recently going to the Grand Ol’ Opry in Nashville was a blast, especially when Old Crow Medicine Show were on. Although getting drunk and listening to similarly drunk musicians on the strip had a few special moments to it as well.
What are you working on next?
Good question. I’ve got no shortage of ideas and half-done novel drafts lying around, so just at the point of deciding which one comes next. Although I’m increasingly leaning towards some light relief with a short story compilation that, once I start moving and stop procrastinating, should be done in a few months.