Dean M Drinkel edited Kneeling in the Silver Light: Stories from the Great War for The Alchemy Press. Here he tells us a little bit about the project.
It’s the centenary of the start of the Great War and it’s inevitable that there’d be many books about that period, that there’d be a danger of jumping on the bandwagon. What made you want to edit this anthology? And how is it different from other ‘war story’ books?
I felt that it was important to mark the occasion. It was something that had been bouncing around my head for a couple years but as we got closer to 2014 I wasn’t entirely sure how I wanted to do it – I gave some serious consideration to making a short film (I’ve written the script by the way and is about a French soldier in the trenches – I really hope that will see the light of day, perhaps to commemorate the end of the war in 2018) or putting on a play but in the end I decided to compile / edit a ‘genre’ anthology. When I pitched it to Alchemy and they said yes I was certain I had made the right decision. Seeing the final cover design and holding the book in my hand at Fantasycon – that just blew my mind. It’s a very beautiful book and piece of art – I thank Alchemy so much for that.
I believe that Silver Light is different from other ‘war story’ books because of the writers and the tales they have told. I’ll say here that when the call for submissions went out I wasn’t entirely sure on what stories I would receive, but boy was I pleasantly surprised. I received so many subs that it was really, really difficult to choose and keep up with it all – it was overwhelming at times. Most, if not all, of the tales were so well written but I wanted to be reverential and wasn’t really looking for out-and-out gorefests. Sure, the final TOC has a couple of ‘out there’ stories but they definitely have their place. There are connections from one tale to another. I was also clear when we did the sub call that I wanted the anthology to have as many different voices as possible and we certainly got that (as well as having a strong blend of male / female writers) – there are writers from Europe, Canada, the US, Australia etc, etc – no German writers sadly but perhaps leave them for the next volume!
Is there a story behind this book, some reason you had to explore the subject of that horrific conflict?
There’s no story as such, but the military do have a strong presence in my family – my own brother fought in Iraq a couple of years back for example – I suspect that was floating around in my brain if only on a sub-conscious level. At school and then university, we covered the Great War in depth and I guess, because it was a very different kind of war to what the world had seen previously, it couldn’t fail but to make an impression upon me. A few years back I’d also written a film script for Mozart’s The Magic Flute but I got pipped to the post by Stephen Fry / Kenneth Brannagh’s version, so again I must have locked it away in my ‘memory box’.
You finally selected a range of stories from around the world. Was this intentional and how did you go about the selection process? Did any of the stories move you to tears (they did me)?
Definitely intentional. It was important to me that we heard from writers from all over the globe. I was interested in those different perspectives and I believe we achieved that – as I mentioned previously, we didn’t manage to find a German voice but perhaps one day in the future, I’d love to read that story.
Thanks for saying they moved you to tears – that means a lot – we have been successful then! I’ve got a cold heart (so I’ve been told, ha, ha) but I will say that many of them did leave a marked impression upon me, several of which stayed in my thoughts for a number of days. I wanted to be reverential with Silver Light but also to entertain AND as a genre-based anthology, I didn’t want eighteen or nineteen stories of abject misery and I really feel we got the balance right.
You are an award-winning film maker as well as editing several anthologies. How do the two compare? Which gives the greatest satisfaction when a project is completed?
I just love working with talented people. In general terms, when I compile / edit the anthologies I make sure that I can pack in as many writers / stories as possible – you definitely get a bang for your buck! The same is said when I make my films or put on plays – I love writing for large casts and have as many people as possible buzzing around. As I’m writing this, I have to wonder if this is something psychological and that I’m scared to be alone, having to be surrounded by others – of course some would say that I need an army of sycophants to feed my ego (ha, ha!) – well, it’s definitely not that: well, I don’t think so anyway. What I like to do with my anthologies is to give opportunities to writers that perhaps aren’t as well known as others.
The second question is quite difficult for me to answer. I love holding a book that I’ve been responsible for putting together and even doing a signing. It’s great when someone buys my anthology and they talk about the stories and writers. Similarly though I love sitting in an audience watching one of my plays being performed – particularly when they laugh and cry in all the right places. I once knew I nailed it when I directed Clive Barker’s play ‘Frankenstein in Love’ in London a couple years back. There is a particular scene where a character gets flayed and then the skin gets nailed to a wall. Well, with the effects, the lighting and the great acting – boy did we get a reaction: two girls screamed and walked out right there and then; a family of American tourists complained and didn’t come back for the second half … brilliant. I hope to get the cash together to put on a new play I wrote called ‘Abattoir’ – that will be an experience and a half.
You are a citizen of the world: so, Paris or London? Or somewhere else?
I’ve been about, sure. I count myself lucky in the fact that I’ve had a global education including England, Saudi Arabia and the US. For definite those countries have had an influence upon me – but yes, for many of those that know me: France and Paris in particular, is the most important to me.
It’s funny that I loved the idea of ‘France’ for a long time (particularly the history, the culture, the architecture and the food / drink!) but I just couldn’t take with the French – and I mean, really, really couldn’t, but then, because of a couple of things that happened to me, I literally found myself going to Paris every couple of weeks. I put aside my differences and tried to integrate with them. Luckily I got over my own ‘bigotry’ and now I’m happy to say that I have some very close French friends and in the not too distant future I should be living / working there full time as well – I can’t wait.
How do you relax? Beer or cider? CSI or Morse? Doctor Who or Doc Martin? Madonna or Madness?
Relax? I haven’t got time to relax! Okay, let’s try and answer this one without giving it too much thought: Used to be beer / lager but definitely now cider. CSI Miami, Morse both yes but also like Endeavour. Neither Doctor Who nor Doc Martin I’m afraid. Love Madonna and partial to a bit of Madness from time to time.
When I write, music is very important. When I embark on a new project, part of my routine is to head out to the local music shop (Oxford Street nowadays – sad isn’t it, where have all the local shops gone?) and buy a load of new CDs (no, I don’t download either). I stick them in the stereo, hit play and let them influence me. It’s funny now that when I look back at stories or scripts I wrote a couple of years back I can remember the tunes that I was listening too at the time – they almost become indivisible from one another.
What’s on the Dean M. Drinkel horizon?
I’ve promised myself that 2015 will be totally devoted to my film work. Yes, there will be a couple of anthologies and a novella but they will be ones completed (hopefully!) in 2014. When I was in Cannes this May for the film festival, I wrote the first draft of a feature film script. It is called ‘Milou’ and is about an author who had massive success with his first book and hasn’t quite lived up to the hype since, so he now teaches at writer retreats. Anyway, at one such retreat in Paris he ends up becoming besotted with someone he shouldn’t and over the course of a few days his life ends up travelling down roads he hadn’t thought possible – all which is feeding his creativity to such a level that he feels he is going to surpass the sales etc of his first book, he just needs that one helluva ending to finish it!
Since Cannes, I’ve been dabbling on sections of it, but 2015 will see a big push on getting it 100% ready – I’ve been writing a ‘film diary’ behind all this too – my plan is that for Cannes 2015 it will be finished and we’ll be having the necessary funding meetings etc – all for a late 2015 shoot and who knows, it might even screen at Cannes in 2016 – wouldn’t that be a story?!
After that hopefully I can move onto my play about Napoleon’s last days and my first feature film script in French about Napoleon II – now that is a challenge…