Felix Morgan sat down with Dale Bridges over pancakes to discuss his current projects, writing processes, and the rather gloomy state of the world in general.
Felix: Tell me about your work as a journalist.
Dale: I had come back from Prague and was sleeping on my friends couch in Colorado. I had failed to write a novel and needed a job, but also didn’t really want to work. I had never done any journalism, I hadn’t even done yearbook in high school. But I had a couple of freelance articles in a Canadian magazine and a few other random things so I put together a portfolio and sent them to a couple local places. Boulder Weekly had just had someone quit and they needed someone right away.
I had lied about all my experience so when I started out just editing, I was googling terms I didn’t know. Somehow this turned out okay and I got a food editor position. Which is hilarious because I don’t know anything about food. But I was mostly just editing and I must have done okay because I managed to get a weekly beer column. That was a great gig, I’d leave the office to get free beer and start my weekend a bit early.
I eventually angled for a humor and pop-culture column where I was allowed to write pretty much whatever I wanted and that worked out really well for everyone.
Felix: How do you get your ideas?
Dale: Getting ideas is the only part of writing that is easy for me. I have ideas all the time. Especially when it comes to satire. We live in a ridiculous world were Donald Trump is running for president. The ideas are all over. That can be hard, though. I used to have a problem where I’d have a great idea and I’d sit down and write a few paragraphs and then it would get bogged down. And there was always another idea I could jump on to. I had so many unfinished things. At a certain point I just had to force myself to finish things.
These days I sit on ideas a lot longer than I used to. Like if an idea keeps coming back there’s really something to it. I explore more parts of it, characters that would be part of it, and let it grow legs. The longer I let it marinate, the easier it is to commit to it and follow through. But I seldom know how it will end. Even when I think I know, I’m usually wrong.
Felix: What are you working on now?
Dale: I recently wrote a manuscript for a Sci-Fi novel in just seven days but I’m not sure it’s salvageable. It was important to me to finish because I’ve failed at novel writing three other times. But I’ve already moved on to another novel and I’m about 50,000 words into that one. It’s very different. More literary fiction with a comedic edge.
It’s based on a guy living in Colorado and working for a newspaper so there’s a lot of real world-experience there.
Felix: Is there any thread that ties all your work together?
Dale: The humor. There always has to be a comedic element. I can’t write without that. I can’t really even live without that because it’s the way I process and cope with the world. The world itself, and most of my stories, can be pretty depressing. Without being able to inject humor into situations I would have a lot of trouble producing anything.
But each project is different too. You take something like Sci-Fi and it’s going to be a lot more broad, a lot more about larger social issues. There are personal relationships too, of course, but the larger idea is where I start with something like that. Literary stuff is the opposite. The personal relationships are going to be at the forefront and they might cast some light on larger societal issues.
I like having multiple things going at a time so I can switch back and forth. Using different tools and having a different focus can help me avoid getting burnt out.
Felix: Is there any genre or topic that you would never write?
Dale: I used to be a lot snootier when I was young. I didn’t even want to do journalism. I really like to think that I have to be passionate about a story to be able to work on it. To be able to sustain interest in it long enough to finish. I can’t imagine having that level of passion and interest in a genre like romance or mystery. But, then again, it’s all a matter of perspective. If someone threw $50,000 at me I’d sure as hell come up with 50,000 words of a romance novel.
Felix: What’s your favorite part of being a writer?
Dale: Not the writing process itself, thats full of fear and self-doubt and loathing. But the publishing process is great. Finding out after all your hard work that someone liked what you did, seeing review and ratings. Hearing that half shock in your friends voice when they say something you wrote is actually good. But I don’t think all those good things weigh out over the bad and so ultimately writing is at least a good bit masochistic. Some people say they enjoy every part of the process. I hate those people. I have to write, it’s how I process and deal with the world around me. It’s like forcing your loathing and your depression about the world into a constructive form.