I've been following the work of Dwight Okita for a while now. He has blown me away with his lovely art, amazing websites and trailers, and I can't wait to read his book, The Prospect of My Arrival. I'm thrilled, therefore, to interview him here on Fresh Pot of Tea.
Q: You are an artist as well as a writer, and I think it reflects in your work: in visual imagery, for example. How do you feel your art influences your writing?
DWIGHT: Thank you, Alison, for seeing me as both a writer and artist. I've always loved graphic design and movies, as well as working with words. Sometimes I'm jealous that a painter can share his painting with a single glance; while an novelist hands a book to someone and it takes days, weeks, for find out the reader's reaction. The visual arts allow me some of that instant gratification.
I think my fiction is influenced by my visual background also because I started out as a poet so images are important to me. Whether I'm designing a website, blog or video -- or I'm working on a novel -- I'm drawn to quirkiness and beauty, humor and gravitas. Working on the book trailer for PROSPECT OF MY ARRIVAL was a terribly fun intersection of both the worlds for me as it incorporates text, still image, video and music. Here's the video for PROSPECT:
Q: Every writer has difficult times and days when it is hard to sit down and complete the day's goal. What keeps you going?
DWIGHT: I am motivated a lot by writing contests and deadlines. I've done ABNA, Strongest Start Contest, WeBook and Authonomy. ABNA is the biggest fish in the sea with a huge pool of contestants, a big publishing partner, and a thrillingly structured contest. For me, TheNextBigWriter.com (with its Strongest Start contest) is one of the best places for developing new work. The sense of an audience of writer peers gets me going.
Sometimes if I get stuck, I ask myself if I had one month to live -- what would be the last book I'd want to write and leave to the world? I also enjoy reading and analyzing books to see what makes them work and not work. I also have a huge sign on my wall about 5' x 2' that says: WRITE.
Q. Could you describe your writing process for us? How did you fully develop your concept of an embryo investigating whether he wanted to be born or not?
DWIGHT: When I worked a job full time, I often wrote on the train in the morning or while walking over bridges. Now that my time is more my own, I tend to do a lot of writing and revising from midnight to 5am. I still like doing first drafts longhand.
As for the embryo concept, I did some research on the process of childbirth, the sensitivity of babies, etc. I thought a lot about what innocence is, what experience is. How it changes you. I thought about how to get my main character Prospect into the deepest trouble possible, reflected on the importance of preserving one's sense of wonder as a way to survive.
I like naming things. Projects start when I come up with a title. Then I start thinking about the book's ending which should be the most exciting part. Where is the book headed? Would Prospect choose to be born? I knew the ending would take place at a press conference. But I have written several very different endings to this novel. I remember agents and editors saying that they wanted a more dystopian tale. Some of that came into play -- the dark and the light. At the end of the day, I'm an optimist in hopeless times.
Here is the jacket copy for Prospect, which you can buy here:
A human embryo is allowed to preview the world before deciding whether or not to be born. To help him make up his mind, he will be able to interact with the best and worst the human race has to offer. From a retired greeting card writer to a conservative in an increasingly liberal world. Standing in the way of progress are Trevor Grueling who wants to derail this bio-experiment...and Trish Mesmer, the spearheading scientist who has more hidden agendas than a centipede has legs. This quirky cautionary tale is served up with equal helpings of whimsy and dread, with just a dash of hope.