Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.
One of the first names that came to mind when I was concocting this interview series was Charles de Lint, probably because (in addition to being one of my favorite writers of all time) back when I was a teen myself, his books sort of saved me. I was still in high school but not living at home when I stumbled across Moonheart, then his stories in the Bordertown anthologies, Greenmantle and Yarrow, and the two books that became Jack of Kinrowan, and those stories opened new worlds to me, new ways of thinking, in the way really extraordinary books are wont to do. Few authors have been as formative for me, both as a reader (my devotion to mythic fiction and urban fantasy post-Moonheart has never wavered) and as a human being, as Charles de Lint. The ideas I found on the streets of Newford resonated profoundly and I don’t think it’s overstating the case to say that they not only guided me through some rough times, but introduced me to concepts that still influence me today.
Which is all to say that conducting this interview was a real privilege. True to form, Charles’ answers are thoughtful and thought-provoking, so I hope you’ll load up one of the demo songs on his website if you don’t have his Old Blue Truck album already, and settle in for a grand read. Thank you, Charles, for taking the time to talk with me, and for your honest, insightful, and generous answers.
Always Something There to Remind Me
Please describe your teenage self.
I was a misfit, but I think most teenagers feel that way. I don’t care if you were a popular jock or the kid who spent his lunch hours in a stairwell reading a book, we all seem to have dealt with insecurities of one kind or another throughout our high school years.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?
The first thing I can remember wanting to be (after the usual cowboy, fireman, etc., when I was quite small) was the person who collected animals for zoos. This came from reading Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals and the books that followed that autobiography. The desire lasted only until I realized that animals were being pulled out of their natural habitats and stuck in cages to be peered at and prodded by people. Now, granted, Durrell went on to do excellent work in the preservation of endangered animals with his own zoo, but for me, the shine was pretty well off by that point.
In my early teens I knew what I wanted to be was a musician, and from the time I was fifteen I went on to teach myself how to play numerous instruments, then began playing with other people, eventually getting gigs and the like.
At the same time I was writing constantly–mostly poetry ranging from the sort of bastard Middle English that William Morris wrote, through free-verse beat poetry, to songs, rhyming verse and haiku.
Back then I never even considered writing a career option. I just liked the play of words. I was certainly interested in story, but the stories I was telling then were in narrative verse and prose poems, short and succinct, except for one novel-length poem written in narrative couplets.