Oct 26, 2011

Dirk Strasser - Author Interview: Setting

Pick one of your favourites among the settings from your published fiction stories or a setting which is an interesting example from your published fiction. What makes this setting one of your favourites or an interesting example from your fiction?

My story “Conquist” which appeared in the anthology Dreaming Again (ed Jack Dann), published by Harper Collins, was the story that sprung into my head when I saw this question. It begins in the Andes during the time of the conquistadors, but moves into a new world beyond the New World. I’ve trekked the Inca trail to Machu Picchu in Peru a number of years ago before it was crowded with too many tourists, so I knew and loved the setting. I’ve always liked places where the historical and the fantastic merge.

What is a setting from a published fiction story by another author you would compare this setting to and why are they similar?

I don’t know of another piece of fiction that I’ve read with the same setting. I’ve read a number of non-fiction accounts by conquistadors that obviously were set in the same region.

How would you describe the way you introduced this setting to readers of your story?

The story is written in the style of the diary of a conquistador, so the setting is explicit in the opening paragraph. I also included a quote at the start of the story from Manco Inca: ““Even if the snows of the Andes turned to gold, still they would not be satisfied.” The frame of the story consists of a series of notes from the English translator, who has found the manuscript in the National Museum of Peru.

How would you describe the integration of characters and setting in this story?

The setting provides the characters with a means of finding the what they desire most: gold. It exposes all their weaknesses, and enables the main character to show both his flaws and virtues.

How would you describe the interaction of story and setting in this story?

Without the setting, there is no story. I won’t work if you transplant elsewhere. The setting provides the challenges that drive the story.

How much research did you do for the setting of this story, and what did that involve?

An enormous amount of research. The Andes trek and time in South America was part of it. I took some Spanish lessons in preparation for it, and I used key Spanish words in the story to give the account a feel of authenticity. I also read a number of accounts by conquistadors to get a deep feeling for the narrative style.

To what extent would you describe the setting of this story typical or atypical of the settings in your fiction stories?

I haven’t set any other stories in South America, but it’s typical in that I use a vast variety of settings. I’ve set stories in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, as well as imaginary places.

How do you usually decide on or develop a setting for your fiction stories?

Often the setting comes first. If not first, then it comes to me fairly early in the process. The setting is usually an active participant in the story. It drives the narrative, challenges the characters, and provides the means for resolution.

To what extent do the settings of novels you read have an impact on why you read them, and why?

I love reading novels with unusual settings. The book with one of the strangest settings I’ve read recently is China MiĆ©ville’s The City & The City. These books inspire me to write something set in a place that is at least as exotic and compelling.

Author website: www.dirkstrasser.com

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