Writer in Residence · 11/19/2013

ReVisit: Daniel José Older

Below is a GChat conversation/interview conducted with Daniel José Older. I RePrinted his story “Victory Music”, and you can read that here.


Ashley Ford
Okay, Daniel
First of all, thanks for doing this for me

Daniel José Older
it is truly my pleasure

Ashley Ford
So, I’m RePrinting your story “Victory Music” which originally appeared in PANK
I loved it immediately

Daniel José Older
thank you

Ashley Ford
You’re welcome
I was wondering, what’s the last story you loved immediately?

Daniel José Older
It’s called Nine. Kima Jones wrote it and we’re publishing it in Long Hidden. I can’t say it’s my favorite story in there because, like parents say to their kids, I really love each of differently. But Nine I loved in a way I couldn’t immediately describe and that’s one thing I really look for in a story
that indescribable love
because we can deconstruct shit only so far, and then something else takes over
and that, much like in other forms of love, is indescribable. Beyond all the mechanics of craft, there’s a deeper magic to great writing
it turns me on.

Ashley Ford
Turned on, huh?

Daniel José Older
lol ju know what i mean
turns me on creatively

Ashley Ford
I know what you mean
Is there a story or a book you ReVisit often?
I know I have books I read every few years
Just enough time to forget specifics

Daniel José Older
I’m not much of a re-reader
there are so many books I want to read and haven’t!
But as a reference, the book Story by Robert McKee is one I will always re-open and browse through to help with sticky plot points
that book is everything
written for screenwriters, but so much applies to prose fiction as well
questions of tension and turning points, expectation gaps and really dissecting the beat by beat of a scene
it’s extremely useful

Ashley Ford
(adds that book to my list)

Daniel José Older
yeah get that shit
it’s the storycraft Bible

Ashley Ford
I’m on it
So you don’t re-read much, but do you have unwritten stories you like to tell over and over?

Daniel José Older
unwritten stories that i like to tell over and over…
in what sense?

Ashley Ford
I know that we don’t typically write the same story over and over, but we often tell the same story to multiple people
I know I have a few stories about my grandmother I love to tell people

Daniel José Older
well, of course all my lingering ridiculous ambulance adventures
people keep telling me to write that book, and I will, but not quite yet.
The raw form of twitter was in a way ideal for them, because it suits the vignette nature of the job
something will be lost as they move to a more formal home, but Imma still do it at some point
and then yes, there are some other moments for my life that will surface in essays and things coming up…

Ashley Ford
Out of all the stories you love by other writers (and I know there are a lot), which one do you think you’ve shared the most?

Daniel José Older
I’d have to say Saeed Jones’ Nina Simone’s Gun
Because it captures the truth of urgency with so much fire. He’s not called The Ferocity for nothing.
the urgency of writing I mean
and I see that so much in work I read, the lack of urgency.

Ashley Ford
He’s one of my favorite writers right now

Daniel José Older
It’s a plague. And another thing that’s very hard to put a finger on.
Poet’s talk about the internal urgency of a piece. And Saeed is a helluva poet too, so maybe that’s why he understands this so well.
But so many short stories and essays I’ve read just sit there.
they’re like, meh.
If they had a soundtrack, it’d be elevator music
And the world is on fucking fire
So it’s like, reading something in another language when the writer doesn’t understand the fire that is raging around us
Saeed’s piece explains that with perfect clarity and a flow that is unfuckwithable.
2nd most shared piece is Kiese’s How To Slowly Kill Yourself
want to talk about ferocious grace and the urgency of context? This right here.
Context, mothafuckas. As I often say in workshops.
It is the truth.

Ashley Ford
Both of those essays are astounding
Truly breathtaking work

Daniel José Older
yeah, they do something, both on the micro level of language and on the larger, earth shattering level of storytelling
something happens
In italics
on the sentence to sentence level and on the global level

Ashley Ford
You turned on again?

Daniel José Older

Ashley Ford

Daniel José Older
the interview lmao
this is why it’s dangerous to do interviews with my friends lmao
got me all comfortable and open nshit

Ashley Ford
(rubs palms together)
That was my plan all along

Daniel José Older
that was quick!
alright Im ready

Ashley Ford
I don’t have all day, Daniel
just answer this question

Daniel José Older
(B-boy fight stance)

Ashley Ford
I need the name of one writer who’s work you revisit. In the sense that you you’re consistently engaged with their writing.

Daniel José Older
like…right now?
you need that now?
is what you’re saying

Ashley Ford
Give it to me

Daniel José Older
Listen, Octavia Butler is the one that gave us all permission to be badass and unrelenting about power, heartbreak and life and death in the speculative realms.
She broke the rules so now we can break em even more
She was courageous and unstoppable
She made you uncomfortable even while she sang you sweet lullabies
She took the universe by the ear and made it bend down so we could hear it better and it could hear us better
She had so much to say!
and she said it
There’s no other writer I know that deal so thoroughly with power
interpersonal, institutional, historical, cultural power
she gets deep with it
makes you squirm and makes you smile
And she still tells a great story, all the while
this matters
that truth matters
you can talk about power, you can tell a great story.
These two things co-exist.
can co-exist that is
In fact, perhaps you have to do one to do the other.
They are co-dependents in a way, because power is so all pervasive
and any storycraft nerd will tell you conflict is the heart, the back bone, the breath of a story, yes?
and what’s conflict wihtout power? it aint shit.

Ashley Ford

Daniel José Older
Octavia knew that better than any one else out there, and she proved it to us again and again

Ashley Ford
I love the way you talk about words you love
And writers you love

Daniel José Older
i get excited
get all gooey

Ashley Ford
It’s infectious

Daniel José Older
They show us the way

Ashley Ford
Thank you so much, Daniel

Daniel José Older
it was truly my pleasure Ashley


Daniel José Older is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor and composer. Salsa Nocturna, Daniel’s debut ghost noir collection, was hailed as “striking and original” by Publishers Weekly. He has facilitated workshops on storytelling, music and anti-oppression organizing at public schools, religious houses, universities, and prisons. His short stories and essays have appeared in The New Haven Review, TOR.com, PANK, Strange Horizons, and Crossed Genres among other publications. He’s co-editing the anthology, Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction From The Margins Of History and his forthcoming urban fantasy novel The Half Resurrection Blues, the first of a trilogy, will be released by Penguin’s Ace imprint. You can find his thoughts on writing, read his ridiculous ambulance adventures and hear his music at ghoststar.net and @djolder.


posted by Ashley Ford