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S. Bradley O'Blenis

Under Io, poem, Issue 16, September 1, 2011

 An avid fan of storytelling in all its forms--from oral tale-telling to all kinds of written works, to movies, to stories told through music, and beyond--S. Bradley O'Blenis has been writing for some time but has only begun submitting in signifigant numbers fairly recently. His works range from horror to fantasy to mystery to science fiction to 'slice-of-life' to adventure and on, and all kinds of hybrids thereof. His poems usually focus on love, spirituality, nature, and on dreaming and hoping, although there are examples that fall into the same kind of territory as his stories. In defiance of convention (and, most likely, of logic and common sense as well) rather than work on one piece at a time he tends to have numerous projects on the go at any one time, ranging from ideas still just germinating to projects at long last having the finishing touches put on their end drafts. Unusual and perhaps illogical, but it sure is fun (and, according to the author, a tremendous rush to be getting work done on several completely different stories in a short span of time). He lives on a large slice of land in rural Canada with his family, which they feel priveleged to share with squirrels, crows, robins, toads, bats, woodchucks, even the occasional deer or duck which wanders in to freely sample the cuisine of the gardens and crops.

Get to know S....

When did you start writing?

I know this is going to sound cliche, but I've been writing in some form or other for as long as I can remember. Before I started school, just making up stories as best I could and putting them down on paper with what words I knew (there was probably also a lot of "Mommy, how do you spell ________?") was no different from playing out whatever stories I had with my toys.

The main thrust of my current writing probably started about six or seven years ago; prior to that I'd been trying to write, and occasionally getting work done that I felt was good, and occasionally even completing a piece. But it was about six or seven years ago that I was able to put away all the notions about how I was 'supposed' to write, and venturing out on a new path where I wrote in my own way. Previously, if I came to a spot in a story where I couldn't get one sentence exactly right, I'd obsess on it and not go any further until I got it precisely how I wanted it. In my new way I'd do it--the sentence--the story section, whatever--as best I could and feel a lot more confident that I would simply return and polish that sentence or paragraph up later. That worked well, although there were times I just couldn't get it even remotely right, and I'd feel more confident about putting the whole work aside, doing other projects, and returning to the work when the time was right. 

That leads into another change in my work. I used to try to limit myself to having two or three works on the go at one time; now I let myself go with however many want to come. Not only do I get more work done in any given period of time, any given work tends to progress faster this way. It's as if one that's suffering from writer's block, actually has all its gears rumble a bit when I'm working on other things, and that blocked project shakes off the block quicker this way than if I spent that time fretting, worrying, and forcing myself to work 'x' hours a day on it (during which what I got done on paper wouldn't necessarily be that great).

So now the way I work is to have numerous projects on the go at any one time. Some of them may never go anywhere, because some insist on moving at a slow pace and also insist on expanding themselves indefinately (one question I grapple with in a semi-serious way, and which turns up in some of my stories--and in other authors's stories, I've noticed) is this: how much of this (story, poem, endless saga, etc.) am I actually writing, and how much is writing itself? That's something that would sound crazy saying to most people, but I suspect that a lot of writers, editors, and people in any creative field would have a definate sense of that strange feeling I'm referring to.

Anyway, two ways of knowing if a piece is worth continuing to plug away at: 1) if you KNEW this would never get published, never make any money, would you write it anyway?  (Of course, one may also wish to endeavor to write other stories that they hoped WOULD get published, too.)  2)- if you're writing it and you're thinking "If even a handful of people love this a third as much as I do, I'll be one happy author," then that's a very good feeling.
Okay, I'm going on WAY too long here (this is why some of my projects take a long time to reach completion--I start out on something I'm hoping will be a good short story of about ten pages, and then about fifty pages later I realize it's still only begun...) so I'll try and answer the other questions more quickly.

When and what and where did you first get published?

My first publication was a poem called "Apart," done a long time ago back in the 90s, when I was still quite young and new to the idea of publishing It's one of the very rare pieces I completed in those days (although others that were begun at that time were revived and have in some cases been completed, in that spell starting six or seven years ago) and it was even rarer in that I saw a place looking for submissions --quite by accident--and I took a chance on sending it in. It got into an anthology called Ballads Of Our Lives, no pay, but still, great to get something out there. It would be a little while before I submitted again, though. When that surge of writing came, I made a decisdion (I'm still not sure if it was conscious or not) to just write for a while and try and get a few things built up before launching into the submissions process full-tilt.

What themes do you like to write about?

As for what themes I like to write about--I like writing almost everything, really. Horror, fantasy, mystery, science fiction, adventure, 'slice-of-life', all kinds of stuff I don't even know how to classify. I've got things written that I wouldn't have a clue where to submit, because I can't even identify if it's a story, a poem, or some weird stream-of-consciousness thing. They're not all like that of course, but in general I like to mix in a lot of different elements. Most writers probably to some extent write the stories they're dying to read, and I'm certainly no exception. My poems are often based on emotions and yearnings and the whole secret-hopes-and-fears kind of axis. "Under Io" is different from that; it was written in a batch of poems dealing with living things and nature and all that, and this one happended to be a nature-based poem touching on the nature of a whole different world. Other poems written in that batch included "Dandelion," "Crows," "The Winter Poem," "Child"--so you sort of get an idea of the track I was on. I would, however, like to go back and tackle the whole subject of Io's hypothetical life in a big science fiction novel.

What books and/or stories have most resonated with you as an author? Why?

Hoo boy. I've already been far too long-winded, so I'll restrict myself to a handful of novels that people may actually be familiar with. If I open up on all the strange things I've read that nobody knows, and then expand to include short stories, poems, movies, comics, songs and music--all of which have been influential--we'll be here all week. Shadowland by Peter Straub, The Host by Stephanie Meyer, Deepdrive by Alexander Jablokov, Julia by Straub, Balook by Piers Anthony, the first two Duncton books by William Horwwod (only two I've read so far, probably get to #3 soon), The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova--these are all among the ones that I've immensely enjoyed reading and that stay with me in full force ever afterwards. And another I have to mention, even though it seems to languish in near-total (and very undeserved) obscurity is The Gnole, by Alan Aldridge, Steve Boyett, and Maxine Miller. And there are so many others, I could go on and on.

Probably the biggest influence from these and other works is that their diversity shows that there are really no limits. There's no one way you have to write, there's no style that you can't try and tackle. You can mix in anything, you can go and do things that are just way out there, or you can take a theme that's been done before, but prove that that same ground that others have mined for their tales still has much treasure waiting to be offered up. 

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