David Blissett has won multiple awards for short fiction, including the Rolf Boldrewood Literary Awards 2012, the Bundaberg Writers Short Story Award 2010, Hawkesbury River Writers Short Story Competition 2010 and the FAWNS Super Short Story Competition 2011. His work was featured in the Award Winning Australian Writing Anthology in 2011, 2012 and 2013. He has written numerous fiction titles under the pen name, DB Allen. He has also written multiple non-fiction titles, with a focus on nature and conservation.
You can read more about David’s writing at www.coachwoodcritique.blogspot.com
You describe yourself as a professional writer, what does this mean to you?
It means I’m able to earn a full-time living as a writer. I write fiction and non-fiction, but also provide copy for business clients, focusing on small business and the not-for-profit sector.
Snake Catcher, your first non-fiction title, was released last year. What is it that you find so captivating about snakes and why should we be concerned with their survival?
Snakes are the most misunderstood of creatures. They’re as beautiful as any mammal or bird and just as vital to healthy ecosystems. They have no desire to harm, or even meet, human beings. We are not on the menu. Yes, they can bite and some are dangerously venomous, but in most cases of snakebite, you find it’s a human who has been the aggressor, not the snake. My wife and I live in the bush. We share our yard – even our house – with snakes and have done so for over 20 years. We take sensible precautions, and coexist. In return, the snakes eliminate the rats and mice living in and around the house.
You had a co-author – Tony Harrison – what was the experience of co-authoring like for you?
I was really honoured when Tony agreed to do the book with me. He’s been someone I’ve admired for many years. However, the experience wasn’t totally new. In business writing you constantly “co-author”; you may write with managers, subject-matter experts, and frontline staff.
My latest non-fiction book, Our Primate Family (Melbourne Books), due for release in June, was also co-authored. I wrote it with zookeeper and primate specialist, Louise Grossfeldt. Lou was the subject-matter expert, but co-authoring with her also opened doors. We were able to have the legendary primatologist, Dr. Jane Goodall, write our Foreword. I can’t explain what an honour it is to share pages with someone of Jane Goodall’s status.
You’ve just announced your involvement in a coffee-table style book, Reflections of Elephants, to be released by Melbourne Books in 2016. What is your role in this production?
I am working with an amazing photographer named Bobby-Jo Clow on this project. As well as writing some content, I am co-coordinating an international group of writers, who have generously donated their work. And what a group! We have award-winning poets like Mark Tredinnick and Christopher Reid, celebrated authors like Bradley Trevor Greive, Ashley Hay and Tony Park, international journalist Nirmal Ghosh, as well as conservationists, scientists and everyday folk who love elephants and want to do something to help. Combining this eclectic mix of words with Bobby-Jo’s stunning photographs, will result in a really special book. And all profits from sales will be donated to elephant-related conservation.
You’ve written across multiple genres including non-fiction, fiction and the short-story genre, what do you find the most challenging and rewarding about each?
To me, fiction – both novel-length and short stories – means freedom. I love the richness of fictional characters and I love placing these characters into landscapes, which, in many ways, become characters too. The fiction challenge is to keep a story going, to keep it interesting, and that’s down to you as the writer.
In non-fiction, it’s a matter of finding stories and being faithful to what you learn. But these stories can be as wonderful and challenging as any in fiction. During the writing of Our Primate Family I discovered things I still can’t quite believe. I learnt that concepts like culture, altruism, even politics and warfare, are much older than humanity. Readers are going to be amazed.
As well as writing, I’ve always enjoyed drawing. I’ve recently been fortunate to have some of my drawings published with my words. Heart Land (Silky Oak Press, and written under my pen name DB Allen) is a series of interlinking fiction stories set in mid-west USA. On the title page of each story, the publishers have included one of my sketches. The book will shortly be available as a print-on-demand paperback through Amazon.
What are you reading at the moment?
Ashley Hay’s, Gum and Mark Tredinnick’s latest collection of poems (translated into Chinese by Isabelle Li), Almost Everything I Know.
Author? Tim Winton
Time of day? Morning
Location? Anywhere there is a rainforest.
Our Primate Family – Extract.
It’s a dusty, tedious afternoon. I’m wandering the house, finding loose ends everywhere. I open the door of an old bookcase and find my copy of Jane Goodall’s In the Shadow of Man. I turn to the title page. There’s a line drawing of two Chimpanzees fishing for termites with long grass stems. It’s a pictorial celebration of one of Jane’s most significant discoveries — that chimps make and use simple tools. Above the drawing, in clear blue ink, is the inscription: For David. Follow your heart. It is signed by Jane Goodall herself.
I followed my heart when I decided to write this book…