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Dreampunk Profile: Stephen Coghlan
From an online interview on July 18 through 19, 2018
First off, tell us a little about yourself. How do you see yourself as a writer?
I see myself as an ever-expanding author. I’m still branching out, trying multiple genres, lengths and styles. I’ve been writing for over 15 years, but have only been published since 2017.
So I’ve gone from a longtime private amateur to finally becoming published and professional. It’s not my full-time job, yet, but it is one heck of a catharsis.
How did you go about finally getting published? That’s a trick I’d like to learn myself.
The long and painful way.
I wrote a book, then turned it into a series of four. Then I wrote three more novels. Each book, each story, was flawed and overwritten, using long, complex sentences and horrible grammar. Over the next years I wrote occasional shorts, always submitting, landing bites but no takers.
It took my harshest critic, my wife, to tell me, “The beginning of your first book is confusing.” It’s the only time she ever read one of my works. It was the truth I needed.
Frustrated with myself, I finally trimmed the fat off the novel. After a dozen or more years since writing Genmos Book 1, I was ready to accept it had to change. In editing, I took it from 110k to 60k.
Targeting similar genre books, I found an indy publisher who was open to submissions. Thurston Howl Publications agreed to sign it, if I worked with their team. Two weeks later, newly edited, it signed.
You mentioned trying out multiple genres. Which ones? What have you done so far in the realm of dreampunk?
In dreampunk? Just a modern-day urban fantasy. A novella and one or two horror-based shorts.
The novella was challenging for me because it didn’t feel fantastic enough, often times requiring rewrites and lengthy studies of inspiring materials.
What does the term “dreampunk” mean to you? Where does it fit in the space of sci-fi, fantasy, etc.?
Dreampunk can appear in any time period or genre, often without being noticed. You can have anyone, anywhere, doing anything as long as it’s within, or powered by, dreams. Even someone trapped within their mind, or using it to escape, is my favorite style of dreampunk.
Pan’s Labyrinth comes to mind for me. It’s especially cool when it’s possible the fantasy was somehow real. Can you think of any other examples (books, movies, TV, etc.) that capture the feeling you want your own work to have?
So lots of Neil Gaiman then. 😊 Same here. How do dreams factor into your work? Have you ever pulled anything specific from a dream to include in your writing?
I have a completed erotic horror novel manuscript that was inspired by a backed-up catheter and fever dreams caused by combining cold medicine and beer.
My subconscious is incredibly vivid, and I often record ideas that are tantalizing. Nightmares have fueled more than one WIP.
That sounds… well, horrifying, actually. What do you like to read? Did any particular author lead you to dreampunk?
I cut my storytelling teeth crafting bedtime stories as a babysitter and forming campaigns for various role-playing games. Changeling had a massive influence on me, even though I never ran a campaign for it.
Truth is, I was scared I wouldn’t properly catch the wonder required. Even now, I fret that my works don’t fully embrace the magic of the subconscious mind. Still, I cannot ignore the influence of White Wolf, Palladium, and FASA on my creativity.
Also… this might be of interest. Here’s an article on ’punk genres where B. K. Bass of Kyanite Press and I discussed “punk”. We didn’t cover all the genres, but the point of the article is awareness.
Great article! Thanks for that. How do you hope to shape the genre with your work? What is it that you’d like to add?
I don’t know if I’m going to add something per se. I just enjoy the realm itself and how it’s so pervasive. All we have to do is open our eyes and minds to see it.
How can we support your writing? What should we buy, and where can we find it?
I’ve got a myriad of upcoming works coming through various indy presses. There’s also some free shorts, flashes, links to podcasts that have featured my work, a marketplace, my blog, and even an audio story about beer can turkey turned satellite I’ve recorded.
Urban Gothic (2019) by Stephen Coghlan
A deep dive into the unconscious dreamworld of Alec LeGuerrier, an archetypal warrior battling his inner demons for the fate of his soul. In the mundane world, he’s a veteran struggling with PTSD, chemically subdued and cut off from his own dreams. But in that other place, he can be so much more.