Dylan Callens lands cleanly. That would be the headline of a newspaper built with an anagram generator. And although Dylan is a Welsh name meaning god or hero of the sea, he is not particularly fond of large bodies of water. His last name, Callens, might be Gaelic. If it is, his last name means rock. Rocks sink in the sea. Interestingly, he is neither Welsh nor Gaelic, but rather, French and German. The inherent contradictions and internal conflict in his life are obvious.
Talking with Dylan Callens
Sci-Fi & Scary: Well, we’re here to talk about Interpretation primarily, so let’s get right to it. What’s the target audience for Interpretation?
Dylan Callens: I wrote this for adults that love the classic dystopian novels. There is a very minimal amount of profanity and only some violence, so it’s also decent as a YA read. However, I feel safe in saying that if you love anything like Nineteen Eighty-Four, then you’re going to love this one too.
Sci-Fi & Scary: How did you come up with the premise for Interpretation?
Dylan Callens: I was on a bus supervising a bunch of high school students on a long trip. I’m a teacher, so this isn’t a creepy story, I promise. A group of them started to discuss their favorite scenes from science fiction movies. I was listening in for a little while, then my mind started to trail off, and I was thinking about scenes in science fiction movies that I would like to see. Something inspired by Brave New World came to my mind. I began writing it out. A story started to come out of that scene and I ended up outlining the entire novel within a couple of days. That original piece started off as the first chapter but by the time I had the story worked out, it didn’t fit quite right. I reworked it for a scene later in the novel. If you want to see that original piece of writing, it can be found here: http://www.cosmicteapot.net/dylan-callens/interpretation-the-first-intro
Sci-Fi & Scary: What kind of research, if any, did you do for the book?
Dylan Callens: There was a ton of research that I had to do. Without giving too much away, the book is based around a body of psychological experiments that the governing body has chosen to push forward. These are all based on real, historical experiments. It took several weeks to go through all the material that I wanted to incorporate into the book. The most fascinating stuff was from Dr. Jose Delgado, a man who worked on mind control devices.
Sci-Fi & Scary: What was the hardest part of writing Interpretation?
Dylan Callens: There is a timeline of historical events that happen prior to the events in the book. Those dates were impossible for me to keep track of, it seemed. I must have gone through it twenty times, trying to make sure it made sense and lined up with the events in the book. I think that I finally managed to get everything right. But we’ll see. I’m sure someone will find an inconsistency.
Sci-Fi & Scary: Who did the cover art for the book?
I did the cover art. I have some background in this type of design. Usually, someone else will work on parts of my covers, like create an illustration since I can’t draw, but I had good idea of what I wanted this time and I knew that I could accomplish the look I wanted. I started the design about six months before the release and was still making small tweaks up until the week before I submitted it. The funny thing is, the first copy that I received was a single proof of the hard cover version and it was misprinted – the entire thing was crooked. I had to go and double check to make sure it wasn’t my fault! I’m relieved to say that it was, in fact, a misprint.
Sci-Fi & Scary: Did the story of Interpretation change any from when you first started it? (I’ve heard authors say that stories take on a life of their own sometimes.)
Dylan Callens: From the initial concept there were a number of changes made to tighten up the story but nothing too major. I think once the story presented itself to me, I was hooked.
Sci-Fi & Scary: Now for some more general stuff. What got you interested in becoming a writer?
Dylan Callens: When I was in grade four, I wrote these little illustrated books. I brought them to my teacher and she really liked them, so she pinned them to a wall in the class, so that other kids could take them down to read. I remember this girl that I liked enjoyed some of those stories and I think that’s really when I started to like the idea of writing.
Sci-Fi & Scary: What’s your support system like?
Dylan Callens: I get support from family members and friends. It’s more of a passive, ‘oh that’s really nice,’ kind of thing. I suppose that’s not so bad. I think the most support I get is from other authors. Since I have started publishing, I find that the community of authors is incredibly supportive of each other. It’s almost like we all share in someone’s success.
Sci-Fi & Scary: Tell us a bit about Cosmic Teapot Publishing.
Dylan Callens: That’s kind of a funny thing. Cosmic Teapot Publishing wasn’t really my idea. Last year, near the end of August, I wanted to put together an anthology of humorous short stories, so I queried a number of authors and we managed to get this book together. I published it because it just seemed like the easiest route to go. After that, one of the authors, Mehreen Ahmed, told me that I should start publishing. She wanted me to republish her novel, Moirae, and her collection of travel stories, Snapshots.
Truthfully, I was quite reluctant to take on the project. I just wanted to focus on my own work. After some more prodding by her and thinking it over by me, I decided that there were a number of opportunities there, so that’s how Cosmic Teapot Publishing came into existence. It’s been quite the ride over the past year, to say the least.
Sci-Fi & Scary: Who are your biggest literary influences?
Dylan Callens: Oh my, there are so many that have influenced me in so many ways. I mean intellectually, philosophers from Plato to Nietzsche have had a huge impact on how I think and the topics that I choose to write about. Stylistically, I’m sure that I have borrowed too much from George Orwell, Douglas Adams, and maybe even a little Irvine Welsh along the way. But I strive to write a little more like David Foster Wallace and Salman Rushdie. I doubt that I’ll ever be as good as them, but why not strive for the best, right?
Sci-Fi & Scary: What’s your favorite science fiction book and movie?
Dylan Callens: My favorite science fiction book – my favorite book of all time – is Nineteen Eighty-Four. I love those classic dystopian novels and that one above all others.
However, the movie version of Nineteen Eighty-Four doesn’t quite cut it. I have to go with Empire Strikes Back with The Matrix being a close second.
Sci-Fi & Scary: You’ve got a few published works under your belt. Do you think you’ve found your writing style or is it still in development?
Dylan Callens: I hope that it’s still in development. I know that I can be better than I am now. Moreover, I don’t think that I want to be tied down to one genre. My most recent work is dystopian and I might have one more dystopian story to tell. But I do have a wide variety of interests and a number of stories that I want to get out there. Most importantly, I want to improve in every way possible.
Carl Winston awakens to find his son, Liam, screaming with fear. Trying to understand why, Carl tries to soothe him. Neighbors gather in front of Carl’s apartment to help – until they see him. The crowd cowers back, afraid of this monster.
Carl runs. His life of luxury is ripped away. Forced beyond the city limits, Carl sees a land bereft of life. Traveling in search of answers, his quest comes to a sudden halt when he collapses. As darkness shrouds him, a figure hovers from above.
Traveling along the same route, Eva Thomspon finds Carl and nurtures him back to life. Together, they continue the journey, finding out that their lives have too much in common to be a coincidence. As their affection for each other deepens, an unknown nemesis attempts to remove their only source of happiness – their love for each other.
Interpretation is a dystopian fiction that explores hope and happiness in the bleakest of conditions and what happens when it’s torn away.
Carl closed his eyes and tried to laugh at himself. Barely a squeak left his mouth. What was he thinking, trying to enter this godforsaken wasteland by himself with no supplies? Still on his back, he dreamed about opening a bottle of Ocean Surge. Wet bubbles danced against his tongue, bathing his taste buds with refreshing fruit-infusion – small bursts of happiness made his lips sing an ode to joy.
But forget that fantasy; sulfur-ridden tap water would be just as good. Carl knew the taste would not equate, but its effect would invigorate. Carl smiled, his eyes wide open, staring into the dimming sky, into the nothingness that surrounded him. Gulp after glorious gulp of imaginary liquid until he couldn’t keep up, showering his face with it until a puddle formed around him. That puddle turned into an ocean and Carl sank to the bottom, his faint breath weakening further. The light grew dimmer. He tried to reach up, to reach out of the depths of his hallucination, but his arms felt too heavy, as if the pressure at this depth couldn’t be overcome.
A shadow hovered over him. Carl tried to speak to it, but words didn’t make sense. The shadow spoke back with a meaningless, muffled slur. Water entered Carl’s mouth, nearly choking him. Nonetheless, the delicious wet felt so good, like ocean refreshment in every bottle. That was the slogan, right? Carl laughed or cried, he couldn’t tell. For all he knew, he was dead. The shadow grew, saying something that he couldn’t work his mind around. Darker. Darker. Clock, what the hell was that clock song? Darker. The shadow drew nearer. Or maybe it was the darkness. It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born, And was always his treasure and pride… Ah yes, there it is. But it stopped short – never to go again – When the old man died. That’s the one. Darkness.