Interview with Vincent Pendergast

Vincent Pendergast
Vincent Pendergast

Vincent’s story Otto’s Elephant appears in The Clockwork Jungle Book (Issue #11).  (Click here to hear Vincent read it! – 3.2 MB, MP3 file.) You can email him at

Q: Did you ever want to write “just like” someone else?  Who?  Or was there any book that made you say “I can do better than this!”?

A: One author I am consistently envious of — and I refuse to be ashamed to admit it — is Stephen King. The man’s got talent. It’s his character work more than anything that draws me in, particularly in his short stuff. But do I want to write just like him? No. For starters, as a friend of mine puts it, “King is a primal force”. You couldn’t capture that if you tried, and to try would be a disservice him and to myself. I have a voice of my own that I want to explore.

Q: Do you have favorite characters?  Any characters, yours or others, are applicable.

A: A character who has stayed with me is Orlando Gardiner, from Tad William’s Otherland novels. He’s sort of the farmboy on a quest through mythical lands, (an old chestnut I’ve always been partial to), only instead of a farmboy he’s a late 21st century net geek, has progeria, and his quest takes him through a mythical virtual reality program.

Q: Have you ever been disillusioned by a character or a book?

A: Yes, haven’t we all?

I’ll make a distinction here between character and author (yeah, I know the author is supposed to be dead, but that doesn’t really seem to be holding up, does it). Characters can disappoint me. Characters can shock me and anger me and make me cover my eyes in embarrassment. I hope they do, that’s good conflict there. But what’s not fun is when the author brings out these feelings in me.

No, I won’t be pointing fingers.

Q: How do you explain what writing is like?  Is it something that you think about?  Do you ever find yourself debating it with strangers?

A: For me, writing is an extension of the act of daydreaming. That’s what I tell people, and it’s true. I’m a daydreamer, always have been. Instead of being a busy, productive little bee I buzz around in circles, wasting my time imagining other worlds, other realities. I’d be doing this whether writing was in the picture or not, but in the last few years I’ve made an attempt to transcribe these daydreams into a more people-that-aren’t-me friendly medium.

Q: If you could choose any five literary people — real or imagined, living or not, friends or otherwise — for a tea party… who would they be?  A night on the town, karaoke, whatever suits.

A: Frodo and Bilbo Baggins to my birthday party — we all share the same birthday, you know. Merry and Pippin can come along too. We’ll all get wasted at the Prancing Pony and I’ll hurt my back trying to climb out on Treebeard’s nose. See, I have it all worked out.

Q: How did writing a theme story work out?   Is it more complicated than not having to adhere to a theme — or less?

A: Writing to a theme was great, for a number of reasons. For starters I was going for it with several writing friends, and the motivation and encouragement you get from that sort of environment is invaluable. The theme itself opened up new avenues to me, ideas I wouldn’t have considered otherwise. And I had to keep under a specific word count. The first draft of Otto’s Elephant came in at 5,000 words, and through some very painful rounds of revision I cut a third of that — definitely for the better!

Q: What was the absolute worst piece of advice someone gave you about writing?

A: I’ve been lucky. I’ve received a lot of good advice, and the bad I’ve forgotten.

Q: Have you ever wanted to let your character[s] run your interview?

A: God no. I wouldn’t trust them as far as I could throw them.

Q: Is there something you do that no one ever asks you about?  This can be anything — something unusual you eat, playing poker as a day job, a hobby, whatever you like.

A: I’m still waiting for someone to ask me about the red stains on my boots.

Q: Particular favorites for books, movies, series, comics, blogs, etc.?

A: The story magazines. Print and online. Big names and small. Pro paying and semi-pro. Read them, buy them, support them, and maybe they’ll still be around in the future to take my stories.

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