The Penmen Profile: New Author D.W. Craigie

by Pamme Boutselis

Derrick CraigieBooks—and stories—have always played an integral role in D.W. Craigie’s life. It wasn’t until high school that he tried his own hand at writing stories, and he went on to earn his undergraduate degree in English. His confidence in his own ability to write wavered upon graduation, and Craigie went two years without putting another word on the page. With the encouragement of his father and his wife, and the simple gift of a journal, Craigie began to write again. He hasn’t stopped since. Earning his M.F.A. in Fiction Writing from Southern New Hampshire University solidified his skills and his ambition to write a book. The result is “Broken Justice: Through Darkness Tall, Volume I.”

Craigie is the assistant dean of Creative Writing and Literature at Southern New Hampshire University’s College of Online and Continuing Education.

Have you always written?
I wrote my first story as a freshman in high school. It was 33 pages and a total rip-off of the television show, “Babylon 5.” But I loved writing every page and haven’t looked back since.

What’s your process in developing your storyline and characters?
When I first decided to create my own fantasy world, I spent a year writing outlines, character sketches, and cultural histories. My goal was to create a world that was detailed, but realistic, and characters that possessed all of the flaws and intricacies of real people.

What challenges do you face in your writing, and how do you overcome them?
One of my greatest challenges is turning off my inner-critic. If I don’t, it can actually stop my writing dead cold. I have to take a breath, do my best to shut that part of my mind off, and simply let the words flow onto the page. However, when revising, the critic is back on.

What has the road to publication been like for you?
It’s certainly been an adventure. Initially, I connected with a Boston-based literary agency through my M.F.A. program (here at SNHU). I spent a year working with a great agent, but then she changed career fields at the end of 2010 and there were no other individuals at the agency that worked in my genre. I spent 2011 looking for a new agent, had a couple of tugs on the line, but no bites. It was during the holiday season of 2011 when I saw that Snooki had published a book. Snooki. It was that moment when I decided to take the reins and self-publish.

How do you market your work?
At this point, I’m using a combination of social media (Facebook, Twitter, my website), grassroots efforts and word-of-mouth. I attend local author fairs and conventions, and I’m working to get my novel on the shelves of New Hampshire bookstores.

Who are the writers that have inspired you most, and how have they inspired you?
I love Steinbeck’s use of vivid, unpretentious prose. I find myself drawn into his stories and emotionally invested in his characters. Within my own genre, I’m in awe of Tolkien’s dedication to building a living, breathing, and complex world. When creating the world of K’aeran, I held his work up as the gold standard. George R.R. Martin demonstrated that the fantasy genre could be a complex, adult medium capable of conveying complex themes and moral ambiguity. I would say he’s been the most direct influence on my current work.

If you could keep just three books in your library, which would you choose and why?
“Cannery Row,” “The Lord of the Rings,” and “The Little Engine That Could”

I would keep “Cannery Row” on my shelf because it exemplifies Steinbeck’s blending of direct, yet colorful, prose with quirky yet relatable characters. He brings the worn-down, rusty world of “Cannery Row” to life with care, a love of the quirky details, and more than a bit of sad humor. It’s one of my favorites from a classic American writer.

“The Lord of the Ring” would be on the shelf to remind me of the level of quality I should aspire to. While Tolkien’s prose isn’t always the most fluid, one can’t deny the amazing depth of his world and its history. The journey of the Fellowship, and the struggle of good and against evil, is a timeless tale that I look forward to sharing with my children when they are old enough.

The third choice, “The Little Engine that Could,” might seem an odd choice, but there is a reason. It’s a book I loved as a child, and it’s a love my oldest son shares. It reminds me of unbound imagination and innocence. It reminds me of the importance of being kind. It reminds me to never give up.