An Interview with Author David Viau

David Viau grew up near Seattle, Washington, where he first began writing stories and making films on his father’s 8mm camera at the tender age of nine. After graduating from the University of Washington, he spent a twenty-year career specializing in commercial production. Passionate about stories that move people emotionally, David has written and directed numerous music videos and short films, one of which garnered him an Emmy. SHADOWS OVER STARLING is his first book inspired by the repercussions of a massive airport expansion on his childhood community. David currently lives near Seattle with his wife and two children.

Describe yourself in five words

Observant, Thoughtful, Curious, Humorous, Sympathetic

What fact about yourself would really surprise people? 

I was so bad at the trumpet in elementary school that the teacher had to create a unique position for me as a baritone player (a brass instrument more petite than a tuba), even though that particular instrument had never been used in the band. I ended up playing baritone well into high school.

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How do you work through self-doubts and fear?

I inject my self-doubts and fears into my characters to give them shape. Each character’s process of overcoming their unique obstacles informs my own personal journey.

What scares you the most?

A world without love.

What makes you happiest?

I’m happiest when I create—writing, filmmaking, playing music—anything that produces a creative product.

Why do you write?

I write to make sense of what I can’t understand. My character’s struggles are usually my struggles, thinly veiled. In doing this, I hope to make a personal connection with my readers by crafting relatable narratives.

Have you always enjoyed writing?

It’s a love/hate relationship. When it’s going well, it’s fantastic. It can be tedious on the days I have to pull each word out of my brain.  

What motivates you to write?

As I said earlier, it’s the need to make things. I have to see the fruit of my labors daily to believe I’m making some kind of difference in the world.

What writing are you most proud of?

Well, I’m proud of my debut novel, SHADOWS OVER STARLING. Other than that, I’ve just finished the first draft of my second novel, which I feel is sharper prose.

What are you most proud of in your personal life?

My children. I have a teenage son and daughter who are growing into good human beings (in my opinion). I think my investments in people and relationships will last longer than words on a page.

What books did you love growing up?

DUNE by Frank Herbert, every Louis L’Amour book that I could find, WUTHERING HEIGHTS, several Robert Ludlum novels, but SHOGUN by James Clavell tops the list.

What do you hope your obituary will say about you?

David Viau loved greatly. He was a student of life, a pupil of creation, a child of God.

Location and life experiences can really influence writing. Tell us where you grew up and where you now live?
Well, funny enough, SHADOWS OVER STARLING was inspired by an area close to my home.It all started some thirty years ago when I found myself walking through a neighborhood whose occupants had been displaced by an airport runway project. The houses, dilapidated and overtaken by weeds, had once been the dwelling place of people now long forgotten. I wondered who they were. In thinking about these individuals and families, I heard their voices and saw their children playing in the street at festive 4th of July gatherings. These images triggered a story, a fictional account, the history of the Baker family that is the foundation for my novel’s plot.

How did you develop your writing?

I feel like I’m still in my infancy as a writer. I read a lot, write a lot, absorb interviews from other writers, and take classes. So, I can’t claim I’ve fully developed. I’d put myself in the category of “aspiring” when it comes to craft.

What is hardest – getting published, writing or marketing?

I think that writing is the most challenging. To shape a narrative uniquely, give it depth and breadth, and write good dialogue—the bar for literature in our time is so high that it’s tough to stand out. However, I believe that publishing will follow if the writing is exceptional and the story is captivating. Unfortunately, marketing has a lot to do with timing and what is happening in society at any given time.

What marketing works for you?

I’m kind of old-school, so television commercials still hook me from time to time. I’m also a sucker for high production quality. So, if a commercial looks like a film, I will usually watch it.

Do you find it hard to share your work?

I won’t share my work until I feel it’s ready to be published. When it’s at the point where I don’t see any mistakes, then it’s ready to be shown to “beta readers.” But at that point, I’ve read the words so many times I need a second opinion.

Is your family supportive? Do your friends support you?

My family is generally supportive. They are supportive as long as my writing doesn’t interfere with my familial responsibilities—smile.

What else do you do, other than writing?

Sadly, writing is not my full-time occupation. My day job is as a Creative Director working on branded video content. Yes, marketing (ironically).

What other jobs have you had in your life?

Paper Boy, Lifeguard, Shuttle Driver at an airport, Illustrator, Designer, Video Editor, 3D / VFX Artist, Director of Live Action (to name a few). 

If you could study any subject at university, what would you pick?

I would go for a Master’s in Creative Writing most likely. I’ve been told this degree is worthless, which would make it all the more fun. Not having to stress about converting schooling directly into a return on the investment would be pure bliss.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I have a picture of my alter-ego as a tanned, muscular Adonis-like figure, living in a place where the water is crystal-clear and the sand is white. 

How do you write – laptop, pen, paper, in bed, at a desk?

Sometimes on a pad of paper, mainly at a desk on a laptop in a basement laundry room.

How much sleep do you need to be your best?

8 hours +. I am a firm believer in sleep being the key to a stable mind and body.

Is there anyone you’d like to acknowledge and thank for their support?

I dedicated the book to my family. That includes my nuclear family, wife, son, and daughter for their support, as well as my extended family. It’s my mother who encouraged me to write. She was an English Lit major and is currently still a voracious reader. She is also a great editor I’ve partnered with on several projects. Her tastes are incredibly high. My goal is to write something at her reading level eventually.

Every writer has their own idea of what a successful career in writing is; what does success in writing look like to you?

At the moment, I’m a self-published independent author. Many authors in that category have notable career stories that would be wonderful to emulate. Like everyone else in the world, I’m not immune to big dreams. However, the truth is that I’ve been making art all of my life and have never made money at it. With all of the content available to people these days, it’s very hard to shine. It’s the lucky few who make a living as an author of fiction. So, I write for myself as much as I do for potential readers. I enjoy the process of creation. Ultimately, I would love to write a book that people just can’t put down. That would be my idea of success.  

It is vital to get exposure and target the right readers for your writing; tell us about your marketing campaign?

I’ve already promoted my book to the small group of social followers I’ve acquired throughout my career, and that’s given me some sales. I have also made a book trailer which has been seen and shared. I plan to spend the next year marketing and am still looking into options.

Tell us about your new book? Why did you write it?

SHADOWS OVER STARLING is a complex family saga set in the fiction town of Starling, USA. The bulk of the story takes place in 1984, where we find 17-year-old Chris Baker and his dying mother Kathryn living in a house that’s in the way of the Jones County Airport runway project. With the final eviction notice comes the return of Chris’s older brother Jake from the military. The brothers reluctantly promise their mother to let her die in the house despite the house’s demolition being only two weeks away. The plan that Chris and Jake conceive and execute stirs up a hornets’ nest of unseen forces that inevitably plot to destroy them.

As I said earlier, I imagined that the Baker family lived in the abandoned neighborhood near my childhood home. I asked myself: What if the people who lived in one of the houses decided to fight the runway project? How would they have done it? SHADOWS OVER STARLING (though highly dramatized) is one possible scenario.

If you could have a dinner party and invite anyone dead or alive, who would you ask?

If we’re speaking in literary terms, I’d have to say John le Carré (David Cornwell), who unfortunately passed away in 2020. I believe that he was one of the greatest dramatists of our time. Though he wrote in the Espionage genre, he was Pulitzer Prize level and could capture all aspects of the human condition like no one else. In his interviews, he always struck me as a genuinely kind person.

When you are not writing, how do you like to relax?

I mentioned reading, but I also enjoy exercising, playing music (guitar and bass), and spending time with my loved ones.

What do you hope people will take away from your writing? How will your words make them feel?

I’d like to move my readers emotionally. To have them laugh at the comedic parts, cry at the sad parts, and root for the Baker boys. I hope that people find Starling as real as I do and enjoy spending time there. More than anything, I want the words to disappear so that the act of decoding them becomes effortless. That way, the story will be immersive, the experience cinematic.

Those interested in my process and visual materials might enjoy my Behance case study: https://www.behance.net/gallery/135303331/Shadows-Over-Starling-A-Novel

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