Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Interview with David Kowalski and Giveaway - March 20, 2012

Please welcome David Kowalski as part of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Company of the Dead was published on March 13, 2012 by Titan Books.

TQ:  What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

David:  I don’t know if this counts as a quirk but I tend to write from the ground up. It has to be sequential. If I have dialogue I’m going to use later, or notes for later developments, I place them at the end of the word file but never develop them till I get there. At least 25% of my writing time is devoted to editing the previous night’s work. This is starting to sound more pathological than quirky I’m afraid.

TQ:  Who are some of your favorite writers? Who do you feel has influenced your writing?

David:  I love James Joyce and Marcel Proust. I return to Bloom’s Dublin at least every two years. I’m amazed by Julian Barnes’ writing, and Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian is one of my favourite books. I’m a big fan of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. It really is a long list, so I’ll try and restrain myself. In terms of acknowledged influences I would have to say that the ambition of Iain M Banks’ work and the world building of writers like Samuel Delaney and Gene Wolfe have served as inspirations.

TQ:  Are you a plotter or a pantser?

David:  I’m going to say both. Company of the Dead took seven years to write, and it covers a lot of ground. It’s a secret history of the Twentieth Century. It’s what really is supposed to have happened. The details of that world, and playing with cause and effect, required careful planning. Having said that, from time to time the circumstances of certain characters swept me down paths I hadn’t considered, often with better results than I’d imagined.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

David:  I would have to say that the biggest challenge is deciding what not to write, and making the appropriate edits and cuts. Having total control over your creation when writing, as opposed to say, making a film, there is no one to say ‘no’ to you. I’m talking about before you have anything to submit to an editor. When you are dealing with something you love, it can be challenging to deny yourself. I hope that makes sense.

TQ:   Describe The Company of the Dead in 140 characters or less.

David:  Caveat. I’ve just joined Twitter and I’ve yet to utter a squeak, so here goes nothing (and this bit doesn’t count!!!)

A time traveler boards the Titanic
Behaviour ensues that is manic
Changes unfurled
Threaten our world
With destruction of all that’s organic.

TQ:  What inspired you to write The Company of the Dead?

David:  I had been reading about the Titanic, and was kind of in a dark place at the time. I wrote a short story where the ship makes harbour. I had a happy ending but no story to speak of. The ongoing fascination that people have with the sinking, a fascination that spans the century, gave me the idea of using the event as a framework for examining the last hundred years. I liked playing with the concept that the world we live in now is the result of a series of conspiracies, centered round key people and events of the last century; the Kennedys, the Titanic, Roswell. To ashamedly quote Tolkien, the tale grew in the telling.

TQ: What sort of research did you do for The Company of the Dead?

David:  I did a serious amount of research. The more I read, the stranger I found the truth to be. I felt it gave a firmer foundation to the fiction I was trying to craft. Besides, I didn’t want to disappoint any potential readers who were experts in their various fields. So I studied the deck plans of the Titanic from the keel up, and read all the transcripts from the various trials that followed the sinking, as well as first-hand accounts from survivors. I read a lot of history books. I studied maps, and political and military documents, to get a feel for the characters who had backgrounds quite different from my own. I spoke with aeronautical engineers and police officers and Native Americans. No one admitted to being a time traveler.

TQ:  Who was the easiest character to write and why? Hardest and why?

David:  Great questions. I guess Jonathan Wells, the time traveler who boards the Titanic, was easiest. His career mirrors my own to an extent. And the errors of judgment he makes could very easily have been my own. As for the hardest, I will say Patricia Malcolm. She is the only major female character in the book. I felt like I had to tread lightly, exploring her beliefs and desires, her motivations and fears. Company is largely a Boy’s Own Adventure, but I suspect that’s because most women are just way too sensible to get involved in the crap that my guys go through in the course of the book.

TQ:  Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scene(s) in The Company of the Dead?

David:  I wouldn’t know where to start. I’ll say this though. I spoke earlier about the challenge of writing and the decisions of what should be culled from the text. I ended up cutting my favorite part of the book during the final edit so I can talk a little bit about it here. It was smack in the middle of the novel, and to my mind, it was the centre around which the entire narrative revolved. It focused on a single character’s perspective of everything that had led to a very significant moment for him.

The problem was that it was written in the first person and I felt it shocked the reader out of the rest of the narrative. It also clarified a plot point that needed to remain muddy. I don’t mean to sound cryptic here. I occasionally send the chapter out to an enquiring reader, if they ask nicely, and promise to be indulgent. Removing it made the work run smoother and taught me a lot about the process of writing.

TQ:  What's next?

David:  I’ve been working on my second novel for close to three years and it’s almost done. It’s unrelated to Company, in so much as that I wanted to try my hand at something quite different. It’s more fantasy than science fiction. I’ll say one thing about it. The few people I showed it to, (I started writing it while wrapping up Company of the Dead) told me I should abandon Company and finish it instead. I’m really excited about it.

TQ:   Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

David:  Thank you! I started writing in 1998, sitting on the porch of a small bungalow, while working in a country hospital. I could imagine other worlds and timelines, but I never conceived of where the book would take me. I want to say it’s an absolute pleasure that it’s brought me here and given me the opportunity to chat with you.

About The Company of the Dead

The Company of the Dead
Titan Books, March 13, 2012
Trade Paperback, 752 pages

Can one man save the Titanic?

March 1912. A mysterious man appears aboard the Titanic on its doomed voyage. His mission? To save the ship.

The result? A world where the United States never entered World War I, thus launching the secret history of the 20th Century.

April 2012. Joseph Kennedy - grand-nephew of John F. Kennedy - lives in an America occupied in the East by Greater Germany and on the West Coast by Imperial Japan. He is one of six people who can restore history to its rightful order -- even though it would mean his own death.

About David

David Kowalski is an obstetrician and gynecologist living in Sydney, Australia. Although he has written for many professional journals, The Company of the Dead is his first work of fiction and the winner of the Aurealis Award for Best Novel and Best Science Fiction Novel. When he isn’t delivering other people’s babies, or raising his own, he is working on his next novel.

David's Links

The Company of the Dead website

The Giveaway


What:  One commenter will win a copy of The Company of the Dead from The Qwillery.

How:  Leave a comment answering the following question:

If you could time travel, which historical event or events would you like to witness? 


Write a limerick about a book you've read.

Please remember - if you don't answer the question your entry will not be counted.

You may receive additional entries by:

1)   Being a Follower of The Qwillery.

2)   Mentioning the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter. Even if you mention the giveaway on both, you will get only one additional entry. You get only one additional entry even if you mention the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter multiple times.

3)   Mentioning the giveaway on your on blog or website. It must be your own blog or website; not a website that belongs to someone else or a site where giveaways, contests, etc. are posted.

There are a total of 4 entries you may receive: Comment (1 entry), Follower (+1 entry), Facebook and/or Twitter (+ 1 entry), and personal blog/website mention (+1 entry). This is subject to change again in the future for future giveaways.

Please leave links for Facebook, Twitter, or blog/website mentions. You MUST leave a way to contact you.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Tuesday, March 27, 2012. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*


  1. Thanks for the interview and the giveaway! I think I would witness the reign of Cleopatra, it must be very interesting to see.

    I'm a follower: Melliane
    shared: https://twitter.com/#!/betweendandr/status/182139132791894017


  2. I swear to you I have had dreams about being aboard the Titanic...I think on some level I would like to see how events played out that fateful and tragic night, but then again, who would want to witness so much tragedy?
    Great interview, and I would love to read this book!!!.
    +1 comment
    +1 follower
    +1 facebook share

  3. I would love to see ancient Egypt, anytime really. edysicecreamlover18@gmailDOTcom (subscribed)
    GFC Krystal Larson

  4. How did I miss this book!? It is going on my wishlist right now!!

    And I'd love to witness the building of the pyramids!

    +3 = comment, follower, tweeted


  5. I'm no good at limericks! But I would love to visit the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth I

    GFC Follower - Mel S


  6. Thats a hard question. There are alot of tragic events that no one really wants to see but in a way they do because they want to know what happened actually. I would have to go with the sinking of the Titanic. I would want to know what really happened. Please enter me in contest. I would love to read this book. Tore923@aol.com

  7. Time Travel-Have to be the last days of Jesus. I would love to see what really happened.

    Second would be Pickett's charge

  8. That was a lot of research. I think if I could travel back I would like to see England during the time of the crusades.
    debby236 at gmail dot com

  9. Thanks for the great interview and giveaway! This book sounds awesome!

    I'd have to say that I'd like to go back in time to the first moon walk. It would have been amazing to witness that event and it was a happy event. One of the true good moments that unified the U.S.

  10. Great interview! I'd like to witness the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

    I follow the blog.

    Thanks for the giveaway.


  11. Boy, it's hard to pick just one big event. It would have to be an event where I'd be safe, so no Salem witch trials or crusades. I was actually up for the first moon walk, but so young it didn't really mean anything to me. Maybe the first actual flight.

    GFC Anne38

  12. In light of this book, I would love to witness the Titanic setting sail. Maybe I could do something.

    GFC: Mary Preston


  13. Since I'm not creative, I guess I'll answer the question! If I could travel back in time, I would like to go to ancient Egypt when the pyramids of Giza were built.

    +1 follower
    +1 comment

    Tracey D
    booklover0226 at gmail dot com

  14. This book sounds very interesting. If I could travel anywhere in time, I would like to see my home region of central California in the early 1800s, before white settlement. Yeah, it's not some climatic event, but it's a place deeply connected to my soul and I'd love to see how it used to be.


  15. Uf...a tough one :) I'm no good with limericks and I don't think I could choose just one historical event that I would like to see (I have so many questions!)...plus I don't know if something like that should be done. I do worry about all those pesky paradoxes :)

    That said I love Alternate and Secret histories and I will definitely seek out this book...



  16. 1+ When Young Victoria was crown Queen!
    1+ GFC follower: Gisele Alvarado
    1+ Tweet: https://twitter.com/#!/Gisselle_Alv/status/184850514083708928