For this week’s interview, I am pleased to present Dan Foytik. Dan is a writer and editor who manages numerous horror and fantasy podcasts through his company, 9th Story Studios. He and I have worked together on several projects, including The Wicked Library and The Lift, and Dan is one of those fantastic editors that makes you grateful to be a writer.
Recently, he and I discussed his upcoming podcasts and where he sees his already booming career headed in the future.
A couple icebreakers to start: when did you first decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?
I think I’ve been a writer at the core since I was very young. I was lucky to have a mother who read to me constantly, and I also had books given to me quite often, and a grandmother who constantly told me stories about her experiences growing up on a farm. Looking back on it, I realize that my grandmother’s stories were really well structured, with villains, dramatic elements, inciting events and so on.
The Wicked Library is such a fantastic podcast. Everything about the project is incredible, from the specially commissioned artwork and your awesome narration to the major authors who have been involved, such as Neil Gaiman. Is it a challenge to keep so many moving parts working at any given time, and what has been the most surprising aspect of managing The Wicked Library so far?
First, thank you! It’s always nice to hear the work is well received and enjoyed. The main challenge is always the time involved. An hour of finished show takes around 6-8 hours to create. And, in addition to my work (reading, narrating, editing audio, adding music, writing show notes, promoting on social media, and so on), there is also the time it takes the artists and authors to create, edit, and hone their work. A huge amount of work goes into making the show seem effortless and something worthy of the trust the authors place in me to interpret their work. But, it’s also a lot of fun to do, and a really nice way to build the community and connect the different creators. I’m pretty picky about who I work with, so while the coordination of everything can be a lot to manage, the professionalism of the creators makes it a lot easier.
As to the most surprising element, I think it’s when I get an author who tells me some variation of “You really creeped me out/scared me with my own story” or “I finally understand why my character did [such and such] after hearing you do the story.” It’s more gratifying than I can explain to know I’ve brought something to life not only for the listeners, but also for the author.
One of your recently debuted podcasts is The Lift, a complex shared world project that features a devious little girl and the hapless individuals who stumble upon the building where she lives. What inspired you to create The Lift, and what is your hope for the long-term future of the project?
The Lift is the culmination of an idea I had while at a writing workshop with a few friends, including the show’s Co-creator and Executive Producer, Cynthia Lowman. Victoria already existed at that point as the “mascot” of my original show, 9th Story Podcast, and she grew in complexity and personality as the show progressed. I think of her as more impish than devious, she’s been at her task for well over a century, but at the core, she’s still just a 9 year old girl with all that entails. Ultimately, I realized there was much more I could do with her.
I had this idea that the building she inhabits sits in a kind of broken reality where (like The Twilight Zone or Fantasy Island), unique scenarios or realities could be created to test, lift up, or punish individuals who either needed to change their ways, or needed help finding their ways. In that sense there are also elements of Dante’s Inferno, since each story of the building is reserved for certain vices.
Long term, I’d like to see it on the level of a Welcome to Night Vale and something that crosses various forms of media. We’ve talked about doing an anthology of the first season and adding in a couple of bonus stories; there’s a graphic novel in discussion, but my focus right now is making the best show I can and getting the work of the writers, artists, and composers as much attention as possible.
How has your work as an editor affected your fiction writing?
It’s made me more aware of my own habits, pet phrases and so on. It’s also made me more focused when I do write because producing four podcasts–and now starting to get some paid narration and voice work as well–leaves very little time to write fiction. A lot of writing goes into creating the podcasts ,of course, but aside from the show notes, most of the writing is “transparent” since it’s in the form of audio intros, skits, and the like. Acting as an editor has also made me more receptive to criticism of my own work, because I know how hard it is for an editor to tell a writer, “This part isn’t quite working,” or “You need to change this because…”
Out of your published pieces, do you have a personal favorite?
My favorite piece isn’t actually traditionally published yet. It’s a short story called “Grey and Red” and it appeared on The Wicked Library in Season Five (when I was still simply a listener and fan of the show). It’s not yet appeared in print and was written as a gift for a friend. There are several things I did in the story as fun for me and the intended reader that worked much better than I could have hoped.
Where would you like your writing career to be in five years?
Ah, the most dreaded job interview question ever created. I think I’d like to have a collection of my own short stories out there. I have plans to re-work a novel that’s been fermenting for years into a series of digital comics, and, if I’m shooting for the moon, I’d like to be talking to someone about a series on TV featuring Victoria and her Lift.
While I’m no George Saunders, I’ve become very enamored with writing the short story, to the point I’m not sure I actually want to write a novel anymore. I do love the idea of a connected series of stories featuring the same character – which really isn’t the same thing as a novel. Never say never I suppose, but I have a number of ideas for stories that don’t feel novel length.
Any links you’d like to share?
I have far too many websites; I collect them it seems. The main “HUB” of what I’m doing is going to be 9th Story Studios at www.9thstory.com, it’s still being reworked and tweaked, but you’ll be able to find links to all my other projects from there including all the podcasts I produce like The Lift and Listen. It’s also where I’m going to be sharing samples of voice work and info on projects like narrating the audio books for Carrot Field and upcoming The Shadows at the Door Anthology.
Big thanks to Dan Foytik for being part of this week’s author interview series.