When it comes to writing, Paul Chapman isn’t driven by plot or characters, so much as ideas. A good premise is what turns him on. “I like to ask questions like ‘what if we taught ants how to love?’ and go from there,” he says. Perhaps this love of premise is what makes Chapman so well suited for writing short-fiction. In a short-story, the idea is king. The premise does not get lost in miles of prose, plot and drawn-out character development. His first published book, a collection of stories entitled Porn Gnomes and Other Strange Tales certainly bears out this principle.
One can imagine that the titular story started with the question, “What if all that graffiti on bathroom stalls that seems to appear like magic, actually does appear by magic?” Day of the Night of the Living Dead could very well have come from the question, “What if the zombie apocalypse turned out to be a yawn instead of an adrenaline filled-life of bloody combat and survival?” The answers to all of these questions and more, fleshed out by Chapman in the collection, alternate between charming, creepy, flat-out funny, and perhaps a bit disturbing, but never gratuitously grotesque. My favorite, Ordinary Man, certainly offers an interesting premise as well, but to guess at the question Chapman asked himself before he began writing it would spoil a bit of the surprise for readers, so I encourage you to head over to Amazon.com and download the book for yourself.
Here’s an interesting thing about Chapman as a geek of the week subject (over on our sister site, Good Girls Gone Geek) – his geekery is almost entirely different than much of what we cover here. He has little interest in television, hasn’t seen a movie in the theater in months, and left the DC universe behind right at the point I jumped back in after a long absence – with the launch of The New 52. Oh, and that George R. R. Martin obsession hitting the mainstream in the last couple years? “I’m not into tragedy porn,” he says…and I have to admit, it’s a fair statement. As a reader as well as a writer, Chapman likes novels that are self-contained over a series, and he doesn’t want to feel an impending sense of doom on every page. “I like optimism,” he says. He doesn’t want his fiction, written or otherwise, mean-spirited. Terry Pratchett is a better fit for him than Stephen King, and as a 30-year-old man, he is proud to say he’d rather watch My Little Pony than The Walking Dead.
Lest you wonder if Chapman really fits the “geek” in Geek of the Week, when asked what started him down the path to writing and podcasting, he begins his list of childhood interests with Voltron, anime and Dungeons and Dragon. Ahhh, there’s the nerd we’ve been looking for! TMNT, RPG and D&D – the initials of an 80s childhood, if ever there were some. Add in Magic the Gathering in the 90s, and it is clear that Chapman has been drawn to the fantastical, another theme present in his writing, all along.
An English major in college, Chapman has spent the years since earning his MFA in creative writing from Full Sail University in Winter Park, FL writing fiction and hosting The Greatest Movie Ever! Podcast. He is a self-made man in both fields. Opting to self-publish Porn Gnomes and Other Strange Tales on Amazon.com, Chapman says that while the grunt work is all up to him – publicizing himself, purchasing ISBN numbers for his work – the immediate feedback from readers and a growing fan-base makes it more than an even trade. “I put the book on Amazon one day, and within the week, I had feedback,” he says. It is an exhilarating process, one in which the pace is set by the author, not the publisher.
As a fellow lover-of-premise, I can without hesitation recommend the fruits of that labor to our readers. Chapman is clever to be sure, but he is also smart, ensuring that the stories in Porn Gnomes don’t get lost in gimmicks that can sometimes plague writers of short (and long) fiction. So engaging was he to interview, I asked him if he would be willing to come on a podcast. He said yes! Huzzah! Writers in particular will want to be on the lookout in the upcoming weeks for his appearance. In the mean time, check out his podcast by clicking here.