Historian, genealogist, theologian and amazing storyteller, author David D Plain is recognized locally and beyond for his enlightening and entertaining tales. Because he tends to be reticent when it comes to personal sharing, it’s a privilege to have been granted a glimpse into David’s writing life for this interview.
D: I first knew I could write in high school. We had a major project assigned in grade 10 English class to write either a poem or a short story. I wrote a short story receiving an A+. The teacher asked me if he could keep it. I agreed and he used it as an example of what he expected every year he assigned this project. He really tried to encourage me to follow a career in writing.
G: How do your previous work and/or life experiences influence your writing?
D: I didn’t follow his advice until after retirement. Instead, I had a career in information technology. When I was 50 I enrolled in a post-secondary program at Tyndale College/University earning a Bachelor degree in Religious Studies. I continued my education earning a Master degree in Theological Studies from Tyndale Seminary. My majors were Theology and Church History. It was during these six years I acquired skills in research and academic writing. This is what helped me most in my writing career.
G: What are the genres in which you write? Do you have a preferred one?
D: I write aboriginal history non-fiction as well as historical fiction, but I prefer non-fiction. I distinctly remember my grade 5 teacher, Mrs. McGeary, saying “We are going to roll back the clouds of time” regarding our history lessons and I envisioned Spanish Galleons appearing through the mist. I have been hooked on history ever since.
G: Are you working on a project at this time?
D: I am currently working on a screen play with a film production company from Toronto. The script is for the pilot episode of a drama series based on two of my books, 1300 Moons and From Ouisconsin to Caughnawaga, but more on this later.
G: Do you have a favourite location for writing?
D: I currently write on my laptop in my bedroom. I have an ultramatic bed which I put in the sitting position and find most comfortable.
G: What kinds of books do you read?
D: I read history non-fiction written by other historians from this and past centuries. Also historical society volumes such as the Wisconsin Historical Society, Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society, the Jesuit Relations etc. These contain letters and reports from the Great Lakes basin from first contact on. For relaxation I read books on theology, philosophy and church history. I also have a keen interest in politics, both Canadian and American.
G: Do you wish to share anything about your personal life?
D: I am a First Nations historian/author living on Aamjiwnaang Territory, an Indian Reserve in Southwestern Ontario. I have six children, thirteen grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
G: Have you participated in writing contests?
D: My first book, The Plains of Aamjiwnaang, won a Golden Scribe Award for excellence in non-fiction in 2008. All four of my books were reviewed by the US Review of Books and nominated for an Eric Hoffer Award. The Plains of Aamjiwnaang was a finalist in this contest.
G: What works have you published to date?
D: In 2007 I published The Plains of Aamjiwnaang and Ways of Our Grandfathers. Both are history non-fiction. The Plains of Aamjiwnaang contains the history of Aamjiwnaang Territory from 1600 to the late 1800s and centres on the Plain family. Ways of Our Grandfathers is a general treatise on Ojibway culture. In 2009 I published 1300 Moons, a work of historical fiction based on my great great great grandfather’s biography. In 2013 I published From Quisconsin to Caughnawaga, a collection of non-fiction native short stories from the Great Lakes basin.
G: What are your thoughts on traditional vs indie publishing?
D: I am an indie author. I chose self-publishing because it was the quickest and surest way of getting my book to print. It is next to impossible to get a major traditional publisher to look at your manuscript if you are unpublished. Most are not even accepting solicitations. If you are lucky enough to get accepted it may be a year or more before they even look at your work. With self-publishing you retain more control of the final product than with a traditional publisher. You are published right away and the publisher does all the administrative work. However, their packages cost hundreds or thousands of dollars whereas a traditional publisher bears all the costs of printing and marketing. With both types of publishers you receive royalties, but with self-publishers you can buy your books at the author’s price, which is quite low and market them yourself. The profits are very good, but you don’t have the volume you get from selling through large book resellers such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. I do both. The traditional publishers are now expecting the author to do more and more of the marketing work where self-publishers have various marketing packages available, but again they cost. It really is a personal preference which kind of publisher the author chooses, but these are some of the advantages and disadvantages of each as I see them.
G: Anything else you can elaborate on?
D: In 2010 The Plains of Aamjiwnaang and Ways of Our Grandfathers were used as a resource for the native content in the play Crudementary Tales. This play was co-produced by The Lawrence House and Shadowland Theater Company and I received a plaque in recognition of “your participation and dedication to the production of Crudementary Tales”. In 2011 I was a consultant on the production of an interactive graphic novel on the War of 1812. It was produced along with teaching lessons and materials for grades 5 through 10 by Teach Magazine. I was videotaped as an expert on Tecumseh and the Detroit theatre and I am part of the interactive portion of the DVD version of the novel. In 2014 a film production company from Toronto optioned the film rights to my latest two books for a television drama series. The project involves 12 episodes of one hour each for the first season and the working title is Three Fires. We are currently involved in negotiations with a co-producer and a broadcaster. If the series goes into production I will be involved in screenplay, casting, costuming, site locations, etc. as a special consultant responsible for historical/cultural accuracy. This is all new to me as I know next to nothing about the film industry. It is exciting and I am really looking forward to this new experience.
We’ll be happily anticipating your future works and wishing you much success.