Center Stage with Dean F. Hardy
A creators in the limelight series
Hello again! I'm back with another amazing chat-session interview with creator, Dean F. Hardy. If you're new to the series, I'll quickly get you up to speed on the vision.
My aim with each mini-interview is to give a small glimpse into what makes up these amazing creators through a fun and informative format. I've left the interview method up to them, either through facebook messenger chat, audio call or video call. I've also asked creators to come up with a question or two for themselves as this is to aim the spotlight on them.
My third guest is the amazingly talented Dean F. Hardy, whom I've affectionately dubbed, Dean from Dublin. I was first introduced to Dean's work during one of the haiku challenges a few months ago, and I've been in love with his writing ever since. His pieces are always honest and emotional, sometimes raw and gritty too.
Unsurprisingly, it took no time at all for him to capture the eyes of the Vocal judges with his short story This Place, earning him a runners-up spot in the Reset Your Password challenge and a feature in their winners article. He has an enviable ability to create human connection through his words and draw readers in with his beautifully descriptive language, leaving a lasting impression long after.
I encourage you to take a look at all his incredible poems and short stories, and subscribe. You won't be disappointed!
For Dean's interview, we went with a facebook chat session. I hope you find it as fascinating as I did.
H: Thank you for agreeing to do this. I hope it's fun and allows readers and fellow writers to get to know you! With that said, if there's anything you're not happy with at the end, we can leave it out. I will also edit for misspellings.
D: No probs. The spell check will be needed with me most likely ha!
H: Believe me, it's needed for all of us.
H: I thought we'd start with one of your questions to get you warmed up. Do you have a particular writing routine? Feel free to answer in bits at a time if it's easier :)
D: I would say yes. It's not exactly a planned routine. But it just seems to happen a particular way. Especially since I've moved into my new place. I work from home, so typically I'll start writing after work, around 6pm or so. When I'm starting a new story, I like to start it out of the home. So I'll usually find myself in a quiet coffee shop. I'm in the city and I have a small handful that are always reliable for peace.
H: I can appreciate that. I'd love to be able to do that in my schedule.
D: It's something I've had to really work to get to. My living situation for the past 5 years has been a mess. Different countries and never settled. Difficult creative environments. I need quiet.
H: I'm guessing you work from a laptop then? Ear buds or headphones for music or just taking in the sounds around you?
D: No, I always handwrite. It helps the flow. And I'll almost always listen to music. Helps centre me.
H: I love that...the handwriting. Doesn't seem so common anymore.
D: I usually sit down. Watch people for a bit. Write a few pages in my journal. Some ramblings and scribbles to warm up my brain. Then I switch to my notepad and get to business. Typically I'll write until I finish one "scene". I think in scenes or sequences as opposed to chapters.
That can take anywhere from 20 minutes to a half an hour depending how long the scene is and until I feel it's down properly. I'll rewrite and rework it until I like it. I'm alive in the evening and at night. Knowing I have uninterrupted time ahead of me allows me to just chill.
H: I admire that you can have your creative time after work. It's easy to feel drained toward the end of the day. So you're more pantser then not having the whole thing plotted out?
D: I never plot. I never know what will happen.
H: That's amazing as your pieces seem so thought out!
D: They're not 😂 I just work the sequences until I feel they're sharp. I edit ruthlessly. I get an idea of scene. Just one small thing. And I want to write that and make it happen. Then I have a little world. Whatever the character or characters are going to do almost becomes up to them. Strip out a lot of it. Or reduce sentences until they're clean and to the point.
H: Well, your method definitely works for you as your pieces are really well done.
D: Thank you. That's something I've only started to really do over the last year maybe.
H: That's a difficult skill or point in your writing to achieve.
D: It took me a long time. I used to think writing had to be done in one or two sittings. And you had to finish asap and without much editing, otherwise it wasn't authentic or truthful. Which was very wrong. At least for me.
H: Wow, that was a lot of pressure to put on yourself!
D: Well it just meant a lot of my work went into the bin.
H: LOL, I hear that.
D: Or the TRASH as you guys might say.
H: Hahaha! I say my circular file (a round trash bin).
D: I filled entire dumps with my discarded a4 pages.
H: But all those discarded pages mean that you were growing and learning.
D: So, to round this loose routine off. I work the "scenes" until they start piling up. Takes maybe 2 to 3 days. Leaves me with give or take half a story or a little more.
H: Do you leave it sit for a bit after those first scenes are down?
D: Yes. Always. Then I start typing it if it's for a Vocal challenge. In the house and late at night. With the same music I wrote it with originally. And make final edits. And then I type the end fresh.
H: That's fascinating, that you almost recreate the original setting.
D: Yeah, bring back the feelings I'm having inside that world. Helps move the characters along their way.
H: An excellent practice in my opinion.
H: Thank you for that insight. It amazes me how differently writers take to the craft. Ready for question 2?
D: I should add. There is typically red wine beside me for the latter half of that routine. Now, I am yes.
H: What's your favorite red wine, lol. Just kidding (unless you want to answer that as well, ha). Are there certain genres you're drawn to writing? Are there others you shy away from?
D: Once it's not Merlot, I'll drink it 😏
H: *Makes mental note -Don't send Merlot as thank you gift...hahaha *
D: I wouldn't even put it in my bolognese!
H: I like pinot noir. Ah, I'm being a shit host...so, back to your lovely writing.
D: Not at all. Most definitely is the short answer to them two questions. I'm very drawn to what I'd call, 'dirty realism' and noir. Sci-fi and Fantasy are something that I find both difficult to read and therefore write.
H: Yes, I've noticed your writing is typical darker or touches on heavier subjects.
D: My recent submissions have been definitely heavy. Not all of them necessarily are "heavy," the ones I've submitted elsewhere or just haven't submitted to Vocal yet. I think there's beauty in the commonplace and the banality of everyday life. In raw reality. Like an argument between spouses or watching someone play with their dog.
H: I can see that. The stories I've read of yours are very raw and honest and real.
D: I hope so.
H: Do you feel that's lost in the fantastical world then? Like sci-fi and fantasy.
D: I think sci-fi and fantasy fans would be disappointed if I said yes haha. But, no not necessarily. I just can't relate to them as much as I'd like. Not in reading and writing anyway. I love the film genres, but when it comes to opening a novel or attempting to write a piece, I belong in the world of reality.
H: I get you're not hating on the genres, just curious. We're all wired differently. I can't relate to horror much. Or don't want to, I should say.
D: Yeah. Depends on the horror, but I'd be much the same. As we speak I'm reading a fantasy horror, I guess. Salem's Lot. And I'm not loving it. But I loved The Shining. Terrifying book. I guess psychological breakdowns in a spooky hotel are more real then vampires, haha.
H: Are you one to feel the need to finish because you've started?
D: No, not after wasting my time doing that for years in my teens. It's not so bad that I wouldn't finish it.
H: I used to be that way when I was younger too, but the older I've gotten, time seems more precious.
D: I think it's an ego thing too. Especially if you're reading one of the "great works" and it's really just pretentious shite.
D: You start thinking, "oh no...maybe I'm an idiot because I'm not amazed!!"
H: I have one like that...my best friend is so annoyed that I don't love it. She's an English Literature teacher.
D: Of course. Look at Finnegan's Wake by Joyce. Nonsense. Again, this is just me. But I've no time for that anymore haha. And I like some of Joyce.
H: Me neither. LOL! Well now that we're talking about other's works...the next question fits nicely :)
H: What/who are your influences?
D: I'll try keep this somewhat concise.
H: Do what you want!
D: This is why I chose the text format. If I was on video or something, sweet jesus you'd be listening to me shite on and on for hours here.
H: HAHA! And I'd let you. I'm a sucker for an accent.
D: Okay. So, influences. First, I'd have to say being introduced to film at a young age really did something to me. I was spellbound by stories early on through films. Have me Da to thank for that. He introduced me to the greatest films at such a young age and I was hooked for story.
H: What wonderful memories to cherish.
D: Big time. Absolutely a massive aspect of how I write. As I said, I think in scenes. I visualise my stories like films honestly. Probably a huge no, no for your Eng Lit buddy, haha.
So film early on is massive for me. I didn't pick up books until I was really 17. Nobody in my family read books and there were never books in the home. But I just started reading and fell hard for that world.
H: Oh wow!!! I was an only child and all I did was read!! I can't imagine that. But so glad it became part of your life.
D: Me too.
H: So what caught your eye?
D: So I read bits of everything early on. Never really falling in love with much. Teenage fiction and sci-fi and fantasy all that jazz. I can't remember what brought me to him, but somehow Post Office by Charles Bukowski ended up in my hands when I was 18. And that was like the Universe opening up for me. I couldn't believe there was someone who wrote like that.
H: Oh wow. What an amazing connection when you find the right thing that speaks to you.
D: Yeah. It really did. I'm from a working class area of Dublin. We're sensitive to bullshit. And there's a lot of bullshit in writing. And I was discovering that early on. Especially in University. And then here was this guy Bukowksi. Completely void of bullshit. I remember opening the first page of Post Office. The dedication page. And it read: "This is presented as a work of fiction, as is dedicated to nobody."
H: I like that dedication. So you were drawn to the realness and authenticity in his work then?
D: It changed everything. I realised that writing and "literature" was accessible to me as some kid from a normal blue collar life.
H: It's so important to be able to see yourself in what you read sometimes.
D: Very much so. And his style of writing. If anyone reading this has read Bukowski, they'll know. He is unashamedly himself. And his writing style is like being hit over the head with a hammer.
H: Do you think you try to emulate that same sense of real connection when you write?
D: I just wanted to see something authentic. And that was it. And he did it better then anyone. So, that genre if we can call it that became apparent to me. So I dived into it. And began to discover all of these greats buried in there. Hemingway and Carver and Carson McCullors and John Fante and Don Carpenter. Writing about people living their lives. Or trying to live them. And many of them failing. And it was relatable and beautiful and inspiring.
H: That's really beautiful.
D: I think so. I'm still trying to discover my own voice and style when doing that. I tried to write like Bukowski as a young kid. I feel that's common. We try emulate our heroes. And of course, the likes of Hemingway and Bukowski look like they're saying so little while saying so much. It's so approachable. But then you try to do it and quickly find out what you're dealing with. You're playing games with the greats.
H: Finding your voice is such a critical thing. I feel like you need those times and experiences where you do need to try to write like others simply to realize that they're them and you're you. You need to sound like you :) That's what makes the greats great. They stand out. They have something to say in only a way that they can say it.
D: Exactly. And the point is to find your authentic self and express it. But it takes time. And it took me years and years and still is. I found branching into other writers was a way to improve. You take bits and pieces from them all and mix it with your own feelings for what you're trying to say. Then suddenly you're writing and hey, look at that. That sounds like me!
H: Very keen observations.
D: To wrap up this long winded response. I'll drop two more vital names that helped me find that voice. Actually 3 more names. Nic Pizzolatto who wrote an amazing novel called Galveston, and Cormac McCarthy. Both writers who are strikingly different and unique in their style. Very influential in how I try attack a piece.
H: Familiar with the second but not the first.
D: He also wrote the screenplay for the show True Detective. Maybe you've heard of that.
H: Ah yes! I've heard of that but not watched it yet.
D: And lastly, my partner Kyra. She repeatedly encourages and reassures me that I have something to say and that I should say it my way. She has a good bullshit detector.
H: Awww, nothing can replace support and encouragement on a personal level :)
D: Again, it took me years to come to this very obvious realisation. I was a walking cliche for a whole decade, haha. Felt like the craft had to approached in one way and one way only. Through loneliness and booze. Embarrassing and true.
I was priestly to the idea that writing had to come from a place of hardship. Naive and misunderstanding my influences I guess. It's hard to write when you're broke, working long hours and never sober.
H: We've all got notions and perceptions about how things should be done. No shame in that. It's wonderful that you've passed from one season of your life into the next, seemingly now able to appreciate where you've come from.
D: Thank you. I agree. It's quite a relief to be honest. My 22 year old self would call me a sell out. God bless him haha. Sorry Heather. I'm talking a lot.
H: You are supposed to talk a lot...it's all about you :)
D: My ego approves.
H: I'm here so it doesn't seem like a pretentious monologue, lol.
D: I typically keep them for the bath. I've been interviewed by all the Late Night hosts whilst soaking in my bath.
H: Hahaha! That's hilarious...a really relaxed dress code then!
D: Oh yeah. The most. Wine or beer mandatory.
H: Well when you're a famous author, I'll remember this as you're being interviewed for the masses. Any last thoughts on this one?
D: I recommend any of the writers I've just mentioned, and don't apologise for how offensive you may or may not find their work. Now, I'm done.
H: Alright, how about a short fun question? What's your favorite thing to eat?
D: I love being a pig and eating a large meal of Italian food. And feeling like a total mess afterwards. Falling asleep from carb overload by the time the cheesecake arrives.
H: Ah, preaching to the choir! I love Italian food. Perfect..box up the cheesecake to take home.
D: Yeah. Literally rolling home 😂
D: If I was to be more concise. A Prawn Linguine. Smothered in Olive Oil with a sad amount of bread.
H: Yum! I love fresh bread. I could eat a whole loaf in one setting, easy.
D: Yeah. With full fat Irish butter smeared all over it. Kerry Gold or nothing!
H: Well, now that I'm hungry for Italian AND bread, lol, I guess I'd better move onto the next question.
D: Sounds good haha. I'll try be quicker and shorter with answers.
H: NO! You're doing fantastic!! Being Irish and from Dublin, do you feel a pressure to write Irish stories?
D: So this is something that I'm always struggling with. I've mentioned authenticity a few times now. I really try to find some sort of truth in what I'm writing. Being Irish and from Dublin is a massive part of who I am. The issue is that, it's intimidating trying to capture something so close to me. Which sounds like a complete contradiction.
H: I think it's harder to recognize something so part of you.
D: For sure.
H: Do you feel the struggle from within or externally? or both?
D: I think more so within. Being an unpublished writer makes me feel constrained too. I reckon 99 percent of the writers who read my stuff on Vocal are from across the pond too. I worry that stories set in Dublin would be lost on them. For instance, dialogue. Writing the phonics of Irish accents. Dropping letters etc. I probably overthink it but I worry that it just won't land properly.
H: Hmm, I can see that concern but you could always do an afterwards or something to explain certain things without having to do it in the storyline. I'd love to read about it, honestly. I mean, people read about fantasy worlds that don't exist and yet they somehow translate. It does take a bit to get used to in reading, but done well, it's an amazing tool. Look at Tom Sawyer. Even Neil Gaiman has some language that sometimes takes me a bit to get but I love it.
D: For sure I agree. I think I overthink elements of it. And people aren't dim, they'll get it. It's just a problem I've had for a while. Still trying to figure it out.
I also feel intimidated taking on something so close to home. Dublin (like anywhere) is a very complex place with complex history and deeply entrenched traditions and class structures. There have been many great Irish writers but very very little of their work has been about Dublin. Because it's almost an unapproachable subject or setting.
H: I can only imagine that situation, but it does sound quite complex.
D: Yeah. Trainspotting also comes to mind. The Scottish phonics. Actually a difficult read, that book. Well our so called best writer and widely considered one of the best, bottled taking on Dublin in his work. Joyce wrote Dubliners but he shied away from Dublin in it.
Ulysses is set in Dublin but again, he has devices in the work that allows him to avoid having to take a plunge into Dublin and the complexities of the place in a real way. There's one book called Strumpet City and it's the closest anyone has come. It's Ireland's version of War and Peace.
So anyway, I want to write more about Dublin and Irish people. And have them IN Dublin when I write about them. But I'm a bottler too I guess. And nowhere near ready. For now.
You should read Strumpet City. Anyone reading should. If they want to understand Ireland and Dublin in particular. Then you'll understand my conundrum, haha.
H: I've already got another tab open looking, lol
D: It's my favourite novel, probably. One of them 👀😅
H: I guess the question will remain what do you want people to truly know? Is it the history, the people, the struggles? Those are relatable stories no matter where you live. You could tackle it in snippets in short stories, highlighting something different each time until a full (ish) picture emerges. Because it sounds like a daunting task :)
D: Again, I'm not sure. I'm very proud of where I'm from. It took me years to appreciate Dublin and the people here. I had to live abroad before I understood that. So there's pressure there to convey Dublin correctly and tell the right story that probably conveys all of the things you mentioned.
H: One that you want to do justice and with realness and care. It's amazing you have that insight now.
D: Very much so. Something that a young Dublin kid could pick up and say, "Holy shit. This fella sounds like me and he's talking about me. Maybe I can do this."
H: Oh, I love that so much.
D: I've thought about this too. I've put a few stories down that I'd intend to put forward for something like that. Of course in order to do that, they can't be published on Vocal. So if anyone here cares to read an Irish story they may have to wait.
H: Ah damn, I'm crap at waiting. I'd like to place my pre-order now please.
D: You're top of the list don't worry.
H: YAY! Is there anything more you'd like to add for this one?
D: No, I think that's good.
H: Great! Time for one last one?
D: Kyra just reloaded my cup of tea. So I'm more then ready. Plenty of time.
H: Great! What is the end goal for your writing? Do you hope to achieve literary greatness, dabble for fun, or something in between?
D: I'd be an absolute liar if I didn't admit that I want to achieve something great.
H: Well then don't lie :)
D: Bukowski wasn't discovered until he was in his 40's.
H: YAY, hope for me yet...hahahaha
D: There's always time. Always ways of improving. That's the business we're in.
H: Truth. It is but sometimes I don't feel like everyone thinks that.
D: You're a very talented poet.
H: Thank you.
D: My dream is to be published, for somebody to just give me a chance. Give me the time of the day. And I'll keep going until that someone comes along.
Books saved my life. The writers that I've mentioned. They are responsible for so much in my life. And they're all dead. Yet they carried such an impact like that. How fucking incredible. Books are the most important things we have. They're words and thoughts beyond the grave. And they have power because of that.
H: I agree with that wholeheartedly. I hope that dream is realized. I think you have so much talent.
D: Thanks Heather, I really appreciate that. So yeah. Greatness is the goal. Set it high and charge forward and see what happens. Who knows what will happen?
H: I love that. A great goal paired with optimism :)
D: And perhaps an unhealthy dose of fantasy. The irony. But sure look, such is life.
H: Alright, I think we can fit one more question in if you're game?
D: I'm game. I love talking about books. Or stuff to do with books.
H: What would you like readers to most know about you as an author?
D: Hmmm. Tough one.
H: Take your time.
D: Outside of everything we've already discussed haha. I guess that, I am someone who has lived and made a staggering number of mistakes be they small or large in the space of 30 years. And the largest of them mistakes, was a lie. And I witnessed how dangerous lies are because of that. Life can become very slippery for people. I don't think anyone is good or bad. I just think there is truth and lies. And the consequences of each path. I've walked both and caused destruction and joy playing with both. I take that reality into my writing.
H: Wow, I've got to say that you really show a lot of maturity in your thought process as it's hard to learn from mistakes and recognize bad or unhealthy patterns.
D: I have people around me who love me and care for me. That helps. And I feel I have to be responsible with that.
H: Those are some wonderful thoughts to end with ❤️ Anything else you’d like to add?
D: I'll end pretentiously, with a very unpretentious quote if that's alright?
D: Firstly, to anyone who's read all of this and has read my work on Vocal, I sincerely appreciate it. And never be afraid to tell me what you really think. And thanks for doing this Heather.
H: I've enjoyed every second of this interview and am so thankful for your realness and candor.
D: And remember, for everyone trying to achieve something in their work or on life:
"What matters most, is how well you walk through the fire." - Bukowski
H: That is an excellent quote.
I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into Dean's writing life. I highly encourage everyone to check out his amazing work. Here is one of his pieces that blew me away (and I personally believe should have placed in the Improbable Paradise challenge).
Get caught up with previous interviews and stay tuned for the next article in the series coming soon!
Note: I was given permission to use the full chat string and change any misspellings. Chat interview conducted on February 19, 2023.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Expert insights and opinions
Arguments were carefully researched and presented
Easy to read and follow
Well-structured & engaging content
On-point and relevant
Writing reflected the title & theme
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Niche topic & fresh perspectives
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
Original narrative & well developed characters
Very lovely interview and interesting writer! I liked learning of poetic influences by poets I never knew. Look forward to reading the work now.
Loved your take on writing about Dublin and what a difficult subject it is even for sacred monsters. Thank you for the reading recommendations! True Detective-especially season 1-still haunts me, so I'll definitely look for Pizzolatto's novel! I appreciate the honesty with which you share your creative process and your sources of inspiration. Deeply enjoyed this interview, thank you Heather for the idea!
I love this series so much! It's so fascinating to see little windows into others creative processes (plus I learn something every time!). Well done!
Great interview! 🥰
Really brilliant interview.
Great interview! I feel the same way about Bukowski. I read all the classics before graduating high school, and it intimidated me thinking I had to write like that. It made me stop writing. Then I discovered Bukowski’s Women, and it changed me.
Great Chat Between Heather and Dean it's Valuable
Congratulations on Top Story!
Congratulations on your Top Story!
This series is an absolute treasure. And so are you and Dean!
Congratulations Heather and Dean on your Top Story!!!
So well deserved. Congrats, Nerd.
Congratulations on your Top Story
Congratulation on Top Story and on a well done interview with a very interesting individual.
The part about trying to find authenticity and truth hit home and also how books saved his life, so so so true for me too!!!!
Great interview, extremely in depth and interesting
I love seeing the stories of the different creators on here! Excellent interview, Heather and Dean!
Excellent interview and what a way to end it. That just stoked a fire in me to keep going! Well done Heather and Dean!
Outstanding interview!! 😍 Heather, as always, you are natural and so calming with your interview style. 🥰 Dean, it was sooo interesting reading about your creative process!! Thank you so much for sharing 🥰🥰 I definitely learned a lot, you are an inspiration!!
Great job as always Heather. Dean great responses. Like you I handwrite a fair amount of my stories and once I have the flow of things I get it onto my computer. I also rarely plot or plan my stories. A lot of them I start out and haven't a clue where they're going until I'm about three or four paragraphs in.
I thoroughly enjoyed this. I now feel like I know you both even more. Not just through your writing but as living, breathing people. Excellent interview!
Whoaaa, Dean handwrites? Lol, we're so immersed in technology to the extent that handwriting something becomes so impressive! This was a wonderful interview!
I love these interviews, a peak into other creative minds. Great job Heather and thanks for opening up Dean. I’ll check out his work.
Fabulous, fabulous interview!!!! Loved the read!!!!💖💖💕
Thanks for the opportunity to this Heather. I really appreciate it. And as always thanks to those who take the time to check out my work.