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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

DC Pierson: A Literary Powerhouse Across The Genres

By Lorinda Toledo

DC Pierson is the kind of guy who has talent coming out of his ears. He's known for his writing across genres, including: two novels, short stories, movies, stand up comedy, storytelling essays, and blog writing. 

He's also a writer and actor in the sketch comedy group DERRICK, whose film,"Mystery Team" premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. He has appeared on TV shows such as "Community" and "Weeds", various commercials, and movies both short and long. He is a member of The Upright Citizens Brigade's legendary Wednesday Night Brew Crew. 

If you've ever dreamed of finding the time to write on a regular basis and finish an essay, a webisode, a sketch or a short story, DC will help you find your literary mojo next Wednesday, Oct. 2 in his Writingpalooza class at the Pad!
DC took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to tell us how he does it all.

You are a comedian, author, actor, director, and --uh -- rapper?! What did you get started doing first and how do they influence each other?

I've been writing in some form since I was a kid. I went to school for dramatic writing (plays, movies, TV). Doing sketch comedy in college led to me doing stuff at UCB in New York, and that led me to doing comedy in general.

Improv and sketch comedy are about taking a simple idea and asking "If THIS thing is true in this world, what else is true?" To me, any longer form of writing is just a larger application of that basic "if-that-then-what-else" principal.

You have two novels out, but you regularly post essays, poems, and short stories on your Web site. What is the advantage you see to publishing your work online?

When you've just finished writing something, it's nice to have that immediate "Hey! You wrote a thing!" feedback from people. That's impossible with a novel because traditional publishing takes so long, so having that more direct affirmation from your audience is a nice little hit of adrenaline to get you through the long slog of writing and publishing a longer thing.

By putting short pieces out on my blog while I was in college (short stories, poems, and comedic essays), I ended up getting enough encouragement from my peers in the comedy community to try and tackle something larger, like a novel. I don't know if I would've tried even writing a novel without people saying "These short things are good -- you should do a longer thing!" 

Your books both have fantastic premises--The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep And Never Had To (Vintage Contemporary) is about a guy who never needs to sleep, and Crap Kingdom (Viking) is about a guy chosen to be the ruler of a magical (and lame) kingdom. How do you come up with your ideas?

Like most people, I don't really sit in a chair and think "Okay, time to think of ideas." The spark of a premise will usually just come to you, either based on something that really happens to you or the simple occurrence of a "Wouldn't it be neat if..." type thought. What cements one of these premises for me as something that's actually worth writing a book about is if I can find some kind of emotional resonance in them beyond the whiz-bang sci-fi or fantasy premise.

Crap Kingdom is about a kid who finds out he's the Chosen One in a fantasy world, then finds out the fantasy world sucks, and so he declines the Chosen-One-hood. But when his best friend picks up that Chosen One mantle and seems to have a great time, he thinks "Hey, wait! I want it back!" and goes to great and terrible lengths to do so. I'd had the idea of "What if you were the Chosen One in a fantasy kingdom that sucked," but it wasn't until I realized I could transpose an experience I'd had dating a girl, breaking up with her, and then having her go out with someone else and suddenly wanting her back on to the fantasy premise that it felt exciting to me.

Getting laughs is your specialty. How do you amplify the comedy in your writing?

Comedy comes (at least in part) from contrast, and I really like contrasting very outsized experiences, particularly in the realms of science fiction and fantasy, with more everyday, mundane experiences. Making things feel more immediate, relatable, and human is something the novel form is really good for, because you get to spend a lot of time in the character's heads. So it's usually not that I'm trying to crank up the laughs so much as I think the more human a story feels, the more entertaining and relatable it is. And if it's funny in the bargain, that's great.

Your first book was geared toward adults (and ended up winning a YA award), while your second book is being marketing specifically as YA on Viking Juvenile. Was there a difference in the way you approached the crafting of these two books?

DC as part of DERRICK
There was to a certain degree, in that when I was writing the YA book (Crap Kingdom) I wanted the narration to feel a little bit more like a fantasy story in the vein of The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe, just because the contrast between that and a real kid's mundane experience seemed interesting, and it suited the premise.

You write books, screenplays, comedy and a blog. How do you prioritize your projects in a way that has enabled you to be so prolific?

I don't have a system. Often one thing is a distraction from something else, or some things I'm working on with a group and then I'll be working on a novel in my off time. At any rate, it's way more chaotic than it appears from the outside. Thankfully the reader (or viewer) doesn't see the work, they just see "here is a thing for me to read, or watch."

Has one project ever started in one medium, and then ended up in another?

Not really, though I am working on adapting my first book into a feature film, and working through the adaptation process with my screenwriting partners over the years has made it abundantly clear that it's more important to be faithful to the spirit of the book when adapting it into a screenplay than it is to be faithful to every single word and action. 

You perform sketch comedy with Upright Citizens Brigade. Do you find sketch comedy has helped your writing career?

Absolutely. As I said above, I really believe the idea that from one key artistic decision (what's ONE thing that's true in the world of my sketch / novel / movie) you can keep making decisions until the entire world is fleshed out. The idea of everything proceeding outward from one central premise is really something I learned doing sketch and improv.

Wow, thanks, DC! That was really inspirational.

Want to be a writerly powerhouse like DC? Lucky for you, he's teaching two sections of his popular class Writingpalooza: Find Your Literary Mojo in October. The first one starts Wed., Oct. 2. Sign up now!  

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