“I have a burning desire to succeed in whatever I do. Once I’ve made a decision I run with it without hesitation, without second thoughts, without regrets and without doubts. I just push forward, bulldozing everything that gets in my way.” ~David Stephens
One day I was talking to a good friend of mine, Paul Mould, who is also a book publisher and he mentioned a new writer he’d recently started working with, known as David Stephens, whose book dadinheaven.com he was about to publish, scheduled to come out at the end of October 2011. He explained the concept of the story and its oddness, which he found to be both interesting and thrilling to read. Within the first minute I knew I wanted to meet David Stephens in person and interview him. A day later I was on the phone with the writer himself and we agreed to meet.
On my arrival he kindly welcomed me into his home, offered a drink and some biscuits and then we got talking. I felt at ease in his company straight away and our talk just flowed naturally, captivating me for three hours.
The first thing that caught my intrigue was his upcoming book dadinheaven.com which tells the story about a computer and communications guru, Stuart Pearce, who had been told by doctors that his life was to be cut short due to an illness. So as not to lose touch with his family, he developed a computer system which would allow him to communicate with his loved ones from the other side. The system obviously couldn’t be fully tested and therefore its true worth would be known only once he leaves earth for heaven.
As David spoke, I immediately recognised similarities between the author and his fictional character. David Stephens is kind of a computer and communications guru or geek as he tends to say, who taught himself to program 8 bit computers which were just starting to become available in his early teens. He has also suffered from a debilitating illness for the past 11 years, which in various ways limits his ability to do things and will unfortunately shorten his life. I did question whether this story of his had anything to do with him. According to David, he started it as a joke after doctors didn’t believe he would recover having suffered a major heart attack at the age of 39. He did come through it only to find out he had other complications which didn’t help the recovery of the heart, albeit, the complications were completely independent of the initial heart problem. At one point he was given a year to live, and yet he beat the odds and survived that year, and many years more.
“I spent the first twenty years of my working life developing a number of commercially viable ideas utilising the best technology available at the time. I designed and built hardware products and developed software solutions, followed by creating interactive content delivered through digital television platforms.
In 2001, I was forced into a more subdued lifestyle due to ill health. Rather than giving up, I seized the opportunity to write professionally, turning an interest into a career. With my passion for technology and gadgets, I started my new career writing articles for computer, IT and gadget magazines, while harbouring a desire to write novels containing a strong element of intrigue and of course filled with technological devices I believe may be common place in the not too distant future.”
Due to this unexpected circumstance, David was forced to change his life, but at the same time he found that he held one more talent within and that was the ability to tell and write stories. “Finding myself with nothing to do but sit up in a hospital bed, bored to tears and watching the world go by and having and always been a person who had kept himself more than occupied, I requested my computer be brought to me and I started making a few notes of ideas for a novel. Those notes quickly turned into paragraphs and the paragraphs into chapters. By the time I was discharged from hospital some six weeks later, a first draft of the manuscript was finished.”
It is difficult to ignore the spirit of this person. He is goal orientated, he knows what he wants from life and he is driven to succeed no matter the circumstance, no matter the difficulties and challenges, no matter what. “I was always driven by the desire to ensure my family wanted for nothing and to succeed in everything I undertake, no matter the cost or time it takes. I knew that if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly. I’m obviously also aware that my life is going to be somewhat shorter than it should be and so I now also try to live it to the fullest, within my limitation, every day. I make every effort to fill each day with things that give me joy, that make sense to me, that show purpose and hopefully lead to something great. Self-expression is very important to me.” After hearing him say these words, one immediately senses that he means every single one of them.
This person is not just saying plain words that might inspire. This person is actually living what he’s saying and yet I feel he does not tell it all, there is more to it… He has his own philosophy on life and based on his adopted attitude, it seems it works well for him. “Life for me is doing what I love doing, achieving what I go for and making sure my family is looked after, although my wife considers me to be emotionless and in some way I do agree with her,” he laughs and I become even more curious, wanting to know more about the mindset of this person. I ask David what makes his wife consider him to be emotionless and does it mean that there are no emotions, no feelings involved what so ever. “I deal with things just in kind of a different way – more logical way with no unnecessary emotions attached. But also I do laugh a lot. I think I could be a good stand-up comedian. Humour truly makes my life more even, balanced and interesting. It is just an attitude I choose to adopt, possibly to try and camouflage my underlying, ever present problems.”
After David mentioned the fact that he could be a good stand-up comedian, various images of different comedians pass through my mind. The first one I see for some unknown reason is Charlie Chaplin. I know he was an actor and actually a brilliant one, but when you look at him, at his face, you can clearly see a deep wisdom within that person, seriousness and a profound ability to deal with everything life throws at him, without giving away too much. I personally see David like this – wise but closed, no matter what the hardship he might experience, you won’t see it unless he tells you how he feels or what concerns him; seriousness and great determination to move forward without letting anything and anyone put him down or stand in his way.
I asked him what keeps him going, approaching each day wanting to make the most of it. He said there were two things: “The first is naturally my family; having the love of my wife and children and watching them grow into successful, independent adults and hopefully to see them each start their own families. The other vital ingredient that keeps me going is my work, particularly writing novels for other to enjoy.Between writing magazine articles, I have thoroughly enjoyed completing five novels and am now working on my sixth.”
David approaches and manages his medical problems by joking about it, very much a style of black humour. Without any prior intention or preparation to test it, I have to admit I did. During our discussion, he mentioned he had to decide whether to undergo an operation which could cost him his life. Before I left his home, I asked him to let me know his decision as soon as possible, so I knew how much time I had to work on the interview. He took it with ease and promised to inform me once he’d made up his mind. We laughed. Some people might pity him, but I don’t. I actually admire him for who he is and how he is. I see a great legacy he is leaving after himself.
His first book Igloo was published in America by Publish America, but he tells me he’s amended it and the 2ndedition will be published by Paul Mould Publishing. From what I’ve seen, like dadinheaven.com bears similarities to David’s current life situation, Igloo does so for his earlier years. As in dadinheaven.com, the main character in Igloo is also a computer guru. But David was quick to add that there is no computer expert in the other three stories he’s completed!
As I am a writer myself, I became curious to know how long it usually takes for David to write his novels. According to him, it takes up to four to six months to write a book, then a few more months of editing while doing many other things in between and then there’s the publishing process which again takes a bit of time. “I hope people will find my books easy to read. I hope it will relax and detach them from everyday issues while reading my stories, at least for a bit, which would make the investment of my time so worthwhile,” David told me. And suddenly his incredible humbleness came out: “I know that as a writer I still have lots of growing and improving to do. I know I have limitations and I don’t go against that fact and for that reason I always listen to the opinions of others, even if I don’t necessarily agree with them. After analysing the comments, I choose what resonates with me and having listened to what others have to say, I filter all the information and then I decide. Honest criticism is very important to me.”
Based on my own experience I am aware that criticism can uplift and hurt at the same time, it all depends on how you take it, how you deal with it, how you handle it and whether you have any trust and faith in yourself as a creator. From David’s words, it is clearly visible that this person knows his worth, but he has also developed a flexible approach towards other people and their views. That is another perfect way for growth and expansion. “My books are born from the ideas that arise in me, I write them down and later stories get told. I just go with the flow. I do research if needed and make sure that things don’t get out of hand, particularly where specific details are required.”
He told me that he likes keeping chapters short and prefers dialogue over the narrative stuff. According to David, the image of the character or surrounding areas do not necessarily need to be told in a narrative way, it can be clearly expressed through dialogues just as well. I could not agree with him more.
Another thing that truly intrigued me was his modesty. He has absolutely no interest in being the centre of attention, even though he knows that in time he will have to come out into the public eye one way or another and yet he takes it in his stride. “Fame is not something that I thrive for but it is something that I do accept as a possible outcome. In that case, whatever is meant to be, then so be it.”
I wondered whether he was a believer in God, as God took a bit of space in his upcoming book and his answer neither surprised nor disappointed me. “I am not religious or bible crazy, it is just finding a switch in the subject and moving from terrorism into something more purposeful, perhaps philosophical and mysterious. God is a fictional character in my books. I am a non-believer and yet I do not deny his existence. Everyone is free to believe whatever they choose. I take a scientific approach to the matter of God and that is more than enough for me.” Then suddenly I got an urge to enquire whether he knew what death and life was. As only David can do this, he answered straight and without any hesitation: “I know what life and death is. I died three times and three times I was brought back to life. As you see, I am still here…”
“Being on Earth” he answered smiling. We laughed.
Then he continued: “I must say, I’m lucky as I can live my life as I please and the work I choose to do is based on whether I like it or not. If I don’t like it, I don’t do it. Simple as that.”
And then he spoke further: “I have a strong will to live and I am aware of it. I have been ill for 11 years. I keep myself preoccupied; I keep myself constantly creatively busy. I don’t know what boredom is. However, to be honest, I was in denial about my illness for many years, I tried to ignore its existence until one day I had to face it and admit its presence and then adjust to it accordingly. Eventually I had to give up my IT work and became pretty much house bound. But even now I don’t allow my illness to affect me. Of course, I would love to be healthy and feel physically fit, but right now the situation is as it is, so I learned to live with it and continue moving forward.”
He sincerely expressed the fact that he loved doing what he was doing. Apparently, no matter what life throws at you, if you are willing, you can adjust to any kind of situation, making the most of it and living life to the fullest. It all depends on the attitude you choose to adopt.
I asked David if at times he felt guilty by being ill, making the whole family readjust to his way of living. He answered without even letting me finish my question: “I don’t understand the word guilt. Why would I feel it, if I have no control over it?”
Good answer, I must say.
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NOTE: David Stephens passed away in the loving presence of his family in early January of 2012. This Interview was done and published in October 2011.
To keep up to date with David, visit his website at: www.davidstephens.info
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