The ‘Use Only As Directed’ Interviews: Dave Freer

1 08 2014

Dave Freer‘s story, ‘Never More’, is the seventh in Use Only As Directed, the anthology that Edwina Harvey and I co-edited earlier this year. Dave sent through two photos in addition to his interview responses; the other photo was more conventionally informative, in an author-depiction sense, but the shot which I’ve included below, which Dave mischieviously captioned ‘The Gullfriend’, seemed somehow so appropriate in view of his UOAD story (despite the gull / raven nonequivalence problem) that I simply could not pass it by.

Rather than attempt clumsily to offer an introduction for someone who, I suspect, has written rather too many novels to nowadays require any introduction, I shall hand proceedings over at this stage to Dave himself. I must, however, acknowledge a small debt of gratitude: for if Dave and I had never conversed over the subject of his story’s possible inclusion in UOAD, I might have gone to my grave without ever having learnt of the delightful mass-market publishing concept of the ‘goat-gagger’. (But that, perhaps, is a tale for another day …)*


What should readers know about you before they sit down to read ‘Never More’?

The sequence of my DNA (that’ll keep them busy while I get away).  A slightly less flippant reply: Nothing. The story doesn’t need you know or like me. It really doesn’t care. In fact careful analysis has established that very few stories give a toss. What they really care about is the reader enjoying the story.  If the reader curious about what sort of human produces a story like ‘Nevermore’ that’s a different matter. I’m an ex-ichthyologist (although I am quite wary about telling people, because my former co-religionists believe the penalty for apostasy is either death or being forced to watch Who wants to be a Millionaire until you are very, very sorry) who blundered into writing thinking he had an excellent training in creative fantasy (AKA fisheries modelling). When I discovered it was slightly more complicated if less inventive, I was just too obstinate to give up.  I live on a windswept island with 0.2 of person per square kilometer, but fortunately I am able space them out a bit further with sea.  I’m a hunter-gatherer who has encountered the 21st century, and largely told it to stuff itself. I read too much, too fast, and seem to remember most of it. I also climb cliffs. I dive for spiny lobsters and shoot fish. I do strange things under the distinct impression that they’re not strange because I do them, you lot are.  I’m not sure it adds any value to the story, but it may explain how I know what ontogeny means. I’ve had a bunch of novels published so far, in the US, some with Eric Flint and Misty Lackey. A couple have been bestsellers. A lot haven’t.

What provoked you (or, if you’d rather, encouraged you) to tell the story you did? What was the germ of the idea that led to it?

You and Edwina poked me with a sharp stick and a short deadline. Seriously, Edwina chose the right phraseology. She said (and I paraphrase) Have you got anything in your trunk that would possibly do for the collection, because it is far too short a notice to ask anyone to write something. So I did. I had to make it hard for myself by deciding to work with one character… who can only say one word. There are quite a lot of meanings to that word, of course. It’s a riff on Edgar Alan Poe’s  ‘The Raven’… well, as far as the raven is concerned. When did a cat pay any attention to what it was supposed to do?

If you were told you were only allowed to keep one sentence from the published story, what sentence would that be, and why?

Really, that story has too many full stops. If you take them all out it will read much better. That’s hard. ‘As a cat he’d known rules are for people and other lesser creatures.’ Will probably have to do. Next time I shall write a pearl of sentence, instead of sticking to short ones in line with my intellect.

How are you adjusting to life in Australia? Your bio mentions something about an attempt at self-sufficiency on a Bass Strait island — would you care to expand on that for us a little?

We came to Australia – rather than several other countries because in culture and attitudes (particularly out beyond the black stump) it was easiest for us to fit into. That’s something I thought made logical sense: if you’re leaving a country because life there is becoming exceptionally unpleasant (in the case of our old country, where crime, violence and discrimination were escalating steadily, with no sign of a turn-around) there is no point in dragging the baggage of the culture that produced this situation with you. You have to leave it behind, and learn to adapt and fit in. So we set about doing that, and learning to be Australians to the best of our ability. We have found Australia (or at least our Island and the people here) easy to love, and it seems the islanders feel we’re OK – we had more than 10% of the population at our citizenship ceremony. That’s not a bad tally of friends for four years. Actually the bastards all showed up to laugh at me saying ‘G’day mate’ but I prefer my first version of self-deception.

Self-sufficiency/hunter gatherer (wry smile) look most of this has little or nothing to do with my writing (except if I write about hunting food or living off the land). It’s just a moral viewpoint of my own that I don’t expect anyone else to live by. Yes, I am a few sandwiches short of a lunch-pack. I like to grow/gather/catch/kill our own food. That way I know where it came from, how hard it was to get, what ecological footprint it had, and if it required killing that it was done according to standards I find acceptable. We’re not ‘never-buy-anything’ fanatics, the basic food groups like coffee and chocolate won’t grow here, and the processing is not simple for chocolate. Shampoo and dishwasher come from the supermarket. We just grow or shoot or catch or spear the protein, grow or gather the veg and fruit, and starches are either our own potatoes or oats or bulk bought flour. There are quite a few like us around and we tend to not so much barter as help each other out with things we can’t do or get. I give a fair amount of fish, crays, muttonbirds particularly to the older folk on the island. We tend to get a lot of cakes, some mutton and chickens in exchange, but it doesn’t really matter because it is its own reward. Your grandparents probably lived pretty much like this, except with the internet. It means I do take time when I could be writing to go out in dark with a handspear in the cold clear water, or collecting olives to preserve, or smoking my own bacon. It makes me what I am.

What are you currently working on, and what would you like to tell readers of this blog about your current endeavour?

Not more than four books. I’m editing a contemporary fantasy (it’d be urban fantasy, except it is set in a rural setting. Write about what you know) involving an apparent poltergeist and a selkie and a kid who failed at being a city boy and got sent off to his loony grandmother who lives in back end of nowhere. I’m writing a whodunit murder mystery about a dead priest. I’m editing another High fantasy involving a demon-possessed sword, and slowly getting going on a novel set on a gas giant, populated by the survivors of a crashed convict ship…


If you’re curious to learn more about Dave’s writing, on subjects from dragons to mil-SF and everything in between, his website is at

If you’re now feeling motivated to read ‘Never More’ and the other stories in Use Only As Directed, the links are here: (PBB (publisher, pbk, epub, pdf, mobi); Amazon (mobi))

Tomorrow’s interview: Lyn McConchie, ‘Fetch Me Down My Gun’.

(* Oh, very well. Just to ensure that I don’t have the lackeys of the Goat Defence League on my case — again — I’d better explain, as Dave did to me, that a ‘goat-gagger’ involves no actual physical gagging of any actual physical goat, so far as I know — though what goes on in the backlots of large publishing houses is a mystery to me, and may remain ever thus. A goat-gagger is just a mass-market paperback, written for summer holiday release, of such compendious spinewidth that it would prove impossible for a goat to successfully swallow. So now you know. What you do with this gobbet of information, of course, is up to you.)




3 responses

5 08 2014

I thought a goat-gagger was an extremely long story in general.

13 11 2014

Dave Freer may have the best author pic I’ve ever seen.

13 11 2014

Agreed, it’s pretty awe-inspiring.

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