BOOKS TO KNOW – AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Author Don Gaitens talks about “Debut”, the new Spud Publishing fantasy anthology


Mariah Cain, Editor

DC Spotlight Newspaper’s Editor-in-Chief Wendy Thompson sat down with Don Gaitens, one of the co-authors of “Debut”, a new fantasy book by Spud Publishing, Inc.  Gaitens is one of five authors who helped pen the anthology series, along with Chenise Puchailo, Amy Gerien, Rachel Sikorski, and Irish Williams.   

WENDY THOMPSON: You’re in the DC Spotlight, Don. Thanks for coming in!

DON GAITENS: Thanks so much for having me, Wendy. I’m really happy to be joining you.

WENDY THOMPSON: So let’s jump right in. This book is published by Spud Publishing, which is a new publishing house in Canada. How did you get involved with Spud Publishing?

DON GAITENS: Well, as it happens, one of the founding members of Spud Pub, Chenise, is a dear friend. We met over a decade ago at a ballroom dancing event and we hit it off with our shared love of writing and storytelling. So when she told me that she was opening up a publishing business, I immediately submitted some 

of my work thinking that I would get just another “thank you for trying” message, as you do from so many publishers. But she accepted, and I managed to get all the way through. 

WENDY THOMPSON: Super, so why did you choose fantasy out of all of the genres to choose?

DON GAITENS: Fantasy is a really really great storytelling area where you can touch on difficult topics without pointing fingers at existing figures. And I like being able to talk about difficult things in a way that is approachable. Plus, I’m a giant nerd. I’m been reading fantasy my whole life and I just love it.

WENDY THOMPSON: So why did you choose this story? What inspired you about it?

DON GAITENS: So my story in this anthology is called “Perry Frowlings Desert Dangers” and it’s about a combat medic who encounters magic, magical forces, spirits, genies while he’s deployed.  I come from military family, I have friends that are in the service, a lot of respect for them. The stuff that they go through is hard and there’s all kinds of things that happen that impact them, and I wanna be able to address some of it in a way also integrates with storytelling, because I grew up hearing about, you know, military and the hard things that they have to go through and I wanted to address it. But also bring in some of the light-hearted fantasy aspects because even in the darkest times, we still joke, right? 

WENDY THOMPSON: Exactly. Definitely. So what did you do before you became a writer?

DON GAITENS: I’ve been writing for a really long time. I started as a high school journalist in the Yorkton Newspaper up in Saskatchewan, Canada, and then I took a zigzag path. Um, but eventually I became a literacy English teacher, taught drama, and then when I wanted to pay off my student loans, I jumped over into the corporate world and worked as a technical writer there. I’ve been writing my whole life. And also as a hobby, which is sort of a narrow field, but still fun for me.

WENDY THOMPSON: Oh, great, great. So what inspired you to become a writer?Are there any writers that inspired you or stand out for you? 

DON GAITENS: I specifically call one of them out in the book, Orson Scott Card, um the guy who wrote “Enders Game.” Terry Pratchett, another great, great author. Douglas Adams. And all the authors of “Star Trek,” again, giant nerd. But they all did things. where they did social commentary while telling it in a way that wasn’t dangerous, right? So they were able to bring in um kindness and empathy and compassion for human beings and in hard circumstances, but in a way that didn’t set fire to their lives. 

WENDY THOMPSON: Exactly. Exactly. So when you were young, you know, what did you want to be when you grew up? Was that telling on your radar or was there something else you wanted to be?

DON GAITENS: I have wanted to be a storyteller my whole life. My mom kept my report cards, and it’s listed there frequently of “Don tells a lot of stories.” 

WENDY THOMPSON: Is that like lies or is that stories?

DON GAITENS: Well, when you’re younger, fantasy and reality can drift together a little bit and I was a rambunctious boy and tried to get stories to get myself out of trouble frequently. But, as I grew older I put them on paper instead of just telling them to people. 

WENDY THOMPSON: So what is the most difficult part about writing?

DON GAITENS: Staring at that blank piece of paper, knowing that you wanna tell a good story that people are gonna love and engage with and touch and let it touch them and have that blank piece of paper stir back at you. Now, as Neil Gaiman said, “Writing is easy, just cut yourself and then bleed onto the paper.”

WENDY THOMPSON: Oh my God. So, can you give me a little bit about what your story is about. This is an anthology, so I believe there are five stories in the book? 

 DON GAITENS: Yeah, so my story makes up about 25 % of the total anthology. Would you like me to read a section or just give you like brief on what’s happening? 

WENDY THOMPSON: Just give me an overview of what’s happening. 

DON GAITENS: Okay, well I’m going to start by sharing this amazing illustration. So Shaan Ali Khan, the senior artist — each of us writers got paired with an artist, and he did mine. One of the first things that happens is in the story Perry and his crew are in a convoy heading to do a Goodwill delivery to one of the local villages, and they are attacked, and everything blows up… and his whole team blows up… and he blows up, which is what that image was, and he is saved for reasons unknown that become slowly evident over the course of the story. He later encounters a gnome, a small little garden gnome that has been working by his side, secretly, to keep him alive through all the difficulties that he’s encountered. And he encounters a genie where I tie in some Shakespeare stuff, and people who are fan of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will recognize the genie when described as a person who made Queen Titania angry. And then things roll out where conflict happens and wishes are made and bad things occur and there is a fight nearly to the death and things are resolved and Perry gets to go home. But, more stuff happens… I’m gonna leave it there because I leave the story off there, on a cliffhanger.

WENDY THOMPSON: That’s intriguing. That’s really intriguing I mean, that’s the thing about fantasy, you can go there, you know, with it. So as a writer, when you think about the writing that you do, what would you what would be the tips that you could give writers? Like three tips that you would give writers and new writers who want to be published?

DON GAITENS:  Expect rejection. That’s the number one thing. Harden your skin. I have an actual file folder, there’s about 46 rejection letters in there from magazines and other places, because you just submit your stuff and hope for the best. Number two? No ideas are bad ideas. It’s better to have something to cut than it is to try to generate things, so write all your silly ideas down, stitch them together however you need and cut later. And then the last one is, don’t let perfect be the enemy of complete because you can’t submit something that you’re polishing. Finish it. Finish the story, put it out there, you can fix it later. You can’t fix it if you’re not done.

WENDY THOMPSON: Exactly. Exactly. Those are good tips, very good tips. So if you had an Oscar speech that you were giving tonight, who would you think for all of the help along the way as a writer? As a person? 

DON GAITENS: I’m going to steal from Snoop, right out of the gate, I’m going to thank me. Because I bust my ass I hustle. I write. Like, I do a full day’s work — I work a 50 hour work week, and then I write in my own time, and I try to have a social life, so I’m going to thank me because I’m putting in the work.  I’m going to thank the people that rejected me because they told me what I needed to do to improve, right? Success only teaches you to keep doing what you’re doing. When you fail, and someone tells you why you failed, that’s a gift. They’re teaching how to step up. Right? And I’m going to thank my publishers, Spud Pub, for taking a chance because I’m just an old nerd that was writing down some silly ideas and they thought it was cool and they’re giving it a chance. 

WENDY THOMPSON: That’s awesome. That’s awesome because when you realize that everything relies on you, then in the end, yes, thank yourself. When it all comes down to you, yes, thank yourself because sometimes people just don’t step up to the plate because it’s all on them. But those who do, yes thank yourself.

DON GAITENS: Fear never gets fixed by thinking about it, you got to do. 

WENDY THOMPSON: Exactly. Exactly. So, where can our readers find you? Where can they first of all follow you? And where can they pick up the book? 

DON GAITENS: So the book is available on Amazon and Kindle, so you can download the e-versions there. You can download physical copies like this lovely one here from, the publisher’s website. For myself, I’m on most social media as dongeoneer

WENDY THOMPSON: Okay, great! Well, it was so nice talking to you, we can’t wait to read the book. I mean all the writers in the book, we can’t wait to read theirs and yours also. We hope that this won’t be your first. Is this your first, actually?

DON GAITENS: This is my first published short story. I’ve previously sold a play to community theater so it’s not in wide circulation.

WENDY THOMPSON: Well this is your first then. Congratulations! And we hope it won’t be your last. Many more. 

DON GAITENS: Thank you very much.

WENDY THOMPSON: Thank you, Don.


Follow Don Gaitens on Instagram and Facebook:  @Dongeoneer 

Follow Spud Publishing on Instagram: @Spudpubinc and Facebook: @SpudpublishingInc

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