The Roundtable Podcasters Interview, part the first

Today, I have the distinct privilege of having a sitdown with not one, but two absolutely awesome and wonderful people who have not only helped me, but helped not only dozens of writers personally, but countless others through their podcast, appropriately named The Roundtable Podcast, a finalist in the Parsec Awards for 2012 in the “Best Content Creation SpecFic Podcast” category. It is here that, twice a week, the two masterminds behind the podcast, David Robison and Brion Humphrey, either spend twenty-ish minutes talking to an author to gain insight on that writer’s upcoming works, or spending an hour or so working with an upcoming writer who has an idea they would like to, in the words of Dave Robison, transform their ideas into literary gold. This process is invaluable to those writers who have that idea in their heads or on paper or both and they want to try and coax into existance, but just aren’t quite sure how. Between Dave, Brion, and their guest-host author, the story flows, the ideas coalesce and the words burst forth into a cataclysm of creativity.

Yeah, Dave does introductions so much better than I do. It’s a gift.

Regardless of how bad my intros are, Dave and Brion have graciously agreed to answer a few questions not only of the podcast kind, but also the literary. Dave Robison has always been a creative sort, having started writing at age eight, acting at age ten, music in the form of the trumpet at twelve, going on to going quite possibly anything and everything devoted to the expression of creation. Magazine cover art, audio scripts, and building board games are just a minute few of the talents David Robison has to offer this world. His co-host and friend, Brion Humphrey, is just as talented, with acting, writing and directing credits to his name. He also has a hand in molding the future creative writers of America by teaching creative writing and English in high school. He’s penned articles, short stories, radio scripts and right now has a novel he knows he needs to work on. Both men are indubitably the bee’s knees when it comes to tossing ideas back and forth, and even helped some incredibly talented and modest guy make a story about the Devil’s innocense become a reality in the form of the book In The Details, with the help of guest-host Myke Cole. Dave and Brion took a few minutes out of their day to give some insight into their creative outlets.

Welcome to the both of you!

Due to the awesomeness that is the Roundtable Podcast, I’m going to break the interview into two parts., with the first five questions from both gentlemen for part one, and the final five for part B. No matter what, if you’re a creative type, you’ll want to read both parts. The second section will drop in four days, as to better allow you awesome party people to absorb the coolness that is the Roundtable Podcast.

1. For those who haven’t had a chance to listen to the Roundtable Podcast, they’re really missing out, and the first question anyone would have is: How did the Roundtable Podcast get started?

Brion: Dave had this great idea and I latched on with claws laced with gorilla glue and refused to let go.  Really, Dave and I worked together on some radio theatre in Fort Collins, Colorado.  We found that even though we didn’t always agree on how a story should go, the process of bouncing ideas back and forth gave us infinitely richer material than we would have come up with individually and while I kept him grounded, he forced me off my feet and into worlds I was afraid to venture into.  When Dave left Colorado, I found myself utterly without an outlet for my creative needs.  Then he called one day and said, “Hey, let’s do a podcast.”  And I said…”what the hell’s a podcast?”  And the Roundtable was born.

The RTP got started because of traffic, rabbit holes, and my theater degree.

Dave: I had a long commute to work (1 hour) and a bad case of road rage. NPR wasn’t cutting it and I needed something to get my mind off the automotive lunacy that was unfolding around me every day. A good friend had turned me on to Mur Lafferty’s “Heaven” series, which ended up being my gateway drug to the whole podcast experience. One of my favorite podcasts was the Dead Robots’ Society and every now and then they had an episode where they would brainstorm each other’s story ideas. I LOVED those episodes! They made me nostalgic for the conversations and debates I’d have with my buddy Brion back in Colorado.

See, Brion and I had done some great work together with a non-profit radio theater company called Rabbit Hole Radio Theatre. We worked with a writing team scripting and producing dozens of half-hour radio scripts.

Now, there’s an old theater joke that goes, “How many actors does it take to screw in a light bulb?” The answer: 1,001. One to screw it in and the rest to say “Oh hell, I can do THAT”. So I’m sitting there in my car one day thinking that I love to brainstorm ideas, I have the audio production chops to handle the technical stuff, and I’ll bet Brion would get a kick out of it.

Voila! Instant podcast… made possible through an alignment and sequence of events YEARS in the making! : )

2. The podcast has had a veritable plethora of “literary alchemists”, such as Justin Macumber, Phillipa Ballentine, Myke Cole, Mur Lafferty and Nathan Lowell. What is the selection process for finding these literary alchemists, and how do you choose the right one for the workshop episodes?

Brion: This is a process question, and since I have greedily allowed Dave to do all the heavy lifting — actually Dave does do all the work, I just show up and look pretty — Dave should definitely take this one…

Dave: Initially, we figured it would be best to approach authors who are at least comfortable with the idea podcasting, so we listened to who Mur and Justin and everyone were interviewing and followed up with them. We also pursued authors who were podcasting their own fiction… they were clearly progressive thinkers and would be less inclined to turn us down.

Because, you see, we were utterly terrified. We were convinced that these fine people would have better things to do with their time than hang out with the likes of us for a couple hours. It didn’t take us long to discover that A) these were really wonderful charming nice folks who B) LOVED to talk about their work and their craft! It was marvelous and liberating, and we continue to have a blast exploring everyone’s unique perspectives and processes for the writer’s craft.

We expanded our network to include authors with wider circulations or from different genres (YA, Thriller, etc) and even different formats (like comics or music) just cast as wide a net as possible in the exploration of this amazing creative process. We listened to other podcasts, we follow folks on Twitter… and THEN we had an inspiration!

Let the guest writer decide who they wanted to be their Guest Host!

It was brilliant! They’d give us a list and we’d instantly zoom in on the people we DIDN’T know, purely in the interests of exploring new vistas of the creative horizon! It was fabulous… got to meet Andrew Mayne that way, and we’d have NEVER had the courage to approach Seanan McGuire if a writer hadn’t requested her. Our writers are our greatest resource!

3. As a semi-followup to the previous question, I know every one of the authors you’ve had on are awesome, so who are the ones you would love to have twenty-ish minutes to pick their brains?

Brion: You’re absolutely right, every single author has been amazing, but for me, there are two that I just didn’t get enough time to dissect: Lou Anders is a force to be reckoned with, and while twenty more minutes might actually cause my own brain to go into synapse overload, I dare say…it would be worth it.  I felt like we all should have been conferred with honorary Masters degrees just for talking to the guy.  Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.  And my second choice would have to be Emma Newman, who is equally insightful, and just plain fun to talk to.  And to listen to.  ‘Nough said.   

Dave: Definitely Harlan Ellison. That sonuvabitch blew my mind in high school and continues to do so to this day. He’s a poet with a rusty razor, a visionary who casts his illuminating gaze to the dark shadows of the heart and (like Pandora) finds some frail tremulous hope there. Sometimes. He’s honest, visceral, merciless, and utterly unpredictable. I love his work.

Another one would be Guy Gavriel Kay, author of “Lions of al-Rassan” and “Tiganna”, two of my favorite books in the world. I’d love to speak to him about how he creates cultures that are utterly familiar but completely new and then peoples them with stories and characters whose tread makes pages vibrate. On the topics of characterization and worldbuilding, there could be no finer tutor.

4. Every writer out there, no matter how much they’ve written, has that “moment” where they all but stand up and scream “Nailed it!” Be it a scene, a description, or even an entire chapter, what was that “moment”?

Brion: Fourth Grade.  Seriously.  I reconstructed the Little Jack Horner nursery rhyme.  It went like this: Little Jack Horner, sat in a corner, eating a retina pie.  He stuck in his thumb, and what felt like a plumb, was really a decomposed eye.  I really never had to write another word again, cause that pretty much will never be topped. 

Dave: I’d hope those moments aren’t so rare… personally, I’m hard pressed to pick one. But I know what causes it. That feeling of exaltation comes from either making, revealing, or discovering a connection. That perfect bit of dialog? You just found a way to connect the reader to some aspect of a character’s essence. A wonderful description? Same thing… usually using the fewest words possible to achieve the broadest meaning possible.

For me, those moments bring clarity to the story or to a character or to a relationship between the two. The clumsy awkward fumbling of a word sculptor – trying to expose the right combination of detail to suggest a much larger concept – falls away and for that moment, you touch something potent. You see bigger and farther, everything makes sense, you’re the ruler of all you survey.

And then you hit the NEXT paragraph… 😉

5. What have been at least one or two of the more interesting moments of the podcast? Not necessarily the “literary gold” moments, but just moments that were etched into your mind with an icepick and no amount of brain bleach with get it out.

Brion: There was an episode…I don’t even remember why, I don’t know if I challenged Dave, or if the guest host razzed him or what.  But Dave left for a full ten minutes and forced me to improvise and take on the running of the podcast while the smug son of a bisquit just sat there in front of his microphone grinning at my severe ineptitude. I’m not a Host-host.  I’m a color-guy-host.  I’m the co-pilot who pretends to be important but panics if the pilot passes out and really never passed the final exam at flight school.  I get chills, night sweats, night sweats DAVE! 

Dave: The interview with Seth Harwood back in July 2012 really sticks out in my mind, mostly because it was an opportunity to explore the craft from a “non-speculative genre” perspective. Brion and I are colossal nerds and so (I think) are the bulk of our listenership (and I say that with love and admiration… geek is the new cool) so the majority of our writers and Guest Hosts have come from the spec-fic world. Seth is an incredibly gifted writer of gritty noire thrillers and having him on the show felt like getting a fresh perspective on familiar creative terrain.

You know, that question sent me trolling through my memory of past episodes and then to the website to do the same thing. What’s interesting to me is that my memory and the website don’t match. I mean they DO – I don’t “remember” episodes that never happened – but there ARE episodes there that I didn’t recall until I reviewed our past schedule. Once I saw them, I remembered them of course, but I’m intrigued by the exercise of examining the episodes that reside in my mental RAM as opposed to the ones that are tucked away on my mental hard drive.

I think it comes down to the fact that the mission of the podcast and my own personal objectives have become parallel but not entwined. With each episode the Roundtable has become more than just “Dave and Brion talk with writers”… every host and writer is adding to the direction and relevance of the podcast and that’s something completely beyond my control. And that’s really kind of cool… and a challenge for Brion and I to continue to evolve as creators AND as hosts of the show. We can’t do the same thing over and over… it can be familiar, but it should never be stale.

To be continued in part two on Tuesday… See? Told you these guys are amazing. Go see them at and follow them on Twitter at @WritersPodcast. While you’re at it, go Like them on Facebook at You know you want to.

~ by Walker on March 16, 2013.

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