Welcome once again #poddicts to another Behind The Mic. Our sneaky peak beyond the shop front, where we chat with the creators of some of our favourite audio dramas.
This time I have been lucky enough to chat with author and podcaster, Taryn Maxximillian Dafoe. Creator of the award-nominated ‘Afterlife’, a paranormal satire audio drama, ‘Mollyville’, a dystopian suspense story, and new to the block, ‘Maxximillian Presents: Thematic’. A journalistic interview style podcast.
Taryn to Behind the Mic. You have a lot of great work out there, in several different genres. Who or what would you say is an influence in your writing?
I can’t say there are influences directly to my writing, but I am a voracious reader and consumer of audio books. I write in a fictional world but my consumer tastes are almost strictly murder mystery and old metaphysical works, neither of which is my genre. My performances are influenced by Jon Rubinstein, Robert Fass, Janine Birkett and Ralph Cosham (Resquiscat in pace).
One of my favourite authors is Stephen King, I’ve heard several times that my writing is reminiscent of his but (LOL) I thought, at first, that people were just trying to be complementary because I was writing horror and he’s the most well-known, well-loved, and respected horror writer alive today. The subjects of my stories and the locales are dissimilar to his, but I’ve heard that compliment so many times now that … maybe he has influenced me. I’ve never studied his work, just enjoyed it.
There are other authors who I make it my business to study. They are: Louise Penny, M.C. Beaton, J.K. Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith, and China Miéville—his books Kraken, Perdido Street Station, The City & The City, Iron Council. My gawd. I tried to lick the pages. Patricia Highsmith I also love, but I only discovered her works after I’d already written and published Mollyville, so it isn’t fair to say she’s been an influence. But now that I’ve read her, who’s to say?
AFTERLIFE is a paranormal satire inspired by some old metaphysical audio recordings I came across on YouTube while looking for something entertaining to keep me company as I did something boring (probably the dishes). It was a recording of a computer voice narrating a book called THE NATURE OF PERSONAL REALITY by Jane Roberts. It got me thinking about how so much of what we experience is based on our beliefs, which led me to imagine what my own interface between lives might be like; based on my life experience, I imagined (and still hope) that it might take the shape of a cocktail bar (with free drinks!) and the idea for AFTERLIFE was born.
In preparation for writing the story, in addition to metaphysical studies—since the metaphysical material all seemed to be pointing in the same direction as science with regard to our universe, what reality is, and how it works—I watched numerous scientific documentaries on the nature of our universe, the human mind, what dreams are, and how our brains work. Then, I read THE HIDDEN REALITY by Brian Greene, a well-respected theoretical physicist and string theorist (in for a penny, in for a pound) to give myself a foundation from which to launch Jimmy and Karen into an afterlife that’s not just possible but probable.
Wow! That’s some serious research you’ve put in! I thought I loved science, But I’ve not gone as far as looking at particle physics.
So what got you into using podcasting as a format?
A friend in the movie business suggested that I’d get my films made faster if I had a following. My first thought was that YouTube would be the perfect platform for my original works—my initial plan was to produce Mollyville as an original digital series. I spent gobs of time at YouTube Studios in Los Angeles, but at that time, I couldn’t get anyone’s attention to my idea in any meaningful way. It would seem like now would be a better time to re-introduce the idea with the birth of YouTube Red, but since YouTube has gone PG with their content restrictions I can’t imagine it would be a good fit. The story of Mollyville is a bit too far on the dark edge for YouTube’s new conservative tastes with all the murders, incest, gambling, extortion and male prostitution that goes on in Mollyville. In my search for a platform that allowed more freedom, I recalled the words of Mike Bennett, thought of Scott Sigler’s success and knew that pod casting and distributing though iTunes would be the perfect—and more appropriate!—solution.
I don’t think I’d be podcasting today if it weren’t for a pod casting author named Mike Bennett. He told me years ago that I should have my own podcast. It took me awhile to get on it, but here I am. My other great influences for doing this type of work is Alasdair Stuart of Pseudopod fame. I used to listen to hours of Pseudopod—I don’t have the time to indulge the way I used to but that podcast and Alasdair’s commentary inspired me—I realised that fiction can (and should) have a deeper meaning and could be more than just entertainment. I wondered if I could write the kind of stories that would stick in a listener’s mind, long after the audio had ended. Pseudopod stories are like that: dark, addictive, sticky. Once again, I remembered the encouraging words of Mike Bennett… I decided to try. I picked up the quill—though I didn’t have any goals (at that time) of publication. Scott Sigler and then Alex Burrett read the first short story that I published, Daughter & The Snake, (the audiobook is narrated by world-class voice actor Dennis Kleinman), and both authors encouraged me onward. Mike, Scott, and Alex write outrageous, gorgeously bizarre fiction so delicious that if it were a spill on the carpet I’d try to suck it up with a straw. Their encouraging words, I knew, were not to be taken as simple compliments. I had something and would have been a fool not to pursue it. (I’m no fool.)
I’ve heard the process of creating a podcast is very labour intensive, were there many hurdles to overcome, or all out random crazy during the creation of your shows?
The story of Mollyville has a lot of characters in it, I’m still finding the voices for many of them. I found that I needed to take a break in the middle of the season to plan ahead, find and rehearse the voices, accents and dialects. It was an unplanned and unexpected break in my production schedule but quality matters to me more than any schedule, and I feel sure that my choice is in alignment with what listeners would appreciate most.
That makes sense to me. At the end of the day we all want the product to be the best it can be, and if that means taking more time then so be it. The end product is always what’s important.
If the world of writing and podcasting wasn’t something that interested you, what do you think you’d you be doing now?
Cannot compute… though I sometimes fantasise about being a forensic photographer. You know I even found the job board listing the job openings for police departments all over the United States, and discovered that the jobs available are in places I would never want to live. Also, I think I have more to offer the world by writing dark stories than documenting them in real life.
I absolutely love photography, but I don’t think I would want to do that. I think I could but… no thanks.
Getting back to the shows. For those of you that have not heard them, they are based on Taryn’s novels of the same name, as she explains here.
The Afterlife Paranormal Satire Audio Drama is based on the novel I wrote and released last year titled AFTERLIFE… Just like the Mollyville Dystopian Suspense Audio Drama is based on my dystopian fiction series called MOLLYVILLE.
Also in books, is my short story—a horror story—DAUGHTER AND THE SNAKE; the audio book version I highly recommend as it is read by world-class narrator Dennis Kleinman. It is the very first story I ever had published and am still quite proud of it. Early on I asked a few authors whose work I had been following and who I’d had the pleasure to discover when their fan base was smaller and one-on-one interactions were a possibility, they were Scott Sigler, Mike Bennett, and Alex Burrett. They liked DAUGHTER AND THE SNAKE and had encouraging words for me and so did Alasdair Stuart (of Pseudopod, EscapePod, fame—and a long-time curator of excellent horror, fantasy, and science fiction). Holding their encouragement and praise over myself like a doorman’s umbrella, I stepped out into the rain.
I have a new podcast called Maxximillian Presents: Thematic. Thematic is a journalism-based storytelling podcast featuring listener-themed stories. Each episode features an interview with a creator, innovator, writer, artist or scientist. A musical feature from a unique musical group, solo artist, or musician ranging in style from classical to funk is presented in each episode to shine a light on Maxximillian’s favorite—sometimes obscure—musical discoveries. (Coming soon to iTunes, and wherever podcasts are found.)
We’ve talked about Taryn’s three amazing shows so far. There is however a fourth for those that can’t get enough. A behind the scenes, “Warts an’ All” show that is available to Patrons only.
It’s a Patron Only podcast that I call the Bosom Buddy podcast. It’s an intermittent personal journal of gnarly titbits and stories from my professional life as it pertains to me personally. People often ask about what goes on behind the scenes, what projects I’m working on, how I expect to make money (LOL), what kinds of things happen behind the scenes in content creations, pitch meetings, and other bits. I talk about my experiences in screenwriting, content development, and pod casting. It’s kind of a private podcast, not for everyone to hear so I share things there that I wouldn’t with the general public—all the warts—but the happy, exciting bits too. The Bosom Buddy podcast is available to patrons who support me at the Bosom Buddy level or higher.
You may be aware, I always ask my guests ‘what are your top 3 favourite podcasts?’
Hall of Mirrors, Underwood and Flinch, One Among The Sleepless (all by Mike Bennett). His performances are excellent.
With a handful of shows, is there any time for future projects? What does the immediate future hold for you, work wise?
After this season of Mollyville, I’ll be taking a break from audio drama podcasts to write the next novels. (Sorry! But needs must.)
A big thank you to Taryn Maxximillian Dafoe for taking the time to talk with me. I would like to wish you all the best with your excellent work.
If like me you want to keep up with the events of Afterlife, and Mollyville, then head on over to her website, Twitter, or Facebook accounts where you will find all the information you need. Want to get the books? Click on this link to Amazon books. Or maybe you would like to find out more, or get involved in Thematic, you now have the chance!
Want to check out some more great interviews? Just click on the picture link below.