Author Q&A with Dustin Moon
by Christine Nessler
April 19, 2023
This week’s Author Q & A is with Dustin Moon. Moon is a writer from Victoria, BC. His work has appeared in Freefall Magazine, Pulp Literature, and forthcoming in Acta Victoriana and Fusion Fragment. He lives with his husband and their two hyper puppies.
Moon’s fiction story, Roger and Flight 8124, is featured in Issue #11 of The Good Life Review.
Tell us about yourself.
Well, I live in Victoria, B.C. with my husband and our two puppies, both born last year (2022), which was a hell of a choice on our part; I don’t think I’ve felt energized since. We also have full-time jobs so we’re quite busy. I attended the Writing Program at the University of Victoria and finished with a Bachelor of Arts in the field, which thankfully I get to apply to my day job, and I’m just as big a film nerd as a writing nerd.
Roger and Flight 8124 was a touching and relatable story of forgiveness and coming of age. What inspired you to write this story?
- Roger is a character that already exists in other pieces I’ve written as part of a challenge to myself to write multiple short stories from different perspectives of this family. I don’t know if that’s cheating or not (I hope not) but the mention of this story, of Roger’s young trauma, came to me a long time ago when writing about him from one of his sibling’s viewpoints, and that always seemed like a story worth expanding, so here we are.
- The setting for this story—the party at the house on the hill near the river—comes from a swirl of half-formed ideas I’d always had since I was about Roger’s age (in the memory). My teenage years were spent in that town and it’s such a confounding age where you have intelligence and emotions but they haven’t shaken hands yet. So you prioritize bizarrely. You have to drink. You have to smoke. You have to have fun in these prescribed ways even if your perfect notion of fun is a night in with friends, pizza, and a shitty B-movie on VHS. You become convinced that self-worth comes through milestones—and what’s a more salient milestone at fifteen than your virginity?
As an adult it can be powerful to return to the mistakes of youth with a different lens. How did reliving this memory help Roger to realize the predatory nature of his brother-in-law?
Roger is on a discovery of self-worth. If you’re the kind of person who beats themselves up a lot, has low self-esteem, stays quiet in group conversations, etc. then I think it’s a very powerful thing if you can one day tell yourself, “I have self-worth.” That’s enough—you don’t need to dig deeper than that—but Roger isn’t quite there yet, so he’s trying to rationalize his self-worth. Reliving these memories with this in mind I think grants him the ability to recontextualize the odd look across a dinner table, to admit how he felt but also admit he was fifteen (not to mention inebriated), and that it’s okay to shove his guilt on the actual offender, and permit himself to breathe a little easier for once.
What message do you hope reaches your audience through Roger and Flight 8124?
Self-worth is the big theme of the piece, which popped up to my surprise while writing it. Maybe a good message is that the journey from being mired in self-deprecation to being comfortable with yourself is long, complicated, not always linear, and you’re not failing if you’re “in process” for a long time.
And also forgive yourself for the shit you did when you were fifteen.
What impacted you most when writing it?
Two moments from the story stood out to me after writing it: the first is when Roger and Pearl reunite mid-party in the kitchen and Pearl breaks Roger’s unkind characterization of her and tells him he doesn’t have anything to prove. That was kind of the a-ha moment—like, “Oh, that’s why I’m writing this story.” The other is the line, I wish none of us ever had to be fifteen because that’s a sentiment I’ve always kind of felt, somewhere, ethereally, but this was my first time trying to put it into words, and I think that’s a very universal take. Being fifteen sucks for a lot of people and I wish it didn’t.
Tell us about the work you have done that has made you proud.
One of my first publications was a story called Hey, Little Tomcat in Freefall Magazine, and it means a lot to me because it was a bloated mess in excess of ten thousand words and, after shelving it for the better part of a decade, I told myself I would rip it to shreds, get to the very core of it, and make it 90% better by cutting 90% of it. And I did—and thanks to Freefall for seeing something in it.
I’m proud of the full body of work that Roger’s story is included in. I’ve written four stories about the Ayer family and I can’t predict the future but I feel done with it now—like I did what I set out to do. Hopefully more of Roger and his kin will be available to read one day.
I have a story coming out this summer in Fusion Fragment called Permafrost. Won’t say much except it’s fairly different for me and it’s rare when I finish a story and my first impression is positive. That was this story.
One more worth mentioning is a story called At the End of the Breakwater, which was originally adapted for a podcast called A Story Most Queer. That’s the first story of mine that resonated with my fellow writers during my time at UVic and it has always been my favourite distillation of what high school was like for me: 2005, a quiet town, closeted, scared but also emboldened but also so goddamn scared. I think it’s still my most emotionally impactful story and I hope to see it in print one day.
What is your writing process? How do you make it a part of your daily life?
I know the old adage is write every day, and for good reason, but I also think that’s starting to become a more privileged dictum. Not in the sense that writing itself is difficult to achieve—you can do it whether you have the latest iMac or a dull pencil and sheet of loose leaf—but writing also takes energy and I think many of us are running low right now. I know I am. I think if you just do something for your art—write, read, watch, think, plan, edit—then you’re doing the modern day equivalent of writing every day. I wish I had a routine where I forced myself awake several hours before sunrise, but part of that self-worth journey is self-care, and I know this makes me sound so thirty-three, but holy hell I love sleep.
For me, I write when I can. It’s that simple. If that’s every day for a week, a fortnight, a month, great. If not, then I still read, I still watch, and I think, think, think. Thinking about my stories is invaluable for me—it’s like doing the daily crossword.
How have your life experiences impacted the way you write?
That’s a tough question. Content-wise, my long bout with depression and loneliness and self-loathing informed much of my less hopeful pieces. These days, I think that experience is still informing my work, but now I’m in a place where I can end stories looking off toward the future rather than remaining stuck in place and time, unmoved. If anyone wants to take that as an “it gets better” statement, please go for it.
How does writing help you to explore or make sense of the world around you?
Another hardball. The stock answer would be something about empathy and new perspectives, which isn’t a lie. Too often, though, I think it’s a way for me to learn more about myself. What are my limitations? Where do I feel challenged? Not challenged enough? What’s a pain I can soothe by giving it a voice? What’s a memory that won’t leave me until I give it a better purpose? I don’t know if that counts as exploring the world.
What helps to keep you inspired and out of creative slumps?
I should say books, but usually films. Sometimes shows, but usually films—a distinct beginning, middle, end. Even if the story doesn’t blow me away, I can still enjoy a profound performance or marvel at a technical achievement or feel all those inexplicable feelings when an expert cinematographer lights and frames a scene in a way I’ve never seen before. Seeing what I’ve never seen before—that has to be the answer.
The rest of the time? Being kind to myself helps. I used to give myself a hard time when I hit the odd slump or if I got too busy. But being kind to myself during those times has actually spurred me back to the writer’s chair more often than when I used to give myself mental thrashings.
What do you think of when you hear the phrase, “The Good Life?”
A quiet, rainy evening, the family taking up the entire couch—dogs and all—with blankets, a nearby fireplace, and something engrossing on the TV.
Dustin.. Thank you for sharing your story with us and taking extra time to answer our questions. We are grateful for you and your work and wish you the best!