Monday, April 23, 2012

True Grit: a Jaw-Dropping, Revealing Interview with Gusto Dave

Brace yourself for a shock. The real Dave Jackson will surprise you.

A multi-talented and disciplined workaholic, he came to Colorado on a tragic note. In the same week he was engaged to marry his long time fiancée, start a new job as a Sr. Manager in Engineering, and buy a house—at the top of the real estate boom no less, his father passed away of colon cancer. Before Dave signed up for these big life changing events, he and his father knew the prognosis. But the elder had told his son that life had to go on. So Dave marched forward as his father had wished.

The next year, he lost his mother to MS and his job to layoffs due to the tech crash.

Because he and his wife are resourceful and shrewd with a dime, they have weathered the recession unscathed. They also added to their family. Dave used his time wisely, volunteering with charities and working when possible. He raised/tutored their youngest son who continues to score off the charts on school assessments.

Although Dave had dabbled with writing before, it was in the wake of his losses that he decided to write, this time to seek publication.

CIR: You have quite a few real life stories you could tell. Are there any that most of your writer colleagues might not have heard?

GD: They make for better anecdotes over drinks than anything, but yeah, I have a few hair raisers.

I’ve been shot at. Good thing I ducked.

You know on TV where they show a guy pass out from getting clobbered in the head with a full liquor bottle? That’s not right. It happened to me and I didn’t black out. Don’t get me wrong, it hurt and there was plenty of blood, but it scared me more than anything.

Then there was a time that a biker gang head honcho wanted to kill me—so his buddies said. That resolved very happily. I doubt you want to read a drawn out account of it, but it’s worth saying that music does indeed calm the savage beast. That was a weird night.

In college, I had to kick a roommate out of our house because he stole like 12 marijuana plants from the surrounding county (another long story) and thought he was going to harvest them in his room. And these plants were over five feet tall. Moron.

Let’s see…wrecked a motorcycle on the highway. Wasn’t wearing a helmet. I walked away with only a broken collar bone.

In the Navy, I wound up stuck in a very bad part of town—that will go unnamed—in the middle of the night and somehow I got back to the ship.

Me and some buddies outran an attempted mugging up in Chicago.

That’s probably enough.

CIR: Music played a big role of your early life. You’re a guitarist and singer. What kind of success did you have? Do you think it helps you as an author?

GD: As far as success goes, I had a song picked up by a music publisher (same thing as a literary agent—they go around pitching your songs to recording artists). The record company reps thought the song was too sad though.

There were several periods in which music was the only way I paid my bills. After getting out of the Navy and returning to college, I played standards in restaurants for about a year, my only source of income. My Dad and his girlfriend came out to hear me one night and she said I looked like a zombie thanks to my fatigue. It was definitely wearing me out playing till midnight Tuesdays through Saturdays and being bright-eyed and bushy tailed for class Wednesday and Friday mornings.

My first year in Colorado, I played bass in a heavy metal band. It was good money, too. But when I’d come home, I’d drop in my tracks and fall asleep. Unfortunately, I always bite off more than I can chew.

And there was this survivalist dude back in '98—you remember the Y2K stuff?—that wanted me to record all of his lyrics…which had to do with starting the world over. No kidding. I won’t tell you what he did for a living, but he paid me a whopping chunk to set up the deal with the studio, put music to his words, sing and play the instruments (except for drums – that was a track). Haven’t heard from him since.

Yes, fiddling with the music business has certainly helped with my writing. I’m thankful to be able to stay home and write as opposed to galloping all over the place to play gigs. I guess it also helped to know up front in my pursuit to get published that it wouldn’t be easy.

CIR: How do you describe yourself (the top three things that come to mind)?

GD: Passionate, ugly, but the coolest geek you’d ever want to know. Unfortunately, passion comes with baggage like extreme impatience, a hair trigger temper, and a tendency to control everything. At least it does for me. For the past two decades, I’ve done things like exercise, joke, or just flat out walk away to manage my temperament. And for the most part, I think it works, because most people don’t seem to notice how intense I am. Life has taught me to loosen up on my controlling grip. I mean…hell, there are just some devastating turns out there that you can’t do a damn thing about. I always remember those when I get that fidgety urge to wastefully commandeer something. Other than that, passion is quite useful.

CIR: How did stand-up comedy enter the picture?

GD: I never would have dreamed that I’d try comedy. I used to think that somebody would have to be crazy to get up in front of a bunch of people, out there on a limb by themselves, trying to get a bunch of drunks to guffaw.

This all changed when I was playing a gig, getting nice compliments about my musical renditions, but it was all just so sedate. I knew the people in the restaurant liked the songs composed by other artist and that I’d done them justice, but there was no me in the music.

So, I realized I needed to add a personal touch to my repertoire. Some humor sounded like the right fit. Armed with a couple of whimsical stories, I returned to the microphone and between songs, I shared with the audience. Overall, the pseudo jokes did well even though I had a tendency to diddle with my guitar while telling them. So that meant I was nervous. That’s when it hit me that I needed to go to the mike all by myself, no instrument to hide behind, and do it up right. It also occurred to me that if I could pull off real stand-up comedy, I might be able to pen one or two funny lines in a novel which would hopefully help to sell it. Plus, if I ever got the book deal, wouldn’t some humor at signings/ appearances help sales?

My focus became stand-up. I went to some very seedy open mike nights and bombed. Undeterred, I finally wrote some pretty good material, got the delivery down, and rocked it at the Comedy Works in LODO Denver. Now, I only do comedy gigs if one of my comic buddies calls me to fill in. Don’t have a lot of time right now. For that same reason, I haven’t picked up a guitar in over a year.

CIR: What are your current writing goals and challenges? (What are you working on?)

GD: Doing whatever my agent tells me. It’s hard to write because my fingers are crossed 24 X 7, trying to squeeze any luck to my agent as she pitches my novel.

CIR: Do you prefer igneous, metamorphic, or sedimentary?

GD: Geology swept me away in college. It was so cool because I had just learned about the classifications of soil depths (I.E., Cambrian, Pre-Cambrian, Permian, Jurassic) and then Jurassic Park hit the theaters. In another life, I am a geologist. So I love them all.

CIR: How has RMFW helped you advance your career?

GD: Through the conferences and critique groups, I met authors. They told me what to do. I obeyed.

CIR: What writers inspire you?

GD: If I tried to list them all, I’d miss someone important and that wouldn’t be fair. Also, just listing them wouldn’t do them justice. If I ever make it to the bestseller list, I’ll come up with a complete tribute to inspirations.

CIR: Do you ever get writer’s rock, er… block? If so how do you break through?

GD: Not at all. When lack of rest catches up with me, I might not be able to come up with snappy things to say. Creativity is not a problem if my battery is fully charged though.

CIR: What one piece of advice would you offer to new writers?

GD. Don’t. It’s way harder than you think. And that’s just the novel. The query, the synopsis, the pitching, the marketing, they are all schools unto themselves. But if you’re crazy like the rest of us, insisting that you just have to write, then welcome aboard. I say this to you: go after it with every thing you’ve got. Don’t just float around with writers. Be one with the intent to get published and do it right.

For instance, I think that my confidence is off-putting to many of the staid personalities that find their way to this discipline. Just my two cents. They probably see me as smug. To anyone who may perceive me as such—and of course you’re entitled to your opinion—you may rest assured that I am very much human. I get weepy…sensitive. There were times in my life when I had zero self esteem and didn’t see the point in living. But somewhere in my squandered youth, it hit me that I had to believe in myself even if it came across as overboard to others. If you don’t know in your heart that you got what it takes, who else is going to? That’s what I mean by going after it. Get in this game to win, or do yourself a favor and stay out of it.

CIR: What’s your favorite rock and roll song?

GD: My Mom and Dad who grew up during the birth of bebop said that rock and roll should have a beat that makes you want to dance. I couldn’t agree more. It should also be loud, pushy, and full of guitars. And since I was a teen of the eighties, three songs tied for the lead in my book. Hurt So Good by John Cougar Mellencamp, What You Need by INXS, and What I Like About You by the Romantics.

CIR: When did you first consider yourself a writer?

GD: Artist is a more fitting title for me. I love all forms of expression and writing just so happens to be one of them. Just like all the other arts, writing demands a lot of hard work. In my earliest memories I acted, made up stories, sang, and even danced. In high school when I was supposed to be paying attention in English class, I would pen a few lines of my own Indiana Jones episodes.

CIR: Do you also have a “day” job? Other interests or hobbies?

GD: The cool thing is that the job in a dairy that I’ve had for the past few years has been very flexible in scheduling thus allowing me to write tons of titles. Cool ideas also come to me during the mindless work. It also keeps me in shape. But speaking of other interests and hobbies, I exercise beyond my occupational workout by running, boxing, bicycling, or swimming. I throw the weights around a bit too.
I don’t really have many hobbies. I either make it a passionate part of my life, or it’s not on my radar. In fact, this year I have resolved to relax more.

A well written movie, especially horror, or one that’s just got the right mix of camp in it, draws my attention on occasion. Drinking is fun, but I keep that in check anymore. I like to experiment with cooking, but eventually it starts becoming a quest to come up with a new dish. I used to tinker with cars, but that was an educational thing as well. See what I mean? Nothing is ever about just chilling. Even if I soak in a hot tub, I always wind up thinking, trying to solve problems.

CIR: Do you like rocking chairs?

GD: I love when they move by themselves. A creepy creaky squeak. It stops suddenly, but you swear you spotted it rolling full tilt out of the corner of your eye.

CIR: And lastly, what did you dream of doing when you were twelve years old?

GD: Everything.

CIR: Thank you, Gusto Dave! If you’d like to visit with Dave or learn more about his writing or comedy routines, please friend him on Facebook!

by Janet Fogg


Anonymous said...

So, you think you found the real one? Really?

carolwriter said...

You rock, Dave!

Oh, I'll bet you've heard that before.


Chiseled in Rock said...

Much thanks!


Dean K Miller said...

Somebody considered famous once said something like: "A life well lived....."and then something else. Must have been talking about Dave...

Driven...definitely driven...Nice.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Dave, you do rock! And I don't know why you keep telling folks you're hard to get along with...I think you're a teddy bear.

Anonymous said...

Gee, Gusto, leave some living for the rest of us! ;-]

Great interview Janet, and FASCINATING life, Dave!

Julie Golden said...

Thanks Dave and Janet! This interview lead me to find Gusto Dave on Youtube. Funny stuff!