Daniel José Older’s spiritually-driven, urban storytelling takes root at the crossroads of myth and history. With sardonic, uplifting and often hilarious prose, Older draws from his work as an overnight 911 paramedic, a teaching artist and an antiracist/antisexist organizer to weave fast-moving, emotionally-engaging plots that speak whispers and shouts about power and privilege in modern day New York City. His work has appeared in Strange Horizons, The ShadowCast Audio Anthology, The Tide Pool, and the book Sunshine/Noir (City Works Press), and is featured in Sheree Renee Thomas’ Black Pot Mojo Reading Series in New York City. When he’s not writing, teaching, or riding around in an ambulance, Daniel can be found performing with his Brooklyn-based soul quartet Ghost Star (www.ghoststar.net). Read some of his ridiculous ambulance adventures at www.raval911.blogspot.com.
IFP: What was the inspiration for your story?
DJO: Every once in a while, inspiration comes after the story. “Tenderfoot” came out pretty quickly and with minimal planning. A week later, I was standing in my backyard in Brooklyn and a great wind shushed through the trees like some huge animal. Then I heard a high-pitched call right in front of me. I peeked under the concrete grille, using my cellphone as a light, and there was a mama cat with a newborn litter of kittens. It wasn’t a woolly mammoth, true, but for a second there, I’d felt like I was living in the prose. The story is about this supposedly-hardened man being humbled by this awesome maternal power, and let me tell you, the scale may have been different, but coming home off an overnight ambulance shift to find a squirming pile of newborn baby cats…let’s just say if I hadn’t just written “Tenderfoot”, I would’ve sat down right then and there and spat it out right quick.
IFP: What is the scariest story you’ve read?
DJO: The Hunger Games – didn’t have me scared so much as utterly riveted. I pretty much read that book in one sitting, and it got inside me and followed me around for days after I read it. Thrilling read.
IFP: Do you listen to music when you write?
DJO: I do. Right now, I’ve been on a pretty big Duke Ellington kick, but it alternates. Portishead is terrific for mood and momentum. And for when things need to get really hairy and chaotic, I have a Pandora station set to Godspeed You Black Emperor.
IFP: If you could have dinner with any writer from any time period, who would you have dinner with and what would you eat?
DJO: Ack! Impossible question! There are too many answers…I’m going to say Borges right now, because his mind is like one of the labyrinths from his stories. He appreciates the classics and pulps with equal love and curiosity and he probably knows how to enjoy a good strong cup of coffee. Er…knew.