Author Q&A- Thomas Fleet

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Thomas Fleet, a world building, fantasy writing author who recently published his debut novel, The War of the First Day! Read the interview below.

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Q: How long have you been writing?

A: My earliest relevant memory is from a Spanish class in high school. We were practicing conversation by discussing career choices, and when it was my turn, out popped “escritor” (or whatever the Spanish word for writer is).

I first wrote a complete story when I was 25. It lay dormant for a long time before being submission-ready. It’s about a woman in the 1600s who’s accused of being a witch and has no tools with which to save herself but her own wit. She has to figure out how to threaten, beg, seduce, or razzle-dazzle her way out of it.

Q: What inspires your writing? Do you have a muse?

A: There are two things that inspire me. One is just that cool idea or image that pops into your head. For example, there’s a witch in The War of the First Day who constantly has little copies of herself running around all over her. This ended up as the cover image. I don’t remember the origin of this idea. Where do images like that, or story ideas, come from? It’s a mystery, isn’t it?

The other thing that is inspiring is reading great fiction by other writers. A really innovative writer will blow open your conception of the possibilities of fiction. Jorge Louis Borges, with his “Fictions,” did that to me. Even if it doesn’t rise to that level, if it’s fun and capably executed, good fiction makes you want to hop back on the computer and start writing.

The sheer range of possibilities in fantasy is energizing. Two recent examples of this are Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastards series, which follows the insane adventures of a gang of con artists in another world, and Lev Grossman’s Magicians series, which imagines what magic would actually be like in this world if brilliant twenty-somethings got their hands on it. They’re very different (and they’re both very fun).

Q: Tell me about your debut novel, The War of the First Day. What was the original idea behind it?

A: The novel is a fantasy novel about a war between two groups of witches. The idea is to combine pacing which (I hope) takes your breath away with intellectual and emotional themes that engage other parts of your brain. Action novels are all about ka-boom, obviously, but you need some emotional weight to ground the ka-boom.

Its genesis was a vignette in which a young woman wanders across a forbidden border and is captured by a witch. The witch tells her that as punishment for her transgression, she must kill or be killed. I became intensely interested – cough, obsessed, cough – with this vignette and reworked it again and again in my mind before writing it down. Later, that sequence of scenes was to develop into a core sequence in The War of the First Day. The book grew vastly around it, and the captor had her moral rough edges filed down somewhat, but it’s still the heart, in terms of the heroine’s internal conflict, of the novel.

How this got to be embedded in a war of extermination between rival camps of witches, I don’t remember. There’s that mystery again!

Another thing I wanted to do was to get back to the roots of the western world’s fairytales, but that goal sort of got tossed out the car window along the way. E.g., as one reviewer noted, the dialogue sounds fairly modern; it isn’t much like stereotypical fantasy novel dialogue. Ultimately the classic fairytale roots ended up in the setting: The area is roughly medieval politically and technologically, and a lot of it is northern climate with craggy rocks and lots of pine trees. It’s very witchy. I have a lot of affection for this classical fantasy setting and may return to it in the future.

Q: How much ‘grunt work’ goes into your writing?

A: A great thing about fantasy is that you get to make up your world. You could probably get away with very little grunt work, in terms of research, compared to, say, science fiction. Every now and then there’d be something that I’d want to not embarrass myself about, so I had to do a little research. Fortunately, my setting (although in the future) is roughly medieval-ish, and the medieval period in Europe had a pretty broad range of economic arrangements, building styles, weapons technologies, etc., so the writer has a lot to choose from.

I’m also helped by the fact that I’m story-oriented, not world building-oriented, so I don’t have detailed fictional languages, etc., to keep track of. My world building supports the story; beyond that it keeps out of the way.

Q: Are you currently working on any writing projects? If so, what can you tell me about them?

A: One of the many things I learned in the course of writing TWOTFD is that writing a good novel, one you put your heart, mind and soul into, is emotionally and intellectually exhausting! So the brief answer to your question is, a bunch of short stories! I am going to re-charge my batteries for a while before I start in on another novel.

About half of the stories are fantasy. The non-fantasy ones are all over the place: A crime story, a fanciful book review a la Borges or Stanislaw Lem, and a story about a person who house-sits for her vacationing neighbors and gets snoopy. You can play that sort of scenario for horror, as in the classic Bluebeard story, or, as I’m doing, just for amusement value. A short one, which I flung up on my web page instead of trying to get published, is a take on the classic “inertialess drive” from SF. What happens if you actually try to take the physics of that idea seriously?

Q: If you could become a character from any book, who would you be and why?

A: From *any* book, whoa! Hmm… Most stories that are entertaining drag the hero/heroine through some horrible times, so it wouldn’t really be fun to be them. But there certainly are lots of worlds that would interesting to take part in. For instance, the worlds of…

The Magicians, by Lev Grossman. You’d be one of a group of very smart people with magical powers. Also, you can go to R-rated Narnia if you want. ’Nuff said.

Illuminatus, by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson. I wouldn’t want to be Hagbard Celine, but hanging out with him would be great, because he’s creatively crazy. You get the sense that he might do anything at any moment, yet most of it actually has a purpose. He’s the owner and captain of a submarine made of gold, LOL.

Man to Hagbard: “You take yourself too seriously.”

Hagbard: “What do you mean? I own a yellow submarine; it’s straight out of a rock song.”

Dark is the Sun, by Phillip Jose Farmer. A crazy SF book set billions of years from now in which evolution has created tons of weird animals and plants, and remnants of high-tech civilizations are left strewn around to be used or abused by the current inhabitants. A setting in which anything could happen. It would be hair-raising to live in this environment, but you’d never be bored. Come to think of it, maybe I’d just stay home watch the documentary on Animal Planet.

Q: What is something you want the world to know?

A: Good fiction proceeds from who the writer is. If you’re a left-brained person who likes action novels, write like a left-brained person who likes action novels. If you’re a right-brained person who is entranced by the possibilities of meta-fiction, then you should nevertheless write like a like a left-brained person who likes action novels. No, just kidding! Write like a right-brained person who is entranced by the possibilities of meta-fiction.

And if you are made to do this, you’ll make your own contribution. You’ll look at the world of fiction and think, why is everyone else ignoring this thing that they could be doing with fiction? That’s the thing you should do.

Find Thomas Online:

Website

Goodreads

Library Thing

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Author Q&A- K. M. Weiland

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing the lovely K. M. Weiland. She is the award-winning and internationally published author of the bestselling Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. Read the interview below.

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Q: How long have you been writing? Why did you start?

A: Stories have always been my mode of interpreting and communicating with the world around me. I made up characters and told myself stories from a very young age, but I didn’t start writing them down until I was about twelve. During high school, I edited and published a small newsletter that featured short stories and informative articles. From there, it was a natural progression to novels.

Stories are like breathing. Life without a story in my head is one-dimensional, stagnant, vapid. I love the life God has given me, but I think I love it better because I’m able to live out so many other lives on the page. I’m more content to be who I am because I’m not trapped in that identity. When I sit down at my computer and put my fingers on the keys, I can be anyone or anything, at any time in history. I write because it’s freedom.

 Q: You have written many fictional books as well as non-fiction books. Tell me a little bit about what it is like writing in these different genres.

 A: Most of my stories fall into under the headings of historical and speculative fiction (and sometimes a combination of the two), but, in general, I dislike pigeonholing myself in a particular genre. As a reader, I enjoy many different types of fiction. If it’s a good story, I’ll love it, regardless of genre. And that’s pretty much how I feel about my writing. I’d love to write something in every genre before I’m finished!

Q: Where do you get the inspiration for your books? Do you have a muse?

 A: I like to say that inspiration is everywhere—and it really is. I’ve picked ideas from such disparate places as the dust on my windowsill (I’m a terrible duster) to my pets to the grapefruit I had for breakfast. It’s really just a matter of being open to whatever you’re experiencing at the moment.

But I will say that most of my inspiration is usually the result of other people’s art. The three big ones are most definitely:

 

  1. Books
  2. Movies
  3. Musi

I feed off other people’s stories and glean little tidbits that inspire stories of my own. The characters and themes in books and movies and the half-answered questions in songs are endless sources of inspiration for me.

Q: What advice to you have for budding authors and bloggers?

 A: Write for the love of it, first and foremost. As Anne Lamott says, “Being published isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. But writing is.” Write the stories of your heart, not the stories you think the market wants. Write the story you’d want to read if you were one of your own readers.

Q: What is something you want the world to know?

A: That sometimes starting is the hardest thing you’ll ever do. But it only takes five seconds of courage, and it only gets easier from there.

Find K. M Online:

K.M. Weiland’s Bio

Twitter

Website

Author Q&A- Jonathan Moeller

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan Moeller. He is an amazingly fast writer, and has written several awesome books for his various series! If you haven’t read his series, I suggest you get on it! Keep reading to see what Jonathan had to say in the Q&A.

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Q: How long have you been writing? Why did you start?

A: My second year of high school. So, a real long time ago!

I started writing because I used to run RPG campaigns for my friends in high school, and eventually I realized I was much more interested in the storytelling aspects of it than the mechanics, the die rolls and the character sheets and so forth. I started writing short stories, and it sort of snowballed on from there.

Q: What inspires your writing? Do you have a muse?

A: A combination of current events and historical events, mostly.

If I have a muse, I think it’s a combination of discipline and habit. When I’m working on something new, I like to get at least 3,000 words written a day, preferably more. Even if I would rather take the day off and play computer games, I still try to get a minimum of 3,000 words a day. I don’t always succeed, but I do hit my 3,000 words most of the time when working on a new book.

Q: You have written seven series of books, including The Ghost Series, The Frostborn Series, and The Cloak Games Series. Which has been the most fun to work on?

A: Each one has its own merits, I think, and its own enjoyable aspects to write.

For The Ghosts, Caina Amalas has evolved into a very interesting protagonist to write. One reviewer called her a mixture of Sherlock Holmes, Batman, and Valeria from RED NAILS, which I thought a good description of her character. I also like the rules I have for that world – sorcery as a badly understood form of science, no nonhumans except for spirits, and a world that’s kind of like the Western Roman Empire survived to the Renaissance.

For Frostborn, I wanted to write a big, long epic fantasy series (it’s going to be 15 books) that recreated the feel of a really good RPG campaign, one where the characters start out dealing with minor local events of no significance, and ends with them deciding the fates of kings and empires.

Cloak Games is fun because it’s the only series I write from a first-person perspective. Nadia is an interesting protagonist to write. I’ve said that the Cloak Games series would be about a bad guy very slowly and very much against her will learning to be a good guy, and that definitely applies to Nadia.

Q: How much ‘grunt work’ goes into each book you write?

A: Not much, I would say. I used to unload trucks when I was younger, and THAT was definitely grunt work!

In terms of writing a book, I just write it until it’s done. I can usually do a 90,000-word rough draft in about twenty-five days or so.

Q: Which one of your characters do you identify most with?

A: Probably Laertes in GHOST EXILE. Every group needs someone competent to attend to the details, and in my real life that’s usually me. 🙂

Q: Which one of your characters would you want to meet the most?

A: None!

If they ever met me, they would (quite rightly) blame me for their various sufferings, and likely concoct some elaborate means of revenge.

Q: How did you come up with the ideas behind each of your series?

The Ghosts started when I wrote a short story about chivalrous romance that got rejected. So the next story I wrote was the exact opposite, about a cynical spy, and The Ghosts grew out of that.

Demonsouled came out of an Arthur Schopenhauer quote about the innate evil of man.

The Frostborn series began because I wanted to write a series that matched the feel of a good RPG game, and I wanted to write a series that was planned from the beginning, since both The Ghosts and Demonsouled happened pretty organically.

The idea for the Cloak Games series came when I read a really long and slightly boring article about how the mass media is frequently used to influence the public in favor of certain social and political positions. I wondered what that would be like in the hands of someone clever, and I came up with an idea where magic-using Elves from another world conquered Earth and used carefully managed propaganda to keep their hold on power, and the Cloak Games series started.

Q: What are your favorite books? What about them do you like?

A: My favorite books are the ones that adhere closely to the rules of storytelling – as a writer, you can see all the nuts and bolts of a story, so I suppose it’s like a builder visiting a house and admiring the craftsmanship of the construction.

So some of my favorite books are THE LORD OF THE RINGS by JRR Tolkien, KNIGHTS OF DARK RENOWN by David Gemmell, THE HOUR OF THE DRAGON by Robert E. Howard, THE ICARUS HUNT, THE THRAWN TRILOGY, and CLOAK by Timothy Zahn, THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS by CS Lewis, THE BROKEN SWORD and THE HIGH CRUSADE by Poul Anderson, AWAKE IN THE NIGHT LAND by John C Wright, THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES and THE SIGN OF FOUR by Arthur Conan Doyle, IVANHOE by Sir Walter Scott, STEELHEART by Brandon Sanderson, CRYPTONOMICON by Neal Stephenson, and the entirety of the DRESDEN FILES by Jim Butcher.

Lately I’ve been reading THE EXPANSE series by James SA Corey and I like it.

For nonfiction, I think THE MIDDLE AGES by Morris Bishop is one of my favorite nonfiction books. I also like THE DAY OF THE BARBARIANS by Alessandro Barbero, THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE by Peter Heather, BATTLE CRY OF FREEDOM by James McPherson about the US Civil War, THE SECOND WORLD WAR by John Keegan, and Alison Weir’s books about the Tudor period.

Basically, my nonfiction reading is all history and technical manuals. (I think MORE DOS FOR DUMMIES by Dan Gookin was perhaps the best technical book I ever read, but it is sadly out of date at this point, though many of the basics of DOS are still applicable to modern Windows.) I do think it is a good idea for a writer to read a great deal of history.

Q: What advice do you wish you received when you started writing?

A: Finish as many books as possible, because in 2011 you’ll discover this thing called the Kindle, and your unpublished manuscripts will suddenly become much more useful!

Q: What is something you want the world to know?

A: If you are a writer starting out, it is better to self-publish than to bother with traditional publishers. I think the best approach (as of February 2016) for a new writer is to write a novel series, and then eventually make the first book free, which will help slowly but surely build an audience.

If you’re a nonfiction writer, I think it is best to start your own website and publish regular articles with an eye towards turning them into a book eventually.

Find Jonathan Online:

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Facebook

Website

Author Q&A- Kev Heritage

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing the amazing Kev Heritage. With several books under his belt, and a new one releasing soon, he is definitely an author to watch! Read the Q&A below!

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Q: How long have you been writing? Why did you start?

A: I was introverted as a child. Reading books and disappearing inside of them made me want to write stories. So that’s what I started doing at about age 14.

Q: What inspires your writing? Do you have a muse?

A: No muse, per se. Inspiration comes from everyone and everywhere—to be honest, I sometimes feel bombarded by ideas. The discipline for me is to try and write them all down. I do, mostly. I record all ideas in my smartphone and transfer them to story folders (both physical and virtual) and then never look at them again…

Q: Tell me about your latest release, Vatic. What was the original idea behind it?

A: I’m a ‘pantster’ – I write by the seat of my pants, not to any pre-conceived set of notions. I learnt a long time ago that it’s a waste of time for me to plan ahead as I have no control over events and characters. They refuse to go the way I want them to, and besides, it’s more of a thrill ride to let myself be swept along as the story unfolds, although I can sometimes dig myself into such a 27302333big hole that it’s impossible to get out! It’s a difficult, annoying and sometimes unhappy process but I’ve learned to trust my instincts.

With Vatic, I fancied writing something in first-person-limited, just to see if it was easier than third-person. So I thought I’d knock out a quick short mystery for a compilation that I’ve been working on for a while now called The Lady in the Glass. I had no idea about who Vatic was or who he may be, but I knew I wanted to write a mystery—and that it would start with someone thrown out into space with no oxygen. And off I went!

I literally had no idea who any of the people were until the moment they arrived. And yet, who they were influenced how the story developed. I find by far the most interesting part of the process is in the conversations. It’s through them that everything unfolds (and, as often as not, becomes more complicated).

Vatic’s affinities and dislikes are all organic, so that when we get to the denouement, we don’t feel cheated. Or at least, Vatic didn’t. All the clues were there from the start. Even if I didn’t know what they were at the time!

Q: Your writing falls under the popular genres of sci-fi and fantasy. What challenges have you had breaking into the market? What makes your books unique?

A: Sci-fi, fantasy and mystery fans love my stories, but I have fans who just like a well-crafted story, regardless of the genre.

The challenge of any author is ‘getting into the market’. I see writing like creating an album of music. You put in equal work, time and effort into writing each song, and hope that amongst them there will be a hit – and everyone will go out and buy the rest of your output.

Unlike songs, books, take a lot longer to write. And I tend to write what I fancy writing, rather than to anything prescribed by the market. But having said that, the more I’ve written, the more I’ve discovered my niche. I’m a mystery writer at heart—and that is reflected in the way I write, which is finding out what the hell is going on! So that’s what I do. I write sci-fi and fantasy adventure mysteries, with the emphasis on fast-pace, great characters and to never, ever cheat the reader.

Q: You have published many books, including the Into the Rip series and the IronScythe Sagas. Which was the most fun to write? Which was the hardest?

 They are all equally as hard and as fun as each other. I go through the same process of excitement, elation, depression, confusion, relief and desperation and always think that the finished product isn’t any good… And then a big side-order of surprise, when the reviews come in and the readers like it. Phew!

The most mentally challenging work was Blue Into The Rip. It was my first release, and at that time I didn’t have any editors, so it was a risk to edit the novel myself and put it out there. A big risk. Luckily, I have a strong work ethic and I’ve been an editor for most of my working life, so I got away with it! If anything, I’d say it’s slightly over-edited.

 Q: How much ‘grunt work’ goes into each of your books? Is there a lot of research involved?

A: I do no or little research. I have an expansive knowledge of science, astronomy, astrophysics etc. which I also use. For anything I’m not sure about, a quick Internet search does the trick.

The rest is pure grunt work. The first draft is always hell. I hate it. I don’t write with any plan, so at about 70K words in, I have an idea what the novel should really be about and then I have to rewrite from the bottom up. As they are usually mysteries, this makes this approach onerous. The process usually involves weeks of no writing and outright panic until I have my eureka moment and find the thread that I need to continue—although, sometimes, I have to abandon. A low moment after months of work. But it is what it is.

And then it’s redraft after redraft. About twenty of them before it goes off to my editors (it’s greedy, I know, but I have four!). After that there’s a few more edits before my final, final, last edits.

Q: If you were implanted into one of your books for a day, which would you want it to be and why?

A: Blue into the Rip – simply because it’s a modern take on a boy’s own adventure, with time-travel, rocket ships, genetic engineering, a globally-warmed future, space-walking and a cracking mystery thrown in for good measure. My main character, Blue, doesn’t have it easy, but it’d have to be my choice simply for all the cra-mazing things he gets up to.

Q: Which of your characters do you relate the most to?

A: Pretentiousness Alert!

I’m afraid, it’s all of them—in some way or another. They’re all mostly little bits of me with other people thrown in for good measure. So the question is really ‘which bit of myself do I like the most?’ Heh. Hmm. Difficult. But I’m going to go for the combination of Vareena and the Cowl from The IronScythe Sagas. Vareena arrived as a bit character and became so a lot more. She is very much her own woman—irrepressible, strong, full of verve and enthusiasm but also unpredictability. I’m presently writing Part Four and it’s all about her dark destiny. The Cowl on the other hand is a disfigured outcast, a loner forced to live his life under a hood, and to forever carry IronScythe—a blade of forbidden metals and golds—for without cursed iron, he is nothing. Together, they make an unlikely pairing, but it works. The pair represent the Ying/Yang of my own personality, perhaps, also seemingly made up of these kinds of polemics.

 Q: Where is the strangest place you have ever come up with an idea?

 A: As I have said, I’m always having ideas. So if you can imagine any human activity, I’ve pretty much come up with an idea at the same time…

Q: What is something you want the world to know?

A: My secret identity, which I have to keep hidden from the world. But one day…

You can find Kev Heritage online:

Amazon Author Page: US | UK

Website: http://kevheritage.com

Twitter: @KevHeritage

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/KevHeritageAuthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/KevHeritage

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/KevHeritage/

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