Interview: James A. Moore

James A. Moore is the author of Seven Forges and The Blasted Lands published by Angry Robot Books.

What is your favorite fantasy novel or series?

I’ll limit to my favorite three: 1) The chronicles of Elric of Melnibone by Michael Moorcock. 2) The tales of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser by Fritz Leiber 3) I’m a huge fan of Joe Abercrombie’s THE FIRST LAW trilogy 4) Okay a fourth: The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander

If you could live in any fantasy setting (other than your own) where would you choose to live?

I have to say, I could Definitely enjoy Middle-Earth. Give or take all the Sauron business. But the scope is wide on that one, isn’t it? Too many possibilities. I would also rather love living in a Silver Age comic book world. You know, BEFORE all the heroes went dark and brooding.

How often do you write?

Every day. At least for a few hours.

Are you a ‘seat of your pants’ writer or do you like to know the direction of your novel/series beforehand?

Seat of the pants, to be sure. I spend a lot of my time considering what I want to write before I ever sit down, but I seldom outline anything first.

How do you discipline yourself to get the words on the page? Any advice here for less established writers?

Do you want to write a novel? It won’t write itself. If you really want it, you’re going to have to work for it. It is exactly that simple for me. I want to write stories. I need to write stories. I LOVE to write stories. I also like to make a living at it and that means I, by God, write every day. Less than that is slowing down my dreams and my life ambitions.

What inspired your idea for the Seven Forges story?

I really wanted to see a different fantasy story. I rather liked the idea of a goliath of a nation looking at a much smaller one and saying, “These guys are damned scary and I don’t much like the way they’re looking at us.” More importantly, I liked the idea of them having a really, really good reason for being afraid of the smaller nation. Ultimately you have a nation that has grown comfortable in their place that is suddenly reminded that being comfortable might not be a good idea. Also, and this one is important to me, I wanted to do a story where the idea of a “good” team and a “bad” team isn’t; always easy to decipher.

What did you learn from writing Seven Forges that helped with your writing of The Blasted Lands?

World building is HARD. I wanted to make a new world, and there’s a lot more involved in that than you might think. There are religions to consider and the histories of nations. There are politics all over the place and there’s a matter of what sort of magic or technology you’re going to deal with. Are their other species out there? What can they do? What have they already done? What are they planning to do about what you’ve already done.

How has your experience been with publishing in the fantasy genre?

You know what? I’ve been dealing with Angry Robot Books and I kind of love them. They’ve made it a wonderful experience.

Any advice for first time writers hoping to get into fantasy?

Write every day. Finish the book! Seriously. Stop going back and editing those last four chapters. Finish the damned book and THEN go back and edit.

Closing Comments?

Thanks for the questions. Anyone who wants to keep up with me can always find out the latest at http://genrefied.blogspot.com

Thank you very much for your time!

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Interview: Michael J. Sullivan

Michael J. Sullivan is the author of The Riyria Revelations series as well as the two related chronicles The Crown Tower and The Rose and the Thorn. Michael has recently published the Science Fiction novel Hollow World, and is now working on a new series set in the same world as Riyria.

Just for fun:

What is your favorite fantasy novel or series?

It’s probably not very original, but Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings will always have a special place in my heart. It was these works that turned me into a reader and then a writer at a very young age. Prior to them, I had no interest in books, and afterward all I wanted was to consume more adventures like the ones I had within those pages. When I couldn’t find anything else to read, I started writing my own tales.  So, not only are they great books in their own right, but they were instrumental in changing my life. For those reasons, they will forever have special significance.

If you could live in any fantasy setting (other than your own) where would you choose to live?

I thought J.K. Rowling did an amazing job with the Harry Potter series. I absolutely wanted to attend school at Hogwarts and visit nearby Hogsmeade. I especially like the way she handled holidays and food, and of course there are just so many cool places to explore within its halls that there is a seemingly endless number of possibilities for adventure and intrigue.

On Writing:

How often do you write?

Every day. Seriously, even Christmas and New Years and all the other holidays. It’s my favorite thing to do and if there is something that prevents me from writing I get twitchy.  It really is like a drug. I wake each day excited with the possibility of sitting down and writing, and I’ve never suffered from what many authors describe as “writer’s block.” Those who complain they can’t seem to put their butt in the chair are a complete mystery to me. I have the exact opposite problem.

Are you a ‘seat of your pants’ writer or do you like to know the direction of your novel/series beforehand?

Both! I never start a book without knowing where it’s going.  I always have an outline, which isn’t much more than a few bullet points of scenes or points that have to come out in each chapter.  But…then as I start writing I discover new paths and opportunities for the story and the characters. Many times the story will go in ways I never intended, and I let it take me there. The important thing, though, is I always know where I’m heading, even if it isn’t where I originally set out to.

How do you discipline yourself to get the words on the page? Any advice here for less established writers?

I guess I should have “read ahead” in the questions before 😉  Seriously I need no discipline to write. The question is much like asking a child, “How do they find the discipline to play their favorite game?” That being the case, it’s a bit hard for me to give advice to people who don’t feel the same way. I’m not wired the way they are, so I can’t really put myself in their shoes. I don’t think you have to have the type of passion I do to write, but it certainly makes it easier. I’m looking for excuses to sit down and type while other people are looking for distractions to keep them from writing.

You are one of the big success stories for an indie publisher that got a traditional contract. How has your experience been between self-publishing and traditional? Which do you prefer?

There is a lot of partisan rhetoric regarding publishing paths, and I think a lot of that has to do with people who have either become jaded because of a bad experience in one or the other.  For me, both experiences have been amazing, so I don’t have some of the bias that others do. I’m asked all the time which one is “better,” and the truth is there isn’t a “universal best.” There are certainly paths that will be a better fit one author or another, but without knowing what their goals and capabilities are, I can’t say which would be better for “them.”  I think there are huge advantages in going the hybrid route and doing a bit of both.  Of course, most won’t have this as an option. It’s difficult to do just one of these well, so doing both successfully is more than twice as hard.

As for which I prefer, it depends on the project. Sometimes self-publishing is easiest because I get the books exactly the way I want without having to fight with anyone when our visions don’t align completely. Then there are projects where I have an entire team that I don’t have to worry about managing. In these traditional projects, things move along with much less work on my side, allowing me to concentrate on writing something new.  To me it’s not that one is more or less work than the other, the tasks are just different. Time spent negotiating contracts is replaced with time evaluating editors.  It’s just trading one set of activities for another.

Your ‘Work in Progress’:

So I’ve seen a lot of people on Goodreads talk about Rhune (Book I of The First Empire), what’s your new series about? Is there a correlation to Riyria?

I’m so very excited about The First Empire series; like Riyria, it is a single tale told through self-contained episodes with their own conflict and resolution. This series is very much an ensemble cast where the strengths of a number people are necessary to accomplish great deeds rather than one or two central characters carrying the tale. Technically, The First Empire is set in the same world as the Riyria stories, but the events take place 3,000 years in the past. The technology and cultures are so different between the two that most wouldn’t necessarily think of them as connected. In addition, magic was much more common in the days of the First Empire whereas in Riyria “The Art” is looked upon with suspicion and fear.

Have we heard all there is to hear from Hadrian and Royce? Will more tales of their adventures be forthcoming?

Some time ago I came to the conclusion that there will be a third Riyria Chronicle, so that would be the ninth novel with the pair. I’ve started scripting some aspects of the plot, but until The First Empire is finished, I don’t want to think too hard about that.  Still, I can’t keep the two from invading my head so I’m jotting down notes as they come up, and that will make writing the third book go much more smoothly.  Because I write an entire series before publishing the first book, it means I have to get through all five First Empire stories before I can return to the pair.  Originally my new series was going to be three books, and then it expanded to four, and very recently to five…where I believe it will stay.  I have the first four written, and I expect to complete the fifth by mid-April.

Will there be a fourth Chronicle? I don’t know. It’s important to me that the pair doesn’t overstay their welcome, so I’m taking those books one at a time. Like I said, the feedback from The Rose and the Thorn made me realize that there is still a desire on the part of readers for more adventures, and I’m more than happy to oblige.  So, I’ll put out the third book and take the temperature again. I have more than enough stories that I “could” write, but “could” and “should” are two different things. I’d rather leave that franchise early then be “that guy” who didn’t know when to quit and ended up ruining something that was once well respected.

Do you have any closing comments?

Not that I can think of other than to say that I’m eternally grateful to the readers that make my dream of writing a reality. I write books I want to read, and the hope is always that others will enjoy them as well.  So far, this approach has worked well. In many ways, writing is its own reward, but hearing others enjoy the works elevates the whole process to a level that I can’t achieve on my own. I’ll keep writing, and hope that others will keep reading.

Thank you for your time!

Thanks for having me!

Interview: Jeff Salyards

Jeff Salyards is the author of Scourge of the BetrayerVeil of the Deserters, and the upcoming third installment in the Bloodsounder’s Arc  Chains of the Heretic.

How often do you write?

As often as I can muster the energy. It can be tough balancing a demanding day job, being a husband, a dad for three girls, a halfway responsible pet owner, and still find time and motivation to write. I know, plenty of unpublished writers are calling me a whiny baby man right now. It’s a wonderful problem to have. Without question. But it’s still a reality that has to be negotiated. There are surely other writers473116_10150658874804240_1948325909_o who have busier jobs, or more kids, or do it without limbs or something, and if so, I hate them. Passionately. Seriously, stop overachieving already and let me believe it takes herculean effort to do even what I do, and that I should feel good enough about it to reward myself with chocolate chip cookie dough.

Are you a “seat of your pants” writer or do you like to know the direction of your novel (or series) beforehand?

I “seat of my pants” most things in life, really. But with writing, I’m at least sort of a hybrid. I map out an outline so I have a decent idea what I’m ultimately trying to do, but I give myself license to deviate from that or even tear it into tiny pieces if I have to (my agent just shuddered somewhere—even if he isn’t reading this, he sensed it. . . “It’s as if a well-crafted synopsis suddenly cried out in terror and was suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.”).

For instance, the original ending I had in mind for Veil of the Deserters seemed pretty decent in my outline, but once I started writing it I knew it just wasn’t going to work. So I scrapped that version, let the finale sit for a little bit, and then returned to the pages with a brand new ending that had nothing to do with the original idea. If I had slavishly stuck to my blueprint, it might not have ruined the book or been hot garbage, but it definitely would have been a lackluster ending. I feel a lot better about what I came up with going seat of my pants.

 You write wonderfully in the first person POV, what steered your decision to write Bloodsounder’s Arc from this view?

Thanks. I really appreciate that. When I was first toying with the idea for the series, Braylar and his sister Soffjian were the two characters I thought up. The Syldoon infrastructure and culture (fleshed out considerably more in Veil), the black op sort of intrigue, and the other characters all followed. But Braylar was first and foremost, and my initial impulse was to go with 1st person from his POV or perhaps a limited third person POV from his perspective. It seemed the obvious choice. Too obvious, maybe.

So then I started toying with the idea of having someone else record the exploits, an embedded reporter/chronicler (similar to Froissart’s Chronicles about a chronicler accompanying a military outfit during The Hundred Year’s War). And then I thought—what if the narrator wasn’t part of the company at all, but a total outsider, someone with a radically different perspective and set of sensibilities? A glorious nerd, in other words. And thus was Arki born.

It struck me that would present some really interesting narrative tensions and conflicts, a stark contrast between these hardened and sometimes brutal soldiers and the reticent, naïve, and thoughtful scribe.

It seems to me that many fantasy authors prefer the third person POV, what advantages do you think 1st has in the context of fantasy?

Even though I knew the scope was going to expand throughout the series as more and more history, world building, magic, politics, and character details made their way in, the idea was always to make this a more intimate than epic story. Sure, the aperture widens, but it’s really the Syldoon (and Memoridons in Veil) and their respective interactions that are front and center. So I thought this was ripe for exploring with a 1st person POV. As I mentioned, my first instinct was to tell the story through Braylar’s eyes, but then I thought it would be fun to capture everything that happens from a totally different perspective.

With first person, one of the benefits is that you can have the narrator really work through impressions of what’s happening in a way that (hopefully) reveals as much about the main character as it does the characters and events he or she is witnessing. Now, the challenge is you have to have a 1st person POV the readers find compelling or at least somewhat interesting, with a voice that doesn’t grate or alienate. Fail there, and obviously it doesn’t matter what the story is. The flipside danger is, even if the readers like the voice well enough, the narrator can’t go down a rabbit hole, waxing on about things the readers couldn’t care less about or focusing on things that are peripheral at best, or it doesn’t matter how intriguing the voice itself is.

But one advantage, assuming you don’t screw up the voice or focus, is the ability to really have a different lens into your world, one that might force you to look at things from an unusual vantage point than expected, or the chance to add significant layers or depth or introspection, drilling down deeper than you ordinarily do with third person.

Now, there’s no question first person POV is really tough to pull off in fantasy that traverses a dozen regions and has a hundred cultures and a thousand characters, or at least not ideal, as it’s limited and exclusive. But for the right kind of story, smaller in scope, a little less epic, I don’t see any reason not to use it, and I think it can work just fine.

 What did you learn from writing Scourge of the Betrayer that helped with your writing of Veil of the Deserters?

Not to quit? Trite, I know, but true just the same. Beyond that, the writing experiences were vastly different, so it’s tough to compare them. With Scourge of the Betrayer, I was writing in a vacuum. No contract, no deadline, no outside pressure to finish, so I lollygagged. A lot. Waited for the muse to pay a visit, and even when she did, sometimes just took her out for drinks or played Scrabble with her instead of being inspired and truly working. I drifted on the book, lapsed a lot, and there were several times I nearly quit.

After publishing the rights to the series, there was no more vacuum, and I wasn’t writing solely for myself, so everything changed. In a good way, but it also altered the approach. I needed to be a lot more disciplined. Which runs counter to almost every bone in my body, but hey.

 What is your favorite fantasy book?

Ooh, that’s a doozy. I have a hard enough time just coming up with a Top 10 list. I don’t think I can single out just one as the all-time favorite. The hierarchy has changed as I got older, as my tastes changed, so even books I frequently reread at one point were ultimately supplanted by something else.

But I’m waffling, so let me rattle off a few favorites I had at various stages. In junior high it was The Lord of the Rings, A Princess of Mars, Robert Howard collections, The Wizard of Earthsea. In high school, it was Magician: Apprentice, Gormenghast, Lord Foul’s Bane, Legend, The Dragonbone Chair, Daughter of the Empire.

In the last couple decades. . . A Storm of Swords is a tour de force, not hindered by the plot sprawling out of control yet, and culminating in some visceral, awful, and still wildly impressive scenes. A Shadow in Summer is pretty amazing, as is most of Abraham’s stuff. Bloodchild and Other Stories is evocative, disturbing, and beautiful. Shoot, there are so many good fantasy writers right now, I’m getting dizzy just thinking about it. And jealous. Damn it.

If you could live in any fantasy setting (other than your own) where would you choose to live?

This is another toughie. And like the favorite book one, it’s difficult to answer. I can tell you which one I would not want to live in. Westeros. But at least I’m married already, so I wouldn’t need to worry about George R.R. Martin playing wedding planner. That said, I’d still be masochistically tempted to live there. Glutton for punishment and all that.

Amber, from the Zelazny novels, maybe. Wonderland would be trippy good fun. Before getting beheaded anyway. Maybe Cimmeria if I wanted to channel my inner berserker. There are so many wonderful worlds and settings out there, it’s impossible to choose (though apparently I’m drawn to the ones that would kill me the fastest).

Any advice for first time writers getting into the fantasy genre?

Plenty. I’m a blowhard. And really good at doling out advice, even if I sometimes/infrequently/never follow it. First, sit your ass in the seat and write. That’s the biggest and soundest advice I can give. It’s really easy to get distracted, give yourself an out, make excuses. I’m the crown prince of procrastination, so this is the voice of experience (that was only accidentally/incidentally earned, since I’ve often deferred doing things that might actually accumulate experience points in real life). You only become a better writer if you write and write and write. No matter how gifted you are, or what good instincts you have, or blahblahblah, if you tell people you’re a writer without forcing your ass in the chair to write, you are even a bigger blowhard than me. Which is not a compliment.

Second, develop thick skin. Which is often a natural side effect of sticking with the first point. The more you write, the more people read it, the more you’ll get accustomed to dealing with feedback, honing your own antennae to figure out what is useful, and eventually learn to critique your own stuff (or be receptive to criticism from a small number of trusted readers) without suffering a massive crisis of confidence or wanting to jump off a bridge. Toughen up, buttercup.

Third, don’t listen to folks who think they know everything (including, and maybe especially, this guy). There are plenty of blogs, books, and sources of writerly advice out there, and some of it’s really helpful. But nothing works for everybody—take what makes sense for how you operate, use it, and discard the rest. Except the writing part. You do have to do that.

 Any closing comments?

I think I’ve babbled more than enough. Wait, let me see. . .Yep. I’m sure of it. So let me close by just saying thanks for inviting me to do this. It was fun.

Interview: Luke Scull

Luke Scull is the author of The Grim Company and the upcoming sequel Sword of the NorthSword of the North is set for release in the UK on December 10th and in the US on May 5th.

What is your favorite fantasy novel or series?

Like everyone else, I’d sacrifice a limb (or at least a digit) for Winds of Winter right now. A Song of Ice and Fire is the best modern epic fantasy series around and nothing else really comes close – though fans of “message” SFF and diehard Malazanites might have something to say about that. I read Game of Thrones back in 1999 and knew it was going to be huge even then. No one can accuse me of jumping on the bandwagon!

If you could live in any fantasy setting (other than your own), where would you live?

The Forgotten Realms. With my encyclopedic knowledge of the setting gleaned from endless novels and Dungeons & Dragons sourcebooks, I’d quickly amass a fortune in gold and hidden artifacts. I’d probably move to Waterdeep and hire every mage I could afford to protect me whilst taking intensive swordsmanship lessons from a certain drow elf. Then I’d see if I could seduce each of the Seven Sisters in turn except Syluné, who’s a ghost. That would just be weird.

Tell me a little about yourself. How did you come to write The Grim Company and what gave you the idea that you wanted to write a series?

I’ve been a video game designer since the age of 20. I’d always wanted to write a novel at some point. I had some free time on my hands and decided to take a stab at it. The Grim Company was an outlet for many ideas that wouldn’t work in a T-rated video game.

What motivated me at first was being able to share what I’d written on Authonomy.com, which allows users to read and back each other’s work with the eventual goal of reaching the editor’s desk at the end of the month and getting reviewed by a HarperCollins editor. I never made it that far: a literary agent discovered my work after only a few weeks and before I knew it I was on the train to London to sign with his agency.

I never set out to write a series. The bottom line is that the fantasy imprints like trilogies. It often takes a considerable amount of time (and books) before a fantasy writer starts making it big. The bestseller out of the gate is something that rarely applies.

How often do you write?

Generally, when I feel like it or when a deadline looms. Most often I write at night since I find it hard to focus during the day. Too many other distractions.

Are you a ‘seat of your pants’ writer or do you like to know the direction of your novel/series beforehand?

I wrote a brief synopsis of the trilogy when my agent first pitched The Grim Company to publishers. So far I’ve pretty much stuck to it.

Before I begin a book, I list out the chapters and briefly detail what is going to happen in each. It makes the writing process so much easier when you know roughly what has to happen – though it does mean a lot of thinking time before any real writing gets done. That’s why I dislike giving estimates: having written 25% of the words is not the same as a novel being 25% finished. The process is much bigger than that, and each author’s process is very different.

Sword of the North is set for release on May 5th of next year. What have you learned from writing The Grim Company that has helped you with writing the sequel?

The Grim Company is that rare, rare thing: a first novel that managed to get some pretty good deals and generated a fair amount of hype without suffering rejection at any stage. Certain areas of my writing were already quite developed from my video game work. Other areas not so much, and it’s these rough spots that I’ve worked on in Sword of the North. More specifically, I now feel my prose is stronger, my characters are on the whole more likeable, and there are less obvious comparisons with other authors…

How has your experience been with publishing and the fantasy genre? Any advice for first time writers hoping to get into the fantasy genre?

So far the experience has been a very good one. It’s a cool community… though perhaps certain elements are prone to clique, and I don’t like seeing the genre become a battleground for politics.

My advice for aspiring fantasy writers is to read, read, and then read some more. This is going to sound terribly cynical, but try to spot emerging trends also. There’s no point writing stuff no one is buying. A book is a product just like any other.

Any closing comments?

The UK release date of Sword of the North has been brought forward to December 10th. Those in the UK (or indeed, the rest of the Commonwealth) can therefore dive back into the world of Kayne and co less than two weeks from now. If you haven’t already pre-ordered, what are you waiting for?

Thank you for your time!

Interview: Mark Lawrence

Mark Lawrence is the author of Prince of Thorns, King of ThornsEmperor of Thorns, Prince of Fools, and the upcoming The Liar’s Key. Mark has short stories in several anthologies such as the ‘Dark Tide’ in Fading Light, ‘Quick’ in Triumph Over Tragedy, and ‘Select Mode’ in Unfettered.

How often do you write?
Mark: It depends. Right now I’m writing for an hour or more on most days, but certainly not on all days. At other times I might go for several weeks without writing anything.
Why do you choose to write when you do?
Mark: It’s a combination of actually having the time available and having the urge to write. I never force myself to the page – if I don’t have some idea bubbling away that needs to be set down, I do something else instead. The big fear is always having some great scene/lines in mind, not writing it, then forgetting it. That’s really annoying.
Are you a ‘seat of your pants’ writer or do you like to know the direction of your novel (or series) beforehand?
Mark: Generally I make it up as I go and surprise myself each chapter. I’m writing the third book of my second trilogy now though, and for that I decided to plan the story in advance to see what that would be like.
You write wonderfully in the first person POV, what steered your decision to write The Broken Empire from this view?
Mark: It just seemed a natural choice. I hadn’t written anything much in first person at that point, but the inspiration for Jorg, the main character, was Alex from Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange (1962), and that book was written in the first person.
What led you to the idea of making each Broken Empire book into two stories, one of the past and one of the more recent events? (i.e. In King of thorns the reader is led with chapters titled ‘Wedding Day’ mixed with chapters from one year earlier.)
Mark: In Prince of Thorns the ‘four years’ earlier sections are essentially traditional back story, required to explain our protagonist. In King of Thorns they’re a definite and continuous thread. One led to the other but in King of Thorns the earlier thread essentially gives us an extra point of view, allowing the big picture to unfold while in the “now” we’re stuck in one day and one castle. Without the earlier thread it would be a very claustrophobic tale.
It seems to me that many fantasy authors prefer the third person POV, what advantages do you think 1st has in the context of fantasy?
Mark: First person has the advantages of immediacy and giving events a greater impact. You can really get into someone’s thoughts in first person without it feeling forced. The disadvantages are that it can be harder to develop other characters since they’re all seen through the main character’s eyes and you can’t get into their heads. Also, being limited to one point of view makes it difficult to show a large-scale event unfolding. Generally this would be achieved by hopping between a range of characters who between them can deliver the big picture to the reader. Epic fantasy is generally about large-scale conflicts and the like, so first person can struggle under those conditions.
How do you deal with sudden ideas when you write? Do they happen often?
Mark: I write them down/out … and yes, most of my ideas are sudden!
You recently released Prince of Fools, the first book in a new trilogy, what have you learned from writing The Broken Empire that has helped you with writing the next trilogy?
Mark: I don’t know … there’s an assumption that practice makes perfect, but writing talent can’t really be measured so who knows if any particular individual is getting better or worse at it? There are certainly no compact and easily pointed at lessons I can point at and say ‘I learned not to do this’. It’s very hard to know what the reading public will or won’t like. All I can do is write what pleases me and see how it goes down in the wider world.
Any advice for first time writers with hopes of getting into fantasy?
Mark: Keep the day job. Join a critique group and write short stories. Grow a thick enough skin to take the sting out of criticism without being so thick that it stops the important advice getting through. Do not believe that your success or lack thereof with short fiction magazines is an indication of the quality of your work.
Any closing comments?
Mark: Nah.
Thank you for your time!

The very best of fantasy.

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