You can’t help but be motivated after meeting creators like you and learning what motivated them through the ups and the downs of their journeys.
The year is flying! I can’t believe I’ve already had two amazing guests drop by. If you haven’t met Madeline or Isa yet, visit their posts for inspiration and two super enjoyable conversations.
I thought I would blog a bit about my Spotlight feature. The joy and inspiration I get from engaging in this process has turned out to be the biggest surprise in my writing journey.
I have had the privilege of interviewing members of the writing community and other creators I meet along the way, mostly fantasy and sci fi writers like me who are new at it and working hard to get their stories out in the world. I also interview editors, book reviewers, artists, and photographers. Even an old high school friend is dropping by in March who is an award winning filmmaker.
My guests are from around the globe, including Australia, Canada, the U.K., Nigeria, Portugal, Texas, Seattle, Hollywood and my own town, Carson City. I’ve got more lined up from South Africa, New Zealand, Scotland, the U.K., Montreal, Vancouver, and Seattle. This is inspiring in an of itself.
Every one of my guests has been a delight and so generous with their time. And this is an opportunity to thank them all for participating. Drop by my gallery where all conversations are housed for continued inspiration.
This month, my two guests proved again how supportive the writing community is. Madeline and Isa spent a lot of time and effort on a robust Q&A. These two are phenomenal at supporting and inspiring others, and it really comes through.
My interviews center around a creator’s life; what inspires it, the highlights and lessons of the journey, and how to balance all the things, and every one of my guests has something different to offer, yet every bit has been relatable and translates to all of us who are endeavoring to grow and succeed through creative expression.
After all is said and done, 2022 turned out to be a great year because that’s when I got involved with the Fantasy Sci Fi Writers Alliance (“Alliance”) and met you and many other wonderful hard working creators offering invaluable support, and so many resources.
And you published a fantastic story with Funemployment Press. We’ll talk more about Braza and the Funemployment Quarterly in a bit. But to start us off, Can you summarize your highlights for 2022?
Isa – Thank you for having me, Darci, I love your blog and interviews. This is a great way to get to know new authors and projects. Last week’s interview with Madeline was great, it really inspired me to look at how history can shape our stories.
2022 was the year I came out of my shell, or so to speak. I had been writing for a few years by then, but hadn’t had the courage to show my work to the world. When I found this incredible community in April 2022, everything changed. Their support and unwavering kindness was exactly what I needed to break through the layers of self-doubt I had built around myself. I started sending my stories out and, incredibly, one of them was picked up. Braza was accepted and published in the Funemployment Quarterly Summer edition, my first publication ever and I could never have done it without the Alliance´s help and encouragement.
Also, in December, my story Dea Sulis Minerva got second place in the FSF Writers Alliance Short Story Contest, which was a most welcoming surprise.
I´d say that being able to show what I’ve written, and learning to deal with the “ups and downs” of being a writer was the biggest highlight for me. Successes are awesome, they fuel our confidence and all, but I learnt to cherish every step of the way, even rejections, because they mean I´ve been working towards something I love.
I can already say this month’s conversations with you and Madeline will go down as a highlight for me in 2023. I enjoyed Braza and Dea Sulis Minerva a lot! So, I’m super glad you have come out of your shell. I can’t wait for more. Congratulations again on Dea Sulis Minerva. It had its own elements of history in its setting and mythology. There is more about it below and our audience can click here to read it!
Like so many writers, reading is the passion that started the journey. Your book review reels are awesome, and I enjoy every one of them. What are your favorite reads for 2022?
Isa – There are three books that I discovered through the Alliance and that had a huge impact on me: Awakening, by Lucy A. McLaren and The Worthy, by Anna K. Moss — Dark Fantasy at its best; and Pariah´s Lament, by Richie Billing — a High Fantasy story with an incredibly compelling plot.
What I love most about stories is the possibility of discussing real life issues through the lenses of fantasy. Awakening, for example, has a cast of painfully human characters with real-life struggles that truly resonated with me. Same with The Worthy, when we follow morally-grey characters, rooting for them to change and impact their world in a positive way. I am always amazed by the universes writers are able to craft. Richie´s world is immense — a study in world building.
When I read great books, I feel inspired to do the same.
I also discovered that I love reading short stories, something I hadn’t paid much attention to in the past. E. B. Hunter´s short horror stories are among my favourite reads, and also your Priss Starwillow & the Wolf. I´ve become somewhat of a “fan girl” again, because now I can chat with authors whose stories I love, and that’s something I could never have done before. It is truly awesome.
Thank you for sharing what you love about these books, and short stories, Isa! And I totally agree how wonderful it is to avail ourselves of this community and the vast experience it encapsulates and then have the opportunity to give back. Anna and Eric (E. B. Hunter) chatted with me here last year and I really appreciate revisiting their work through your perspective. I look forward to more of our community visiting me in future. I’ll include the links to all books you mention in the titles.
Richie also offers a Fantasy Writers’ Toolshed Podcast and a huge amount of resources on world building and fantasy writing on his website. He even offers free books if you sign up for his newsletter.
Can you expand on that and tell us your all time favorites?
Since I started writing, and more specifically, learning about crafting stories, I´ve been thinking about what makes a story a good one. What is it that makes us root for the characters we follow, what drags us to these new universes and keeps us immersed in their stories to the point we cannot put a book down until it is over?
I came to the conclusion that the answer is the emotion stories bring to the surface, and that it can only be achieved with characters rooted in their humanity. The world and setting might be interesting, the plot engaging, battles and war nerve-wracking, but without humanity there is nothing. Phillip Pullman, Neil Gaiman, Susanna Clarke and Patrick Rothfuss are experts in humanity, and I think that is why their stories are great. They make me cry as often as they make me laugh, with characters that are real in every sense of the world: they are real because they cause a real effect in the reader, and they live in our minds and hearts forever.
Wow! I love to get recommendations. Now I’ve got more to add to my TBR. I have to admit, my preferred reads typically fall more into the supernatural romance genre, but I have been slowly building a great epic fantasy story list. You can follow Isa on Instagram for her current reviews and posts.
Isa – I also love a good paranormal romance and great romantic subplots. Give me characters slowly falling in love with each other, and you´ll have me swooning over them. One of my favourite fantasy/romance novels is a duology called The Wrath and the Dawn, by Renee Ahdieh, a retelling of Arabian Nights. Book crushes are simply the best.
Awesome. You made my day, adding a good romance series!
How many books do you average reading a year? Do you like to set goals for the year and if so, what is your goal for 2023?
Isa – I´m a mood reader, as they say, and though I read pretty fast, I don’t have much spare time to do it, while balancing work, writing and, well, living. I genuinely only read what I want to read, and never force myself to finish something I´m not enjoying. I´d say… ten books a year? That’s not a lot, but it doesn´t include rereads, so an average of fifteen in total.
I also read a lot of short stories — a lot a lot. At least one piece a day, sometimes more, which might be flash fiction, drabbles, or longer pieces. I subscribe to flash fiction magazines and get daily emails with the latest releases. Short stories are like little pocket universes where we get to dive in and surface on the other side with a different perspective, a different mind set.
It’s fascinating to realise how a hundred words in a drabble can change your view of an entire celebration. That same awe feeling happened after reading another Neil Gaiman short story Snow, Glass, Apples, a retelling of Snow White. I promise you won’t regret reading it — or you might, because you will never be able to look at the fairy tale the same again.
Another thing that I love doing is beta reading for fellow writers. Stories that are not released yet, in their developmental stage. Sometimes, the briefest ideas can be a lot of fun to work with. One of the most delightful things I find is to discover a new voice who hasn’t even discovered themselves. They share their work with apprehension, not sure if people will like it. Then I get to tell them how amazing their story is, and how much I enjoyed it — it is the best feeling in the whole world.
My goal for 2023 is to read more indie books and find those secret gems — new authors, new voices, new characters to fall in love with.
This reading strategy really makes sense. I for one have experienced and appreciated enormously your generosity in reading my stories. And getting your perspective on your enjoyment and the benefits you get from it is a real treat. I’m sure this will encourage others to engage in the same exercise. Thanks for spreading the love, Isa! And for adding more to my TBR list!
Isa – I have to say, Darci, that our beta reading session yesterday was incredible. I am still thinking about the selkie and her lighthouse man. You craft such a beautiful romance — it’s really hard not to fall for your characters. I look forward to reading more.
Wow! Thank you for that, Isa. Writing powerful romance is my dream. And there is no way I could achieve it without the generous feedback you and the members of the Alliance provide.
When and how did you start writing?
Isa – I’ve been writing most of my life, journals, articles, thesis, dissertations and scientific papers for work. But I had never actually written stories, and definitely not fantasy stories. I consumed them, but also believed I could write something as good as the stories I read. I thought about it, often, crafting tales in my mind before falling asleep, which helped me cope with anxiety and insomnia, something that I´ve been struggling with most of my adult life. I don´t know exactly what changed, but in 2017 something clicked inside my brain and I decided to put pen to paper and write about those characters I had only dreamt about. Things escalated from there.
I certainly hope the insomnia and anxiety have let up on you, and thank you for sharing that. I don’t know if it’s insomnia for all of us, but I have come to understand more about my fellow writers through our community, and the most surprising thing to learn is that many of us are night owls and really could do with a magic pill that allows us to go on without sleep. There is simply too much writing to be done!
Who and/or what were your biggest influences?
Isa – My dad used to tell me bedtime stories every single night: I would not fall asleep without them. But instead of fairy tales or tales meant (and appropriate) for children, I’d listen to ancient mythology, Greek and Roman heroes and gods. Funny enough, I learnt as an adult that instead of being rescued and learning his lesson, Icarus (spoiler alert) actually died after flying too close to the sun. See, my dad would change the endings so I´d not be too scared — or scarred for life.
Mum and Dad were always supportive of my passions, and would take me to the bookshops every month to find a new story, a new book. I grew up in a household filled with books, so it´s not surprising my love of literature. They were, and remain to this day, my biggest influences.
As for literature influences, I´d say the friends I made in the Alliance. After reading E. B. Hunter’s horror stories, I started studying the genre and tried a couple of horror pieces myself. Lucy and Anna are my role models, strong women whose works I desperately love. I want to be like them when I grow up.
And the Masters, of course, Neil Gaiman and his uncanny sense of humour, Phillip Pullman and his incredible world-building, Susanna Clarke and her beautiful prose. Giants, who I hope to walk along with one day.
I’m grinning from ear to ear on this one, Isa. Amazing parents indeed! And it reminds me of my childhood and my Dad. He has a fabulous reading voice, and loved to read me to sleep, mostly the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen.
Isa – I do think that is how a reader/writer is born. First we fall in love with the stories, then we seek them by ourselves. If there is love, nothing can get in the way.
What drew you to the Alliance? What do you think are the biggest benefits of belonging to a community of writers? What other communities have you found beneficial to your growth as a creator?
Isa – It was one of those happy accidents, I guess. I had finished writing a novel and had no idea what to do next. While trying to figure out what sub genre my novel was, I found Richie Billing’s page and blog. I subscribed to his newsletter, we started corresponding, and he invited me to join his discord channel. There was where I met the incredible people who would soon become the Alliance.
I believe the biggest benefit of belonging to a community is precisely that: belonging. Meeting people who are having the same struggles as you, who understand your pain, your heart, is something that can change your life forever. It changed mine. I used to feel quite lonely, even when surrounded by people. Friends and family might humour you, listen to your half crafted stories, but they don’t necessarily get what you are trying to do. Being able to have long conversations with someone who is going through the same as you is fantastic. I remember thinking “That’s it, these are my people, here is where I belong.”
A community offers the support we all need to put ourselves out in the world. They offer feedback on your work, help you solve those unsolvable problems that come with every new idea, offer advice on things you are facing or will eventually face.
Richie´s community and the FSF Alliance are the most supportive groups of people I’ve ever seen. Everything I achieved this past year was because of them.
I also find YouTube a great source of learning. Not a community, per se, as interactions there are more difficult and one-sided, but there are great booktubers offering amazing advice over there. I often watch video essays on word building or character development, full classes by the master Brandon Sanderson, book reviews so I’m up to date with new releases, and so on.
As I have never had formal training in fiction writing, I had to find the knowledge I needed somewhere else. YouTube proved to be quite useful, along with reading books on writing, of course. I will eventually enrol in a formal course, that is one of the goals I have for the future, but until then, I will absorb knowledge however I can.
Thank you for sharing all these resources and insights about community! I want to add here as I’ve done in a previous post that the Alliance recently launched its own website, and there are so many good things to explore, like the book club, and short story contests. Isa contributed to its first blog in addition to her winning short story. Check it out.
Now about Braza. Wow! I absolutely adored it. The stories in the Summer Quarterly by Funemployment Press were all fabulous, and I was truly impressed. I hope you have more stories like that planned. How did Braza come about?
Isa – Thank you, I really appreciate that. Braza was a surprise for me, from the beginning to the end. I had never thought I could write a comedy before a couple of jokes spurred in that piece. Who knew I had a sense of humour?
I was thinking about the fantasy genre and its common tropes, how heroes are always trying to slay monsters, and how the monsters would probably oppose being slain. Wouldn’t it be sort of funny if they stated so? A dragon who needed a break and refused to be killed by a silver knight felt like a good place to start. I had a plan, but my characters had a different one, and the ending surprised me just as much as it might have surprised you.
I´m very fond of that story, and ended up calling my dragon Braza, as a tribute to my home country, Brazil (which I dearly miss), and because brasa (spelled with an s) is Portuguese for embers or fire. I really love that story, and I´m really happy you enjoyed it too.
Dea Sulis Minerva is another short story that uses humour to discuss something important, and it got second place in the Alliance contest. The prompt for the contest was God vs. Mankind, and I knew all those bedtime stories from my childhood would come in hand. I had also watched a documentary about the Roman Bath in Bath, England, called Aquae Sulis, and inspiration hit me.
Back then, Romans would worship Dea Sulis Minerva as one goddess instead of two, a combination of the ancient gaelic goddess Sulis and the Roman goddess Minerva. More interestingly, citizens used to ask the goddess for revenge, writing petitions in little sheets of lead called Curse Tablets, and throwing them in the holy spring the goddess dwelt.
The story was there, I only had to carve it out.
Where can we find more of your stories? What are your works in progress and plans for them?
Isa – Dea Sulis Minerva has been published on the Alliance website, so I´d say that is a great place to start. I also keep a blog where I post short stories and news about upcoming publications, so I’d love for you to visit me there. You can also find me on Instagram and TikTok at @isa.ottoni.writes
I´ve been working on a novel, but it’s miles away from being ready for anyone but my writing group. They are the ones who suffer through my edits and help me become a better writer. It´s a passion project, a story I really love, but I still need to improve my writing skills to be able to make it justice. Novels are the hardest thing to write, and I applaud the ones who can make it to the end. I also love writing short stories, so I´ll be doing that and trying to publish as much as I can.
Can you tell us a little about Funemployment Press and how you ended up submitting a story? What is the magazine’s goal and do they have any submissions opening up this year?
Isa – I saw their summer submission call on our discord channel, and ruminated on the prompt for a couple of days. The theme was Sabbatical, and I tried a couple of pieces before ultimately dropping them off. I find that forcing a story to happen does not work for me, so I often try more than one project at a time, feeling them out, and choosing the one I most resonate with. Then, Braza was born, and I was really excited about it while also trying to be realistic. I had had so many rejections until then, that one more would not discourage me, but I deeply hoped it would work out. It did, and I got that most expected email saying “We’re very pleased to accept your work ‘Braza‘…”
I was over the moon.
The editors are incredibly friendly and kind, and it was a pleasure working with them. I got my hard author copy and a second one too because my husband, without knowing about the author copy, bought one to surprise me. Being able to place a physical copy of something I have written among the loved titles on my bookshelf is a feeling I cannot describe.
Funemployment Quarterly holds four open submissions a year, one for each season, and you can check their website for information on themes and deadlines. They ask for science-fiction and fantasy short stories, and according to them “We release quality things, some of which are virtual abstractions, some of which are objects you can actually hold. We hope you enjoy your stay, make yourself at home, and find your time here useful!”
I sure did.
The cover arts are always fantastic and the story selection wonderful. Within the Summer edition I particularly love Academic Emulators, by Franco Amati; When Death Met The May Queen, by Benjamin Thomas; and Azimuth, by Matt Cantor.
No matter what edition you pick, you are in for a lot of fun.
Click wherever Funemployment is mentioned to link to the Press and they are also listed on my website under Communities, Indie Presses.Submissions are open! The Theme is Autonomy.
How do you balance all your pursuits with life and work? Do you have any tips on time management and how to fit in what you love doing with what you must do on a day-to-day basis?
Isa – Organisation is the key, I believe. I have a board on the wall of my study where I place different colour post-its with the different things I have to do throughout the month. That way I can see where my free periods are and make the most out of them. I´m fortunate enough to have a job where the schedule is flexible and I can move things around to fit my responsibilities and my passions. There are days when writing is impossible, and that’s okay, because my board tells me that tomorrow or the next day I will have an entire afternoon just for that.
Different people will have different goals and different needs, but one thing that I believe unite us writers is the passion for our craft. With passion, anything is possible, even carving time out of a crazy schedule. We write because we love doing so, and I think that is enough. If you can write everyday, great, but if not, great too, because there is nothing that will stop you from finding the time to do it.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Isa – I spent most of my adult life setting goals for myself and my career, working like crazy to meet those ideals — and I have achieved what I had set out to achieve. I have reached a point in my life where I’m perfectly content with what I have so I don’t want to stress over my writing too. I write because it makes me happy, so I´ll be happy as long as I’m doing it.
That being said, I do want to publish a novel some day, but if that is going to happen in five, ten or twenty years, I don´t know. Whatever happens, happens, and I will keep writing, keep learning, and keep loving every step of the way.
Thank you so much for visiting with me. Do you have any parting advice for our readers who want to pursue their creative passions?
Isa – Creativity is a strange thing, it may hit you when least expected. I would say that an attentive mind is the key to igniting those creative juices in our minds.
So pay attention. Pay attention to the people around you, to the silly things you watch online, to the changing seasons. Pay attention to the beating of a heart and the flap of a bird’s wing, to the cold of the morning wind and the warmth of the summer sun on your skin.
Pay attention to the world around you, think about it, then make it yours.
For me, inspiration comes in those quiet moments of contemplation, where your mind is still and yet focused, so thoughts spark in your brain and your entire body reacts to it. Did something make you laugh? Write it down. Did it make you cry? Write it down. Did it make you bored? Look again because you´re not paying enough attention.
To pursue a passion is redundant,because if it’s a passion, you will have no choice other than pursuing it. It´s in its nature, this calling that won´t leave you alone until you do what your mind and heart are begging you to do. So do it. Be brave and do it. Even if you´re doing it entirely for yourself – or especially if you’re doing it entirely for yourself.
Then, you go back to thinking about it. What worked, and what didn’t work? What was it that you needed to make it work? Talk to people, ask questions. Leave the self-doubt behind. Follow the advice that works for you, and ignore the ones that don´t. Do you. Be unapologetically yourself. And love every step of the way.
Wonderful! I can’t wait to see more of where your passion leads you, Isa. All the best to you!
Commaful allows authors to tell their stories with pictures. You get a square space for an image and room to put a sentence per page. The story basically advances line by line. You can use this for Fanfiction, Poetry, Flash Fiction and Short Stories. It can be a suspense story, romance, or comedy. The sky is the limit! I’m intrigued. Let me know what you think.
Following are screenshots from a writer’s desktop of a clever tutorial demonstrating the format.
Writing contests… What compels me to set myself up repeatedly for an emotional one-two punch? That is my initial reaction anyway, after the rejection comes, or the silence when my beloved story is knocked senseless to the mat after all the arduous work.
Eventually, after much moaning… ahem… soul searching, reason returns, and I take away the valuable lessons and start my next story.
How about you? Do you submit to writing contests to hone your skills? Are you a writer who thrives in that environment or shuns it? Share your highlights, successes, and best lessons in the comments.
What a surprise this November is turning out to be. The best laid plans… as they say. But I have never been one to stick with plans if something tells me I need to mix it up and to go a different direction.
For NaNoWriMo this year, my Pod People (aka characters seeded in my brain by aliens) spun me around blindfolded under a pinata and after bashing away, I’ve made all sorts of turns and transitions in my writing career.
And I’m totally thrilled and surprised by the results.
In the first week, I changed my project three times. Then, I had an epiphany. I needed to unpublish my novels. Books One and Two in The Starlight Chronicles were languishing, loveless in the nether regions of the Kindle Universe. I’m still working on the conclusion and thought at one point that would be my focus for November.
But the pressure of completing my series has been weighing on me. I decided that getting them off the market, using the time to finish and polish them, finding a book cover artist for a cohesive professional look, and launching them with a fresh marketing campaign might be exactly what they, and I need.
An exhilarating freedom resulted. I’ve been infused with new energy. There are three other novels in the works that are getting the attention they deserve. I made one of them my focus for November but decided not to worry about hitting my goal if I want to write on other projects. What a relief that has been, and I’ve made progress with them all.
I have also allowed myself to participate in various flash fiction and short story competitions, which have been more enjoyable without the pressure of getting that third installment done.
Other factors played a huge role in my rejuvenation. I belong to a writer’s alliance and the support I got for this crucial decision was phenomenal. A Twitter post by a member of the Writing Community about deciding to unpublish was ever so timely. And advice on holding onto the joy of writing while letting go of the drudgery of marketing sealed the deal. You can join that discussion in my recent interview with Sci-Fi author, Kent Wayne.
The month is not over folks… I wonder what other surprises might be in store. And please. Tell me how your November is shaping up.
The Death’s Head Omen is a recent micro fiction story I entered in a contest. Results in January.
Or is it the Dirty Sci-Fi Buddha, aka Kent Wayne? Hmmm. I’ll let you decide after you meet him. Read on!
Click on images to link to Mr. Wayne’s books and blogs.
You might guess my first question today, Kent. What seeds that imagination when you write your “Yet another weird ad for my novels” blog? They sure caught my attention.
Believe it or not, no one’s asked me that before. Oftentimes, it’s a throwaway joke I hear on a comedy podcast. It takes root in my mind, grows into a premise, then I change the context so I can make a miniature story out of it. Other times, I’m struck by a “What If,” then when I sit down to write, I tease out the possibilities within that premise.
You’ve created foes, heroes, and the most zany and naughty superpowers from just about every likely and unlikely personality in our universe, with Kent Wayne extracting himself by the skin of his… well, you know… every time, as long as he has that precious second to activate his eReader. I read them because I can’t wait to see who might show up next in your action-packed appendage battles! What’s the story behind the stories?
One of my writing principles is to amp things up as much as I can (by “as much as I can,” I mean constrain events with logic while reaching for maximal absurdity or the emotionally evocative), and then smooth things over as I edit. That definitely applies to my ads, where I write about prehensile genitalia or Martha Stewart shoving a mithril lance into Smaug’s nether-hole.
As a kid, I read Calvin and Hobbes over and over. I especially loved the arcs where he imagined he was a noir detective, articulate dinosaur, or Spaceman Spiff. Barry Ween was another big influence.
I love the idea of extraordinary circumstances arising in the ordinary world, then reveling in the adventure and fun as madness ensues.
D. Awesome. Thanks for sharing your techniques! I have to say I would like to emulate that effect. There’s nothing better than an enjoyable read over breakfast that has my brows shooting up and laughter coming out of my nose with my coffee.
Click on the Dirty Sci-Fi Buddha to visit Kent and follow his posts. And click here for his volume of Musings on Amazon
Do the blogs spring out of nowhere, or do you have an arsenal of notes to pull from when you’re ready to give us another one?
When I have an idea, I’ll write a cliffs notes version of the basic gist, usually no more than a sentence long (ex: defile jock’s jacket, jock gets mad, defeat jock and hook up with his mom). I also do this with books–if I’m afraid I’m going to forget what I want to write, I’ll write a cliffs notes version in brackets at my furthest point in the manuscript.
In the past, I have at times sat down with no idea or clue and just started writing on a blank page. In some of the older blogs, you’ll see me start with “What to write, what to write, what to wriiiiiiiitteee…” and then I let my fingers go and come up with something on the spot.
I know the ads/blogs are popular. Do they work to sell your books? Would you say they’re an extension of your published stories, or are they in a world all by themselves? And are they as fun to write as they are to read?
Not at all, LOL! I’ve given up trying to sell books; it’s made me miserable in the past. I just try and have fun with writing. The primary reward for me is the fulfillment and engagement I get from crafting a story–it’s the one activity that always seems to flow without any effort for me.
The blogs are my overtures toward advertising. But I hate advertising, so I decided why not exercise my writing muscles when I publish an ad?
D. Great points. I only started writing fiction a couple of years ago. I did it because it was fun. The first year stayed fun, the second year, I went down the marketing rabbit hole, and I keep trying to climb back out. This is encouraging. Thank you!
Tell us about your other books on Amazon.
My other books are Echo, a four-book science fiction series that follows a warrior who’s pushed it as far as he can in a militarized dystopia, then embarks on a quest for personal transcendence. In addition to the robo-suits and high-tech pew-pew, I throw in a lot of psychic stuff and existential philosophy, although they don’t come into play until volumes 3 and 4.
Kor’Thank: Barbarian Valley Girl was my way of trying something new and branching into humor. It’s kind of like a long-form version of my ads, but it’s got heart and character development in it since it’s a full-length book.
I write books I want to read (or I would have wanted to read when I was younger), so after I covered the robo-badass stuff and the zany high school fun, I wrote a YA fantasy called A Door into Evermoor. Now that Dungeons and Dragons is cool and you can admit to playing it without being encircled and laughed at by trend-worshipping mouth-breathers, I’ll freely admit I played D&D as a kid.
D. Haha. One of the best reasons I’ve heard for writing a story!
What inspired you to write fiction?
I kind of stumbled onto it via a happy accident. I tried writing in my twenties, but I was like most writers where I couldn’t get past a premise or a couple of chapters. For some reason, I was able to do it in my thirties. I suspect it was because I had some life experience, but mostly because I was starting to understand the psychology behind a narrative–how a character’s personality should develop through a story, and how corresponding events should complement that development.
D. Another great nugget of inspiration. Thanks!
Which authors have inspired you most?
Stephen King, specifically his Dark Tower series, specifically the second volume, The Drawing of Three. The part where a gunslinger-knight from another dimension lies dying on an alien beach, then gets his first taste of Pepsi, is burned into my mind as the most viscerally impactful scene I’ve ever read.
Also, Robin Hobb and the first two volumes of the Farseer series, Assassin’s Apprentice and Royal Assassin.
Can you tell us about your works in progress, any ones you’re particularly fond of at the moment, and when we might expect to see them in print?
Right now, I’ve finished drafting the second volume of the Unbound Realm, which is called Weapons of Old. I’m deep in the edits, trying to work out the logic holes, spice up the descriptions, and kicking myself for not remembering to set up this or that for the next volume.
After that, I plan on writing volume 3, then tackling an extradimensional detective noir. The release dates depend on when I can do a smooth read-through without catching major problems. That typically means I can read through the entire book in less than a week without anything big jumping out at me.
D. I really appreciate getting some insight on your creative process. It’s helpful to glimpse how writers tackle the sheer volume of work that’s always in play.
Which of your characters is your favorite, and why?
I’m always biased towards whoever I’m writing about, so Jon from the Unbound Realm is my favorite at that moment.
What has been your biggest highlight of the last year?
My biggest highlight is finishing the first volume of my YA fantasy series. I’ve spent most of my life as an emotionally stunted, tough-guy meathead, so it’s nice to see that I can tap into the wonder and adventure I wished for as a kid. I never expressed it back then, so it’s nice to see it flow onto the page.
D. I think you just tapped into one of the many unexpected benefits of being a writer and thank you again for sharing your experiences.
What are you most excited about over the next year?
I’m excited to publish the second volume of the Unbound Realm, write and publish volume 3, then move on to my astral detective noir.
D. All the best on those endeavors. I love anything with noir, and that last project sounds super intriguing. Keep us posted!
Any parting advice for those who dream about becoming a writer, or starting up a blog?
Fun is the priority. There are better ways to make money. If writing doesn’t bring you joy, then the pain and inconvenience better be worth it in some other way–maybe fulfillment or pride or internal validation–but that’s not my approach. I think that’s similar to someone who stays in a miserable job so they can retire in their old age and enjoy a few years of not having to do a miserable job.
I used to idolize hard-chargers, folks who preached constant sacrifice and austerity, but now my role model is Keanu Reeves. From my perspective, that guy is a horrible actor, he’s kind of weird, and comes off as not the brightest, but it seems like he prioritizes enjoyment and stays true to his heart (he turned down Speed 2 and the buttload of money that came with it, looks for roles he likes, and cuts his salary to boost production he believes in). Success is nice, but if you’re outwardly successful and inwardly miserable, what’s the point? Whatever is outwardly happening to me, regardless of whether it meets someone else’s definition of miserable or happy, I’d like to honor my inner compass. I don’t want writing to become a horrible office job with loads of obligations and constant low-key anxiety. I’d like to be the Keanu Reeves of writing, if that makes any sense.
I’d also recommend learning how symbolism works through imagery and action (in cinema, smoking a cigarette almost always means the smoker is going to be self-destructive, and taking a shower almost always references some form of rebirth because the character is naked and drenched like they would be in a womb). Those are just artsy tools, however. I think understanding the hero’s journey–which Joseph Campbell does a great job of breaking down–is probably of utmost importance. The audience doesn’t want to see a guy just putter through life and never experience meaningful change; we see too much of that in our day to day. The advantage of a well-told story is you get to see the highlights of a character’s life.
D. That is the best ending advice I’ve had to date. If I didn’t have only twenty months left to retire and get my pension, I’d be out of that office so fast, my hair pins would be spinning! 😄 At the very least, I’m feeling a lot better about slow book sales and can focus again on the joy of writing them. Thanks so much for visiting with us on my Spotlight blog today. This has been a lot of fun. All the best to you, Kent.
NaNoWriMo starts in three days! I’m ready, I think… At least my characters are poised at the starting line. I highly doubt I’ll make the 50,000 word count because my project is finishing Book Three of my series, The Starlight Chronicles. I hope I don’t have 50,000 words left to go, because I’m at 80,000 already! But you never know.
What I do know is that November is a great month to set everything else aside and focus on writing… every day. I also lost my head and signed up for a few sprints and competitions. Hmmm… It will be interesting to track it all.
There are still so many plotlines to be wrapped up in Tigris Vetus, and a lot going on in my conclusion to Selena Aires’ story. Which means so many beginnings for other novels. But I must finish this one to start more stories about all the great characters, aka Pod People, who found their beginnings in this series. Another great reason to participate in a month of daily writing.
Good luck to all you who will be participating! You can find me on Nanowrimo.org at DLLewellyn if you want to buddy up.
Here is a little art inspiration from Alexander Danailov, Hermes crossing the finish line.
So much of my focus and efforts go into creating my characters (aka my Pod People) and bringing them to life through the written word, that I lose sight of the fact that once they are out there, they might live in the world of mankind forever… or as long as mankind exists, and the digital content or printed copies stay intact and available… But I, as their creator, don’t even have the potential to last too many more decades, maybe not even too many more years… weeks, or days…? I’m at that age after all.
It makes me wonder if that is why I create them.
What do you think about that? Do you write stories so that a piece of yourself will always exist, so long as there are humans out there who might read them? I know we write for many reasons, but I think I will have to admit this is one of mine.
When I think about that idea more, it makes me realize my Pod People have the upper hand. I mistakingly believed it was me who had the power over them, but it’s the other way around. That’s okay, so long as they do their job and stick in the minds of my readers.
I can’t wait to share my conversation with Lucky! Join us this Sunday and meet a writer hugely influenced by George R. R. Martin. And you will see it coming through in our chat and his writing. Lucky is one of those people who are generous with their time in helping others on their creative journeys, so it’s a real pleasure featuring his work this month. I also enjoy his A.I. artwork so much, I asked to use it in my promo. Enjoy!