So how have you been? Seems like you’ve had a big year in terms of new book releases
I’ve been doing well, thanks! It has been a big year. In 2019 I’ve completed two trilogies: Blades of the Fallen and Relentless. It’s a pretty great feeling.
Now Blades of The Fallen is a a prequel series to Nightblade if I’m correct. Can you talk a bit about that particular series and how it ended up being published by 47N?
Absolutely. You are right, the series is a prequel series to Nightblade (although both trilogies stand on their own). When I wrote the original Nightblade series, I was really fascinated by the idea of writing within a kingdom that had been broken by magic. Although I made references in the original Nightblade series, I never got the chance to dive deep into how the kingdom actually shattered. Blades of the Fallen is the answer to that question. In terms of its publication – when Nightblade ended up doing really well, 47N approached me and asked if I had any further stories in the world. They’ve been a really great team to work with.
That’s awesome. Nightblade was a phenomenal series. One of the things I love about your work is that there is always a great mix of action and emotion. What do you set out to achieve when you write a story? What do you hope readers will get out of it?
First off, thank you. That’s kind of you to say, and I’m glad you’ve enjoyed them. When I first start a story, it’s usually because I have an itch, or a question that’s been bugging me. Usually, when several of those itches/questions come together I find myself writing a novel. For Nightblade, I had several questions that came together. One is a very common fantasy trope: How does a young person handle the discovery of magical power. But what if that magical power was a power that had caused great harm in the past? And how does a person react when that power doesn’t help them achieve what they want? For readers, I mostly just want to evoke emotion. Personally, the stories that resonate the most with me are the ones that really make me feel something. It could be humor, or sorrow, or excitement, or anything. But I hope that when I sit down to write, I’m evoking something in the reader.
Well your Relentless series definitely brings the feels. What was the concept for the series? What led to your decision to write three standalone novels that still act as a series?
Thank you again! Relentless is an interesting case, because it changed over time. At first, it started as an issue of belief. I’m fascinated by people who hold any beliefs strongly, whether they be religious, political, or personal. I really wanted to explore how beliefs can both be a vehicle for good and for evil. But after I finished the first book, i became obsessed with another question: What happens to a society when the magic it depends on begins to change? In terms of writing three standalone novels, it really boiled down to my own personal frustration with some of the series trends in the market. I absolutely love series, but I had read a number of books where the first book in the series didn’t even attempt to complete any major plot arcs. So Relentless was initially conceived as one standalone novel. Then when I fell in love with the world and the changing story, I decided to simply make it a trilogy with each book telling a complete story with a slightly different cast of characters.
Have you gotten any time to do any reading lately? If so what can you recommend?
So much reading! Right now I’m halfway through the original ten books of the Malazan series, and those books are consistently making the case for being my favorite fantasy series of all time. Long, dark, complex, with first-rate worldbuilding, I’ve fallen in love with them. I’m pretty sure at least 3 out of 5 have made me bawl like a child, but they’ve also had some of the funniest bits I’ve ever read. They give me all the feels. I’m also a huge sci-fi fan, and I’m reading Cibola Burn (Expanse book #4), and just in awe at the writing proficiency of that duo. They are masters of small group dynamics and constant tension. They make reading a six hundred page book feel like reading a short story. And speaking of short stories, I’m also reading a collection edited by GRRM – Rogues. I’ve never read a collection quite like it, and I’ve really enjoyed every story in it thus far.
Awesome. I’ve enjoyed the Malazan I’ve read but that is quite a commitment. As for Sci-Fi, you also have a couple of Sci-Fi series out. How do you approach writing Sci-Fi as opposed to Fantasy? Do you attempt to bring a different style of writing to the table?
I tend to make my sci-fi writing more casual than my fantasy. A lot of it is due to setting, I suppose, but the characters in my sci-fi speak much differently than my fantasy characters. It’s not something I intend to do, but something that evolves out of the characters as I write the story.
How important is reader interaction to you? How do you enjoy communicating with your readers ?
I love interacting with readers! I’m still always surprised by this, but I love it when people reach out to tell me how they’ve liked the stories, or how they’ve been affected by the stories. I’ve even had a few chances to go out and grab beers with readers who are local to my area. I love that we live in an age where it’s so easy to reach authors and other artists we love. I will admit that I’m pretty old-school (at least these days). I’m not on social media more than a few minutes a day, but the way I love interacting is through email.
What’s been taking up most of your non writing time these days?
Raising a three year old.
Thanks to the income from writing I’m able to stay at home with my daughter. I’ve recently been introducing her to the joys of sledding down steep hills.
It’s awesome that you are able to get that time. How long have you been writing full time and did you enjoy the transition?
I’ve been writing full time since 2016, I think. And yes, I’ve definitely enjoyed the transition. There’s a whole new set of skills to learn (such as how to manage your time when you don’t have anyone telling you what to do), but I wouldn’t trade my time with my daughter for anything.
So here’s the question I always enjoy asking the most. What’s next? Are you ready to let everyone in on what you have planned for 2020?
Absolutely. My goal with 2020 is to have a really productive year. I’m about halfway through the first draft of a new book, which will be the first book in a new fantasy series. It’s a series I’ve been meaning to write for a few years now, and the time has finally come. I’m hoping (we’ll see how it goes) to have the first three books out in the series during the first half of 2020. It will feature some really fun martial arts action, a quest to stop an assassination, and possibly the appearance of a god. I’m also hoping to be writing some more short stories.
Sounds brilliant. And aside from all your writing you’ve also started an excellent podcast this year. Talk a bit about Stories Lives and why people should tune in
It’s probably natural for me as a writer, but I’m fascinated by the ways stories influence our lives. I think back to my own childhood, and how the stories of heroes and villains I read shaped my view of the world. I think stories are subtle and yet incredibly powerful shapers of our reality, and Storied Lives is an attempt to explore that concept more deeply. My goal is to speak with creatives of all different stripes to talk about how stories have impacted their lives and how they use stories to shape the world for others. If that sounds interesting, it’s available on all major podcast distributers.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed listening to it. Well sir, I want to thank you for taking time out to talk to me, and as a final question I’ll appeal to your expertise as a writer. What one piece of advice can you offer to new an aspiring authors looking to make writing their business?
I could probably go on for hours, but I feel like the keys are these: First, read and write a lot. Read widely, and write widely as time allows. The more you write, the better you’ll get. Second, be patient. Writing a book is a long process, and getting it right can take even longer. Seeing success can take even longer still. There are far easier ways to make money, so the only reason to make writing your business is because you love the process. And finally, write what you love. Kinda related to the previous point, but telling the stories you want to read means you already have an audience of one. And in today’s world, if there’s one, there’s probably quite a few.
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