Category Archives: Interview

Interview: Vince Conaway

Greetings all

Since I’m at Pennsic and there are a ton of fantastic creators here, I thought I’d do something different for this week’s interview. Vince Conaway, known in the SCA as Vincenzo, and I did this week’s interview under my shade fly. Many thanks to Richard Larmer for being our stellar camera dude.

Let’s get straight to the videos:

Where to find Vincenzo

Also, Vincenzo mentioned a number of people in the interview. Here are some links to check out.

Thanks very much to Vincenzo and Richard for letting me try something different. I had a lot of fun, and I hope you all enjoy this as much as I did.


Finally, let me know any suggestions or comments you have about this interview format so I can keep tweaking it.

Thanks for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326.

If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at rob@robhowell.org.

Also, if you want to join my mailing list, where I’ll announce every interview, as well as what’s going on in my life, go to www.robhowell.org and fill out the form (Name and Email Address) or drop me an email and I’ll add you.

 

Interview: Ian J. Malone

This week’s interview is with Ian J. Malone, who I met while on the same panels at a number of conventions. He writes SF, including a short story in For A Few Credits More along with me.

He’s also a guy who works hard for all of us independent writers. At least once a week, he’s posting useful links or websites in his Facebook group the Alliance for Indie SF&F Authors. If you’re an independent writer, it’s a good group to keep track of.

Anyway, here’s the guy himself.

Interview: Ian J. Malone
Ian J. Malone
Ian J. Malone

What is your quest?

I’m easy to peg on that one, brother. I aim to live on the beach one day, making enough money as a full-time SF author to support my family. That’s it. If I can pull that off, I’ll be over the moon.

What is your favorite color?

As the tagline goes, I write “character-charged sci-fi with a shot of country.” That’s a fancy way of saying I write stories about every day, blue collar folks who wind up in situations that aren’t so every day in nature. Most of the time that involves high flying space ships in some capacity, plus aliens, other worlds, AI, and so forth.  Inevitably, though, most of my protagonists tend to be human as I’ve always found them more relatable to read/write.

As an aside, I also really enjoy wearing hats… a lot.

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush?

The biggest challenge I faced, particularly in the beginning, was learning how a story is supposed to look in text, on the page. I’m legally blind, and have historically done all of my reading via audio. So, when the time came to write a novel of my own, I had A TON to learn about style and technique.

Example: I never knew when penning my first book that a character’s thoughts were presented in italics. You kinda don’t get that in an audiobook.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

I’m a chronic lister. My daily tasks at work, chores around the house, writing goals. You name it, and I’ve probably got it dictated onto a note in my phone somewhere.

As social media goes, I’m also a big fan of the list feature on Twitter. I keep lists for every topic imaginable, from craft and publishing to geek culture, news and sports. Moreover, the tweets on those lists come exclusively from sources that I’ve vetted, which helps to cut down on the whole fake news thing.

Note: I wish Facebook would give me a feature like this. It’s absurdly efficient. Alas, Father Zuckerberg hasn’t seen fit yet in his infinite wisdom to bestow upon we, the little people, such an enormously helpful tool. *sigh*

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? ANIMAL!
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Crunchy, all the way.
  • Favorite Sports Team? Florida State Seminoles
  • Cake or Pie? Gotta go with pie, especially when it’s my wife’s homemade apple.
  • Lime or Lemon? “He was green! Like a lime!”
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  I make a Mexican layer dip that I’m told is legendary back home in Florida.
  • Wet or Dry? Wet makes me think water, so I’ll go with that.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of?  Joe Bonamassa featuring Beth Hart
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Never was a Scotch guy, so gimme that e.
  • Favorite Superhero? Superman.
  • Steak Temperature? Medium
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? 70s were before my time. Best I can do is early 80s, in which case I’ll go with Miami Vice.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall = college football season and chili weather
  • Favorite Pet?   The Cranes!
  • Best Game Ever? John Madden Football
  • Coffee or Tea? Coffee, black
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Sci-Fi

What question(s) would you like to ask me?

Why in the holy name of frak are you a Cowboys fan, Rob? Come on, man. I thought you were better than that! :p

My Answer: Because I grew up in Hillsboro, TX in the early 1970s, which is near Dallas. I’ve been a Cowboys fan since 1973 or so. In other words, I come by this fandom honestly.

Every night at Pennsic I’ll spend some time checking on Twitter and my feeds for news from Cowboys training camp. I’m really excited about this year’s team. Last year was lost to Roger Goodell being a jerk, and at some point we’ll win it all again and I can’t wait to see him have to give Jerry the Lombardi Trophy.

 Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

I’m for sale “wide” in all the usual places: Amazon, Kobo, B&N, iBooks, etc.

And where can we find you?

Do you have a creator biography?

As a graduate of Florida State University, sci-fi author Ian J. Malone has written in a variety of arenas ranging from public health to news and sports. When it comes to his fictional work, however, he’s a firm believer that nothing shapes a person’s writing like experience. That’s why he credits his tenures in radio, law enforcement, and military contracting for much of his inspiration, plus the legion of family and friends who’ve stood with him along the way.

Beyond writing, Malone is an avid fan of audiobooks (he’s legally blind) and the outdoors. It’s also not uncommon to find him at a ballgame, a concert, or somewhere out by a grill.

Malone is an active member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America and a resident of Durham, North Carolina — but he’ll always be a “Florida boy” at heart.

Colonies Lost
Colonies Lost

Final question for you: What should I have asked but did not?  

You might have asked, “where can readers test drive your work before buying?”

Answer: Anybody who signs up for my email newsletter at ianjmalone.net gets not one but two free short stories! The first is titled Mako: Genesis, and serves as the official prequel to my SF adventure series, The Mako Saga. The other is titled Nightfall: A Roanoke Short Story, and serves as the prequel to my new book, Colonies Lost.

Subscribers will also get first look sneak peeks at new book materials, as well as occasional updates on release schedules, events, and discount/freebie promotions.

Malone’s latest book, Colonies Lost, tells the story of a disgraced US Marshal who takes a freelance case to feed his family, only to come face-to-face with America’s greatest unsolved mystery: What happened to the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island?

You can find Colonies Lost for sale on Amazon, or wherever ebooks are sold.


Finally, let me know any suggestions or comments you have about this interview format so I can keep tweaking it.

Thanks for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326.

If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at rob@robhowell.org.

Also, if you want to join my mailing list, where I’ll announce every interview, as well as what’s going on in my life, go to www.robhowell.org and fill out the form (Name and Email Address) or drop me an email and I’ll add you.

Interview: JL Gribble

Interview Questions

I met J.L. Gribble on a panel at ConFluence last year and we had a very good time.

J.L. Gribble Portrait
J.L. Gribble Portrait

What is your quest?

I love writing books that I want to read. For too long, the publishing industry has determined the trends and fads, so I love that my small press lets me experiment with my fiction and tell stories that don’t fit nicely in any one genre. Romeo and Juliet with werewolves and weredragons? Time travel with a twist? I’m free to stretch the limits of my imagination, regardless of whether such things are “not done” in the urban fantasy genre.

What is your favorite color?

For a long time, my favorite color was blue. I was never a girly sort of girl, so I felt that acknowledging my love of purple would be a betrayal of things I pushed against. Now, as I take a look around my computer desk, at my purple Kindle cover, my purple post-it notes, my purple computer mouse, etc., I’ve learned to embrace what I love no matter what I think others might interpret from it. So while I love epic high fantasy tales and intricate, politically driven space opera, I’m also not afraid to shout my love of contemporary and historical romance novels with their happily ever afters. In embracing that love, I’ve learned a lot about how to create real, well-rounded relationships in my own storytelling.

Steel Victory
Steel Victory

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush?

It all boils down to time, doesn’t it? You can’t measure speed without it. Like everything else, time has a price. When you’re working full-time, writing at least one book a year, managing two blogs, and trying to maintain at least some semblance of health, time isn’t free. I had to learn that it’s okay to say no to things that might be “easy” on my end but would still cost me precious time. It can be frustrating and guilt-inducing, but the best thing possible for a creative’s mental and physical health is sometimes to NOT take every opportunity that comes along.

Steel Magic
Steel Magic

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

I wish I was the sort of writer who could sit at a computer for hours on end and crank out the words. Instead, I’m a huge fan of the concept of “writing sprints.” Set a time for as little as 5 and as many as 30 minutes and write as fast as possible until the alarm blares. Then get up and do something else for a bit, preferable a task that does not include the computer. My best writing day ever was 3500 words. I also cleaned every window in my house.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Grover! Ironic, considering I’m not always a cheerful person.
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Crunchy chocolate sprinkles on toast. Creamy peanut butter in cookies.
  • Favorite Sports Team? I married into a Brazilian family, and the World Cup is currently happening. I am legally obligated to answer with the Brazilian Men’s Football Team.
  • Cake or Pie? New York style cheesecake. Preferably one I made myself.
  • Lime or Lemon? Lime, as long as it’s in a caipirinha.
  • Favorite Chip Dip? Queso
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Tawny 10-year port
  • Favorite Superhero? My husband
  • Steak Temperature? Medium-rare
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? M*A*S*H
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Summer!
  • Favorite Pet? I live with three amazing Siamese cats who definitely remember their species were once worshipped as gods.
  • Best Game Ever? Spinner
  • Coffee or Tea? All of the above, plus chai
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Both. At the same time.
J.L. Gribble Cats
J.L. Gribble Cats

What question(s) would you like to ask me?

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Rob’s Answer: To play for the Dallas Cowboys. To fly an X-Wing. To be a paladin of legend.

I’ve always been partial to fantasy.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

My schedule for the rest of 2018 includes Pittsburgh’s Confluence in at the end of July, Salt Lake City’s FanX Salt Lake and Washington DC’s Capclave in September, and Baltimore’s ChessieCon in November.

Do you have a creator biography?

By day, J. L. Gribble is a professional medical editor. By night, she does freelance fiction editing in all genres, along with reading, playing video games, and occasionally even writing. She is currently working on the Steel Empires series for Dog Star Books, the science-fiction/adventure imprint of Raw Dog Screaming Press. She is also the film review editor for SpeculativeChic.com. Previously, she was an editor for the Far Worlds anthology.

Gribble studied English at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She received her Master’s degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, where her debut novel Steel Victory was her thesis for the program.

She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, with her husband and three vocal Siamese cats. Find her online (www.jlgribble.com), on Facebook (www.facebook.com/jlgribblewriter), and on Twitter and Instagram (@hannaedits).

Steel Blood
Steel Blood

Final question for you: What should I have asked but did not?

You should have asked when is your next book release?

People keep congratulating me on finishing my book trilogy. LITTLE DO THEY KNOW: Book 4 in the Steel Empires series, Steel Time, will be released September 2018 from Dog Star Books. Steel Time brings together the leading ladies from Steel Victory, Steel Magic, and Steel Blood as they encounter a literal race against time. The cover reveal is coming soon, so readers have plenty of time (haha, see what I did there?) to catch up on the three previous books!


Finally, let me know any suggestions or comments you have about this interview format so I can keep tweaking it.

Thanks for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326.

If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at rob@robhowell.org.

Also, if you want to join my mailing list, where I’ll announce every interview, as well as what’s going on in my life, go to www.robhowell.org and fill out the form (Name and Email Address) or drop me an email and I’ll add you.

 

Interview: Rob Hobart

I first met Rob Hobart in the mid-90s when I was often going to gaming conventions. He was one of the best DMs around working with Living City and the RPGA.

He, along with Parvez Yusufji, gave me one of my favorite role-playing experiences ever. At a Weekend In Raven’s Bluff I hosted in Wichita mumblety years ago, they DMed a Cthulhu scenario using two parties of six, one on a boat, the other on a submarine, with each group only communicating by walkie-talkie.

We all died, of course. Cthulhu is like that. But man, that was fun.

What is your quest?

After many years working in the RPG hobby and industry, primarily for Call of Cthulhu and Legend of the Five Rings, I’ve decided to move on to writing fiction – which is actually what I intended to do back in my college days, before I got distracted by those pesky games. J I’ve recently self-published my novel The Sword of Amatsu, the first volume of an epic fantasy set in a samurai-themed world.

What is your favorite color?

I’ve always had a taste for adventure stories – whether fantasy, sci-fi, thrillers, or otherwise – that have more serious and sometimes tragic themes. This probably goes back to my lifetime interest in history, especially military history. Even in gaming, the RPGs I was drawn to most strongly were the ones rooted in history and that took danger, death, and Evil seriously.

On the other hand, I reject nihilism, and I don’t care much for the “subvert for the sake of subversion” trend that I see in a lot of recent storytelling, fantasy and otherwise. I write stories that incorporate tragedy and suffering, but that nonetheless seek to evoke heroism and virtue. Both of the five-year organized-play campaigns I created for Legend of the Five Rings were built around this duality of tragedy and heroism, and I am trying to do the same thing in my fiction.

Rob Hobart
Rob Hobart

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush?

For me, actually getting started writing is always the hardest part. I can tell stories in my head all day long, but forcing myself to just sit down and write them is often incredibly hard. During my time working on Legend of the Five Rings, it was usually the hard reality of deadlines that forced me to overcome this obstacle and actually get work done. As a self-published writer I still wrestle with this challenge, and have developed a variety of tricks – such as posting word-count updates on my FaceBook page – to try to create a sense of obligation that will keep me from procrastinating into oblivion.

In my early days of writing, during and right after college, my other big challenge was in writing characters who were markedly different from myself, especially female characters – like many young men of a nerdly persuasion, I was hapless at dating. I actually wrote two entire novels then which were unpublishable (though proving to myself that I could write entire novels was valuable) and the flat, shallow depictions of women and relationships in those books makes me cringe now. This weakness was partially solved by sheer practice, and partly by marrying and having a daughter.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

I think my strength, when I’m writing at my best, is found in evoking a strong emotional response from the audience. The second Legend of the Five Rings organized play campaign I ran ended with a room of a hundred people crying and cheering, which was exactly the result I was hoping for. So far, if reader feedback is to be believed, I think I’ve managed to do the same with my fiction.

One of my touchstones in this regard is actually drawn from the (in)famous anime Neon Genesis Evangelion. That story as a whole was – at least in my view – a hideous evocation of cruelty, nihilism, and despair. But the “Asuka awakens” sequence in the final Evangelion movie, in which she regains her mojo, connects to her long-lost mother, and annihilates the invaders – all to the accompaniment of glorious, triumphant music – is a brief divergence into a different and infinitely better movie, one in which heroism and virtue would have redeemed the whole series. A lot of what I’ve written over the last fifteen years has been an attempt to create a story like the one that scene should have belonged to, and to evoke the emotional response that scene creates in first-time viewers.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? – The Skeksis
  • Crunchy or Creamy? – Creamy. (This question better be about peanut-butter…)
  • Favorite Sports Team? – St Louis Cardinals
  • Cake or Pie? — Pie
  • Lime or Lemon? — Lime
  • Favorite Chip Dip? – Queso
  • Wet or Dry? – Um…
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? – Two Steps From Hell
  • Whisky or Whiskey? – Yuck!
  • Favorite Superhero? – The Punisher
  • Steak Temperature? – Medium
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? – None. They were all terrible.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? – Spring
  • Favorite Pet? – Sweety, a mixed-breed dog I got when I was 9 years old.
  • Best Game Ever? – Legend of the Five Rings, of course!
  • Coffee or Tea? – Coffee
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? – Probably Fantasy, although I enjoy both

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

Biographical info:

Rob Hobart is a lifelong fan of fantasy, science-fiction, Japanese pop culture, role-playing games, and military history. He worked for eight years in the role-playing game industry, serving as line editor, co-designer, and eventual Lead Design of Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition. He lives in rural Missouri with his wife and daughter.

He may, or may not, also be the immortal 4th Earl of Buckinghamshire.


Thanks for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326.

If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at rob@robhowell.org.

Also, if you want to join my mailing list, where I’ll announce every interview, as well as what’s going on in my life, go to www.robhowell.org and fill out the form (Name and Email Address) or drop me an email and I’ll add you.

 

 

Interview: Chris Kennedy

Greetings all

This week’s interview is with Chris Kennedy, who has shown many of us how to be an independent writer. He’s written several series of his own, founded a publishing company that supports other independent authors, and, along with Mark Wandrey, started the Four Horsemen Universe of which I’ve contributed.

He’s taught me quite a bit already, and I suggest you listen to him and watch what he does.

Interview: Chris Kennedy

What is your quest?

I want to sell a million books. Failing that, I want to help my authors sell ten million books.

What is your favorite color?

Science fiction…with a side of fantasy.

Chris Kennedy
Chris Kennedy

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush?

Not coming from a writing background, I had to learn to do it right. I read blogs for 15 minutes a day for four years to help develop my craft and my ability to sell more books. I’m still not totally where I want to be, but I’m a much better writer than when I started, and I’m a lot closer to the goal.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

I like writing gritty combat and a good motivational speech once in a while.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Animal.
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Definitely crunchy. I don’t know why they make that other stuff.
  • Favorite Sports Team? UNC Tarheels basketball (despite their showing in the NCAAs last year), NY Yankees baseball, and Atlanta Falcons football.
  • Cake or Pie? Pie…but why can’t I have both?
  • Lime or Lemon? Lemon…because you can put it in Corona and make it taste better.
  • Favorite Chip Dip? Helluva Good Sour Cream and Onion
  • Wet or Dry? Sopping wet. (Rob’s Note: He’s a Navy guy)
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Two Steps from Hell. Outstanding for combat writing music.
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Bud Light. (Rob’s Note: Sigh)
  • Favorite Superhero? Gal Gadot Wonder Woman. Because Gal Gadot.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall
  • Best Game Ever? In # of hours played? Everquest.
  • Coffee or Tea? Diet Pepsi
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Scifi, with a side of fantasy.

What question(s) would you like to ask me?

How many MAC rounds can a trooper survive?

Rob’s Answer: If we’re talking a magnetically accelerated piece of tungsten, then zero if the trooper isn’t in a CASPer. If we’re talking the fully-loaded magazine of MAC rounds we’re going to have at our LibertyCon party, I would say most can survive five or so, depending upon rate of fire and body mass. However, this survival is likely to be more painful and the target might prefer the quick death of tungsten.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

Final question for you: What should I have asked but did not?

You should have asked, “Do you have any free book promotions coming up soon?”

Why yes, yes I do.

Both “Janissaries” and “Cartwright’s Cavaliers” will be free this weekend. Want to introduce someone to my writing or the 4HU? This is your chance to do it—get them to pick up a free copy this weekend!

You can find them here:


Thanks for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326.

If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at rob@robhowell.org.

Also, if you want to join my mailing list, where I’ll announce every interview, as well as what’s going on in my life, go to www.robhowell.org and fill out the form (Name and Email Address) or drop me an email and I’ll add you.

Interview: Thaddeus Nowak

Thaddeus Nowak is another KC-area writer. He and I had tables near each other at Planet Comicon and we got a chance to chat with each other about writing philosophies and styles. You’ll find some similarities in the way we like to write.

Interview: Thaddeus Nowak

What is your quest?

To be a lumberjack? Or maybe to get funding for my walk?  Not decided yet.

Thaddeus Nowak
Thaddeus Nowak

As a writer, my aim has always been to write what I like to read and that tends toward realistic fantasy. I want a somewhat gritty world that has echoes of our own world’s conflicts and struggles mixed with a magic system that obeys balanced rules. I want to feel the character’s struggles and know they have to use their minds to overcome what they face.

Some of my favorite books include The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin, The Firekeeper Saga by Jane Lindskold, and many of the books by Barbara Hambly. In those series, the magic remained subdued, few people in the worlds mastered the power, and most did not fully understand how it worked. To me, that helped to keep the world in balance and forced the characters to be deeper and more well-rounded.

I do enjoy other genres, including scifi and urban / high fantasy. I even made a trip to England to buy the English copy of Harry Potter (okay, I was there for other reasons, but I bought the whole set and shipped it home when I was there).

A theme across all the genres I read is a desire for stories with strong female protagonists. I grew up in a neighborhood where my family had the only boys and all my friends at an early age were girls. That has greatly influenced what I like to read and write. The key here is to make the protagonist someone who makes decisions and who inspires others to follow her. I really get turned off by indecision.

What is your favorite color?

Heirs of Cothel
Heirs of Cothel

I like subtlety. I want to be nudged in the correct direction and allowed to make the connection before it is revealed—if it is ever fully revealed at all. It is a hard thing to do because you have no way of knowing just how much a reader does or does not know, and therefore, some hints might miss the mark. You don’t want to leave the reader wondering why something came out of seemingly nowhere, but you also don’t want to hit them over the head with facts that they feel are obvious.  The needed understanding must gradually show up as the story progresses.

I also love Easter Eggs. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline was a fun story filled with little bits of geekdom that simply resonated with me. I enjoyed both the book and the movie, and while that story was specifically about paying homage to countless parts of my childhood, I like other books that slide in one or two items for the geek in all of us.  It is a good way to share a common bond.

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush?

Failure is such a friend of mine. I remarked the other day that the best way to learn is to pound your head on the keyboard for a few hours until you find the very obvious mistake you made. Granted, that was in reference to some C# code I was working on, but the same applies to writing. Failure is the greatest of teachers, as long as you can step back and take a clinical look at why you failed and how you were able to overcome it. You cannot wallow in it, even if you want to.

Another challenge I continue to face is one of perfectionism. My first manuscript got eaten up the edit loop and bloomed into more than 200k words and was only a third of the way done. I made a few calls and put a hit out on my internal editor. It wasn’t cheap, but it helped.

Another change I made while the editor’s body was dragged off was that I moved from being a discovery writer to being more of an architect (just at a high-level outline). I won’t advocate one form over the other for anyone, but if you are struggling, try changing your writing style from one to the other. Give it an honest attempt and see if it works. When I did, I finished writing Mother’s Curse in two months.

 (Rob’s note: There’s one true way of writing, and it’s whatever helps *you* get words on the page. Thaddeus is absolutely right. If you’re stuck, change something. It could be your style, environment, chair, music, food, medium, whatever, just change something.) 

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

I am excellent at counting to five—three.

When I moved to the architect style of writing, I found that I was able to very accurately judge the word count I wanted for a given scene. I would get a reasonably idea of what I wanted the scene to do from my outline and based on how I wanted the pacing to go (fast, slow, or in between) I would come up with an estimate on the number of words / pages it would take me to write the scene. When I plotted out Mother’s Curse, I was aiming for 100k words. The final word count came in at 96.5k and I was proud to have been so close (as well as under my estimate).

Another realization I had when writing my series is that when you have royalty or powerful people involved in the story, you suddenly have another major character to keep track of: the general populace. When a normal person does something publicly, few people will notice or care, but when a person of influence is seen in public, word will spread, and as a result, the citizens of the world will have a reaction, quite often a mixed one depending on their personal perspective. This means I had to calculate societies responses, how fast the information would travel, and look at the political agendas of everyone who would learn of any given event or statement.

 Lightning Round

Pip
Pip
  • Favorite Muppet? The old grumpy guys. (Rob’s note: Statler and Waldorf)
  • Crunchy or Creamy? No peanut butter for me.  Caramel instead.
  • Favorite Sports Team? Sporting KC
  • Cake or Pie? Tea and cake, not death.
  • Lime or Lemon? Mostly lemon, but lime on certain things.
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Don’t laugh, but I like sweet pickle relish on chips.
  • Wet or Dry? Wet.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? The Rogues (best pipe and drum music around)
  • Whisky or Whiskey? You want me to choose between the Scots and the Irish?
  • Favorite Superhero? Hard one. I’ll go with Hit Girl
  • Steak Temperature? Medium well
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Monty Python’s Flying Circus of course … though I watched more WKRP in Cincinnati
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall
  • Favorite Pet?  (Right now, Pip (named after Chiana in Farscape)
  • Best Game Ever? 1990, Risk, six people, New Year’s Eve
  • Coffee or Tea? Tea
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Fantasy

What question(s) would you like to ask me? 

What is your favorite obscure event in history?

My Answer: The easy answer here is the Martin Koszta Affair which many of you have seen me discuss in panels at conventions. I had a to do a project in grad school based on the letterbook of the USS St. Louis during the time of the Koszta Affair and I became perhaps the world’s leading authority on this particular event. That’s not actually hyperbole, oddly enough.

However, I have so many other ones I could choose. I modeled Edward to an extent on Imma from Chapter XXII of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Imma gets knocked unconscious in a battle and wakes up in a pile of dead including his lord and all his brother warriors. He is sworn to die before the lord, which does not happen. However, he is limited in what he can do after the fact because of the oaths he has sworn as a Christian. I love when characters have competing oaths that cannot be reconciled.

In all honesty, I get curious about everything. There are too many fun and wonderful moments in history to limit myself to just one.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

Usually at Planet Comicon.  My schedule this year is light because of some local moves I am making.  Next year I plan to be back on the convention train.

Map of Cothel
Map of Cothel

Do you have a creator biography?

Thaddeus has always been interested in fantasy and science fiction. Early on, when just starting high school, his avid reading grew into a desire to write. A desire which has turned into a lifelong pursuit.

When not reading or writing, he enjoys hiking in the mountains, landscape photography, drawing, and spending time with his wife and two demanding cats.

He has degrees in Chemistry, Computer Information Systems, and Business Management and has held a handful of jobs: some in retail, some in healthcare, but primarily in the technology fields.

Thaddeus currently lives in Kansas with his wife and two cats, but wishes there were more mountains visible on the horizon.

Final question for you: What should I have asked but did not?

What are your current and/or upcoming project?

Life events have delayed me about a year, but I am working on two different pieces. The first is another series set in the same world as The Heirs of Cothel Series, but with new characters living in the far north. I am borrowing bits from Norwegian and Scottish history and culture and the main character is living in an occupied country and she has to figure out what she wants to do about that.

The second item is an urban fantasy that involves a young woman who has been living off the grid with her parents deep in the Rocky Mountains. However, both of her parents die and she has to discover the modern world and why her parents isolated her from everyone.


Finally, let me know any suggestions or comments you have about this interview format so I can keep tweaking it.

Thanks for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326.

If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at rob@robhowell.org.

Also, if you want to join my mailing list, where I’ll announce every interview, as well as what’s going on in my life, go to www.robhowell.org and fill out the form (Name and Email Address) or drop me an email and I’ll add you.

 

Interview: Jesse Oak Rise

Greetings all

This week’s interview is with Jesse Oak Rise, an author and videographer I met in Pittsburgh last year when I went to Confluence during the middle of Pennsic. I was struck in our conversations about how much they have studied technical details of making videos, something I know very little about and Jesse taught me about.

Interview: Jesse Oak Rise

What is your quest?

Presently I run a blog dealing with topics surrounding the trans and non-binary community, mental health, and Crohn’s Disease. In the future I have several plans for my YouTube channel, The Knighted Nerd, which are creating video reviews of trans related media as well as video game content through a trans perspective. This would include Let’s Plays of various games. Interviews with trans and non-binary community leaders. Hopefully gain interviews with politicians and political leaders. Attend trans and mental health related conferences and, hopefully, document them.

I wouldn’t say I have success. My influences, however, are as follows: Lyndsey Sickler, educator and advocate, among other things. Created and runs TransPride Pittsburgh. The late Nancy Evelyn Gold, who inspired me in the first place to learn Adobe Premiere Pro / Final Cut. Anthony Q. Artis, author of The Shut Up and Shoot Freelance Video Guide and The Shut Up and Shoot Documentary Guide, Voice-Over Voice Actor: What It’s Like Behind the Mic by Yuri Lowenthal and Tara Platt, The Art of Voice Acting: The Craft and Business of Performing for Voiceover by James Alburger.

Also these YouTubers: Caleb Wojcik, creator of FIT Video Guy, DSLR Video Shooter, Lindsay Ellis, Chase Thomas, PushingUpRoses, MarzGurl, and, of course, Markiplier / Jacksepticeye

What is your favorite color?

I’m, by no means, a professional videographer, voice actor, or YouTuber. What I am is a person that has worn many hats.

No matter which of these you do or want to do the biggest lessons I’ve learned in all three are: Make sure your audio is on point. No $10 microphones. Go for a Blue Snowball or  Yeti. If you want to go XLR,  go for Rode Mic with a usb interface. Make sure you’re audio is shielded in some way, even if you have to build makeshift plywood walls to stick soundproofing on, it’s better than having anything under or over your voice.

Video, depending how you want to do it, look for either a quality web cam or a camcorder. If you got the bucks, look into getting a DSLR camera. Look into 3 or 4 point lighting. This will bring your video game up a notch.

If you’re going to do green screen, YouTube and your local library are your friend to learn. These are how I have learned everything I know now.

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush?

What do you mean? African or European paint brush?

The biggest challenge I have has plagued me all my life: money. I don’t have the funds to do the things I want to do the things I mentioned above, much to my dismay.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

I’ve been taught all my life that I’ll never amount to anything. Over the last two and ½ decades I’ve learned that I have an innate ability to quickly learn almost any skill quickly. With this tool I know I could succeed at almost anything, if given the opportunity.

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? The mahna mahna guy
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Both at once
  • Favorite Sports Team? What’s a sports?
  • Cake or Pie? Piecake
  • Lime or Lemon? Lemon
  • Favorite Chip Dip? French onion
  • Wet or Dry? Yes.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Myself, Jesse Oak Rise.
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Jagermister
  • Favorite Superhero? Deadpool
  • Steak Temperature? 650
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? All in the Family
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall, cause every day is Halloween
  • Favorite Pet?  Can I own Death as a pet?
  • Best Game Ever? Will it blend
  • Coffee or Tea? Tea
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Yes

What question(s) would you like to ask me?

Have you thought about adding authentic transgender characters in your writings?

My Answer: Thought about it, yes? Done it? No, because it’s never been relevant to the story I’m telling. Given that I write hack and slash, swords and sorcery action novels, I generally focus on whether my characters are strong, smart, fast, tough, or wise because those things matter in a fight. Rarely does plumbing of any type affect the outcome of a fight or a story, so I don’t talk about it much. 

If it ever matters to a story, I have no problem including transgender characters. However, I’m not going to throw one in simply to throw one in. I think that sort of thing is dishonest and disrespectful if the only reason to do so is to say, “Here, look at me, I put in a transgender character, aren’t I awesome!” If and when I put a transgender character into a story, it’s because the “transgender” part matters. Otherwise, transgender people are simply “people.”

It all boils down to what makes a good story. If a character being transgender makes a better story, I’ll make that happen in a heartbeat. If it doesn’t, I already try to strip everything I can in my writing that doesn’t push the story along.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

I can be found at

And where can we find you?

Currently I only attend Confluence in Pittsburgh, PA

Do you have a creator biography?

Presently on my blog, which needs work


Thanks for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326.

If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at rob@robhowell.org.

Also, if you want to join my mailing list, where I’ll announce every interview, as well as what’s going on in my life, go to www.robhowell.org and fill out the form (Name and Email Address) or drop me an email and I’ll add you.

Interview: Gray Rinehart

This week’s interview is with Gray Rinehart. My first experience with Gray was at LibertyCon, where he was the toastmaster. He performed a fun filk of Major Tom so I listened to some of his other music. It’s very good, and even appeared on the Dr. Demento show. I intend to add some to my booth in future events.

He’s also a writer and editor, currently serving as Baen’s ‘Slushmaster General’  while publishing a number of short stories and a novel. Oh, and he was in the Air Force, serving a career that sounds fascinating, though probably the kind of thing he can’t entirely discuss.

Anyway, let’s hear from the man himself.

Interview: Gray Rinehart

What is your quest?

I seek the Grayl … it’s a bit like a Grail … no, to be honest, it’s nothing like a Grail … it’s uglier, and less useful.

More seriously (perhaps too seriously?), my writing quest is to write things that ring true.  Obviously nonfiction ought to do more than “ring” true, and the “truth” of music is something a bit different from the truth of a text, but we’re mostly talking about fiction.  In my fiction, I want the story to feel real, to feel true, to the reader even when it’s obviously not true.  I want to convey a sense of reality even in the unreality of the story.

Gray Rinehart

What is your favorite color?

Grey!  No, wait:  orange!  [Aaaah….] (Rob’s note: Finally, someone with the right answer 🙂 )

Speaking of things I didn’t get right when I started writing, it took me a long time to grasp the fundamentals of point of view. I’m a long way from mastering it, but I think I’ve gotten better at staying consistently with a character and delving deeper into what that character is thinking and feeling at any given moment of the story.  I think (I hope?) that adds to the overall realism I want my stories to have.

In addition, I try to make sure my characters have some emotional depth — not that they wear their hearts on their sleeves, but that they process through emotions in ways that readers find appropriate.  If something happens to them or to people they care about, whether it’s good or bad, I try to show their reactions and to make those reactions fit the characters’ personalities.

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush?

If it’s one of my wife’s paintbrushes that she’s flung at me for some snide comment I’ve made, those things fly at near lightspeed….

Walking on the Sea of Clouds

In terms of things I had to learn the hard way, I mentioned above that point of view has been difficult for me.  Back when I was still in the Air Force, but I was trying (after a long hiatus) to write fiction, I gave a story to a friend to read.  He turned out to be that most valuable kind of friend who would actually tell me the truth — and in this case, the truth was that the story was awful, largely because I had no idea how to handle POV.  I still struggle with it at times, whether I’m trying to capture the POV of one character or other and stay consistently in that POV within a scene, or just trying to figure out whose POV to use in a particular scene.  I don’t know that I’ll ever master it.

And, just to be clear:  That story remains unpublished!  One day I may try to fix all its many problems.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade?

“Three shall be the number thou shalt count …”  These questions are awesome, by the way. (Rob’s note: Thank you, and again with the right answers 😀 )

I feel as if my strength lies in stringing words together to form coherent and hopefully interesting sentences.  My skills tend to falter, though, when I’m trying to put those sentences together to form stories.  Sure, sentences become paragraphs and paragraphs become scenes and scenes become stories, but I find that I’m not a natural storyteller.  As a result, beyond the mechanical level of words and sentences, writing is hard for me.

I liken it to carpentry.  I’m a pretty fair journeyman carpenter.  I can frame something that’ll be solid, and I can even do some fair finish work, but I’m not a very good architect.  I have a tendency to forget certain features, or to neglect the building code, so the end result will stand firm but it may not be the prettiest house on the block.  So in my fiction the prose itself will be fine, but it’s hard for me to make the narrative live up to the narration.

Truths, Lies, Make Believe

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? I’m not a drummer, but I always get a kick out of Animal.
  • Crunchy or Creamy?  Creamy!  (Or, if you prefer, smooth….)
  • Favorite Sports Team?  Clemson Tigers, in whatever sport they’re playing.
  • Cake or Pie?  As much as I like cake, I’d give a good chocolate chess pie the nod over most near anything. (Rob’s note: NOM!)
  • Lime or Lemon?  You’ve got me thinking about pies, so I’d go with lemon, as in lemon meringue pie.  (Although lemon bars are good, too….)
  • Favorite Chip Dip?  Crab dip.
  • Wet or Dry?  Dry rub, whether on ribs or any other to-be-barbequed meat, but I do enjoy a good barbeque sauce on the side.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of?  This question hurts my head!  How do I know who you’ve heard of and not heard of?  And how am I supposed to decide on a favorite, especially when so many of my family and friends are musicians and singers?
  • Whisky or Whiskey?  Whiskey with an “e”, please.
  • Favorite Superhero?  Hard to say, but for a different reason than with the musician question above:  I’m not much of a superhero fan.  I suppose of all the superheroes I know about, I appreciate Captain America the most.
  • Steak Temperature?  Medium.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show?  (Was there TV in the 70s?)  Probably Charlie’s Angels, just to watch Farrah Fawcett and Kate Jackson.  Although I also enjoyed Baretta, and Quincy, M.E.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall?  (“All you have to do is call, and I’ll be there….”)  Anything but winter!
  • Favorite Pet?  Alas, we are down to a single pet these days:  a very rambunctious shepherd mix named Mr. Tumnus.
  • Best Game Ever?  Great song!  (You did mean the Mikey Mason song, right?) (Rob’s note: Uh, yeah, sure, I was totally thinking of that all along)
  • Coffee or Tea?  Tea, most often of the cold and sweet variety.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy?  More science fiction than fantasy, usually.

    Mr. Tumnus

What question(s) would you like to ask me?

How do you find the patience to put up with slackers like me who promise to turn in their answers and then don’t?  Whatever your secret is, I appreciate it.

Rob’s Answer: Easy. I send these questions out to a bunch of people and I only need one person a week to answer. Strategy for the win! In all truth, I usually have one or two waiting, and if I don’t, it only really takes a couple of “Howdys” on IM and people are all like “I’ll get it to you today.”

Doing these interviews have actually been a blast for me. I enjoy seeing other people’s methods and thoughts. And their favorite muppets. Plus, if any ever come to visit me, I know how to make their steak on the grill.

If I’m being cynical, I will also say that I’ve seen a good uptick in traffic to my blog, more people on my mailing list, and more contacts in the creator community. It’s been a win-win, I think, and I love positive sum games.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And where can we find you?

Distorted Vision

The first weekend of June I’ll be at ConCarolinas in Charlotte; the second week of June I’ll be a featured author on the “Lorehaven” book club Facebook page; and at the end of June I’ll be at LibertyCon in Chattanooga.  Meanwhile, folks are welcome to friend me on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/gray.rinehart), follow me on Twitter (https://twitter.com/grayrinehart), or connect with me on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/grayrinehart).

If anyone wants to see what some of my music is about, I put montage videos for three of my songs on YouTube:

Final question for you: What should I have asked but did not?

How about:  Beach or mountains?

We’re beach people, mostly, but we just spent a few days in the mountains – that’s the advantage of living in close proximity to both!

(Rob’s note: For me, mountains every time. I’d much rather climb than be bored in the sun)

Author Biography:

Gray Rinehart is the only person to have commanded an Air Force satellite tracking station, written speeches for Presidential appointees, and had music on The Dr. Demento Show.  He is the author of the near-future science fiction novel Walking on the Sea of Clouds (WordFire Press), and his short fiction has appeared in Analog Science Fiction & Fact, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, and several anthologies.  He is a contributing editor (the “Slushmaster General”) for Baen Books, and a singer/songwriter with two albums of mostly science-fiction-and-fantasy-inspired music.  During his rather odd USAF career, he fought rocket propellant fires, refurbished space launch facilities, “flew” Milstar satellites, drove trucks, processed nuclear command and control orders, commanded the largest remote tracking station in the Air Force Satellite Control Network, and did other interesting things.  His alter ego is the Gray Man, one of several famed ghosts of South Carolina’s Grand Strand, which is why his web site is graymanwrites.com.


Thanks for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326.

If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at rob@robhowell.org.

Also, if you want to join my mailing list, where I’ll announce every interview, as well as what’s going on in my life, go to www.robhowell.org and fill out the form (Name and Email Address) or drop me an email and I’ll add you.

Interview: J. Edward Neill

One of the best parts of this profession is getting to meet all sorts of creative people. J. Edward Neill is one of those people. I really enjoy his covers, and I think 22 May is the perfect day for me to interview him here.

Interview: J. Edward Neill

What is your quest? To seek the Grail…of full-time creativity! I’m an author and artist, and my subject matter varies wildly. For my books, I like my readers to enjoy vivid, approachable stories while maybe…subtly…encountering moments of introspection. Meaning, I like to dip into philosophical discussions without anyone really knowing it. As for my art, I prefer to explore darker themes. Beauty coupled with death. Peaceful suffering. Unholy deathpunk machine demons. You know…the usual.

Dark Art of J. Edward Neill

What is your favorite color? Ever heard of sculpted paintings? No? Yeah, I get that a lot. Used to be, I’d paint typical 2D images on flat canvasses. By typical I mean portraits, monsters, weird abstract trees and cities. But in the last two years, I’ve paired with another artist to create 3D paintings. We use paper mache and spackle to build up images atop canvasses, and then we go nuts with a variety of dark, metallic acrylics and soupy watercolors. It’s crazy and loads of fun. I recommend everyone try it. (ed. note: Much like the Dread Pirate Roberts feels about masks)

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush? Time, time, time. There’s never enough of it. In trying to balance writing full-length novels, creating philosophy handbooks, painting every night, and enduring the perils of single-fatherhood, I find myself permanently stretched. If I spend too much time writing, I crave to pick up a paintbrush. If I fall too deep into a new canvas, I beat myself up for not hammering out more words. And then there’s my son, who just wants to sword-fight in the backyard. He always gets to be Link. I’m just a lousy Bokoblin.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade? I’ve definitely (along with my art-partner) achieved some pretty cool successes with 3D art. Our styles, whipped together in a blender, are both light and dark, beautiful and terrifying. Last year we spent about a month sculpting and painting a giant, futuristic robot-spider hanging inside a web of machinery. It was exhilarating to finish! As for my books, I think I’ve struck a chord with my Coffee Table Philosophy books. I researched these, quite literally, by going to various Atlanta bars and asking tipsy strangers to answer philosophical questions. The results were…well…interesting.

Sticky the Laser Eyed Cat

Lightning Round

  • Favorite Muppet? Animal!
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Crunchy. I like my food to break beneath my teeth.
  • Favorite Sports Team? Chicago Cubs. 2016, baby!
  • Cake or Pie? I’m a cake guy. Marie Antoinette speaks to my soul.
  • Lime or Lemon? Lemon. Especially Chik-Fil A lemonade, aka diabetes in a cup.
  • Favorite Chip Dip? Queso with mega-spicy jalapenos.
  • Wet or Dry? I’m an ocean lover. Despite the jellyfish. Wet.
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? Robert Rich. He makes these trippy, gloomy soundtracks. Absolutely perfect to paint by.
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Scotch whiskey. The older, the better. Balvenie 21 Port.
  • Favorite Superhero? My grandmother. Faster than cancer. Stronger than a speeding Alzheimer’s. (ed. note: The hero Gotham needs, not the hero it deserves)
  • Steak Temperature? Medium. But really, I’ll eat any steak in the world if there’s scotch involved.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Was Lost in Space from the 70’s?  I can’t remember.
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Fall. I like to enjoy long runs in the woods with the leaves tumbling all around me.
  • Favorite Pet?  Sticky, the laser-eyed cat!
  • Best Game Ever? Magic the Gathering. I’m a recovering addict. (ed. note: I had 3 of the Moxes. Then I gave them away *before* they got valuable)
  • Coffee or Tea? Tea. Strong and sweet.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Oooooo…tough question. I’ll go with fantasy, if only because the possibilities are even greater.

What question(s) would you like to ask me? I’m looking at your website, and I’m thinking you might like to LARP. True or false?

My Answer: One might make the case that there’s little distinction between LARPing and the SCA. And the case would be a good one in many ways. This year marks my 20th anniversary of joining the SCA, and it has helped me grow, including as a writer.

I have done very little of actual LARPing, though I did get to help run one at GenCon in the 90s. I was a designated NPC, and at one point they told me to “die interestingly.” So, I died half-on, half-off an elevator. And then they did the body tape thing. People who were just in Milwaukee, not there for Gen Con, got to the hotel elevator and there was half a body silhouetted in tape. The rest was on the 4th floor.

Also, I’d love to know your answer to this— if you could lock any two historical figures (dead or alive) in a cage for a fight to the death, which two would you pick?

My Answer: Wow, that’s a fascinating question. Here’s an answer, related to your interest in philosophy. Let’s go Hammurabi and Justinian in a duel of legal wits. But man, there’s so many fun choices.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff? 

And Where can we find you?

  • DragonCon 2018, baby! Come see me at my table.
  • Also, Pancakes & Booze Atlanta in July. Eat free flapjacks, get tipsy, and buy my terrifying paintings!
J. Edward Neill Cover Art

Final question for you: What should I have asked but did not?

You should have asked: If you had to choose one creative outlet, and only one, which would it be?

So I could answer: Painting. Late at night. Alone in my dungeon-like basement. With music playing and a too-strong cocktail on the table.

You should also have asked: What have you done recently?

And I would answer that I’ve very recently finished up my big fiction trilogy – Eaters of the Light. Each cover was created by Amanda Makepeace, whose interview introduced me to you. This series will appeal to lovers of both fantasy AND sci-fi. Space vampires, holographic blue girls, and intergalactic heartbreak. It’s available now on Amazon.


Thanks for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326.

If you are a creator, especially an independent creator, and you want to be spotlighted in a future interview, email me at rob@robhowell.org.

Also, if you want to join my mailing list, where I’ll announce every interview, as well as what’s going on in my life, go to www.robhowell.org and fill out the form (Name and Email Address) or drop me an email and I’ll add you.

 

Interview: Kit Daven

This week’s interview comes from Kit Daven who I met at Ad Astra a few years ago. I was invited to go to it by my friend Pasi who ran the con suite and I’m really glad I did. I met a bunch of great people, including, as you’ll see, Kit.

Kit Daven Interview

What is your quest? As a writer, my current quest is rooted in the exploration of fictional narrative, primarily novels and short stories. In my youth, I spent many years exploring poetry and short fiction, published my own zines, and attempted several longer works, including an unfinished, abandoned epic fantasy. The maze of fictional narrative is vast, and the paths to be taken many. Here are some of the authors who have stood at pivotal intersections and either handed me a power key or pointed the way.

Roald Dahl was the first to hand me a golden ticket and lead me to the entrance of the maze. In the earliest turns and bends, C. S. Lewis pointed out the rabbit holes and mirrors, and Astrid Lindgren provided me a young companion, a strong girl with carrot-coloured pigtails, who took me in a little deeper. From imaginative hallways down into dark tunnels, Edgar Allan Poe showed me mood, atmosphere, and mystery. H. P. Lovecraft showed me that the unknown and the ambiguous could be effective, and William Hope Hodgson made the sea forever creepy. Later on, a young man in a possessed car drove me a good distance with Stephen King, from whom I learned that in-depth characterization can be done without putting a reader to sleep. William Blake showed me how to develop my own eclectic rhythms and that without self-publishing his work, no one would know his writing today. Tanith Lee pointed the way to the flat earth, where I explored style and concision and how to bend fairytales and myths. Douglas Adams showed me you can be funny and smart at the same time. There have been other writers across the mediums who have been influential, all noteworthy yet too many to list. Recently, I took a turn at George RR Martin and am exploring world building in more depth.

All of them have been teachers. All of them have told me, “Go forth but beware trolls!”

What is your favorite color? Purple. My favourite colour is always purple.

Experimentation is an important aspect for my stories. I tend to start with rules and see how I can bend them. One rule in particular was quite fun to play with while writing A Xiinisi Trilogy. The rule goes like this: unnamed characters shouldn’t be given dialogue. So, I went ahead and gave the occasional unnamed character dialogue, by putting it in italics. I made sure there were several background characters available to chime in on whatever was happening, offering three to four bits of dialogue that acted together as a beat in the narrative. I did this sparingly throughout each novel to great effect.

Who does she think she is?
You can’t do that.
Hack!
Rules Schmules! I learn them mostly to break them, then I play with them until they cry.

When it comes to characters, I love creating foils, because like real people, they want to show you how they see themselves. A foil, however, peels away that veneer and shows you what they are like beneath the surface. In The Forgotten Gemstone, the main character Ule is hungry and tired. She has been invited to sit by a fire where she patiently listens to stories told by a boy. The boy offers her what he’s been cooking over the fire, and after she discovers she’s nearly eaten a roasted spider, she storms off into the desert in a temper tantrum. At this point in the narrative, she’s not as mature as she likes to think she is.

Kit Daven Portrait

In general, I really love to listen to what the story wants, how it wants to be told and presented. A project that I’ve been working on for a couple of years has been calling out for multiple POVs. When I mean multiple, I mean every character will get at least one turn in contributing to the narrative. I’m not sure how to present that yet, but I’ll figure it out.

Oh, and I love the colour orange, too.

What is the average flying speed of an unladen paint brush? (What are some of the challenges you’ve faced that have frustrated you? Maybe some creative failures that you’ve learned from)

The biggest challenge I face is rooted in a huge fail on my part. I quit writing for many years over a decade ago. I’d quit before, but this last time was for good. I was writing straight literary fiction, and I crashed into this wall. I’d get dry tongue when I sat down to write. My body would vibrate and not in a good way. I used to love poetry but couldn’t bring myself to write it anymore, because my favorite pieces elicited zero response from readers. My readers (mostly family and friends) liked the literary stuff. It was good, never great. Then, I decided to try a new approach, and I found this beautiful intersection of writing from both my heart and my mind. However, the reactions I received were ones of discomfort and I often heard, “I couldn’t say that.” At the time, I interpreted these reactions as negative responses.

No longer enjoying the process, I gave up. I stopped writing fiction. I stopped reading. I must have purged a couple hundred books out my library and got them down enough to fill two tall bookshelves, then channeled my creative energy into art. It was, at that time, the right thing to do and a huge relief. Later, however, I realized being a writer is very much a part of who I am, whether I like it or not. To reintroduce myself to the subject, I began reading online about writing and writers and discovered something interesting. Those reactions my readers had all those years ago were, in fact, progress, but I hadn’t recognized it at the time.

The first challenge was to get my writing skills back up to where they were before I quit. So I decided to dive into writing a novel and completing it By Any Means Necessary. That novel turned into a trilogy, and not only has my skill level returned, but I’ve leveled up. The second challenge I continue to struggle with is catching up on reading, especially currently published books. I’m a tortoise. I read slowly, and I write carefully, so I always feel behind the times and suspect I may never catch up to where other writers are. Doesn’t mean I won’t try. 😉 Who knows, perhaps with enough practice and time, I’ll pick up speed.

What are the powers of your personal Holy Hand Grenade? My Holy Hand Grenade is all shiny and gold and beveled, and on each bevel is a mark: the question mark. The almighty question. That is by far my biggest power. I ask questions, a lot of them. Questions drive characters, they propel plots, they make you think, and when something doesn’t make sense, I ask What’s wrong? How can I make this better? Can a woodchuck chuck wood? And why am I suddenly channeling Chuck Wendig?

The Other Castle

When I was a kid, my parents got so annoyed with my questions, they bought me an encyclopedia set. My teachers cringed when I tried to articulate questions and did their best to answer but couldn’t quite grasp what I was asking. People run when they see me, because I ask hard questions, the kind that can’t be answered with glib, greeting card responses. I’m a question monster, and I finally realized that my super power is, in fact, troubleshooting. I do it all the time with everything now, especially my writing.

Questions lead me down interesting rabbit holes in my narrative, and they help me get back out again when the rabbits down there want to serenade me or paint my toenails. Questions are sensitive beasts. Can I write a short story? isn’t the same as How can I write a short story? One questions the writer’s ability, the other questions their approach.

For the longest time, I didn’t think I could write a short story. Every time I tried, it turned into a novelette or longer. The short story format eludes me most of the time, but I persisted with my questions. Then last year, for the CBC Short Story Competition, I finally wrote a legitimate short story, less than 2100 words. That in itself has been my biggest achievement lately. So, when I found out the story didn’t make it to the long list or win, I honestly didn’t care. I’m in the process of going over it again, making a few more changes, and then will start submitting it to other markets. Now I want to know, How long will it take until someone wants to publish it? Who will publish it? And where’d that rabbit go?

When I finish The Starry Rise, that’ll be my next huge success. Not only will it complete the trilogy, it’ll be a third novel under my belt, which I think is a notable milestone, and a tricky one, too. I’ve read a lot about writers throwing the towel in after the third book, but that isn’t going to happen for me. I have too many stories I’d like to tell, too many questions to explore.

Lightning Round
  • Favorite Muppet? Animal. No! Sloan. Wait! Animal with Sloan. Oooo, is there a fan fiction forum for this? Oh, and Beaker.
  • Crunchy or Creamy? Depends.
  • Favorite Sports Team? Hell, no!
  • Cake or Pie? Neither.
  • Lime or Lemon? Both.
  • Favorite Chip Dip? My mouth.
  • Wet or Dry? Towels?
  • Favorite Musical Performer We’ve Never Heard Of? My mom; she plays the harp.
  • Whisky or Whiskey? Hell, no!
  • Favorite Superhero? Unfortunately, growing tired of them, but I am looking forward to the second Deadpool movie.
  • Steak Temperature? Medium rare to well done, because I’m a heathen.
  • Favorite 1970s TV show? Laverne & Shirley
  • Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Autumn
  • Favorite Pet? Siren and Skye, sibling Siamese cats, as opposite to one another as you can get. Siren is one of those quiet surfer, vegan, yoga, pansexual, meditation cats, who gives you these looks that say, “It would be really wise for you to pet me, dude.” Skye, on the other hand, is an all around brat, very direct, very forceful, very demanding of attention. She walks like she’s cruising for a fight, and she’s likely to be heard saying. “Pet me, dammit! Now!”
  • Best Game Ever? I go through phases. My last phase was Skyrim. I picked up a special edition with three or four add-ons. Installed them all in one go. I don’t get much time to play anymore. I figure it’ll be years before I finish it.
  • Coffee or Tea? Tea. I just quit coffee, so tea.
  • Sci-Fi or Fantasy? Fantasy.

What question(s) would you like to ask me?

What kinds of tactics do you use to keep yourself on the writer’s path?

My Answer: I think the biggest thing is to listen to your body and see what’s working. For example, I built a really good office in my basement. Then I realized I never used it. I put an office in a first floor room, and it worked well, even though I never really set it up completely. I’m excited, because as I’m moving back into the house that room will be my office from the start, meaning I can arrange it exactly the way I want.

But I’ve also found that I sometimes need to work in a different environment. Right now, I’m sitting in my favorite place, a bar called Brewbaker’s. They have good beer, a tasty salad I really like (especially with extra jalapenos and avocado), and a tall half-booth near an outlet that is just really comfortable to me. It’s been perfect, and I missed it while being in Omaha. Basically, it gets back to

the main rule: “There’s one true way of writing, and it’s what works for you to get words on the page.” If you find you’re having problems being productive in your home, go to a different room. Or go to a coffee shop. Or a bar. Or a library. Change the music you listen to. Turn it off. Turn it louder. Put sports on in the background. Or Supernatural. Or Firefly. Or whatever.

And if you’re stuck on a project, start a different one. Asimov apparently had a bunch of stories/novels going on at once. When he’d get stuck with one, he’d shift to another. By the end of the year, I hope to have built that process up so I can get more than a couple of short stories each year to go along with 2-3 novels. For me, if I know what a chapter/scene will be, i can write the first draft pretty quickly. If I’m fighting one novel, going to a short story can let my backbrain come up with the next set of scenes or vice versa.

Basically, if you’re stuck in a rut, change something. Anything.

Tell me again where we can find your stuff?

And Where can we find you?

Final question for you: What should I have asked but did not?

You should have asked, “What is A Xiinisi Trilogy?”

A Xiinisi Trilogy follows the adventures and misadventures of Ule, a trans-dimensional world builder with the ability to manipulate matter and energy, including her own body.

The first book, The Forgotten Gemstone, is primarily a fantasy, in which Ule finds herself trapped in a world she created and must find a way back to her realm. In doing so, she discovers an unprecedented phenomenon, the presence of demons. In the second book, The Other Castle, the story takes on a more violent and mysterious tone when Ule discovers she’s been poisoned. Determined to figure out who murdered her and why, she returns in a new form, that of a man, and discovers there’s more to these demons than she first thought. And in the third book, The Starry Rise, fantasy segues into science fiction and a bit of cosmic horror as Ule embarks on the last leg of her journey, during which she figures out why the demons are there and her true calling as she undergoes her final transformations. The trilogy explores themes of self-identity, transformation, the shadow self, and finding purpose. Also, it is queer friendly.

You should have also asked, “Do you have any sample fiction of your work available online?”

Why yes, Rob. Yes, I do.

Forgotten Gemstone

The Forgotten Gemstone

The Other Castle

And, jeez Rob, why didn’t you ask, “When is the third book in A Xiinisi Trilogy coming out?”

The Starry Rise is coming out in Late Summer/Autumn 2018.

Author Biography

Kit Daven is a long time writer but has only started promoting herself as an indie writer in the latter part of 2013. To date, she has published the novels The Forgotten Gemstone and The Other Castle, the first two installments in A Xiinisi Trilogy, through her author press Eager Eye Books. She enjoys writing along the darker spectrum of fantasy, and blends her fiction with science fiction, suspense, adventure, horror, mystery, and romance. Weird tales are her favourite kind of story. She resides in Cambridge, Ontario.


Thanks for reading. If you’re interested in any of the other interviews I’ve done, you can find them all here: http://robhowell.org/blog/?cat=326.

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