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.
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?
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.
- 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?
- Website: https://thaddeusnowak.com/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thaddeusnowak
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/ThaddeusNowak
- Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5756105.Thaddeus_Nowak
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thaddeus_nowak/?hl=en
- Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/bookseries/B00YT1I080
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.
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: https://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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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