What books have most influenced your life?
Unh. I read so much stuff, I’m not sure I can be really accurate about this anymore.
Probably the books I read when I was younger, in my more delicate formative years. The stuff I vacuumed up as an early teenage kid sticks with me in ways other things don’t. There are some great stories I’ve read aside from those, which tend to be much the same (fantasy book with some kind of hero, dark power takes over the land, ???, profit!).
The Cloth Merchant’s Apprentice (Nigel Suckling) is amazing. I keep coming back to that book as one that I read a little later in life, but it left a stamp on the inside of my head.
Have you ever considered anyone as a mentor?
As a writer? No, not really. As a human being, absolutely.
You could totally take this question a different way, as to whether I’d like to consider other writer humans out there as mentors, and man, sure. I’d love to be able to tap into the brains of two specific humans: Richard K Morgan, and Neil Gaiman.
It’s not that I love everything that they write, but rather than I respect everything that they write. They are the ninja masters of a craft that I aspire to be great at.
The thing is, there’s a line of entry into that club. Just getting to the point where Morgan would return my email, or Gaiman would give me a nod on Twitter, whatever — that’s the place you need to be, to get mentors of that kind of quality. They’re just really, really good at what they do, and I can imagine that 98% of speculative fiction writers would be banging on their collective doors for an autograph, not just a mentoring opportunity.
Still, it’s nice to want things, right?
Can we expect any more books from you in the future?
Yeah. Yeah, you can.
I’d like to say two things to my followers about now:
1. You people out there who like what I do? You’ll get more of that.
2. The two people who gave me a shitty review? Yeah, both of you. YOU CAN’T STOP THE SIGNAL.
Note to the rest of you who haven’t weighed in yet: this is not a challenge to write me more one-star reviews. Go bug Stephen King, he’s more resilient.
Have you started another book yet?
Yep. I’m about 70%, give or take, through the first draft of my next novel, Upgrade. It’s a dark dystopian future thing, cyberpunk I guess, where the hero of the story has traded his humanity in for a life of quality. He gets the opportunity to try and barter it back, and the cost of that might be more than he can bear.
Also, I’ve got the plot outline and major characters detailed for the sequel to Night’s Favour, working title of Night’s Fall. Upgrade will be finished and out the door before I delve too much more into this one though! Start what you finish and all that — Val, Danny, Carlisle, and John have all been left in a good place where their story is finished, so you don’t need a sequel just yet.
What are your current writing projects now?
I’ve got a couple of things simmering away.
One thing’s boiling over. Upgrade’s first draft is probably only a couple months from being done, which feels great. It’s my next novel, set in a dark near-ish future, where the megacorporations control everything, governments are pawns, and people matter less. It’s a harder story to tell than Night’s Favour ever was.
The sequel to Night’s Favour, working title Night’s Fall, is sitting happy with major antagonist and plot outline. It’ll keep. It’s happy where it is. This one explores more about the nature of the beast, and how far you’ll go for you, your friends. If we’ve got two wolves inside us, one is Evil and the other is Good — well, you got to feed one more than the other.
In the early stages is my third main piece, and I don’t want to say steampunk, but it might have steampunk sprinkles. I think people get a bit excited by the idea of steampunk, but what I’m interested in here is the concept of an alternative world future where some other energy source became the dominant one. Could be steam. Could be magic fairies. Don’t really care, but I want to wrap up the good old fashioned concept of tension between Church and State, and how we — as humans — make decisions on what’s right or wrong when caught in the middle. This one’s going to be tricky, as currently the protagonist is a woman: as a male human being of middle years and experience, writing this will be tricky.
Are you reading any interesting books at the moment?
Always. I’ll give a shout out to Mira Grant’s fun Parasite, which was a good romp. The science is a bit iffy, but as long as you don’t look too close it’ll give you what you need — page turner in all the right ways.
I’ve also just picked up a triplet of books by D P Lyle (start with Murder & Mayhem: A Doctor Answers Medical & Forensics Questions for Mystery Writers), which are just damn cool. I feel a lot less sick and twisted after reading these. I don’t think you need to be a mystery writer, or a writer at all, to have fun with them — and Lyle’s writing style is great.
Are there any new authors that have sparked your interest and why?
I always feel like I’m late to the New Kids party.
I’ll give one nod here though: Summer Wigmore. Her debut book, The Wind City (http://amzn.com/B00GQF0MVU) is fascinating. Note: I haven’t finished it, because it’s totally not my thing, but her writing style is just to die for.
Wigmore? She’ll go places, and I can’t wait to see where her feet — and her words — take her.
What are some of the best tools available today for writers, especially those just starting out?
If I open up my writing kit, I can tell you what’s inside it:
1. Pen and notebook. Spiral bound, no lines, because I like to doodle and draw and scribble free form.
2. My phone. I take a lot of photos, and jot down notes all the time. I always have my phone with me, and if I get a good line or scene when talking with friends I jot it down.
3. My laptop. I take this thing with me whenever I’m sure I’ll have time to write. Mine’s a MacBook Pro, but that’s not the important bit. The important bit is that it’s charged, and has some good music on it, and my writing software.
4. The right software. Whatever you write best in — Word, Scrivener, Notepad, I don’t care, make sure you get your tools in place. Me, I switch between Scapple for outlining and Scrivener for writing — I’d find it hard to do what I do without those two bits of code.
5. “The Internet.” I’m cheating, because it’s not in my bag, but whatever. If you’re not tapping into the Internet in some way, you’re missing out on a tremendous resource. Fanfiction.net and similar sites can be a great way to generate beta readers and feedback on your work. There are great blogs from real, actual published authors who will share their craft and skills with you. Wikipedia is amazing.
What contributes to making a writer successful?
That really depends on your definition of “success.” I mean, if you want the cash? That seems to be a popular metric for success… It’s got to be people buying your stuff, which means having marketable stuff, and not sucking at the actual writing part.
To get there, you need readers, people who love your stuff and who will tell the world about it. One of the big challenges a writer faces in getting work out there is the “approval gate.” This is really about getting eyeballs on your product, getting word of mouth, and it doesn’t matter if you’re traditionally or indie published — the rules are the same.
The challenge is that, for readers, there’s a lot of crap out there. There’s a lot of crap that’s reviewed well — indie books seem to get more love than traditional ones. As a reader, one of the primary metrics for good content determination — reviews — just became a lot noisier, less empirical.
In a very real way, the approval gate you need is actual humans telling other actual humans about your product, through their pigeon relays or whatever, because you can’t trust marketing, and you can’t always trust reviews. I figure when you hear about your work being talked about on the subway, you’ve nailed that fuzzy determination of success in a real and tangible way.
Do you have any advice for writers?
Make your stuff awesome.
I don’t really care if you’re writing a new thriller or a food memoir, your book needs to be brilliant. As good as you can make it, and then a little bit better.
Sure, there’s all the things about “keep writing” and “one word after another” but I figure if you’re here, you’ve got that down already — you know that without words on a page you’re just playing at it, not really doing it. The thing that will make your work desirable to other humans on our little blue green world is if it’s awesome.
You know it’s true — there’s so much vying for our attention these days, good work that’s given away for pennies or for free. The only real answer in the face of this is to step up to the plate, to accept the challenge, to write good words.
The funny thing is, and this might sound a little ironic in the context of the previous few lines, I think there’s plenty of room at the table. I’m not hearing my friends say, “Wow, there’s so many good books, I don’t know what to read.” I’m actually hearing my friends say, “Have you found a new writer recently? Who are they?!” There’s a hunger out there for good content, and we haven’t exhausted the world’s ability to consume it.
I think we’ve definitely exhausted people’s patience for shitty, unprofessional, lifeless work though — so don’t make that.
What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing?
It’s the obvious one, but to write a book that people enjoyed.
It might sound overly bland, whatever: I was pretty sure that I could write a book, but I wasn’t sure I could write a book that a bunch of total strangers would four- and five- star. That’s when shit gets real.
Maybe it’d be cooler if I said something here like, “I cured cancer.” Problem is, I can’t cure cancer, so I’m working on different ways to improve the human condition. If that’s writing a story about werewolves and big pharma that you can’t put down — I’m totally comfortable with that.
If you could leave your readers with one bit of wisdom, what would you want it to be?
The story of the two wolves. It’s the thesis behind Night’s Favour’s planned sequel Night’s Fall… You probably know it, but here it is again.
One evening, an old Cherokee sat beside a fire and told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. As the fire burned low, coals glowing in the dark, he said, “My son, the battle is between the two wolves in all of us.
“One is Evil — it is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is Good — it is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute, stirring the coals with a stick, an ember snapping up to the night sky. He asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”
The old Cherokee looked at the ember as it rose, its light dying, and replied, “The one you feed.”
When you wish to end your career, stop writing, and look back on your life, what thoughts would you like to have?
I’m not sure about this “stop writing” business, but let’s treat it as a useful thought experiment.
I guess, ultimately, that I’d like to be known as a great storyteller. I don’t know if this means being as successful as Dean Koontz, an author you’ve heard of even if you haven’t read his stuff. I don’t know if it means having seven movie tie-ins for my books.
Hell, I don’t know if it means signing my name across the breasts of a willing fan, like a rockstar. I really doubt it, but you know. Thought experiment, right?
Whatever it means, I’d like to look back and say, “Yeah. I wrote good books, books people loved, that they lent to friends. Stories they read twice, three times, because it was fun. The edges of the paperback copy of the book they’ve got is rough, tattered with use. They’ve given copies of a book of mine to a friend as a gift, because they liked it so much.”
It’d be more than enough.
Valentine’s an ordinary guy with ordinary problems. His boss is an asshole. He’s an alcoholic. And he’s getting that middle age spread just a bit too early. One night — the one night he can’t remember — changes everything. What happened at the popular downtown bar, The Elephant Blues? Why is Biomne, the largest pharmaceutical company in the world, so interested in him — and the virus he carries? How is he getting stronger, faster, and more fit? And what’s the connection between Valentine and the criminally insane Russian, Volk?
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Genre – Action, Thriller, Urban Fantasy
Rating – R16
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