Hi, everybody! Thanks so much for having me on Keystrokes & Closed Doors! I've been writing for ten years now and am super excited to have finally made it my full-time occupation. I've also been known to tell a few bad dragon jokes on Twitter. Mostly, I like to tell stories.
I am interested in the reasons many people take up writing, and was wondering why have you pursued this career path?
I suppose it was a logical progression. After growing up on a working horse farm where my family trained standardbred racehorses, I had a varied skillset that included knowing how to operate pitch forks, shovels, tractors, bailers and the occasional cutting torch. This, of course, led me to work in a pizza place, a gas station and a nuclear plant. The mailroom was inevitable, and then I discovered computers. Soon I found myself building big chunks of the Internet, not to mention setting up email for Joe Gibbs Racing, and Dale Earnhardt, Inc. It was only logical that I would end up as one of the senior broadband officials for the state of North Carolina. Still, all along, if you had asked me what I really wanted to do, it would have been writing fantasy novels to rival those that kept me sane along my journey. True story.
What was it like at the time you transitioned into be an author? Was it an exciting experience or was the change difficult?
The two most difficult words for writers who haven't yet gone full-time tend to be 'day job'. The two most difficult words for those that have made the leap to full-time indie writer and publisher are 'production and marketing budget'. Okay, maybe that's four words.
What elements of fantasy interest you? Why do you write in this genre?
Fantasy allows for incredible beauty and creativity. I want to paint gorgeous images in the mind of the reader and then overlay them with rich characters on an epic journey. Only fantasy allows me to take issues out of context and present them in a unique perspective. I just love it. I could go on and on. In the end, I write fantasy because fantasy is what I love to read.
I love hearing about where authors get their inspiration from. How do these intricate worlds pop up in your imagination?
It was a logical progression, I suppose ;). The most fun I ever had in school was learning about Greek mythology. Most just laughed at the crazy things the Greeks believed and lived their lives by, but I knew something else must be going on. After all, these were some of the brightest and most enlightened people ever to live. They created such wonderful culture, philosophy, mathematics and engineering. These were not stupid people. Something must have been going on to foster such staunch beliefs in their gods and the supernatural occurrences they recorded as history.
The mystery stuck with me, and I began to wonder if there weren't periodic ages of power, where the supernatural was quite normal. In wondering what could cause a thing, it occurred to me that comets were such periodic visitors, and through their luminescence, they bring with them energy of their own. It's said they are chunks of dirty ice drawn out of the Oort cloud when planets drift close, and I imagined a large planet drifting past the cloud, its gravity pulling a huge cloud of comets loose and sending them hurtling through space. Such an event could create a storm of comets that spends most of its time in deep space but every three thousand years sheds light on a tiny blue planet known and Godsland. For the next hundred and fifty years, comets will rule the night sky, drowning out the stars and rivalling the full moon. How might this world evolve?
What is your writing process? What writing tricks do you utilise and how do you get over writers block?
I usually start with an overall concept or idea, as described above. Then I envision scenes, usually while I walk or just before going to sleep. I take hand written notes during this process. Once I have about a page of notes for a scene, I can see it in my mind like a movie. I don't use the notes when writing the scene, but I do go back afterward and make sure I didn't leave out any of the good ideas.
When I actually sit down to write, I do so with wild abandon and great joy. The idea during this phase is to get the scene out of my head and onto the page. I generally ignore typos and if I can't remember a character's name at that moment I just use X and Y. I very rarely edit as I go, since that tends to generate writers' block for me. I just roll on. When I'm done, I immediately start my next project.
After a week or so, I have enough distance from the manuscript to see what is there instead of what my mind thinks should be there. I do a read through and look for weakness of pacing and flow. I mark problem areas with a comment and move on. When done, I address all the comments. Then I do a systematic search for words that are indicative of weakness in my writing, such as 'of, that, was, saw, large, small, -ly, etc.' During this pass, I work at the sentence and paragraph level. When I'm all done, I use text-to-speech to have the document read back to me. I use a high-quality British voice that I find pleasant. My ears find things my eyes miss, and this final read through locates areas where I broke the flow while working at the sentence level.
When I've done my best, I engage beta readers, who help me locate remaining issues. Once I have addressed their concerns, I send it to my professional editor. Somehow she still manages to find plenty of things to fix and dozens of things to comment on. After I address those, I send it back for a final edit. And then it's off to proof readers, then formatting, layout, meta data, cover art, audio and publishing.
Lastly, do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Don't give up, even when it gets hard. I almost gave up dozens of times. People who love me even told me to give it up. They were wrong, and now they have admitted as much. I only tell you this so you know that not to let others put you off. Work on your story until it is the best you can make it, and then put it in front of fans of your genre. Let them be the judge. I often give tips and encouragement and answer questions for writers on Twitter. Come join me! I'm @brianrathbone
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