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Why do you write in your genre? What draws you to it?
I write Dark Fantasy because it most closely resembles me and my life. I am equal parts good and evil, light and dark. I grew up in an abusive household, my mother died of AIDS when I was 12, and I ran away from home on a regular basis. When I was 16, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and put on heavy medication until I flushed it down the toilet when I was 19 and joined the military. Ive experienced so much pain in my life, but also so many amazing and wonderful things. Bipolar Disorder is marked by extreme highs and lows – from mania to depression unlike anything a normal person could imagine. Writing Dark Fantasy is my catharsis, therapy, and passion all rolled into one. Since I started writing, my need for medication has been greatly diminished.
What world-building is required?
I played D&D since second edition. At first, my friends and I used the Dragonlance campaign setting, but after a while we wanted a world where we wrote the story – where our characters reigned supreme. So, for me, world building happened naturally as the story progressed. I researched castles and medieval history at the school library. I read nonfiction history and fantasy novels. Every gaming session was like a research paper for me. (Seeing as I did little to no schoolwork – they were the only “papers” I ever wrote) Each new character and gaming session fleshed out the world a little more for over twenty years until it took on a life of its own. I don’t think you can find a better template, or engine to build a fantasy world than table top RPGS. Its my belief that half the stories we read or see in the movies were first born on a tabletop. It’s just usually not fashionable to say so. Producers/Publishers probably don’t like to hear “It was a D&D campaign” when considering funding a new film.
Name one thing you learned from your hero/heroine.
Never give up. Have faith and an indomitable spirit, and you will succeed. I heard once that “every successful author was once an unknown who never gave up.” I believe that.
Do you have any odd or interesting writing quirks, habits or superstitions?
Music isn’t all that unique. In half of the interviews Ive done there is a question about music while writing or music as inspiration. But I think I may do it a little differently than most. I can't listen to music while I write, but I can't write without music. So, I pick songs that most closely resemble the themes of my story, or even actual scenes, and then translate the lyrics to mean something completely different. For instance, the song “Take Me to Church” by Hozier has these lyrics in the chorus:
I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies.
I’ll tell you my sins so you can sharpen you knife
Offer me that deathless death
Oh good God, let me give you my life
The first time that chorus comes around in the song, is chapter two of Dark Communion. Ayla offers her soul to a Dark Goddess – who could very well be lying to her.
Are you a plotter or pantser?
I tried to “pants” a novel once. It ended up being a 180,000 word pile of crap. The plot meandered and contradicted itself. The characters motivations became indistinct. It was just a nightmare that stole years of my life. Now, I outline everything – more than once and with more than one kind of outline. I just don’t have enough discipline to stay focused without it.
Look to your right – what’s sitting there?
My dog, a 9 year old boxer named Leighla Ali. She’s smarter than most people Ive met, and I love her like one of my daughters.
Anything new coming up from you? What?
Exorcism of Light is completely outlined, and Ive written the first few chapters. It’s book 2 of the Godswar Chronicles. It begins 18 years after Dark Communion. I cant even tell you which of the characters from Dark Communion are in it without spoiling something – but I can say that it introduces a favorite mythical beast all fantasy readers love.
Do you have a question for our readers?
Ha! No one has ever asked me for a question before. Hmmm….
Got one, and it’s a question I really want to know the answer to.
Are you willing to take a chance on a new independent author? If so, what makes you take that chance?
Read an excerpt:
Ayla lifted the woman’s chin with her finger. “What is your name?”
“How far along are you?” They both knew what she really asked; are you carrying a calf?
The woman met Ayla’s eyes and did not look away.
Ayla’s heart ached with pity. Judging by the size of her womb, if she had carried a human child, she would only have two months to go. Horses clopped up the drawbridge until the other wagon stopped behind the first. The people on the back leaned to see what went on up ahead. Ayla knelt down in front of the pregnant woman on the cool stone of the gatehouse.
Her voice echoed off the stone walls. “Who is this man with you?”
The woman bowed her head. “My brother, Gaelan, milady.”
Butch’s chest rumbled. “It’s Priestess.”
The woman looked up, then back down and hurried to correct herself. “He’s my brother, Priestess.”
Ayla shook her head at Butch with a stern look and he dipped his head in silent apology. She lifted the woman’s chin again. Her voice kept the compassion it had before, but with an edge.
“You are too far along for any surgeon to help you.”
“I know, Priestess. That’s not why I came.” The pregnant woman’s green eyes held Ayla’s gaze and did not waiver. She set her jaw. “I want to fight.”
About the Author: My deep and abiding love of fantasy began when I was six when I first saw the 1981 film Dragonslayer on VHS with my father. He loved fantasy movies too, but didn’t have the courage to be a dork about it like I did. That movie was a gateway drug that led me straight to the hard stuff - CS Lewis. I was far too young for such potency but by the time I was ten I had read the whole series. That’s when I found my first Dungeons and Dragons group. When I started playing, my friends and I used pre-made campaign settings and published adventures, but I quickly grew restless with their limitations and trite story lines. I needed my own persistent world: something adaptable to my whim and that no one else owned.
Back in my day, there was no internet, so I took out every book about castles and medieval history from the school library and read them in Math class (I'm still terrible at math as a result). I came up with an entire world and brand new history. I read books on cartography and hand drew maps of my new world. I created a cosmology, a hierarchy of gods, and the tenets of their religions. I read the Dungeon Master's guide a dozen times, and every fantasy novel I could get my hands on.
Then, one day, I sat down and told my friends, "Hey guys, wanna try my story instead?"
Even 15 years after the original D&D campaigns ended, former players tell me that they share our incredible stories with their children. I'm honored to say that most of those players still have their original character sheets 16-20 years later, and a couple have even named their children after them.
Now, I'm 39 years old and a loving father of 2 girls, and I still play those games on occasion. My passion has evolved into putting those ideas and amazing stories on paper for the whole world to enjoy. My first novel took me and co-author DC Fergerson 10 years to write and topped out at 180,000 words. Being too long and too complex, I finally ended the project and took its lessons to heart.
I learned that Dungeons & Dragons did not translate well into a novel. D&D made for great times, but also for some meandering plot lines, pointless encounters, and poor character motivations. No matter how memorable some of the moments were, if I wanted anyone to read my story, I needed to learn a lot more about writing.
I threw myself into being a full time student of novel crafting. I read every book on writing by Dwight Swain I could find. I paid Chuck Sambuchino (Editor for Writer's Digest) to critique and edit my older work. I took James Patterson's Masterclass, went to college, and joined online writing communities. All the while, I read my favorite fantasy novels again, only this time with a mental highlighter. I reworked my stories, outlined them, and decided to start from the beginning.
Many, many years later, I am in the final edit and proofreading stage of Dark Communion, the first installment of the Shadowalker Chronicles. My role as a father of two girls heavily influenced the characters I’d known for over 20 years, shaping them into women that my own daughters could respect. My characters took on a depth and quality that brings them off the page and into the minds of readers, because they have become all too real. I was privileged enough to work on two careers at the same time to accomplish this feat - a fun-loving and involved stay-at-home dad, and a full time writer.
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