Fellow grimdark author Jesse Teller was kind enough to have me as a guest for his Friday 13 column discussing the craft of writing and delving into characters from Light Dawning and across the literary world.
We discussed everything from getting drunk with Tyrion Lannister to advice for new writers and a character from Light Dawning who made me feel very dirty to write. Excerpts from the interview follow:
JT: What character from your book fills you with hope?
Ty: Hah, yeah, that’s sort of the opposite of the point in Light Dawning. Not many characters have hope in a better tomorrow in this story, and those that do are usually shown the folly of their misplaced faith. If I have to pick a character who gives me hope, its probably Tala, because she has what it takes to endure any hardship, and she has the strength of will to do what needs to be done, even if it hurts.
JT: What character from your work frightens you, makes you feel dirty to write?
Ty: Probably Myrr, because he’s all of my worst qualities reflected into a craven character in a violent, low fantasy world. For some reason several reviewers have pegged him as the main character, but he’s absolutely not intended to be. He’s not necessarily a bad guy, but he will let down those who rely on him, and in the end anything good or noble he does will mean nothing.
JT: What is the most fascinating thing about your main character?
Ty: It would be easy to say that Tala being infested by insane whispers from a reality beyond ours – constantly struggling to keep them from escaping her mind and breaking into the physical world – is the most fascinating thing about her, but that’s not actually the case.
Tala sort of exemplifies the struggles of all women throughout history and in the modern day. She’s expected to be so many different things at once: a worker, a mother, a guardian, and more, and while she can’t expect any praise for when everything clicks into place and works, she will be vilified and damned in those moments when it goes off the rails and she falls short of expectations.
JT: If you could change any one thing about the writing industry, what would it be?
Ty: This may not endear to me to certain people reading, but honestly I’d get rid of the publishers. While I’ve met some great people who work for publishers that I consider my friends, on the business side I’ve never had anything close to a positive experience working with a publisher.
All you have to do is go to any writing group on Facebook and you’ll stumble over dozens of writers who haven’t been paid in months (or longer), whose publishers are breaking their contracts in various ways, who aren’t getting their books promoted with any level of actual effort, etc.
While there are plenty of lackluster self-published books out there in desperate need of editing or re-tooling, I am consistently surprised at the high level of storytelling and polish I find while discovering new indie authors. There are totally unknown people out there who are frankly much better at this than anybody hooked up with the major publishers in the fantasy and horror industries, but they don’t get nearly the exposure.
If you are only reading Stephen King and Brandon Sanderson, do yourself a favor and join a reader or writer group on Facebook or Goodreads and get to know the indie authors. I guarantee you will find someone who will blow you away who has been soundly ignored by big name publishing companies.
JT: What piece of art, that is not writing, moves you?
Ty: I’ll have to say music, specifically of the heavier variety. When hearing the opening notes to the Celestial Violence track off Ihsahn’s Arktis album, I immediately see Tala coming up out of the cellar, carrying a precious bundle and preparing to make her way through a sea of uncaring humanity. When Peccatum’s Parasite My Heart from the Lost In Reverie LP hits, I’m immediately outside the Lambent Chapel, watching Tala make a choice and trying not to scream at her to stop. Outside the realm of metal and more on the rock side, anytime I hear I’m A Believer by The Sheila Divine, I’m instantly taken back to the time when I first heard the New Parade album. I could name a hundred other tracks that have defined my life and give me that rush of brain chemicals people chase after in religious experiences or at the bottom of a bottle.
While it is clearly connected to writing, I’ve found that some visual depictions of specific concepts in graphic novels manage to provoke an emotional response better than words alone can. There’s one scene in particular from Mouse Guard, where Liam is about to face off against a snake with the phrase “It’s not what you fight, it’s what you fight for” barely visible in the background, that just gets me every time. That panel so perfectly encapsulates its idea that you forget this is a story about mice and genuinely start to feel something for the characters.