V.R. Cardoso used to write short stories on his dad’s old Mac SE 30. He would then print a few copies and distribute them to his class. This was in elementary school. He grew up on a healthy diet of fantasy novels, video games, and daydreaming. After graduating in business, he spent a few years cranking out headlines, scripts, and silly ideas in an advertising agency in Lisbon. Having written about pretty much everything, from laxative pills to car insurance, hr decided it was time to start writing about what he truly enjoys. So he has taken the plunge and is now self-publishing his works of fiction.
1.Why storytelling? What made you yearn to tell a good story, and how long was this story within you before it came out?
The why is a complete mystery to me. I was always into storytelling. In fact, I started writing stories shortly after I learned how to write. It was always a part of me. As for this particular story, it was brewing in my brain for several years before I started typing it. It all began with my fascination for the Roman empire and emperor Augustus. For Romans, divorce wasn’t as big a deal as it later became in the Middle Ages. When Augustus fell in love with his wife, Livia, she was married to someone else. Being as powerful as he was, Augustus simply “persuaded” Livia’s husband to divorce her. It all worked out well because Livia was also in love with Augustus and actually welcomed the whole thing, but it got me thinking. What if she hadn’t been okay with it? What if she had been forced? And so the relationship between Tarsus and Cassia was born as well as the half-brothers (and main characters) Aric and Fadan.
2.What is it about your genre that speaks to you?
To be completely honest, I think it’s just one more manifestation of my Peter Pan syndrome. There’s something inherently childish about storytelling. It’s basically playing make-believe, but sanctioned for adults. Fantasy even more so as we get to create these incredible worlds filled with magnificent creatures and magic. Which is not to say storytelling or fantasy are frivolous. In the last couple of decades, the fantasy genre has really come into its own, graduating into very important topics. Harry Potter has taught entire generations about tolerance, friendship, and loyalty. Game of Thrones deals with power struggles, greed, and idealism like no other work of fiction I know of. Fantasy is a great vehicle for conveying complex messages.
3.Everyone has at least one specific challenge that holds them back. What is that challenge in your work and how do you overcome it?
“Give a man a book and he’ll be entertained for weeks. Teach a man to write books and he’ll experience a lifetime of crippling self-doubt.” I don’t remember whose joke this is, but I think every writer can relate to it. Overcoming the constant feelings of insecurity about our craft is supremely hard. There’s truly no way to make them go. The best I can do is remember that every other writer on the planet, including the legends, go through the exact same struggles. It gives me some comfort and makes me feel less lonely when the dark thoughts come.
4.If I were stuck in a room with your main character, what would we be doing?
There are two main characters in my book. If you got stuck in a room with Aric and Fadan you’d probably get drawn into one of their daring challenges. They tend to focus on the ridiculous more than the painful, but they wouldn’t shy away from really spicy food, so beware.
5.When you are writing, tell me about the emotions that are running through you and what it takes to work alongside them.
There’s nothing quite like a writing trance. Those moments when the world disappears and you’re just typing furiously away. It’s beautiful, but it’s also very rare. Usually, I need to get myself in the mood. Music usually does the trick. If I’m writing an action scene, I’ll play something epic. If it’s a sad scene, a ballad will do. Scenes have to play out in my head before I can get them on paper. Otherwise, they’ll just feel bland and heartless.
6.How do you police your production? Do you have a word quota, or a page goal, maybe you work for a set amount of time? Do you place demands on yourself when you’re working? How do you meet those demands?
I have very specific, carefully calculated daily, weekly, and monthly word goals. And then I miss every single one of them. Statistically speaking, I should have met one of my goals by now by accident, but nope. Never happens.
7.You’re going to go back and visit yourself when you first started writing, at whatever age it was, and you can give yourself one piece of advice. What would it be?
Well, I started writing stories very young. I think I was seven. However, there was a point in my life when I convinced myself I would never be a writer. I don’t know why. I just figured it would never happen because it was simply too hard and someone like me would never make it. I would like to go back to that time and smack myself across the head. You can’t beat passion. It’s just too strong. Passion for something will turn you into a force of nature. Trust that passion and go after it. Odds are you will surprise yourself and a bunch of people around you.
8.Describe your workplace.
I rent an office with a couple of friends (we split the rent). It’s a clean room, with lots of light from three very wide windows overlooking this crossing where cars love to honk at 5 pm for some reason. I rent a space mostly so I can get out of the house and not turn into a caveman. The one thing I missed from my previous job before I started writing full-time, was office banter.
9.If we wanted a good story—book, show or movie—one that you didn’t write, where would you send us?
I would send you to one Christopher Nolan. The man knows his stuff.
10.If you could live anywhere other than where you are, where would it be?
Hogwarts. Because it would have to be that cool to beat Lisbon.
11.You have a chance to hang out with any literary character for one day. Who would it be and what would you do?
With my man Kvothe. We’d win some gold playing corners, then spend it all on wine at the Eolian, listening to beautiful music, hopefully in the company of some equally beautiful women. I would refrain from giving him some much-needed advice on Denna and he would pretend I’m not an even more hopeless case than him. We’d laugh because we’re young and foolish and it’d be a good night.
12.A publishing house gets ahold of you and wants you to take over writing an established character. For instance, DC Comics calls you and tells you they want you to take over writing Batman. What is the dream? What established character would you love to write?
Lucasfilm calls. It’s Kathleen Kennedy, she wants someone to take over as creative director for everything in the Old Republic setting. I tell her I’m really busy with the TV and movie adaptations for all three of my fantasy and sci-fi series so can’t she find someone else? Kathy (It’s Kathy for me, yes) will have none of it. There’s no one she trusts more for this job than me. I take a deep breath and give her a reluctant ‘yes’. Life is hard…
13.If you could choose any other writer, living or dead, to be your mentor, whom would you choose and why?
Mr Frank Patrick Herbert Jr. or Frank Herbert for the uninitiated. Because the man was a journalist, World War II photographer, cameraman, radio commentator, oyster diver, jungle survival instructor, lay analyst, and teacher. He was an SFF writer to the bone and still somehow found the time to do all these things. How colourful a life it must have been.
For more from V.R. Cardoso: