He’s the author of Agent G, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer’s Star, Straight Outta Fangton, and The Supervillainy Saga.
Why storytelling? What made you yearn to tell a good story, and how long was this story within you before it came out?
Some writers are born, and some are made. Being a storyteller has always been in my blood and I’ve wanted to be one since I was probably five years old, writing bad stories. However, you must write a million words of crap before you create your first masterpiece. For me, I spent about a decade coming up with a lot of the ideas which eventually coalesced into the ones which my novels are made of. I’m driven by a desire to tell tales in multiple genres and they often percolate in the back of my mind for a long time before getting released.
LUCIFER’S STAR was originally supposed to be a tabletop roleplaying game, for example. It was conceived in 2004 by Michael Suttkus and me as we tried to figure out all the various setting details. It was mostly Michael’s baby then, but I added elements of Alien, Blade Runner, Warhammer 40K (specifically “Rogue Trader“), and even a little Starcraft. The tabletop RPG, called Black Hole, was never released by The Force Awakens gave me the impetuous to release it as a trilogy of novels.
WRAITH KNIGHT was conceived out of my love of The Lord of the Rings as well as grimdark. I admit, I’ve always had a belief that the peaceful happy ending of the trilogy would fall apart the moment there wasn’t an enemy to unite them. I also always had a bit of sympathy for the Ringwraiths as they were enslaved by Sauron’s power rather than individuals doing evil of their own free will. So, I ended up writing this series as a kind of argument for the more things change, the more they stay the same.
But I love all my stories.
What is it about your genre that speaks to you?
Fantasy and sci-fi are two sides of the same coin to me. I don’t hesitate to combine them in my work and think they serve the same basic formula: to carry your readers to different world. I think it was George R.R. Martin who said, “A man who doesn’t read lives only one life and a man who reads live thousands.” I might never be a starship captain or sorcerer knight, but I can explore these things through text.
I tend not to sweat the “realism” of my worlds, but I do believe worlds should always feel authentic. It’s much easier to believe in dragons or magic than it is to believe in an egalitarian society for example. I tend to make my worlds a bit on the darker and cynical side of things. I’m a big fan of grimdark and tend to write morally ambiguous and harsh consequence stories.
Lucifer’s Star is a story about a veteran of a losing war where he doesn’t even have the status of the doomed moral victor. No, his side was in the wrong and the Empire equivalent of their universe. It’s about coping with the realization you killed, and your friends died for nothing. Also, what sort of life you want to build after. Oh. and conspiracies, terrorism, and laser sword fights.
Wraith Knight is about deconstructing some of the common elements in high fantasy. If Sauron was enslaving the orcs and undead in his service, doesn’t that make them victims to? Won’t there be people who resent Aragorn’s usurpation of the crown? It’s not set in Middle Earth but it is set in a similar world that addresses some of the themes.
Without giving any spoilers, what is your favorite thing about this book?
I absolutely loved getting a chance to write starfighter fights in Lucifer’s Star. I took a lot of inspiration from the old Wing Commander series and Michael A. Stackpole’s Rogue Squadron novels. For Wraith Knight, I had a lot of fun writing the reaction of a man waking up centuries after his “death” and dealing with the culture shock as well as how history had been distorted.
What character from your book fills you with hope?
I think my favorite character from Lucifer’s Star is Clarice Rin-O’Harra. The former is a ex-mercenary who has been always on the fringes of the conflicts. She’s trying to become a better person, though, which contrasts against Cassius Mass who was a hero for his entire life but found out it was all lies.
In Wraith Knight, I have to say my favorite character is Regina Whitetremor. She’s the plucky heroine out to revolt against the Nine Usurpers. The thing is, they’re the heroes of the previous war and she’s trying to make herself morally justified in a revolt that is a lot more ambiguous. I just admire her pluck.
What character from your work frightens you, makes you feel dirty to write?
I’d have to say Cassius the Elder from Lucifer’s Nebula is my most loathesome villain. He’s a character I just utterly hate because he manages to somehow be utterly repulsive to write but can justify virtually every action he takes in such a way as you almost find yourself agreeing with him. He’s the kind of villain who exists in the real world and can get you to jump off a bridge while telling you that it’s for the greater good while never getting anywhere near the edge himself.
Your main character walks into a bar. What happens?
Cassius gets drunk. Possibly ends up sleeping with the waitress.
Jacob Riverson sits in the back of the bar, sullenly, contemplating his existential angst over an undrunk tankard.
What is the most fascinating thing about your main character?
I think it’s the fact Cassius is the model of what a soldier of his evil government was supposed to be. He’s honorable, polite, genteel, and a magnificent warrior. He’s also someone who has done all manner of horrible things because they were the “right” thing to do. Now he’s just trying to live a life of oblivion and finds his old reputation as a hero follows him–even among his enemies.
As for Jacob Riverson, I like the fact he’s a character who thinks of himself as a hero but even when he was a young man, he did a lot of terrible things in the name of the cause. There’s some similarity to Cassius there but he’s also a down-to-Earth sort of fellow. This, despite the fact he’s a 400 year old ghost.
If I were stuck in a room with your main character, what would we be doing?
Probably do my best to avoid Cassius shooting me. I’d probably be much happier hanging around Doctor Isla or the other less violent members of the crew. With Jacob, I’d be too geeking out over the fact magic and spirits are real.
You have unlimited money to buy a gift for your main character. What would you buy?
I’d buy an asteroid with a dome, a lake, and a small island for Cassius to just relax with his crew on for the rest of their lives. They deserve a chance to get away from all the crap they have had to endure. For Jacob, I don’t know what I’d buy him since he’s already King of the Orcs and Dark Elves.
When you are writing, tell me about the emotions that are running through you and what it takes to work alongside them.
I have a lot of empathy for my characters, which is terrible because I’m utterly sadistic to them.
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?
As a general rule, I tend to write my books at either 70K or 90K, which is a little smaller than most novels or short novels. I try and cram as much bang for the reader’s buck in those novels, though. I try to pace myself, so my chapters are about 2,500 to 3000 words as I prefer to have them in bite-sized chunks for readers to go over. I do my best work after midnight when my wife is asleep as well. Just the little things that add up over time.
How did you find the time to write this book with your busy life? What ideas do you have on how others can make time in their lives?
I am a full-time writer and even I don’t know how I do it. Let alone those authors who aren’t.
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?
I’d love to write a Star Wars or Warhammer 40K novel.
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