A reader had some questions about GHOST IN THE INFERNO, and it turned into a short interview of sorts.
“1. Do you imagine yourself in the main characters shoes when you write?”
Nah. I’m nothing like any of my characters. Considering what happens to my characters, I am relieved by this fact.
“2. Do you have a favorite book or character which you have written about??”
I think SOUL OF SERPENTS was the best DEMONSOULED book, FROSTBORN: THE IRON TOWER was the best FROSTBORN book, and GHOST IN THE MASK, GHOST IN THE HUNT, and GHOST IN THE RAZOR were the best GHOSTS books. But what the writer thinks of his work is not often what the readers actually think of it.
“3. What is your favorite book (not one of yours)? Do you/ did you read a lot? :)”
I used to read more, but I still usually get through about 40 or 50 books a year. Ebooks help with that, since I can read on my tablet while running on a treadmill in the morning.
Let’s see, favorite books:
For fantasy, THE LORD OF THE RINGS and THE SILMARILLION by Tolkien, THE HOUR OF THE DRAGON by Robert E. Howard, KNIGHTS OF DARK RENOWN by David Gemmell, and the entirety of THE DRESDEN FILES by Jim Butcher.
For science fiction, THE HIGH CRUSADE by Poul Anderson, THE ICARUS HUNT by Timothy Zahn, and CRYPTONOMICON by Neal Stephenson.
I think PERELANDRA and THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS were the best fiction that CS Lewis wrote. (MERE CHRISTIANITY, THE PROBLEM OF PAIN, and A GRIEF OBSERVED would be his best nonfiction.)
For mysteries, THE SIGN OF THE BASKERVILLES, THE SPECKLED BAND, THE ADVENTURE OF THE SIX NAPOLEONS, and THE ADVENTURE OF THE NORWOOD BUILDER (all Sherlock Holmes stories) by Arthur Conan Doyle. (If you ever get the chance, the TV dramatization of THE ADVENTURE OF THE NORWOOD BUILDER starring Jeremy Brett as Holmes does the rare feat of actually improving on the original story, which was already excellent.) Also ONE CORPSE TOO MANY and THE VIRGIN IN THE ICE by Ellis Peters for historical mysteries, and I think TELL NO ONE by Harlan Coben is the prime example of a mystery/thriller. Though since he likes to write about families torn apart by A Dark Secret, I think Mr. Coben may have missed his calling as a writer of Gothic horror.
I owe Jasper Fforde’s THURSDAY NEXT series for inspiration, because I used to find writing love stories tedious, but THURSDAY NEXT showed how a writer could get a lot of dramatic mileage & tension out of a love story.
THE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD is considered one of HP Lovecraft’s weaker works, but I think it was his best.
For nonfiction, Julius Caesar’s COMMENTARIES ON THE GALLIC WARS, Xenophon’s ANABASIS (I like Xenophon’s line about putting on his best clothes and armor to overawe his opponents, and then if they killed him, at least he would be dressed properly for it), and Ulysses S Grant’s MEMOIRS of the US Civil War. THE MIDDLE AGES by Morris Bishop is an excellent look at the Western European Middle Ages, and BATTLE CRY OF FREEDOM by James McPherson is the best one-volume history of the US Civil War. THE SECOND WORLD WAR by John Keegan, THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE by Peter Heather, and DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY by Erik Larsen are also some of my favorites. I also liked Alison Weir’s books on the Wars of the Roses and Richard III.
“4. Are you thinking about starting another series or writing a separate book?”
Always! I always have new ideas.
Right now, I only have time to write six or seven books a year, so for now I’m sticking to GHOST EXILE and FROSTBORN. Ideas are easy. Implementing them into actual books is the hard part.
The trouble with stand-alone books is that they don’t sell very well, so I tend to write series.
“5. What is your inspiration? What gave you the idea for these books? (Ghost Exile)”
The idea came about because I thought THE GHOSTS series was going to come to a natural conclusion in GHOST IN THE SURGE, but I wanted to keep writing GHOSTS books.
So how best to do that without the series becoming stagnant and repetitive? I decided to have Caina save the day at the end of GHOST IN THE SURGE, but get punished and exiled for it. That way she would be thrust into a new setting, with new characters, new problems, and new enemies.
The root conflict and plot hook of GHOST EXILE – the wraithblood – was inspired partly by watching HOUSE MD, and partly by reading about various experiments the CIA did with LSD in the 1950s and 1960s. (I believe it was called the MKUltra project). About six years ago I wrote a short story about a wraithblood-addicted locksmith trying to pay off his debts in Istarinmul. That story never got published, but the locksmith eventually evolved into the character of Nerina Strake.
Also, writing a longer series tends to generate its own ideas due to the internal logic of the series – the characters’ actions have consequences. A lot of the plot of GHOST IN THE HUNT was simply a logical consequence of how much Caina irritated her enemies in the previous two books.
One hint for future GHOST EXILE books: someday there will be a GHOST EXILE book that revolves around just how much Callatas has aggravated Cassander Nilas. Internal series logic!
“6. How did you start writing? Did you have a favorite author that inspired you, or was your parent a writer or…??”
A long time ago I used to run Dungeons and Dragons RPG games for my high school friends, and found that I liked the storytelling aspect of it more than the maps and dice.
“7. Do you wake up in the middle of the night and start writing about an idea you had? My dad does (an author and I wanna go in his tracks) and I sort of do too.”
Nah. If I have an idea, I tend not to write it down. I figure if it’s a good idea, I’ll remember it because I’ll keep thinking about it, but if it’s a bad idea, I’ll forget about it. Usually, the good ideas are for an upcoming book, like “oh, Caina should do this” or “Ridmark should do that”, and I’ll add them into the outline for the next book.
If I wake up in the middle of the night, it’s usually because of leg cramps or insomnia, so I play SKYRIM or BALDUR’S GATE on my computer until I can fall back asleep. Usually, though, I sleep like the dead. Running 5k several times a week likely helps with that.
“8. How many more books do you plan on writing in all? What if you finish them?!??! :O What will be after that?! May you never run out of witing mojo steam and all that ;)”
FROSTBORN is going to be fifteen books, and GHOST EXILE will be nine.
After that…well, I have no shortage of ideas, and new ones all the time. I’ll keep writing as long as I’m physically able to do so and have an outlet for publication of some kind.