Frequently Asked Questions
On this page I attempt to answer some the questions I've seen, heard, or been asked frequently. Many of them have to do with writing, so you may want to just skip this and go straight to the Writing Tips page. If you find yourself with a question and you can't find the answer to it on here (or there), please feel free to Contact Me and I'll do my best to get you an answer.
Q: Where do your ideas come from?
A: Funny you should ask, because Michael Sullivan, author of The Crown Conspiracy and the rest of the Riyria Revelations, recently guest-posted on this very topic. You can find it here on the blog of Jon Sprunk, author of Shadow's Son and Shadow's Lure. Both are fantastic authors with great success stories.
I've heard this question asked of such genre paragons as Terry Brooks and Sharon Shinn, and the answer is always pretty much the same. This is the dreaded question, because it's difficult for an author to answer without insulting the person who asked it. And, while there are a million ways it could be answered, if you listen really hard you'll realize they all sound pretty much the same.
For my own part, I try to avoid talking about muses and other supernatural forces when it comes to the subject of getting ideas. A friend of mine (Benjamin Kowalsky, a notable talent and winner of the 2010 Writer's Digest Pop Fiction Award) once told me that if you have nothing to write about, you need to go out and live your life a bit. Take risks, take chances, make mistakes. Read voraciously, watch films, listen to people chat on street corners or in coffee shops. Learn what it's like to feel joy, despair, anticipation, lust, fear. The only place ideas can truly come from is your own mind but, most of the time, inspiration doesn't come to you—you have to go out there and find it for yourself.
Q: Will you read/critique/review my story/novel/Work-In-Progress?
A: Maybe. I try to read as much as I can, and I love to support other up-and-coming writers and authors, but time doesn't always permit. Plus, there are a lot of things I won't read just as a rule. You're welcome to ask, but don't be surprised if you receive a polite refusal. In all honesty, I may just not have the time, with a day job, my own writing projects, a family and a social life besides. As always, query first—I don't accept unsolicited attachments.
Q: How long did it take you to write [insert book name here]?
A: I think I've averaged about a year per manuscript, with The Ninth Avatar taking the longest for obvious reasons. This is subjective, however, since I'm factoring in both writing & editing time, and month by month there's usually a lot else going on. While I'm sure it would go even faster if I could write every single day, that's a goal I've yet to attain for any serious length of time. If you're able to do that and write well, I believe you'll have a successful career as an author. Writing daily is one of Stephen King's biggest recommendations in his book On Writing, a book I sincerely recommend picking up if you want to be "serious" about this writing thing, since he's about the most prolific author I can think of off the top of my head.
Q: Why do you write?
A: I write to communicate. There are many concepts that are too difficult to explain, or require too much context, to convey without a story. It's part of human nature to pass on teachings and impart wisdom through the spoken and written word, and I'm honored to be part of that ancient tradition (not that writing genre fiction compares to something like The Iliad or Beowulf, of course). Honestly, I write because I have something to say, and a story with complex characters in an engaging setting is how I choose to say it. If you want to be a writer but don't feel like you have much to say, perhaps you just need to live some more life. That's not a dig at young writers, by the way. As above, I mean "living life" as "getting out there and doing things." Perhaps it'd be better phrased as experiencing life. In RPG terms, I'd say go level up some more.
Q: Why do you write Fantasy?
A: This is a harder question. Part of it is a matter of preference. I prefer swords to laser guns. It's not just that, though. Knowing what you want to write, I believe, comes from knowing who you are.
If we're talking about Fantasy vs. Sci-fi, I guess I've avoided Sci-fi (in its traditional definition of "space stuff") because to me it's too sterile. I can't do as much with it. The rules are too strict, and anyone who knows me will tell you I have a vicious independent streak. I like making my own rules, and I tend to make them up as I go along. With Fantasy, I feel like I can do this without also breaking the story.
If we're talking about Fantasy vs. other things, well, I'm just not one for contemporary settings. How could the struggles of some faceless spy trotting the globe compare with the epic battle of Helms Deep in The Two Towers? I may branch out at some point (beyond religious satire, anyway) and dip my toe into the contemporary world for a setting, but at this point I'd rather define the scope of my own world. Contemporary is too familiar.
One thing I really dislike about people's view of Fantasy (and the whole speculative fiction genre in general) is that, somehow, it's viewed as something for kids because it takes imagination. As if adults don't have time for imagination, or something. It's doubly strange when you consider that sword and laser guns are given to kids as toys, when in "reality" they are implements of battle, used for maiming and killing. Guess I could go on about this for a while.
If we're talking about writing or not-writing YA (Young Adult) fiction, well, I have my reasons. I don't feel that a young protagonist can or should deal with the range of conflicts, emotions, and obstacles that adult protagonists do, and I don't want to limit myself to only a portion of the human spectrum. That doesn't mean every book I write is going to be filled with depravity and debauchery, but it's nice to have the option.
Q: Could your question be next?
A: Submit it and find out!