What inspired your leading character?
-Rowen Locke, the lead character in my fantasy series (the Dragonkin Trilogy and its sequel, the Godsfall Trilogy), is probably less a classical hero than a fallible everyman who finds himself struggling against his own conscience as much as other guys with swords and axes. More specifically, I used Locke as my entrance point into some of the same sticky issues of prejudice, self-defense, and revenge I grew up reading in X-Men comics (in fact, we used to pitch my series as Game of Thrones meets the X-Men...). How far can/should one go in protecting their loved ones? What are you willing to do to protect someone who might not necessarily deserve your help? I don't have the answers to those kind of questions, and neither does Locke--which keeps things interesting. I remember this piece of advice Vonnegut gave to writers, advising us to have all kinds of awful things happen to our characters, so readers can watch them squirm. I'm glad to say I took that advice to heart. Locke (and the rest of the cast) are also a good chance for me to justify all those ultra-nerdy late night documentary binges on medieval siege tactics, Zen philosophy, and different types of armor.
How are you balancing writing, every day life, and this health crisis?
-It's tough sometimes, though I think it helps to remind myself that this is nowhere near the same universe as what doctors and nurses are going through right now. Unfortunately, "it could be worse" doesn't really get those creative juices flowing. For me, what helps is... well, just demystifying the process and simply forcing myself to do something. When it comes to writing, I've always thought the trick isn't really a trick at all; it's just to build a simple, workable routine and stick to it, rather than sitting around waiting for inspiration. Especially at times like this, that has the added bonus of providing a touch of normalcy. Besides that, I try to take some time to reach out to friends and students and see how they're doing, and also buttress my own sanity by spending some time in the home gym (which is really just a corner of the living room piled with weights and a yoga mat).
If you could give advice to your younger self about this chosen path, what would it be?
-Read more. I've always been an avid reader, sure, but it took me a while to really get the true depth of that organic link between reading and writing. Put another way, for writers, reading isn't just about entertainment; it's also work. It's research. It's reading countless descriptions of spaceships and cavalry charges and barfights to see how other writers have done it, deciding what we like or don't, and developing our own style, our own story. Also, be patient. Try to listen more. When I was younger, I was always in such a hurry to publish, to reach the finish line, that I didn't stop to smell the parchment as often as I should have.
Do you watch tv shows? If so, what kind interest you?
-You can basically just assume that if a particular show is sufficiently nerdy, I probably like it.
Do you drink coffee or tea or both?
-Usually coffee (iced). By the gallon. And that's only because they don't sell it to the general public in ten gallon pails.
Do you fall into the author cliché of having depression and/or anxiety? (There is no obligation to discuss this issue. It is something I struggle with and discuss on my blog.
-Oh, I have anxiety and depression the likes of which God has never seen (shameless Dune reference). But seriously, I often wonder what role all that had in making me a writer. I didn't exactly have an idyllic childhood (though I know others had it far worse), which is probably what flipped the anxiety/depression switch in the first place. However, I've known fellow writers bitten by the anxiety bug, and for them, it manifests through epic writer's block. For me, it's the opposite. My anxiety makes me extra hard-working and prolific, I couldn't even begin to calculate how many times I've written clear through the night, twelve or even sixteen hours straight, then stumbled off to bed with a dorky tired grin on my face.
What is the best part about publishing? Do you self-publish?
-Personally, I don't self-publish. Part of the reason for that is because I absolutely love working with editors to design a cover, not to mention discussing and even arguing about some big points of the story or a small grammatical matter of whether or not to hyphenate a made-up term. When you're going through your own manuscript on your own, a lot of the work in terms of structure and continuity is done sub-consciously (which is why we make more mistakes). When you work with editors, though, you have to be more deliberate. Put another way, the content and line editing stage is a fun way to help you become an expert on your own story.
What do you wish to accomplish with your writing?
-I've always maintained that above all else, a piece of writing has to be entertaining. Sure, you need something else to give it depth and staying power, and it's great to be able to use your writing to speak out against sexism and racism and homophobia, but the first goal is to entertain, and that means putting in the hours and days and months it takes to put down sentences worth reading. Beyond that, what can you say? It's unlikely we'll ever really know how or when our work touched others. So I'd love to help a reader through some of the same dark places that keep me awake at night, but if I can also just get them to think, Damn, that was a good swordfight, then I'm happy.