Today I have a real treat for my youngest son. I met David on Kindleboards when I first joined up, and although his books looked fantastic, they weren’t my normal reading genre. However, they were Steven’s normal reading genre so I sent him a link and told him he might want to download samples of David’s books. Well, that started a real “he’s the best author I’ve ever read” PR campaign for David, and Steven has now read all his books and so far hasn’t found one he doesn’t like. So today it’s my pleasure to interview Steven’s favorite author. Oh, I’m still his favorite mom, just not his favorite author.
LP: Good morning, David, and thank you for being here with me today. Tell your readers a little about yourself? Where do you live now, and where did you grow up?
DL: Good morning, Linda. I’ve lived in southwest Missouri for basically my whole life (born in Florida, moved here before Kindergarten). Horrible bookworm, actually enjoyed math, yeah, that was me. Actually got a degree in Mathematics, but I minored in Creative Writing, but even then you could tell I enjoyed writing far more than anything else. I skipped every class I had at least once a week except for the writing ones. Perfect attendance. Worked at Pizza Hut for a good six years, first to pay for gas and whatnot while in college, then because I encountered the harsh realization that the demand for Math degrees in southwest Missouri isn’t exactly the highest.
Eventually a tornado knocked down my Pizza Hut, and from there my book sales were actually looking to be significant, so I tried to see if it’d work. So far, seems to be doing all right. Okay, freaking awesome.
LP: David, that is so cool. So actually we can thank a tornado for some of those fantastic books you’ve written. Do you feel that the environment you were raised in has any effect on your choice of genre?
DL: Very. I lived way out in the country, with my nearest neighbor about half a mile away. With all that open space, I’d wander around with plastic guns and swords. I told myself stories, gradually growing more elaborate and lengthy in time. My first real attempt at writing was just me writing outlines of these stories to make sure I didn’t get confused, or forget something as I leapt atop a rock pile beating down ninjas with a yellow waffle-ball bat.
LP: (Laugh.) So basically you were a normal kid for the place and time, but instead of just playing out your fantasies you kept them and wrote them down. Shame Steven didn’t do that. He would wake up sometimes and tell some real whoppers about flying through the sky and fighting dragons and such.
When and why did you begin writing?
DL: Well, first attempts were just me tracking down stories. Then one Christmas my parents bought me and my brothers a word processor. Still remember that weird orange screen. I decided to try and write a story, hit about 60 pages. When I printed it off, my younger brother asked me if I was going to get it published. Hah. What’d he think this was, 2010? It was called The Crystals of Power. I thought it was an awesome title.
LP: That is an awesome title, and I may steal it if you aren’t going to use it. Ah, what the heck if I ever decide to write fantasy I’ll steal it anyway. So what inspired your first book?
DL: I blatantly stole the beginning to Final Fantasy II, then added in another character stolen from a video game, Chronotrigger (Magus for those with understanding). Thing was, I didn’t actually HAVE Final Fantasy II, just a few copies of Nintendo Power that detailed walkthroughs for the first third. Naturally I had to finish the story. So I guess I got my start writing poorly informed fanfiction? Huh. Never thought of it that way before.
LP: Okay, I don’t feel so bad about stealing your title now. How do you come up with your titles?
DL: Normally titles are really easy for me, though with the Half-Orc books, it actually took two years. I even offered a fifty dollar bounty to my friends if any thought up of a good set of titles. Finally I tried to, well, blatantly copy what worked. I love G. R. R. Martin, and he has his way of titling the books, A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, etc. So I decided to try the same, see if I could make it work. I wrote down the key aspects of each book (Blood, Betrayal, Promises, Grace, and Redemption) and then tried to find words that worked. About the only one I’m still not happy about is Weight of Blood. Still feel like I could have done better (Burden of Blood was a close second, and sometimes I wonder…)
LP: I don’t know. I haven’t read the book, but I like Weight of Blood better than Burden of Blood. Just a personal preference. Weight of Blood brings up an image of someone who has to defend their family or someone who has killed and has that weight upon them. Burden of Blood brings up an image of someone who gets dumped on by obligation. Not quite the same for me.
Is there a specific message in your novels that you’d like the reader to grasp?
DL: Nearly every book I have had themes of redemption (even had a reviewer call them Dalglishean themes since he’d encountered them so often in my writing). My Half-Orc series, for example, is five long books detailing the redemption of these two brothers who do horrible, horrible things. It’s too easy to get readers to forgive someone who, say, killed a single person while in a fit of rage and under the influence of alcohol two days after the death of his mother. Let’s see just how deep this desire for redemption truly goes. Let’s see if people are willing to draw a line and declare it their limit for Grace.
LP: Interesting concept. I know I have my limits on Grace. So how much of your book is realistic or based on real life issues?
DL: I base a few characters on my real life friends, the most blatant being Tarlak, based on my older brother. I sorta use him to convey what I think the normal average reader is thinking at the time. Most often, he’s calling me on my BS.
LP: Nice to have an older brother to do that. You’ve been writing a long time now, so when did you first consider yourself a writer?
DL: I think it hit home when I held the first print version of Weight of Blood. Gave me shivers. But I didn’t really tell too many people until I hit a point where it was supporting my family with its income. Then it is kinda hard to argue otherwise.
LP: That’s a great thing, David. I think the success of every Indie author who puts their heart and soul into their work and then has it not only recognized, but appreciated by the readers is a boom to all Indie authors. A lot of people compare authors writing styles to another author. I know I’ve been compared to someone quite famous who I won’t mention, because at the time the first words out of my mouths were “God, I hope not.” Just because they’re famous and make a lot of money doesn’t mean I want to write like them. Although I have to admit I’d like their fame and fortune.
Do you have a specific writing style?
DL: Take R. A. Salvatore and cross him with Stephen King. That’s my older stuff. Add in a bit of G. R. R. Martin and Brent Weeks for some of my newer writing, such as Dance of Cloaks or Sliver of Redemption.
LP: Steven has almost convinced me to read Dance of Cloaks. I get closer every day. I loved Terry Goodkind’s Wizard’s First Rule, and that’s one he got me to read. Fantastic debut novel.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
DL: Stephen King, no contest.
LP: Well, he is the King. What book are you reading now?
DL: Currently reading Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett and the Warded Man by Peter Brett.
LP: I’ve read some of Pratchett. Good stuff, so see I’m not totally out of your genre as far as reading.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
DL: Brent Weeks is awesome. His Night Angel Trilogy was a direct inspiration on my Shadowdance Series. Truly a guy after my own heart.
LP: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your first book?
DL: My first book is such a Frankenstein monster of various points in my writing abilities, plus attempts to go back and fix this, fix that, convey this, etc. I’m actually paying a professional to go through and edit the book. It just isn’t good enough, and I fear I’m losing readers in my first two or three works. By about book 4 the light bulb went on.
LP: David, I think that’s one of the most honest things I’ve had said to me. Indie’s don’t have the help of professional editors to pace our work and help us edit out the little things. Even when we can afford an editor it’s not the same as the process if we had a huge publisher behind us with access to a lot of editors. So thank you. It’s clear to me that you want your readers to have the best, and I’m pretty sure in the end they will.
Are you currently working on a new book, and if so, can you share some of it with us?’
DL: Currently 40k words into A Dance of Blades, the sequel to A Dance of Cloaks. It’ll be a little different than Cloaks, but I think my readers will appreciate the change. Far fewer characters, a couple obvious good guys, and myself being a lot more patient to tell the story. It’s still got the interweaving plotlines and betrayal of the underworld, so no worries there.
LP: Steven will be thrilled. So what is the most challenging part of writing your current work in progress?
DL: Trying to keep the spirit of its predecessor. Cloaks was just so crammed full of storylines and various factions betraying each other, and I was killing off characters about as fast as I was introducing them. I want to still have that feeling of chaos and uncertainty, while at the same time, allow people to actually get to know some characters and be able to follow what’s going on without feeling like they should take notes.
LP: Ah, maybe the lightbulb is going on. Coby always said Steven didn’t like a movie unless 50 people got killed in the first few minutes. Not true, but he does like a lot of action. And who am I to look down on a little killing. My current WIP has 13 people killed in the first three or four chapters.
Who are your favorite authors and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
DL: Hrrm. Hard to really have a total favorite since so many excel in different areas. Is it fair to compare, say, Stephen King to G. R. R. Martin? How would you even begin? Still, I’d say Martin. There’s just something fearless about his works. He’ll kill anyone, and be perfectly willing to accept the consequences to the story. Love it. Feast for Crows felt like it was starting to spiral out of control, though, so I’m hoping that tight narrative focus returns in his later books.
LP: Do you design your own covers?
DL: A little. I tell my artist, Peter Ortiz, the characters to draw, what they look like, etc. I try to give him as much leeway as possible. A lot of my suggestions turn out to be, well, idiotic. We’ve gotten a pretty good thing going now (I think he’s done six covers for me, and is working on a seventh) so 99% of the time, when he sends me his first rough, he’s got it down other than maybe a single tweak or two.
LP: Loved the Dance of Cloaks cover, and I think you’re getting better every time. So what was the hardest part of writing your book?
DL: Getting away from distractions. The internet is evil.
LP: Totally agree. Did you learn anything from writing your books and what was it?
DL: I am nowhere near as good as I’d like to think I am. Even a year later I look back at what I wrote and wonder what was wrong with me. I’m not really embarrassed though (okay sometimes I am) but it is just part of the process. Readers understand this (thank God).LP: Again, a truthful statement I know each of us feel in our hearts every day. We write things we love, and we write things we don’t love quite so much. When I stop questioning myself about “is this good enough” then it’s time for me to stop writing.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
DL: Read a lot. Write a lot. Learn from those who know what the heck they’re doing.
LP: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
DL: Thank you so much
LP: David, thank you for being here with me today. I look forward to your next release.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, there you have it and I hope you’re as impressed by David’s honestly and candor as I am. And Steven, this one was for you. I may never be your favorite author–but I’m happy with being your favorite mom.
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