Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Writers Wednesday


Meet Steven M. Booth, author of the new YA Fantasy Dark Talisman.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and when did you finish your first book?
     I have always been an avid reader, but the drive to create fiction didn't hit me until I was in college.  I penned my first book during my senior year.  It was a SciFi tale about a huge spatial anomaly wiping out all the electricity on earth.
What did you learn about yourself in the process of writing your book?
     Publishing can be very challenging. I have discovered a depth a patience I never thought I possessed and I've discovered that creating a book is nearly impossible alone; you need a team of excellent people to succeed.
How did you choose the genre you write in?
     Writing is about pursuing passion.  I have always loved Fantasy, and in a very real sense, it was not I that was doing the choosing, but rather, the genre that called me to follow its
siren voice.
How does your career as a writer influence other areas of your life and vice versa?
     It is an unfortunate reality that most writers cannot survive on their craft alone.  Even though it may be their first love, it's always necessary to find employment in other vocations in order to survive.  In my case, my talents in the technical arena make that fairly doable, but I do find that there seems to be a notable absence in the technical world of people that can write and communicate well, hence I find my abilities as an author are quite valuable when I'm wearing my 'computer guy' hat.
What do you do when you are not writing?
     I'm a film devotee, and in particular, a lover of animation and all-things Disney.  Being close to the epicenter of that universe, I participate in events frequently.  I'm also a Ballroom Dancer, and have had the opportunity to compete nationally with some of the best. I love sailing, SCUBA, Photography, and mountain cabins, far from the noise of the city.
What other books have your written and published?
     Dark Talisman is my debut novel, and I have written two books in that series, and am currently working on the third.  I am also simultaneously working on a Science Fiction piece that is sitting idle, pretty much, at the moment, but I expect to return to that eventually.  I also have a serialized on-line prequel for DT that was publish last year that is in edits.
Of the books you have written, which is your favorite?
     Whichever one I'm currently working on.
Briefly, what's your book about?
     Dark Talisman is the story of a narcissistic, Dark Elf rogue who pilfers a gem, only to discover it's pretty much the most dangerous thing in the world.  Her thievery casts her into a desperate struggle to save herself, her people, and the world as she knows it.
How did you come up with the title?
     I wrestled with my editor for three weeks.  We discarded perhaps a dozen other titles before settling on Dark Talisman.
What led you to write the book?
     It's an interesting story, actually,  Chronologically, the first book I wrote in the series was The Emerald Guardian.  It's the tale of a young boy that gets thrown into the middle of a battle between two vast, opposing forces.  At one point in the tale, since the youth has no real talent as a warrior, I needed a stealthy comrade for him, to sneak into an enemy fortress, so I created Altira, the Dark Elf.
     When I was done, and I submitted the first-draft to Deborah, my editor, she came right back and said, 'Who is this Altira person? She steals every scene she's in.  You need to pull her out of most these chapters, or people will think the book is about her, and not about Therin!'
     Well, I mostly left her in, but did extensive revisions.  When the book was finished, I realized that I couldn't release Emerald as the first book in the series; it had to be Altira's story.  Dark Talisman fills that role, and was actually much more fun to write.
What would you like readers to take from it?
     There are two messages in DT.  First, all of our actions have consequences, good or bad, and we must take responsibility for the decisions we make.  Also, there are obstacles in life that we cannot overcome alone.  There are challenges that will break us if we try to surmount them without help.  We all need assistance from time to time; that's one of the great lessons of life.
What are your current/future projects?
     I am currently revising the episodic series, Legend of Talimar, to be released as a book , and I'm starting the final revisions on Emerald Guardian.
What motivates you?
     Great characters. I have often said that I don't create my books, they are dictated by the wonderful characters in them. Once you really understand where a character is coming from, they motivate you, not the other way around.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
     Albert Einstein said, "If I have seen farther that others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants." That is even more true, I think, in literature.  I find two great sources of ideas: those who have gone before, and the marvels of the physical world around us.  I have drawn inspiration from physics and oceanography, feature films, great literature, and people that I have known in my life.
What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine?
     I do. I'm a morning person.  My most productive and creative hours of the day are right after I have arisen, and before the cacophony of the world intercedes.
How long does it take you to complete a book?
     Depends on the book.  It took me about eight weeks to write the first draft of Dark Talisman, but nearly four years to finish revisions on it.  Once again, let me stress that completing a books is a process that requires at least one editor, and many, many revisions.
What challenges did your face in getting your first book published?
     Learning. Since DT was my first book, I had to learn not only about the industry, but also about the people within it.  I had to discover how to avoid the many pitfalls, to actually fall into a a few and then drag myself out, and finally discover that an author's greatest talent is his belief in both the work and himself.  Dark Talisman wanted to be published.  I just had to learn how to accomplish it.
Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you love to work with?
     Altira is incredibly alluring, but actually, not the most attractive character in the series to me.  The Cirrian race, in the series, is an entire lighter-than-air civilization, consisting of creatures that never set foot on the ground.  I think that's fascinating, and I'd like to write a book -- or perhaps an entire series -- from their point of view.
If you had to do it all over, is there any aspect of your writing or getting published that you would change?
     Certainly not anyone in my current team; they are all fantastic, and I want to keep working with them for a very long time.  If there is anything I would like to 'skip around' it would be the entire, painful process of discovering them -- although I expect that's impossible.
What book(s)/author(s) have influenced your writing and how?
     There are three.  First, Tolkien. I think any high-fantasy writer has to admit that, up front.  Secondly, C.S. Lewis, whom I think has been almost entirely lost by the current culture, even though he and Tolkien were not just contemporaries, but good friends.  I believe Lewis' influence is sadly lacking from most contemporary Fantasy, and I'm trying to rectify that.  Finally, J.K, Rowling, for reminding me that the Phoenix is one of the most overlooked, misunderstood, and exceptionally powerful mythological creatures.  The entire series was inspired by Fawkes.
What do you think makes a good story?
     Characters you truly care about.
What are the most important elements of good writing? What tools do you believe are must-haves for writers?
     Mantra time: 'Show don't tell' & 'Less is More', with the emphasis on the latter.  Every great story engages the reader in the creative process. That means you must leave stuff out.
     Writing is, at the same time, a craft and an art. You must master the craft before you unleash your artistic freedom. You can't do anything you want and expect people to read it.  There are rules; follow them.
Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?
     I do. I think we all do, but for me it's almost always caused by my trying to force my characters into places they shouldn't be and don't want to go, or it's caused by my not truly understanding my characters. Think about it, for a  moment.  If you discovered your best friend in a difficult situation, you certainly wouldn't have any problem journaling how they escaped, would you? We just need to become best-friends with our characters. Then, writing becomes more like journalism and less like creating something from nothing.
Talk about revising and/or suggestions about revising for upcoming writers.
     When you've completed the first draft of your book, it's 10% done.  Books are not written, they are revised into existence. Dark Talisman went through twenty-seven revisions, before it was done, and one of the first was to throw away a third of the book and re-write it. Embrace revision! It's the only path to excellence.
What's one additional piece of advice about writing or publishing you'd like to pass on to readers and writers?
     Do not accept someone else's vision of what your work is supposed to be! Only you know what you intended when you put pen to paper.  It may not sell; it may be read by only a few, but it's part of you.  It is you.  Believe in it, and let it live.
Anything else you'd like readers to know about you and/or your book?
     Dark Talisman was written with great respect for the younger readers of the world.  It's intended for youth, and yet contains some challenging words and concepts, but I trust you.  I believe you can be excellent. You are the future. Take charge of your life and be responsible for it.  You will discover that you have a great, uncharted, Land of Fantasy within yourself. Exploring it is why we are here, and in that exploration can be found some of the greatest joys in life.

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