Daniel was very kind to send me his book “After Life” in return for a review.
My review of “After Life” will be published here in my blog in the next few days…
Right now, though, you can find out more about the author as Daniel agreed to an interview.
With no further “white noise” from me- enjoy!
1. How did the idea for “After Life” form?
It’s a murky mix, some of which I cannot reveal without spoiling some of the plot. At the heart of it, I’d say it was spending a lot of time walking in the moonlit woods of my home region. This was certainly an “ambiance-based” plot-seed. I’ve always loved all three of its core elements (medieval fantasy/mystery/horror), so the tale grew organically in my cranium for years before writing any of it.
2. Tell me about your writing process- any rituals you always follow while writing? A certain band you listen, a certain food you always nibble on? A place?
I’ve refined it through the years, of course (read: My neurosis has only gotten worse). For the creation-stage, I do all of the “artsy-writerly” stuff: Candles, fireplace, night-walks, solitude, and music. I scribble and chart on large sheets of paper, whiteboards, etc. before going to my computers.
I’m an advocate of planning the entire work as much as possible before writing anything (yes, I’m aware of the “pantsers” who cringe at that notion). (I’ve blabbed more about my methodology on my blog: here and here if you’re interested.)
Music is a big deal for me; I have massive playlists which I’ve accumulated over the past twenty years to match the tone of the tale I’m writing. For After Life, it’s dark, ambient music. (I’ve created a Pandora station that I share on my website called Tuonel.) Taking long walks is vital. Escaping distractions (like the Internet) is even more important. For the editing stage, I often go to coffee houses and listen to calm electronica and classical, and edit with paper and pen.
I live on espresso and tea, and just to channel JRRT, I smoke a pipe.
3. Did you agree (with yourself?) on the audience you wanted to target with your book before you started writing?
No, I really didn’t think about it until a late in the journey. This story was eating at me to get out, so I spent 6 years letting it out. But I assume that people who love dark, gritty Fantasy (and perhaps mystery/horror) may like it.
4. Is there a certain fear-factor in publishing a book?
Sure. I’ll write books for the rest of my life. If people hate anything you write, it lowers the chance that they’ll give any future work a chance. I try to not worry about that… and fail.
The choice to self-publish was a war for me. I’ve logged countless hours reading and talking with other writers about the “publishing revolution” (which is too fat an issue to dig into here). But I’ll say that the largest obstacle for us “self-pubbers” is the prejudice against us (that our work is inferior to those published by the traditional Houses). Sure, there’s crap with indie-pubbers. The Houses cut out the worst of the crap, but they don’t necessarily raise the bar.
5. What did you find to be the most difficult part of writing “After Life”?
After Life was my first novel, and so I was enduring the growing pains of someone who thought he knew how to write, only to discover how weak I really was when I began. Through the six years of writing/trashing/rewriting/trashing, (you get the idea) and reading over twenty books on the craft of writing, I was improving and changing.
But this was incredibly frustrating, because I feared I would never actually “be finished” with After Life. So, perhaps the hardest part was in finally finishing/publishing it.
6. Characters! There are many there, and all very different. Was it difficult? Did you see yourself in one of the characters?
For all of my character creation, I rely on a few tools to make them distinct (most notably, the Enneagram, which generates a solid pool of distinctive types with their own motivations and quirks).
I had read long ago about the flaw of (especially novice) writers putting too much of themselves into their characters (a debatable topic, I know). So, I tried keeping “me” out of it, but (of course) don’t succeed completely. I see myself in Kaemen sometimes, in lord Alkinan at other times. Breoch always makes me smile (even now).
7. Any tips for emerging writers?
Yes- I’ll give three (and a half):
1) Aut Disce Aut Discede. Read ceaselessly, both novels (especially within your genre), and instructional books on the craft of writing.
2) Always be open to the right kind of criticism (and therefore remain willing to trash what you’ve created if you conclude it’s necessary).
3) A disciplined life is required for the lifetime writer. Chart out how you spend your time, and restructure your life if you want to be productive.
a. Markedly reduce your time on the Internet. Seriously. The research of the mental detriment from Internet addiction is conclusive. (See “The Shallows” by Carr).
8. Show off your unique brain and make a sentence using the following two words: “bandage”, “steel”
Steel(y) Dan was a fantastic band(age).
[Did I just cheat?]
9. What next?
I’ve charted out my writing projects for the next 10+ years. Next is a short epistemology book. Thereafter is a Fantasy septology called “The War of the Druid Stones.” Somewhere in the middle of the septology is another small book on religion.
10. What will you never write? Something you absolutely despise reading about and therefore will never ever include them in your books? If any?
There’s plenty I dislike, but what I am certain I’ll never write is what anyone tells me that I should for marketability’s sake (or for any other external motivation). I’ll never write a certain plot, include a particular kind of character, or write an ending just for the hope of it appealing to a large book-buyer demographic. Even some literary agents push this agenda on their authors. I write what I love; I’ll never whore myself out.