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Member Spotlight: Kandrel

1. Tell us about your most recent project (written or published). What inspired it?

Let me get to that in a moment.  This’ll make sense when I get down to it, trust me.

Up to this point, just about every story I’ve written has been in one of two categories.  In one, I was writing for submission.  Just about every anthology has at least a broad theme, so just to start with I’m working under thematic limitations.  Even in situations where the theme either coincided with my own interests or was broad enough that I could do my own take with it, there were always word limitations, or content limitations–things I had to include, or things that I wasn’t allowed to include.  Not that I’m saying they’re restrictive, mind you.  If you’ve read a few of the anthologies out there, I think you’ll find that the stories included are usually quite diverse.  It’s just that while going in, I’ve always got this image in mind that’s pretty tightly boxed.  The story must be about this long, and it must contain these themes, and here are the lines in the dirt across which I must not put a toe.  Anthologies are great for keeping the writing juices flowing.  There are even a few stories I’ve written that wouldn’t exist if it hadn’t been for these themes.

In the other category, I’m writing just for my own enjoyment–quick pieces to post online, or longer challenges I came up with for myself to hopefully make myself a more adept writer.  These are usually don’t conform to any particular limits, and in the past I’ve explored some rather more extreme topics in them.  I’d like to think that these pieces are what I use to really grow as an author, but I’m not fooling myself.  They lack focus.  They wander through the plot.  When I read back through them, they’re little morsels of golden prose, linked by an otherwise mediocre framework.  It’s the type of work that any competent editor would take a big red pen to–and on the few occasions that one’s gone into print, that’s exactly what happened.

So back to your question.  Over the last year, I’ve spent a lot of time working on my first full-length novel.  Unlike the anthology submissions, it’s really unbound by any particular limit–except that it needed to be long enough to be a novel.  And unlike the ones I’ve written for my own enjoyment, I’ve taken the time to give it a good polish.  At the time of answering your question here, it’s done and sitting in a slush pile.

2. What’s your writing process like? Are you a “pantser,” an outliner, or something in between?

I think I’m about as far as you can get from being a pantser.  In fact, I’d like to state for the record that I “pants” as little as possible.  I prefer my stories with no pants at all!  Before I torture this metaphor too much further, I’m actually telling the truth.  My process for story writing is to think up the world, plot, and characters, and then tell myself their story over and over and over in my head until I feel it’s ready to come out.  The process of writing for me only really starts once the story is done.

That said, the process of writing is a bit of a battle for me.  It’s a combat between ‘the way it sounded in my head’ and ‘the way it reads best on paper’.  I know what needs to happen, so the hours I spend at the keyboard are primarily spent looking for the most clear, concise, and beautiful way to tell the story that’s running through my head.  If there’s any “pants” to be had in my process, it’s the struggle to fit the whole scene in my head into as few words as I can manage in print.

pile cover3. What’s your favorite kind of story to write?

Absolutely sci-fi.  I grew up with (and still love) fantasy, but I’ve slowly grown out of the world of magic and wizards.  I think at this point I’m too much of a desk chair scientist to be happy with an answer of “It works that way because it’s magic.”

4. Which character from your work do you most identify with, and why?

Oooh, are you tempting me to reveal my dirty secrets of self-insertion?

Well, I do have a few characters I’ve written that I can identify with.  As many of my friends were quick to point out, the fox in the story “On the Bright Beach” is quite clearly my own attempt at wish fulfillment (You can find that one on my SoFurry).  Okay, fine.  I admit it.  I wrote the story as if I were there personally.  But really, it was meant to be just a fun romp, and I didn’t see any harm in it.

But that doesn’t really answer the question well.  It’s a bit of a cop-out to answer ‘With whom do I most identify’ with ‘Myself.’  I think if I had to pick a character in another story that I tried to put the most ‘me’ into without settling for self insertion, that would be Taj from “Seducing the Sky.” (This one’s in Hot Dish from Sofawolf Press.)  I don’t think I really have the credentials to claim to be what he is–a trained symbiote-pilot from a super-advanced predatory alien species–but the personality I drew from experience.  I really like the concept of a warrior-philosopher.  Even though my analytical side calls it complete bunk, the idea of a soldier that follows the mantra of Sun Tzu’s Art of War intrigues me.

5. Which authors or books have most influenced your work?

I think there’s three authors who’ve most heavily influenced my writing.  First, I grew up reading books by Mercedes Lackey.  She has a way with characters that makes me care about them so passionately that I’ll get genuinely angry or sad or elated for them.  Even though I have some difficulty going back to those books now, I remember how they made me feel–and that’s exactly what I aim for when I’m writing my own characters.

Second is Terry Pratchett.  Besides being a thoroughly enjoyable read, his novels have taught me one thing: A character is made more vivid by their flaws than by their strengths.  Every one of his memorable characters are truly flawed people–and because those flaws are more than skin-deep they’re so much more lifelike to me than popular media’s endless crusade of grizzled marines.

Third, and I think most importantly, is an author named Paul Kidd.  I bought his book A Whisper of Wings way back when it first came out.  I saw an advertisement for it in something–I can’t remember what it was, maybe Yarf?  I was young enough that I had to have my mom cut a check and mail it off to get it.  Even though I can deconstruct it now and see a lot of the character archetypes for what they are, at the time it was an inspirational read.  Since then, I’ve collected a good amount of his novels and quite thoroughly devoured them.  I think that it was his book Fey that convinced me that not only could I write, but I should.

6. What’s the last book you read that you really loved?

I read Ready Player One on the plane flight over to the states for Rainfurrest this year.  I really should have tried to get some sleep.  By the time I arrived, I was absolutely shattered.  I blame the book entirely for this, because it was fantastic.  I didn’t want to stop reading.  By the time I arrived in Seattle, the book was done, I was tired and about ready to collapse, and I didn’t regret even a single minute of it.

7. Besides writing, how do you like to spend your free time?

Gaming!  I know that’s a pretty general answer, but I’m a pretty general gamer.  Sure, I like the bog-standard vidja games like any good child of the nineties, but I also love tabletop gaming, both board gaming and roleplaying games.  I’d say that a vast majority of my free time is spent playing games with friends–that’s the time I have to carve my writing time out of.Private Escape spread

8. Advice for other writers?

Write.  I know, that’s a bit of a no-brainer, but I have to think that it’s less obvious than it seems.  I run panels at Eurofurence and Confuzzled in Europe, and even though attendance is great, I get lots of guilty looks when I ask people about what they’ve recently written.  Too often I hear people talking about this story they wrote this one time a while back, when what I really want to hear is about one of the many stories they’ve written recently.  Writing is a skill that degrades with time.  If you’re not writing, then at some point in the future, you will no longer be a writer.

9. Where can readers find your work?

Best bet is to check out kandrel.sofurry.com.  I do upload stories to a few other places, such as Weasyl and FA, but I maintain that SoFurry is currently the best platform for reading stories.  In addition, keep an eye on @Kandrel over at Twitter.  I’ll talk about recent projects and things I’ve been published in.  Hopefully, sometime in the near future I’ll get off my ass and mock up a site with my full book list.

10. What’s your favorite thing about the furry fandom?

No matter where I go, there are friends there.  I’ve had the opportunity to travel around the world, and it seems that no matter where I travel, just a few pokes online finds me locals to visit, and I know that going in we’ve already got something we share.

 

Check out Kandrel’s member bio here!

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