Gre7g Luterman is an author with Thurston Howl Publications that’s been writing since the late 70s. We get a chance to speak with him a bit about his writing.
Tell us about your most recent project (written or published). What inspired it?
I just had two books come out this past month: Fair Trade which is the conclusion to the Kanti Cycle trilogy, and Reaper’s Lottery which is my first SciFi murder mystery. The mystery has been an incredibly challenging project and I spent two years bringing it from conception to conclusion, finally publishing the seventh version of the story, if you can believe that!
Science fiction is a wonderful thing to write. You take our known universe and tweak one little thing or set up a scenario we aren’t familiar with and then follow the changes through, seeing how it affects each aspect of the characters’ lives. If the krakun tricked the geroo into working as their slaves, how would that impact the geroo’s religious beliefs? If the geroo live on a spaceship where the number of crew isn’t allowed to increase, would that lead to euthanasia and a lottery for selecting who gets to be parents next? If there was never an unwanted pregnancy, how would that change the culture?
And then taking this to the next step of making it a murder mystery, you get to ask questions like, With so much inequity, who would be pushed to murder? Why would they kill? Who would they kill? And what would they hope to accomplish by killing? This is great fun for the writer and, without a doubt, it translates into a really fun ride for the reader as well.
What’s your writing process like? Are you a “pantser,” an outliner, or something in between? How do you find that this helps and/or hurts your writing style?
I am the epitome of the pantser! I never have any idea where a story is headed until it gets there. Oh, I’ve tried to outline where the story must be going but, as soon as I do, the story will immediately turn in a different direction. If I try to force it to where I’ve outlined then the final story will not be a fun read.
My writing process is to make a new character and write a few scenes for him/er, try to find out what is interesting about them, why the reader should like them, should care about what happens to them. I toss a complication into their life and rely on my intuition as to whether there is a whole story there. Since I don’t know where it’s headed, I have to rely on gut feel.
Then I let them wander. I let them build a support network of people who care, who try to help them cope and overcome. I don’t worry about whether they’re going the right direction or not. Then, eventually, I’ll round that final bend and see the destination. Aha! So, that’s where this was going all along.
I finish up the draft, then move it to the right half of the screen and open a blank document on the left. And then I rewrite the entire story. I straighten out the wandering. I add bits here and there so that insignificant events become important if they contribute to the destination. I don’t show people my first draft. Until I do a rewrite—a version written with the destination in mind—then the draft isn’t worth reading.
What’s your favorite kind of story to write?
Romance with a splash of danger, definitely! Prepare for a meandering explanation of why…
My goal is always to keep the reader from putting the book down. The best way to accomplish that goal is for the reader to worry about what will happen to the main character. Readers worry about characters when two things happen: first, they have to love and care about the MC and second, the MC has to be in peril.
Love is the most powerful and pure of all emotions. When we show how the main character is lovable and worthy of another character’s love (not just the main character loving a secondary character), then the reader will love and care about out MC. Then when we put this lovesick character into peril we not only make the reader worry about what will happen to them but we propel them into action, driving them to … wherever the heck this story happens to be headed, since I couldn’t see it from the beginning.
This is the recipe for a great story that will be loved by those who read it.
All of your recent novels are set in the Hayven Celestia universe created by Rick Griffin (of Housepets! fame). Why write in his universe, and how well has that collaboration worked?
The why is an easy one. When I read Rick’s short story Ten Thousand Miles Up, I was immediately fascinated by the world he had created—furry heroes that were tiny compared to their masters but yet kept enslaved with a light touch. He got me thinking about a generation ship with an endless mission and how society would have to change to adapt to it. Plus, his story focused on all the important players like the captain and the commissioner, but my curiosity is always for what life is like for the common guy in any society. And like any good fanfiction writer, when the canon doesn’t give me what I want, I feel compelled to make it up!
Rick is not only great fun to work with, he’s incredibly frustrating. He’s so very creative, so very imaginative, and just as stubborn as I am about how I think things should go. So it was only natural that we’d bump heads constantly. I thought collaborating would be like us finishing each other’s sentences or maybe alternating chapters or something. We tried that and it was readily apparent that our styles and recalcitrant natures would never allow it.
Fortunately, we worked out an informal agreement where he’d write his stories one way, I’d do mine my way, we seriously consider each other’s opinions, but don’t feel compelled that every aspect of the universe remain identical across our stories.
What has most influenced your work? Is an author, a title, or something else?
I’d have to say books by Nancy A. Collins. Collins mostly writes about my favorite subject to read, monsters in the modern day—vampires, werewolves, and demons hiding in a familiar setting—but she has an amazing ability to make the reader care about the characters. I want a book that can ruin my life, make me stay up until 2am, completely wrecked because I have to go to work in the morning but I still need to know what happens in the story.
Plus, Collins is willing to give a main character the perfect love, then wad the lover up and throw him away! Oh man, I just can’t do that. I can throw away a secondary character’s lover, but the main character’s? Yikes. If I killed off Tish (Kanti’s true love) I’d cry for days.
So yes, if any writer out there has influenced me and represents a direction that I’d like my work to grow, it would be her.
What’s the last book you read that you really loved?
I’m going to give you two instead of one, because I read them around the same time and loved completely different things about these two completely different books. The first was A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge. Despite not loving the characters—sadly—I loved the SciFi of this novel. Not only were the tines a fascinating species whose biological differences led to lots of differences in how they do things, the zones of thought was a brilliant creation that I know I could never equal in my own writing. Plus, the scale of the story was so big that I would never even dare to tackle it myself.
The second was a kids’ book called Too Many Curses by A. Lee Martinez. This was a charming romp filled with charming characters. I don’t think I was ever truly worried about whether the characters would succeed or fail—it is a kids’ book, after all—but I couldn’t help smiling at every single thing they said. Imagine if Harry Potter had been written by Ursula Vernon and you’d have this world.
The hero from your Kanti Cycle trilogy, Kanti, does a bunch of un-heroic things. Does that make him a bad hero?
Perhaps? Kanti’s never been a particularly heroic geroo. He’s not the smartest, the bravest, or the most talented around. He’s never dreamed of being a hero. He just wanted to keep his head down and remained unnoticed.
As a writer, I’ve always bristled at perfect heroes—you know the type, the Richard Rahl who at every junction always makes the correct decision, no matter the cost. That’s not Kanti. Despite the furry pelt, he’s very human. He gets scared and his first impulse is to run or to keep his loved ones from heading into danger, even if that’s morally the wrong thing to do.
But on the bright side, that gives Kanti an awful lot of room to grow. And though he’s still no John McClane, the Kanti at the end of the series is certainly a lot more heroic than the one at the beginning.
Advice for other writers?
Yes! First, don’t write about your fursona or an O.C. that you’ve been RPing for ages. Make up a new character when you start writing the book. Then fall in love with the character while you write. The reader needs to fall in love with this character for them to love your book, and if you fall in love with them while writing, then the reader will probably do the same while reading it. If you write about a character you already love, then chances are you will skimp on that romance, leaving the reader out in the cold.
Next, hurt the character, hurt them badly, and threaten to hurt them more if they don’t accomplish something in a given amount of time. This makes the reader worry about your MC, propels them into action, and gives them a ticking clock so they can’t drag their ass about it.
Finally, at the end of the story, give the MC something back. And crucially, if you hurt the character by taking something away, make sure the reward for accomplishing your quest is something different, something unexpected, or something they didn’t even know they wanted. Giving them what you took away—like returning Dorothy to Kansas after living in a magical land—is not a very satisfying conclusion.
Where can readers find your work?
You can look for Skeleton Crew, Small World, Fair Trade, and Reaper’s Lottery on my Amazon Author’s Page, my old and dusty fanfiction at fanfiction.net, and keep an eye out for my new books by watching my @Gre7gL Twitter account. And again, don’t hesitate to contact me by email. I really do enjoy discussing the craft.
What’s your favorite thing about the furry fandom? Why write furry?
Oh, that’s an easy one. When you’re a furry, you’re passionate about furry characters. Maybe you’re misanthropic and think furry characters would be superior to humans, perhaps you romanticize them, are aroused by them, or maybe you think the best monsters are ones that are covered in fur. It doesn’t matter why but you have a passion for them.
And when you’re a furry and a writer, you want to share those characters and the dramas in your head with other furries. You want other furries to feel that same agony when your lovable characters fail, the same elation when they succeed.
When your passion is furry, that’s when you should write for furries. Writing outside your passions may create something so-so but when you write what you love, you can make something amazing!