1. Tell us about your most recent project (written or published). What inspired it?
My most recent book is my novella, Koa of the Drowned Kingdom, published through FurPlanet. It’s about a young fruit bat with torn wings who lives with a family of otters and dreams of rejoining the flighted world of the bats he left behind. The original idea for the book, like most of my books, came from a song on the radio. I don’t remember what it was anymore–something about an upside-down world, I think. That set off the fireworks in my head and I started imagining who would live there (bats, obviously), and what that world would be like. That night I couldn’t go to sleep. The story kept twisting and building itself in my head. By the time I finally dropped off, I’d composed nearly the entire thing, including every major plot point and all the major characters. From there it was just an issue of writing it down. I really tried to focus on a tight, well-edited plot, in which every piece is necessary at least twice. Pull one thread and it should fall apart from both ends. I find writing those kinds of plots very satisfying.
2. What’s your writing process like? Are you a “pantser,” an outliner, or something in between?
It’s funny–I used to be a pantser, but I’ve found lately that that doesn’t work out well when I’m trying to get motivated to write. I have to know before I sit down what I’m going to be working on for the day, and it also helps if I have big major plot events that I’m looking forward to writing–that I’m writing toward. And now that I’m writing bigger, more complicated novels, I pretty much have to have an outline. That’s not to say that ideas aren’t occurring to me all the time during the process, or that I don’t change things or add things as I go! The outline gets modified a lot. The characters speak to me and require me to motivate them in different ways before they’ll agree to move through the obstacle course I’ve set up for them. But I have to know: if I change this plot element, how does that impact the story later? How will this compromise someone’s character arc? And the stories tend to be just a bit too big for me to do that well without an outline.
3. What’s your favorite kind of story to write?
Fantasy all the way. I love working with magic because to me it’s the closest to writing from pure imagination. Anything you can think of you can get away with, as long as you set limitations around it, rules, and then work within those rules consistently. It’d be fun to write scifi, but I kind of feel like I’m not smart enough. To write scifi you have to know how the whole world works, and I’m more an inner mind kind of guy. I’d rather make stuff up than take it apart to see how it works.
4. Which character from your work do you most identify with, and why?
To some degree I identify with all my characters. If we’re talking about The Fire Bearers, then I identify with Clay’s sense of wonder and also his self-doubt. I can be defensive and officious like Doto at times as well. And maybe most of all, I identify with Laughing Dog and his independence, his tendency toward selfishness, and his rejection of his people’s beliefs.
5. Which authors or books have most influenced your work?
Okay, I love love LOVE Robin Hobb and snap up everything she’s written. I love the way she writes characters who push back against their destinies and against the identities the world tries to foist on them. I resonate strongly with the way her characters hurt themselves because they feel like they have to. I’m a huge fan of Terry Pratchett as well. I love the way he blended wisdom and humor, the way he found love and compassion for people in their foibles, in their weaknesses. I think he’s one of the greatest humanist writers I’ve ever read. Going farther back, Ray Bradbury and Tolkien were my biggest influences in my youth. They took me to faraway places when, frankly, I kind of needed to leave the place I grew up.