Author’s Note: My buddy Tim’s first anthology comes out in September. You can learn more about it below. He asked me to host an interview given by him to several of the book’s contributors, as a promotional effort. I said yes, and received approximately one metric-fuckton of information. I presented Part One yesterday, with Part Three coming on Saturday.
Fading Light collects 30 monstrous stories by authors new and experienced, in the genres of horror, science fiction, and fantasy, each bringing their own interpretation of what lurks in the dark.
Contributors: Mark Lawrence, Gene O’Neill, William Meikle, David Dalglish, Gord Rollo, Nick Cato, Adam Millard, Stephen McQuiggan, Gary W Olson, Tom Olbert, Malon Edwards, Carl Barker, Jake Elliot, Lee Mather, Georgina Kamsika, Dorian Dawes, Timothy Baker, DL Seymour, Wayne Ligon, TSP Sweeney, Stacey Turner, Gef Fox, Edward M Erdelac, Henry P Gravelle, & Ryan Lawler, with bonus stories from CM Saunders, Regan Campbell, Jonathan Pine, Peter Welmerink, & Alex Marshall.
- What projects are you working on now? Anything cool you can share with us?
Nick Cato: I’m about 75% done with a collaborative novel (with author L.L. Soares) tentatively titled HOUSE OF EXORCISM. We’re both very excited about it as it blends apocalyptic fiction with a unique spin on the possession thing. I’m also near completion on another bizarre novella titled THE LAST PORNO THEATRE.
Jake Elliot: Adding to the list of cool coincidences, my second novel, ‘Crossing Mother’s Grave’ will be out on the same day as Fading Light. ‘Mother’s Grave’ is the sequel to ‘The Wrong Way Down,’ a fantasy story with dark edges about a faith healer who decides her god is bigger than a gang of thieves. It doesn’t work out quite the way she’d planned. Book two is a continuation of failed plans and unexpected violence. It should be a lot of fun for everybody except the healer.
I’m also trying to find a home for my best-ever short story, named ‘Bad Ideas Generally Begin with a Pint of Ale.’ It is a story about getting drunk and walking through an enormous pile of poop. Good times indeed!
Tim Baker: My old high school buddy, Dennis McDonald, who has a couple of self-published horror books out there. We’ve shot a couple of ideas back and forth—a science fiction horror thing, for one—but nothing has come to fruition yet.
Mark Lawrence: I’m writing a fantasy gunslinger hybrid …with minotaurs. It’s called Gunlaw.
2. A troll, a rabid skunk, and Justin Bieber walk into a bar: how does the story end?
Tom Olbert: Not well, I’d guess.
Ed Erdelac: It ends when I leave the bar. Don’t wanna see how that plays out.
Adam Millard: With Bieber decapitated and the troll and skunk fornicating whilst listening to his shitty albums.
CM Saunders: Very badly for Bieber!
- Given the opportunity, is there any one author you’d like to write a story with? What would you write about?
William Meikle: There’s a lot of dead authors I’d have loved to collaborate with; Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E Howard, H Rider Haggard, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle among them. Of the living, I’d love to write an Eternal Champion novel, an Elric of Melnibone
Adam Millard: I’d love to work with Guillermo Del Toro. That guy has such a great imagination. We would write a modern tale based on ancient mythology, and he’d direct it as a movie when he’s finished fannying around with The Hobbit.
4. Tell us a little about your writing process: do you outline, pants it, write twenty drafts or just one, practice voodoo?
Nick Cato: I USED to do all my first drafts with pen and paper. But author Doug Clegg introduced me to a retro word processor called a NEO, and ever since my first drafts have been banged out on this amazing device that saves each word the second you type it. No more lost words. I can’t imagine writing without it. I write a brief outline then let the story “take me” wherever it goes.
Dorian Dawes: I have a general idea of where I want the story to go in my head, but for the most part I just jump into the story. I hate plot outlines, because my best ideas usually come about halfway through the story, or I reach the end of my outline and realize the story is far from over and then have to start from scratch. I try to keep a minimal amount of drafts, but I’ve been known to rewrite certain things at least five times over, particularly with shorter works.
Gene O’Neill: Just sit down and write after some thought.
CM Saunders: When I start a fiction piece I generally just have a rough idea of what I want to do. Sometimes the story grows and grows. I try not to have too many outlines or plans. I think they hold the writer back in a sense.
- What do you do to get better as a writer?
Nick Cato: I read approx. 85-95 books a year (mostly novels), and take each book as a learning experience (both good and bad).
Tom Olbert: I listen to feedback, whenever I’m lucky enough to get it. I’m usually most concerned about description, and trying to make it as palpable and visceral as I can.
Ryan Lawler: The first thing is practice, practice, practice. I make sure I am writing at least 100 words a day in some way, shape, or form. The second thing is writing exercises targeted at specific areas I want to improve on, for example writing a scene between two characters where you are only allowed to use dialogue (and as you get better start adding restrictions to the type of dialogue or start adding more characters). The third thing I do is try to explain my writing style to another person in a way that they can understand. The final thing I do is research, listening to podcasts, watching writing courses on Youtube, buying books on writing (Orson Scott Card, Stephen King, Michael A. Stackpole, Chuck Wendig, etc.), and enrolling in courses on campus so you can get out of the house and meet likeminded people.
Tim Baker: I read a lot, in and out of my genre. And write. And listen to my editors.
- When you first imagine a story, do the characters come first or the plot? Is it always the same?
Tom Olbert: I’m an idea writer. First, comes the concept, then the plot, then the characters. (That sounds horribly shallow, I know. But, ideas are the whole reason I write.) That said, it’s still crucial to visualize my characters clearly and get their history, characteristics, attitude and core motivations established at the outset.
Dorian Dawes: It’s never the same. Ha, in fact it’s always almost a chaotic mess and mixture of thoughts, images and ideas that I have to sift through before I can even begin to write it down. Basically, I get a bunch of pictures inside my head, and I know there’s a story there that they’re telling me, but I have to keep looking at them over and over again before I find it. Sometimes, I’ll create a folder on my computer and I’ll go out and find images that I think are visually similar to the ones inside my head and I’ll arrange them out in a pattern before me, but really there’s no set ritual or process that happens. It’s just a messy, uncoordinated thing.
Carl Barker: Again, it depends on the story. The characters and the journey they undertake are at the heart of any good story for me. The rest is, to a certain extent, window dressing.
Ed Erdelac: Usually for me the concept comes first, then the character, then the plot. The characters find the plot themselves, almost.
- Do you work in any other creative mediums besides writing? What are they?
William Meikle: I’ve been playing guitar and singing badly since 1973, but that’s the extent of anything else on the creative side.
Ed Erdelac: I’ve written twelve screenplays. In 2009 I wrote, produced, and directed a feature film, Meaner Than Hell. I dabble in comic book writing, but I’ve really found that to be an artist’s game.
Ryan Lawler: Not really. I can play a few instruments but I don’t enjoy composing my own music. I have some drawing ability, but I only use it to sketch out scenes I will write later. I have thought about pursuing a career in video game designer given my technical background, but the industry is so volatile right now I can’t justify pursuing it as more than just a hobby right now.
- How much of a role do reader/publisher expectations play in your writing?
Dorian Dawes: None at all, really. First and foremost my writing is for me, and I know as a media-consumer that there is literally an audience for just about anything you could create. There’s no absolute reason why you can’t write something solely for you that wouldn’t have a core-audience somewhere. While there are certainly things to expect like quality-control, but that also goes back to writing for myself, in that I don’t want to turn out something that’s absolute crap with plot-holes and weak/two-dimensional characters.
Ed Erdelac: When I start out, next to none. I write what I write because it comes to me, because it’s something I’d like to read that doesn’t exist. With Merkabah Rider, which is a series that has fans and feedback all over the place, it’s definitely a bit different. I do take note of what the readers like and don’t like, surely. Not really in terms of the characters and direction of the story, that’s already laid out. But technical stuff. Some people complained about having to rely on the glossary of Hebrew terms in the first book, so for the second and on I made a conscious effort to define things in the course of the story instead. I think that was useful feedback.
I also got a lot of response from the steampunk community for some reason. Merkabah Rider isn’t really steampunk, but it has some crossover elements. But I actually started conceiving of a fully steampunk character in the series solely from my exposure to that subculture. I was inspired by it.
Tim Baker: Up till now, none. I write what interests me and hope others will like it.
- Any tidbits of advice you can give aspiring authors?
Gene O’Neill: Write, keep head down during barrage of rejections, keep writing.
Adam Millard: Like I said, read. I can’t stress it enough. And write as often as you can. Try to set aside the same amount of time each day where you shut down Facebook, ignore your telephone, and just write away solidly. It doesn’t matter if it’s great. What matters is that you’re writing. And even if it’s shit, you’ll polish it and work it until it’s something to be proud of. Either that or delete it and start again.
Gef Fox: Run.
Carl Barker: Never give up, never surrender, and crave criticism like it’s crack cocaine. You can’t improve if people don’t tell you why your work sucks. If you can’t handle negative feedback, then you shouldn’t be a writer.
- How has the current publishing atmosphere affected you and how you approach your work?
Dorian Dawes: It hasn’t affected the way I write or how I approach my work as much as it has effected how I sell my work. Before the internet, there was no way of finding out about a writer unless you were in a bookstore, or read a review in a magazine or newspaper. Now, that writer has a blog and can communicate directly to you. Chances are, more people know about my sociopolitical rants than they do about my horror work, but that’s okay. The current publishing atmosphere has, in essence, affected my work little, but it has made me aware of existing alternatives to market myself as a writer and the work I produce.
CM Saunders: I have had cause to think about things very seriously in recent months, and I see indie publishing as the way forward. That appears to be the only way the writer can exercise complete control over content, pricing, etc. Most publishers demand changes and edits, and when that happens the work is no longer the piece you intended.