A Few Quick Questions With…Duncan MacMaster

Not only did the good people at Fahrenheit Press provide me with Duncan MacMaster’s Hack (which I just posted about), I got an interview with Mr. MacMaster as well! As usual, this is short and sweet, he’s got better things to do than come up with clever answers for me, y’know? Seriously, loved his answers. Give this a read and then scurry out to buy his book.

Would you like to give the elevator pitch for Hack? (for that matter, if you want to throw one in for A Mint Condition Corpse, that’d be fine, too)
The elevator pitch for Hack would be: A desperate man is hired to ghostwrite the autobiography of a washed up TV star with scandal in his past and murder in his future.

The pitch for A Mint Condition Corpse would be: A semi-retired artist’s trip to his favourite comic book convention is spoiled by murder, and only he can solve it.

Do you have experience as a Ghost Writer? Is Hack your way working out some demons? Or does it have a much more benign genesis?
I never specifically worked as a ghostwriter. I did do things like selling jokes to comedians (no one you ever heard of) so I know a bit about doing something that someone else gets credit for.

There is a certain amount of exorcism in the genesis of Hack. By the time I got to writing it I had spent a very long time getting metaphorically kicked in the head by the writing business. The joke market had dried up, and I spent years enduring rejections that ranged from the incoherent to the callous, and some career setbacks that were downright ridiculous.

As you could guess, those experiences left some demons that needed to be exorcised, and Jake Mooney, the hack writer of the title, did it for me. Jake’s had a life defined by setbacks and it’s made him bitter, cynical, and lonely. He sees being a credited author as a step towards some redemption as a writer, and solving the crimes as an attempt at redeeming himself as a human being.

Of course none of this was conscious while I was writing it. While putting down that first draft all I could think about was the plot, the characters and making sure everything made sense. I didn’t discover what I had done with Jake’s and my own hunger for redemption and validation until working on later drafts.

It was different with my first crime novel A Mint Condition Corpse. That started with a conscious decision to make Kirby Baxter, card-carrying comics geek, the Sherlockian hero instead of the comedy relief sidekick, and to use him as a vehicle to combine mystery with a satire of pop culture and the people who run it. Hack, has a lot more of my id running amok in it.

You’ve done a little in other genres, but your publications seem to be predominately in the Crime/Mystery genre. What is it about the genre that brings you back? Is there a genre you particularly enjoy, but don’t think you could write?
I’ve dabbled in science fiction, fantasy, and even horror, and I do plan to do more in those genres in the future, but mystery/crime does seem to have a grip on me. Probably because it deals with people who are at the extremes of their emotions, and also because it’s a genre that’s is still a wide open field when it comes to narrative possibilities.

I always credit my narrative style to SCTV. It was a sketch comedy show I watched as a child that parodied television and movies, and it taught me that popular culture is loaded with tropes and cliches that create expectations in the audience. If you know them and understand them, then you can use them to manipulate expectations to misdirect, surprise, amuse, and hopefully amaze the audience.

When I started reading crime fiction in my teens I began to see the patterns inherent in the genre, and started seeing how they could be manipulated to create something new and entertaining.

As for a genre I enjoy, but don’t think I could write….well, I’m not sure. I’m sure readers would tell me if I really screwed up. My bet would be on straight up horror without any sort of mystery to solve inside it.

What’s the one (or two) book/movie/show in the last 5 years that made you say, “I wish I’d written that.”?
Don Winslow’s The Power of the Dog, a relatively slim volume that contains an epic inside. It sets a high standard that I hope to come close to some day. For the most part I tend to avoid reading fiction while I’m writing. I have a bad habit of inadvertently imitating whoever I’m reading. I wrote some truly dreadful pastiches while I was on a Lovecraft reading binge in my early twenties. All sorts of gooey overwrought eldritch nonsense.
This one’s not about you directly, but what is it about Fahrenheit Press that seems to generate the devotion and team spirit that it does (or at least appears to)? I don’t know that I’ve seen as many authors from the same publisher talk about/read each other’s books — or talk about the publisher — as much as you guys seem to. Is it simply contractual obligation, or is there more?
There’s no contractual obligation for camaraderie at Fahrenheit Press, or the House of Love, as our fearless leader likes to call it.

I can sum it up this way: Joining Fahrenheit is like joining a punk band in the mid-70s.

We don’t know what the future holds, or what we will achieve in the end. All we do know is that we are a band of misfits who are all doing what we love, we’re breaking rules and conventions that some thought were inviolate, and that we are all in this wild ride together.

Fahrenheit has been the best experience I’ve ever had in publishing, and I’m sure my fellow authors will agree with me on that.

What’s next for Duncan MacMaster?
I just finished the first draft of a sequel to A Mint Condition Corpse, called Video Killed The Radio Star, and the brutal editing/rewrite process awaits me. I’m also developing a more experimental project examining male archetypes in crime fiction and the concept of the unreliable narrator. I am even outlining a potential sequel to Hack called Hacked, where Jake goes Hollywood. I’m hoping to complete all these projects and make them worthy of publication as soon as possible.

What happens after that, is anyone’s guess.

Thank you for having me on your blog.

Thanks for your time — I really appreciate it, and hope that the Hack‘s release is successful (as it deserves).

A Few Quick Questions With…Ben Jackson

A couple of weeks ago, I posted some thoughts about The Day My Fart Followed Me To Hockey. Today, one of the authors, Ben Jackson stops by to answer a few questions. Short and sweet so he can get back to putting out the books . . .

You work with a co-author and an illustrator — what the process like?
My co-author is my wife, Sam. Working with her has been easy, we don’t argue about much. We have been in a long-distance relationship for several years, so communication is pretty good!
Your Author page shows quite a range in subject matter for your books — relationship books, survival guides, humor, kids books. How do you decide what you’re going to tackle next? And — how do you get to the point that you say, “A Personification of Flatulence, yup, that’s my main character.”
Well, the Day My Fart Followed Me Home Series just happened! We were looking for a fun way to get kids to learn important lessons, and kids love farts!
How are parents reacting to The Fart books? I imagine that kids who read these like him (it?), but parents might have widely divergent reactions.
So far, I don’t think we have had one bad reaction by any parents. We had a school say it wasn’t suitable, but 99% of parents love the books and think they’re hilarious.
What was the biggest surprise about the writing of The Day My Fart Followed Me To Hockey itself? Either, “I can’t believe X is so easy!” or “If I had known Y was going to be so hard, I’d have skipped this and watched more TV”.
The biggest surprise was just how popular the book has become. When we first wrote The Day My Fart Followed Me Home, we never thought that the kids’ books would be so popular. Working with the illustrator Danko to get things done on schedule is probably the hardest part, and Danko is amazing with tight deadlines, so it isn’t really that hard.
What’s the one (or two) book/movie/show in the last 5 years that made you say, “I wish I’d written that?”
Lol I wish I had written 50 Shades of Grey!! That book and movie just exploded.
What’s coming up for the team of Ben Jackson and Sam Lawrence?
We are about to release The Day My Fart Followed Me To Soccer, and a book about a caterpillar that can do anything it sets its mind to. Stay tuned!
Thanks for your time — and the book!

A Few Quick Questions With…D.I. Jolly

D.I Jolly’s Mostly Human was the first novel I read this year — and it’s one of my favorites so far. I’m very glad I finally got the chance to ask the author a couple of questions. As is the norm, I kept it short and sweet, because I’d rather he work on his next book than take too much time with me, y’know? Some really good answers below.

If you can without ruining anything you have planned, tell me about the island setting for Mostly Human — why there?
Syn Island has actually been the principal location for all the books I’ve written. It started with my very first novel A Guy, A Girl and a Voodoo Monkey Hand. Which I wrote when I was 19. I knew I didn’t want to set my story in the USA because I felt like everything happened there, and I didn’t want it in England because I didn’t like the weather. South Africa (where I’m from) is just too isolated. So I decided to invent my own country, also it meant I wouldn’t have to do geography research.

Although my books so far are stand alone and don’t faction in the same universe. They all give a bit more information about the island. For example the burnt out bar where Annabel meets Frank Oslo. The destruction of that bar takes place in A Guy, A Girl and a Voodoo Monkey Hand. And in Counting Sheep and Other Stories (my second book) the main character Kester reference reading about some of the things Alex does through his life.

Love that answer.

I don’t want to ask where you get your ideas, but how did you get to the point that from the dozens of ideas floating around your head you got to the point where you said, “You know what I want to write about? A Werewolf Rock Star.”

It started as I wanted to write about a brother and a sister and a werewolf. Even at the first what I thought would be the most important factor was their relationship not him being a werewolf. I then started to trance back on their time line to find out how they got to where they were. If she had a job and he could just sit around all day, how does he afford it? then what if he was actually a child when bitten, what would their lives look like?

I came up with most of this while driving from lunch with my sister to my mother’s house which was about 2 and a half hours away.

What surprised you the most about the writing of Mostly Human?
How much I wanted to keep going as soon as I was done. I already knew how I wanted to start the sequel and where I’d start and take the story as its own book rather than just continuing to write more of the first one.
Your day job is with a publishing company — what impact has that had on your approach to writing?
I don’t know if it’s had much of an effect on my actual writing, but it is very interesting to know both sides of the coin. And it definitely changed the way I think about marketing a book and myself. Which I’m not sure I ever took seriously enough in the past.

Also, at the moment it’s more correct to say my day job used to be in publishing. For the next few months at least, I’m a full time writer. So keep an eye out for Mostly Human 2.

What’s the one (or two) book/movie/show in the last 5 years that made you say, “I wish I’d written that.”?
Whole projects none really, but occasionally I hear or read a really good line or concept which strikes a chord. The most recent of those was in Transcendence starring Johnny Depp which I only recently watched. Johnny Depp’s character is dying and he’s sitting with his best friend and sees his wife through the window and says. “I know I’m a dead man, but I’m scared I’m going to miss her.”

Loved it.

Can you tell us what books/writing projects you’re working on and when we can expect them? Bonus points if any of these involve Alex Harris.
At the moment my principle writing project is a thing called Poetry Club. On Monday nights myself a few very talented friends and anyone who cares to sit close enough to listen, meet in a bar in Berlin and read out short stories and poems that we’ve written that week based on the chosen theme or topic. We’ve been at this every week, without fail since July and after a year we plan to collect all the stories and poems and publish them as an anthology.

But as I said, I’ve also taken some time to get a few other things done and Mostly Human 2 is on the cards. I am about 41k words into it so far so maybe a third.

Sounds interesting — and you do score the bonus points.

Thanks for your time, D. I. (and thanks for Mostly Human!)

A Few Quick Questions With…Nicky Peacock

Earlier today, I blogged about Nicky Peacock’s Lost in Wonderland, not only did she send me her book, she agreed to take part in the little Q&A. Not only does she write a fun book, but she helps me generate content — a couple of my favorite traits in people. Hope you enjoy her answers, I did.

Tell me a little about your road to publication.
It’s been a long and bumpy road and, to be honest, I’m still not at my final destination yet. I’d like to write for a living, and right now that’s not a reality. I have to fit in writing with a full-time job. My dream would be to wake up every morning and know that I had all day to write and plot and socialise online with readers and other authors.

I’d always wanted to be an author; I can’t remember a time I didn’t. I’m passionate about stories, but unfortunately, I tended to lose excitement before I finished anything! I wrote a lot of beginnings and not many endings, so never sold anything. I then found the short story market. Thanks to eBooks it’s thriving and finishing a short story is much easier than a 90,000-word novel, so I wrote them for a few years. Next thing I knew I had over 35 stories published and thought I’d better start writing something longer and my first novella, Bad Blood came tumbling out of my imagination.

What was the genesis of this book/novel? Of all the dozens of ideas bouncing around your cranium — what was it about this idea that made you say, “Yup — this is the one for me.”?
It was always in my head, but last year was Alice in Wonderland‘s 150th anniversary, so I thought the time had come to get Lost in Wonderland out and set it free upon the unsuspecting world. I write YA fiction and had read lots of books about spies and the like, but wanted to take it one step further with teens who bait and catch serial killers. There’s a rather disturbing statistic that, right now, there are at least 3 active serial killers in the UK every year (The UK is about the size of just one US state, so that’s even scarier math!) and very few are caught. It boggles the mind to think of how technological advanced we are, but still can’t nail down these devils preying on the innocent. In my book, Wonderland is a vigilante agency set up to do just that, to work above the law and sometimes even under it, and to do whatever it takes to stop serial killers. The Lewis Carroll connection is through the founders of Wonderland, their daughter Alice was murdered, and the killer was only caught when they took the law into their own vengeful hands.
What’s the one (or two) book/movie/show in the last 5 years that made you say, “I wish I’d written that.”?
I’d probably have to say Twilight. Vampires are my favorite monster, and although it didn’t break the bank with uniqueness, the author really developed her world and the characters in it. This is something that can be lacking with vampire stories as they are so larger than life, the creatures themselves can act as a crutch for a storyline so the writer doesn’t bother to delve any deeper. Also, it made a tonne of money, and I’m not too proud to say that I could really use even a fraction of that right now!
What is it about YA/”Teen” fiction that attracts you? Are all your works targeted to that audience?
I do some work for adult audiences (wait, does that sound rude? LOL) But I enjoy writing for teens. Their books have come a long way since The Famous Five and to be honest, you don’t even need to pull your punches that much when it comes to violence anymore. I’d hate to think that I’d written anything patronizing to my readers or even unrealistic – even when my subject matter is anything but real. There’s also the double dip effect in this market where adult readers will buy teen books too so you can gain more exposure an author.

The YA market is very loyal. I’d like to think that my readers, as they get older will still want to read my books.

I’ve often heard that writers (or artists in general) will forget hundreds of positive reviews but always remember the negative — what’s the worst thing that someone’s said about one of your books, and has it altered your approach to future books?
I’m very lucky in that the majority of my reviews are good. It can be frustrating when reviewers effectively ‘mark you down’ for opposite opinions, for example saying the book was too descriptive and then saying it wasn’t descriptive enough. I also get annoyed when someone gives me a low star rating but doesn’t put a review with it, that way I never know why they didn’t like it and what I could change in the future to help my work.

One of the things that reviewers have said about Lost in Wonderland is that they wish it had been longer. I’m currently writing the second book in the series, The Assassin of Oz and am making this longer now to make up for it.
Thank you so much for having me here today. If you’d like to find me online:

Blog:   Twitter: Y A Facebook Page:   UK Amazon Author Page: 

US Amazon Author page:   Good Reads: Tumblr:  Authorgraph:

Thanks for your time — and the book. Looking forward to what happens next.

A Few Quick Questions With…Kimberlee Ann Bastian

So, for the second post on The Breedling and The City in the Garden book tour, we got a few questions with the author, Kimberlee Ann Bastian. As usual, I kept it short and sweet, because I’d rather she work on her next book than take too much time with me.

I see that this is being billed as a “reboot” of the novel — what does that mean for you and the book?
All it really means is that my first attempt was a dress rehearsal. I learned a great deal of what not to do when self-publishing and really it boils down to not cutting corners where your book is concerned. Not that I meant to cut corners. I just didn’t have the proper funds. You’re either all in or you’re not and though my first intentions were good and I had the drive, it wasn’t quite what I imaged it would be. Now, with the brilliant team at Wise Ink Creative Publishing, I have an extraordinary team to work with and all the tools an indie author needs to realize his or her vision. The Breedling and the City in the Garden is now, after eight years of trial and error, the way it was always meant to be with all the professional bells and whistles included.
Most authors have dozens of ideas bouncing around their craniums at once — what was it about this idea that made you say, “Yup — this is the one for me.”?
The idea for the Element Odysseys came to me at a time when I actually had no other ideas running through my head. I put all my energies into the concept and it really helped me write my way out of a trialing situation and once I started, I couldn’t stop.
What kind of research — if any — did you have to do for this? Uncover any nuggets that were so great that you had to rework the story just to fit some of your research into things?
The research journey for this book and for the series in its entirety has been fascinating. I have tapped into every vital online database, read countless books and articles. Watched a few documentaries and I went above and beyond the scope of what has made it into the final version of the story. I have even visited the sites of Chicago where the story takes place, or what’s left of them. For The Breedling and the City in the Garden, the greatest historical nugget I found came during my second round of editing when I was working on changing the title. I came across the Great Seal of Chicago, which on the seal the Latin phrase Urbs In Horto is present. Upon learning the translation Garden City or City in the Garden, I knew I had to reference it in the story and ultimately it became the second half of the title.

Who are some of your major influences? (whether or not you think those influences can be seen in your work — you know they’re there)
I think for this first book I pulled a great deal of inspiration from Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, Irene Hunt’s No Promises in the Wind and Mark Twain when creating the historic feel of the story. For the mythology elements of the story, I did draw a little from HBO’s Carnivale in how to blend the historical with the fantastical. Although for those familiar with the series, I’m not nearly as abstract. Subconsciously, I probably took some inspiration from Harry Potter as well, for I have already been told the opening chapter is reminiscent of Dumbledore and McGonagall in the beginning of The Sorcerer’s Stone (The Philosopher’s Stone).
What’s the one (or two) book/movie/show in the last 5 years that made you say, “I wish I’d written that.”?
This is the hardest question by far—haha. (pauses to contemplate) In the book category, I’d have to say Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. I’m also going to go a little rogue and choose a musical, Lin Manuel-Miranda’s Hamilton: An American Musical, it is my current obsession.

Thank you kindly for letting me swing by The Irresponsible Reader, H. C. It has been a blast chatting with you! Happy Reading.

Thanks for your time, Ms. Bastian, I wish you and the release the best.

A Few Quick Questions With…Lauren Carr

So, for the second post on The Murders at Astaire Castle (Audiobook) book tour, we got a few questions with the author, Lauren Carr. This has the distinction of featuring the most poorly-worded question I’ve asked here — I’m pretty embarassed by that. But, “Always Forward,” right? As usual, I kept it short and sweet, because I’d rather she work on her next book than take too much time with me.

So, I realize The Murders at Astaire Castle is written to be accessible to new readers, but what would be useful to new readers to know before picking it up?
The Murders at Astaire Castle is a murder mystery with a touch of paranormal. It is not a paranormal book with a murder mystery. The mystery is at the forefront of plot.
There’s a hint of the supernatural running through this book — is this typical for your work/this series? If not, what led you to the choice?
For The Murders at Astaire Castle, I wanted to do a Halloween mystery. What better than a haunted house—or better yet a castle? Of course, you needed a murder mystery. Then, I asked, who would be the victim? Who else but a paranormal author.

Halloween has always been a fun time. It’s the time to break out and be someone else. As a child, I would pretend to be one of the Bobbsey Twins searching for clues to lead me to a secret treasure. If I was lucky, it was made up of chocolate. As a teenager, I was Nancy Drew. Always, when October rolled around, I craved mysteries with something extra added—something beyond the normal—something supernatural.

But I wasn’t looking to do a paranormal book. I am a murder mystery writer and I love murder mysteries. So, it had to be a murder mystery with a supernatural touch.

The Murders at Astaire Castle has a touch of everything. We have the dark and spooky castle with rumors of a curse. We have hidden passage ways. Things happening that defy a logical explanation. We even have a wolf man! And it’s not Gnarly.

What’s the one (or two) book/movie/show in the last 5 years that made you say, “I wish I’d written that.”?
Now You See Me. The twists and turns in this movie left me breathless. I saw none of it coming.
Is there a genre that you particularly enjoy reading, but could never write? Or are you primarily a mystery/suspense/thriller reader?
I am primarily a murder mystery writer and reader. I always have been and I love murder mysteries. When I was a child reading the Bobbsey Twins, I would turn the mystery of the missing sea shell into a kidnapping story.
This many books into a series, is it easier or more difficult to keep going? What challenges are you finding doing this that you didn’t expect?
So far, the difficulty is in keeping up with the directions that the characters themselves want to go. I am always one book ahead in my mind. So, while writing a book, I have a very good idea what direction that I will be taking my characters further down the road.

For example, right now I am writing A Fine Year for Murder, the next Thorny Rose Mystery. Mac Faraday and the Spencer gang make an appearance in this mystery. Keeping in mind my plot for the next Mac Faraday Mystery, I am able to plant seeds for Bonding with Murder and even the Mac Faraday mystery that will be following that. These dropping aren’t necessary clues—rather, they are Easter eggs that will make faithful readers go, “Ahh, I remember Mac saying something about that back in A Fine Year for Murder.”

The biggest challenge, I have found is characters. I fight to keep my characters interesting and even diverse. There are characters in my books who everyone loves. But then, sometimes I will introduce a new character who I find unique and different who some readers object to. This happened with Cameron Gates in the Lovers in Crime mysteries. Some readers loved her. Others didn’t. The same thing is happening now with Dallas Walker in the Mac Faraday mysteries. She appears to be a love her or hate her character with nothing in between.

Which goes to prove the fact of life—you can’t make everyone love you.

Thanks for your time and the opportunity to read (well, listen to) this book.

A Few Quick Questions With…Darrell Drake

For the second time this week, sleep won a victory over my finishing a post, so you won’t be reading what I thought about this author’s book (spoiler: it’s something special). Thankfully, however, We get to spend a few minutes with Darrell Drake today before I post my thoughts on his book A Star-Reckoner’s Lot tomorrow–a stand-alone fantasy set in Sassanian Iran (yeah, I had to look it up, too). He’s got like a million things going on in the days leading up to the release this weekend. so we kept things short and sweet so he could focus on the important things. Hope you enjoy.

Bonus technical question: [I don’t normally do this, but I figured it might help readers] What’s that mark over the “s” in Waray’s dialogue? How should readers pronounce that (even in just their heads)?
You’re the first to ask! The mark you’re referring to is a diacritic that goes by the name of caron(ˇ). My original intention was to use an “s” with a line below it, but there arose issues with rendering it on certain devices and in certain file types. All’s well, though, because its replacement (š) serves as the official romanization of the Persian letter Shin, which is pronounced “sh”. Relevant to Sassanian Iran, the second King of Kings to rule the empire was Shapur, which is sometimes written Šapur. In Waray’s case it’s pronounced “sho-“. I figured readers would at the very least realize she pronounces it differently due to the diacritic.
So, you’re on the verge of publishing a book funded by Kickstarter — looking back on it, how was that process? Would you/are you going to do it again? What did you learn from that?
In a word: stressful. It was stressful as all get out. What’s more, I went through the process twice for the same book (about a year apart). The goal set for my initial campaign was a bit too ambitious, and I adjusted accordingly the second time around.

Running a Kickstarter is also very illuminating, because much of what goes on behind the scenes isn’t someone a backer would worry about. It isn’t until you’re in the thick of it that you come to appreciate the work that goes into a campaign (one that intends to deliver anyway). The logistics of backer rewards, trying to reconcile backer rewards with the cost of producing them and what you’re getting from pledges—it’s no small task. You send out many, many e-mails. You get in touch with folks for prospective rewards, for promotion, for research, for advice, for shipping, for packaging, for taxes, for—well, you get the idea. Again, it’s stressful, and so much more than simply throwing some reward tiers together.

While I don’t currently have any plans to do it again, I’d consider Kickstarter for future projects. It’s a powerful platform, and I’d be a fool not to at least consider.

Besides what I mentioned above with respect to what goes down behind the scenes, I’d say it taught me who I can depend on. And that came with some surprises. I have an greater appreciation for those who went out of their way to help on many fronts. These kind souls showed a genuine interest in championing something that’s dear to my heart. Something I’ve toiled over for years. That is no small gesture, and if it were up to me (and not my notoriously unreliable memory), I’d never forget any of it.

Sassanian Iran — I’m sure you’ve been asked before, but I probably won’t be the last: where did you get this idea? Had you previously researched the time/culture — or was this something you had to do after coming up with the idea.
This is where that tenuous memory comes into play. I can give you a general idea, though. Before settling into Sassanian Iran as a setting, I had an idea of the character and her travels. From there, I set off in search of, well, somewhere that stood out. I came across Sassanian Iran in my research into the history of the Middle East—when or where exactly I can’t be certain. But something there led me to the national epic of Iran, the Shahnameh (and later the Hamzanama).

I can tell you with conviction that the former had an undeniable impact on the course of my research. Like any good epic, it delineated the history of Iran, and did so with flair and magic and adventure. Something in there nudged me toward Sassanian Iran. When I learned of its impact on the history of the world, and of the unsung nature of that impact, I delved deeper. In doing so, I found the perfect setting for Ashtadukht. The legends, the culture, the lands, the history: it all fit.

What’s the one (or two) book/movie/show in the last 5 years that made you say, “I wish I’d written that.”?
Breaking Bad ended in 2013, so that counts, yeah? Naturally, I’d like to see success on that scale. More than that, it’s a drama that I sincerely doubt I’ll ever live up to. The narrative is damn brilliant, and riddled with nuances. It’s powerful, it speaks to people, and it is a shining example that a TV series can be art as much as any movie or book.

Figure I should include a book, since I’m an author and all. In this case, I’ll use Guy Gavriel Kay’s River of Stars (without really going through everything I’ve read). He’s a luminary for a reason, one who wields both history and prose better than I ever could. He’s demonstrated as much time and again, but River of Stars is especially beautiful. There’s an earthiness to the characters, a coziness that describes them as real people. They don’t feel the slightest bit fictitious (I realize some are fantasy depictions of real-world figures). He’s a master of his craft. Certainly of historical fantasy.

I’ve often heard that writers (or artists in general) will forget hundreds of positive reviews but always remember the negative — what’s the worst thing that someone’s said about one of your books, and has it altered your approach to future books?
I’m not sure I could pick out the worst thing. I’ve probably tried to bury it for my own sake. But when I first started writing people would often comment negatively on my prose—purple prose, namely. It wasn’t entirely unfounded. Well, I’ve since learned from that, and evolved my writing to work in some of the more inventive words here and there while generally being more relaxed for the most part.

I did have readers sometimes find issues with characters that must have been influenced by their own issues with the world. Too busy trying to find political or social commentary that wasn’t there. I try to avoid that kind of thing.

With your next book on the verge of release, what comes next? Are you neck deep in a draft, or are you waiting for A Star-Reckoner’s Lot to be launched before diving in?
I’m hunkered down with A Star-Reckoner’s Lot, and doing my utmost to make its release a success. Too focused on keeping the book afloat and securing its future to really concentrate on what’s next. Some authors can manage both; I am not one of them. And I don’t want to look back and think that I should have given A Star-Reckoner’s Lot my undivided attention. In most cases, you get one launch. One. If I’m going to screw it up, I don’t want it to be because I wasn’t giving it my all.

Thank you very much for having me, H. C. You brought up some topics I haven’t had the pleasure of discussing, and I’m grateful for the opportunity. May your beard always be full.

Thanks for your time and the answers, Darrel. I hope the launch goes well.