I’m starting to run low on SPFBO interviews! It feels odd but I think I’m down to the last half dozen or so. If anyone hasn’t been in touch yet, do so 🙂 I’d like to keep this going as long as possible.
Now, I return with a new interview. The next victim to step into the lair of the Thousand Scars is Jeffrey Collyer, another one who wishes to seduce and ensare readers with his sexy book covers:
Check out some of my previous SPFBO interviews down below:
First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you write?
Character-driven fantasy. There is action in my stories, but it’s the character(s) who are front and centre: their thoughts, feelings, and emotions. My SPFBO entry, Dreams and Shadows, is very much about the main character, Michael. There are some familiar tropes there, but I hope they’re explored in a fresh way.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
A new story usually starts with an emotion for me. It might be fear, loss, anger, depression, or something else, but that’s what motivates me to create a new world. Everything else derives from that.
For Dreams and Shadows, it was loneliness and abandonment. I pictured a young man sitting alone in a dilapidated flat in modern England and thought, “I wonder what his backstory is. Surely he’s so much more than he believes.” The magic, the creatures, the antagonist, and the different peoples were all then created to support Michael’s emotional journey. They all have pretty specific meanings as Michael goes through the “real” story of discovering who he is.
Tell us about your current project.
I have so many story ideas, and I love them all! It’s almost crippling
But my main project is completing my series. The first two books have been out for a while now. As I say, the first book is all about Michael, and everything is pretty focused on him. The second book widens the view somewhat. Some other characters are given more depth, and you just start to see the evil that seeks Michael isn’t as two-dimensional as you might have thought at first.
The last book in the series is a much, much more complex book to write, because I’m tying in so many different stories, substories, and themes/meanings into something that feels really natural. I’m having to stretch myself in ways I’d never imagined. It gives me an enormous sense of satisfaction when I’ve finished a draft of an important section, but it’s taking me a bit longer because of it.
Who would you say is the main character of your novels? And tell me a little bit about them!
My protag0nist is Michael. He’s a young man in modern England. He’s the traditional tall, dark, and handsome, but he’s also something of a recluse and doesn’t “get” the whole partying and socialising scene. As he spends more time in the world of Aylosia, he also discovers he can’t fight to save his life – quite literally!
One of the things I wanted to explore a bit in this series was the question of “What is beauty?”, so I’ve made some characters stunningly attractive, while others less so, and then used other character traits or motivations in juxtaposition.
He’s a pretty sympathetic character, but he’s also completely lost in this magical world, and that really shows. In many ways, that gives him too much time to think about the various tragedies in his life.
What advice would you give new writers on how to delve into creative fiction?
Write what you love! There’s the whole write-to-market thing – it’s been around for a very long time of course, but it’s really taken off in the last couple of years. And if that’s your thing then go for it.
But for me, I have to write what I love. If I were to sit down and try to write to market, I’d start to find writing really tedious and I’d probably start resenting it. That’s just me, of course, and as the saying goes, your mileage may vary.
But I’d always advise anyone to write what you love.
What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding within your book?
I suffer from depression, and I was going through a seriously bad patch. The only thing that made nights remotely bearable as I lay awake in bed was to imagine fantastical stories. And it was during one of those nights that the image of Michael alone in his flat appeared. The story then unfolded from there.
So, I guess you would call my own depression the greatest inspiration for me. Not necessarily the most cheerful of muses!
What inspires you to write?
I’ll often read the news or come across some of conflict or tension in the world and I’ll just think to myself that it would be really interesting to explore that through a story. “How would the magic system be a metaphor for that?” I’ll ask myself, plus a host of other questions. And soon enough I’ll have a rough idea of the story outline.
In the end, these stories create something of a life of their own and start demanding attention. In the end, I have stories to tell, and somehow these stories must be told.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Oddly enough, Dreams and Shadows was by far the easiest book to write. Somehow my deep depression allowed me to express myself and explore this world with all the freedom I needed. The subsequent books have been much harder to write!
So, I guess the hardest part actually came in the publishing of the book. I found the whole experience bewildering and it was a really steep learning curve, but there was nothing like holding the physical copy of it in my hands the first time.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
I kind of have two favourite chapters, but I’ll just mention one here. It’s about two-thirds to three-quarters of the way through the book, and Michael has finally had enough and wants his life to end.
Something happens to knock him unconscious and maybe kill him, and he ends up in a kind to dream world. This chapter is really the turning point of the book, and arguably of the whole series. For myself, it was also something of a healing chapter to write, so I guess it will always remain special to me.
Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?
I learned I could write 😉
And I learned that I loved it.
I’d never actually started writing with the intention of publishing. I just had this story building in my head and it was growing so big I knew I had to write it all down just to remember it all. And the words just came and came.
I had always considered myself more or a scientist than artist, but my entire self-paradigm flipped once I hit publish.
It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?
Characters are always motivated by something, and that “something” will almost always be an emotion of some description: love, anger, fear, greed, etc. And all of those emotions are pretty common to all of us to greater or lesser degrees. So, it’s really just about identifying what emotions are driving them and why, then using our own experience of that emotion and maybe amplifying it.
Very few people set out to do evil – or even think that’s what they’re doing when everyone else sees it that way. People will do what they believe is the “right” thing to do – even if that “right” thing is utterly self-serving.
Get into a character’s emotions and even just a little bit about their backstory, and you can start to understand them better.
What are your future project(s)?
As I say, I have a lot of story ideas: too many! I guess when I’ve finished my current series I’ll see which of them is screaming the loudest to be written.
I do have the beginnings of something completely different written. It’s a satirical look at the world of business and politics set in a future where zombies live alongside… well, non-zombies, and has the working title of Zombies, Inc. I think something else fantasy is likely to get the nod next, though.
But I’m also re-editing my existing books. I was so naïve when I published Dreams and Shadows, and I’ve learned so much since then, that I want to make it as polished as I can, including adding in a few new scenes. I’ll then republish those first two books when the third is finished and ready to go.
If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?
I’m just starting out with some photography, and if I ever became good enough, I’d love to make a living doing that.
What is your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, here on Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?
My author site: http://jeffreycollyer.com
My Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/aylosia/
Or just email: firstname.lastname@example.org