SPFBO Author Interview: Samuel Gately “The Fire Eye Refugee”

And we’re back!

First of all, lots of excitement. BookNest Fantasy Awards recently went live. . .and The Thousand Scars is longlisted as Best Debut! The categories are chock full of amazing authors and great books, so visit the website by clicking on the fancy image below! Voting ends on the 14th October. Pick the best. *coughs and points to my hat full of change*

 

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So today I bring you a new author to the table of doom being Samuel Gately, author of his spiffing book The Fire Eye Refugee.

Check out a selection of past interviews down below:

SPFBO Author Interview: Jeffrey Collyer “Dreams and Shadows”

SPFBO Entry Interview: Keith Mcardle: “Fallen Empire”

SPFBO Entry Interview: Alex Anthony “Servants of Rage”

 

First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you write?  

 

Hi! My name’s Samuel Gately and I write epic fantasy. I have some heavy influences which I channel into it. These include classic crime noir like Dashiell Hammet and Raymond Chandler, spy stories like Ian Fleming’s James Bond books, and good old Elmore Leonard. The result is firmly rooted in fantasy worlds but with core elements of espionage and mystery. Magic and lengthy descriptions of magical elements and systems often take a backseat to intrigue.

 

I’ve got five books out. Three are in a series called The Spies of Dragon and Chalk, which I sometime pitch as the idea of James Bond carrying a sword and working for a dragonarmy. My other series starts with The Fire Eye Refugee, my entry into SPFBO 2018, a story of a spy fighting for her survival as her newly built life is upended by the aftermath of war.  

 

How do you develop your plots and characters?

 

In pieces. I tend to build on key moments, or really feelings, that inspire me and force me to start typing. I start weaving those moments into larger storylines and before I know it, I’ve created the framework for a book I’m excited about. For The Fire Eye Refugee, the whole thing started when I became intrigued by the idea of a character with two names. As in two completely different names which meant entirely different things to different people. That was the foundation for my main character and central to who she is. She built a second life with a new name and developed a new persona go with it. Her fierce defense of her world is a defining characteristic, as is her fear that it will be taken away, that she can’t escape the name she was born with and the fate it signifies.

 

I also may be somewhat unique in that I tend to inflict horribly strict time structures on my books. Each of my Spies books takes place in five days/nights. And each of my Fire Eye books occurs between the opening and the closing of the Fire Eye, which is a six night celestial event. I was well into my third book before realizing that this was becoming a universal thing for me. I like fast-moving reads and the snowball effect of action and mystery piling up. I am less of a fan of the long journeys and slow development arcs that are sometimes common in epic fantasy. Apparently, for fear of rambling, I feel the need to design ways to restrict myself. The time structure keeps me very focused on having a tightly woven plot and well-grounded characters.     

 

Tell us about your current project.

 

At the risk of being obnoxious, I just can’t. It’s too early. Too much light makes the baby go blind. I will, however, 100% be continuing forward with both of my current series, I just don’t know which will come first. Like every other writer I know, I’m dying to make writing a larger part of my life, and that means listening to the readers and giving them what they want.  

 

Who would you say is the main character of your novels? And tell me a little bit about them!

 

Kay the fetch is the main character of The Fire Eye Refugee. She is a sort of detective that hunts for missing children on the behalf of their families. Part of the job is tracking down runaways. The other part is finding and bringing home those who were taken at the point of a knife. She is a bit of an odd fit within the rigid society she calls home and faces a lot of danger for that reason. Kay has an attitude, but is smart enough to keep her thoughts to herself and preserve her ability to strike from the shadows. She has a team she works closely with and she secretly treasures her role as a mentor. Just don’t ask her about her past or you might get a face full of demonlord pepper (hint: mace).

What advice would you give new writers on how to delve into creative fiction?

 

Find a way to manage your own mental health and wellbeing and stick to it. Writing creative fiction for an audience can be a taxing endeavor. You will get negative reviews, both fair and wildly unfair. You will get indifference, which is sometimes worse. You will struggle with jealousy and self-doubt. But if you pay attention to your mental health (the same way you do your physical health), you can find ways to control the peaks and valleys.

 

For me, I have a tendency to gloss over positive feedback and deeply internalize negative feedback. I’ve learned that it is important for me to short-circuit that tendency and really allow myself the time to enjoy a good review or a positive career development or milestone. I can’t cheat myself of those feelings or I suffer and then my dedication to the craft suffers. I think everyone has a different answer. The only wrong way to do it is to pay no attention to what is an important part of being a writer – finding ways to be consistent and confident in your work.

 

What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding within your book?

 

I lived in Japan for a couple years and have studied Tae Kwon Do (Korean) for many years, and both of those cultures have a major influence on one side of the cultural conflict at the center of The Fire Eye Refugee. The other side of that coin is largely drawn from the Scotch-Irish and border English described in the book Albion’s Seed (a great nonfiction read for writers developing fictional cultures and looking for good examples of ways of defining/describing real cultures). There’s zero historical accuracy and consistency, of course, I just cherry-picked the elements I wanted to see in a story. I also have a scene, one of my favorite to write ever, which was inspired by the alley fight in Big Trouble in Little China, in case you were worried I was getting highbrow.

 

What inspires you to write?

 

I just get super jazzed over the stories. I keep chewing over them in my mind, getting more and more excited, until I just have to get them on paper, and then I have to get them closer to the image in my mind, and then I’m trapped until I’ve written an entire book from start to finish. It keeps happening, and while it does take its toll in time and energy, I love it and wouldn’t give it up for anything.

 

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

 

Writing the racism was a challenge. The culture this book explores is steeped in, in many ways defined by, racism, and the plot does not shy away from tackling the topic. I found it tricky though. I didn’t want to write a fundamentally depressing book about how people are inevitably cruel and broken, and I didn’t want a cartoonish villains-get-their-due-hooray tale. I had to find the right balance and try to put a real person in the middle. I had to describe someone who doesn’t let others define her without making it seem like that is an easy thing to do. Still not sure I did it justice.  

 

What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

 

I already mentioned the alley fight, but another that comes to mind is a big twist about halfway through the book. It forces Kay (and the reader) to reevaluate everything they’ve heard to that point. I love writing twists, carefully setting them up and then pulling the trigger. If it’s written right, you can just feel the blood draining from our hero’s face as she suddenly realizes the game has changed.

 

Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?

 

This was my first time writing a female protagonist and I really enjoyed exploring that perspective. This is also a single POV narrative, and that carries its own challenges and opportunities. (Both of those elements contrasted with the previous books I’ve written in the Spies series, which features dual male protagonists and secondary POVs.) With the single POV, you can get much more intimate and spend a lot of time on character development, but it becomes harder to develop secondary characters and you have to leave some interesting plot threads on the sidelines because your character can’t be everywhere.  

 

It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?

 

That’s a good question, but I would say I struggle more with communicating who my characters are than understanding them. I spend so much time seeing the world through their eyes, I feel like I know them incredibly well. But then someone will give me feedback or ask me a question, and I’ll realize I haven’t shown them what I see (which is 100% my job as a writer, no excuses). The main thing I do is think about every action my characters say and every word my characters say and where they are holding back and where they are letting loose. You need the right balance. Too restrained and you risk the character not being known to the readers. Too loose and you get obvious, unrealistic characters.

 

What are your future project(s)?

 

More of the same. Epic fantasy with that espionage, crime noir edge.

 

If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?

 

I’m so impressed by the artwork out there. I lose hours surfing websites like Artstation and Deviant Art for fantasy-related art. I would love to have talents in that space.

 

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)?

 

Best would be signing up for my mailing list here. I post any major updates to my website www.samuelgately.com and through @samuel_gately and on Facebook via Samuel Gately Books.

 

And finally, thanks for having me! Pleasure to speak with you. I’m thrilled to be a part of another SPFBO, such a cool thing. It has introduced me to so many great fantasy writers and helped me stock my Kindle for a lifetime or two.

You’re most welcome!

That is all for now. I will return this weekend for another cracking interview. Now. . I must go and prepare The Thousand Scars for war. We have a vote to win.

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