It has been some time hasn’t it? We’re nearing the end of November, and today I bring you an interview from Russell Cullsion, with his book The Hidden Ones. No witty remarks from me this morning as I’m in need of my morning coffee, so let’s get this started!
First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you write?
I’m a stay-at-home-dad and writer (when I can manage it). I write fantasy and sci-fi novels, and short stories that either go fantasy or horror. (A contemporary fantasy example here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/629152)
How do you develop your plots and characters?
I try to make them feel like real people, so I take bits and pieces of people I’ve known throughout my life and shake until something interesting comes out. For plots, I work backwards, generally coming up with the ending first, and then working step by step to figure out how things got to that point. For The Hidden Ones, I came up with the ending first, without any idea who the people were or why these things were happening. Sort of like stumbling on an evocative painting and inventing a story to explain the scene.
Tell us about your current project.
I’m writing the sequel to my first novel The Hidden Ones. There’s not much I could say about it without spoilers, so basically it’s what happens next. It picks up immediately after the first book. I envision this series as being two long books.
Who would you say is the main character of your novels? And tell me a little bit about them!
Sera is the main main character. At the start of the story, she’s 17-almost-18. She was born with highly problematic magical powers that would make her an outcast if anyone found out. She lives in a little village on the edge of the continent where she can stay hidden, but even that will soon be a problem with the coming expectations of adulthood. Saving her the pain of having to figure out how to deal with this, her world is instead helpfully invaded by otherworldly creatures that exhibit powerful versions of her magic, and everything is well and truly ruined. And those things show up in chapter 1.
What advice would you give new writers on how to delve into creative fiction?
Read a lot, and not just in your preferred genre. Branch out. If someone recommends an author you’ve never read before, give them a shot. Finding your own place means first understanding what sort of places there are.
What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding within your book?
For the overall aesthetic and technology level, I went with the mid- to late-1700’s colonial America. The book is not set there (or on Earth at all), but that was the starting point. The world is different and they are late to the game when it comes to some technologies (for in-world reasons). For example, they don’t have factories yet, and guns are fairly recent. The magic is all mind-magic, so I read up on all manner of psychic phenomena when making mine.
What inspires you to write?
I love to read. When I’m reading a really good book, I might just zone out and let my imagination run free with whatever I just read. It would look like I’m just staring at the same page for minutes on end, but that’s because I’m temporarily not there. At some point, growing up, the thought occurred to me that maybe I’d wanna write someday, something that could let other people’s imaginations run free. It took a while, but here we go.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Learning the self-discipline to complete the process. Prior to this, I’d worked for corporate America for 17 years, always on someone else’s schedule. Suddenly having the freedom to completely self-manage meant a lot of wasted time. I mean… a lot. I technically started writing this book in 2009.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
There is a chapter in the middle of the book where three characters (one major, two less-major) are pushed past their breaking points. They break in very different ways. The event is huge, in terms of the story, because everything is different from then on. I can’t really say if it’s my favorite, because it was hard to write.
Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?
I learned a ton about the writing process itself. I wasted lots of time rewriting the first few chapters over and over. I finally forced myself to just move on, and after I’d written the entire rest of the book, I ended up rewriting those first few chapters anyway (shaking my head the whole time). The lesson: Write the whole book. You probably won’t even know what those first parts should look like until you’ve seen the whole thing. I also learned I need to keep better notes so I don’t screw stuff up within the text, introduce plot holes, have characters mysteriously know something they shouldn’t (or forget something they should know), etc.
It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?
The hardest part is when I’m first writing the character. It takes some experimentation to get something I want to keep. After I’ve been at it for a while, I get a feel for them, and I can go back and fix the earlier parts to match. Once I’ve written their POV for a while, I can get back into their head by re-reading what I’ve already written.
What are your future project(s)?
After I finish book 2, I have a sci-fi novel in the early stages, and other fantasy novels in various idea phases. When I started, I worried I only had ideas for my first book, but as the years go by, I’ve come to realize I have more ideas than I’ll ever realistically be able to use.
If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?
I’m a creator at heart. For my own personal happiness I need to be making things. I love painting, both on the computer and with the real thing on canvas. My jobs before this were just jobs; things I did to pay the bills. I couldn’t see myself doing that forever and didn’t like thinking about it.
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)?
I’m most active on Reddit in /r/fantasy. My username is RussellCullison
My other links of note: