It has been a very long time.
SPFBO5 is officially A-Go! Once again, I have returned to interview all challengers. Today I bring you the first interview for SPFBO5, with Erica Drayton. She is the author of Daxton, and I’m delighted to have her with me on my blog!
To all comers
First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you write?
While I’d love to make writing my career, unfortunately, writing is what I do when I am home from work and on the weekends. I started writing novel length stories about four years ago. In that time, I’ve been writing nothing but fantasy, all taking place inside a universe I created called Stonehaven.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
I’m more character-driven when I write my stories. I feel like I can’t truly figure out the story until I know who the main character is, what his/her motivations are, and what their goal is. Once I can clearly picture the character it’s like fitting all the edge pieces of a puzzle together, making filling in the rest of it that much easier.
Tell us about your current project.
My current project takes place in Stonehaven but is vastly different from my debut novel. I wanted to explore a different region and an entirely different group of characters as well. Lately, I’ve been interested in folklore. Specifically, tribal people like Native Indians. I’m writing a story about a boy named River and his struggled to grow up just like a father he never knew, all while avenging the murders of his entire family. It’s a story of self-discovery, revenge, and mystery all in one.
Is this your first entry into SPFBO? If not, how many times have you entered?
This is indeed my first time entering SPFBO. I have been following it for a few years now and had always wanted to enter but never had a completed and published story, till now.
Who would you say is the main character of your novels? And tell me a little bit about them!
The main character of the debut novel I submitted to SPFBO is also the title of the book; Daxton. He is a rather stubborn character, but I wanted him to be that way. You see, on his eighteenth birthday he is told by his parent’s that he was left on their doorstep when he was just a baby. This news devastates Daxton. He immediately can think of only one thing, finding his birth mother so he can get some answers. The main one being, why did she abandon him in the first place? Along the way he must learn that some secrets are not meant to be uncovered and that family is however you define it. Of course, it takes him a LONG time to figure this important lesson out.
What advice would you give new writers on how to delve into creative fiction?
My advice is the same for everyone; READ! There is no stronger tool to learn how to be creative than to read from those who came before. And in a time of digital libraries, the Gutenberg Library and KU, there are truly no excuses for not reading. It was reading that made me want to tell a story. And reading that taught me the fundamentals of storytelling. I also use reading for more technical things, such as formatting the front and back matter of a book, the inside pages, the spine and back cover. There is so much that can be learned from books. So, go read something already!
What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding within your book?
I honestly looked at a lot of fantasy maps. I mean a lot. Google search was my friend for several months. After looking over as many maps as I could get my hands on, I got to work cultivating my own. Starting with random scraggly scrawlings on a piece of paper which soon graduated to the same scribbles, only this time using my iPad Pro and Pencil. I found the act of illustrating a map, its varying bodies of water, naming the regions, was how I started to worldbuild Stonehaven. I know I looked at the wizard of oz, LotR, and maps like that. I hope to one day have maps in my own books.
What inspires you to write?
Great stories written by others, inspires me to write. I read (and finish) a book and no sooner do I close that book does the same question come to mind, “can I write a story that captivating?” If I finish a book asking myself that question, I know two things for sure: 1. The book I just read was REALLY good and 2. Writing is my true passion and if not for my desire to read I would spend all of my time writing.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
I honestly don’t recall having a hard time with this book. I wrote 85K+ words of it in 13 days exactly. That is still the shortest time I managed to crank out a vomit draft. During the first 2 rounds of self-edits I managed to beef that 85K to 90K+. The editing sucked, as editing is supposed to do, but as I know that is the only means to get to the end result of a published book, I powered through. Truth be told, the hardest part for me with this book came once I completed it. I forced myself to wait an additional 2 years so that I could write a lot more novels and stories in that time. My idea was to make a debut of my work, but not with just one book, I wanted to release multiple within a year. I’m proud to say I am well on my way. I’m glad I waited, but it was definitely the hardest part.
What is your routine when writing, if any? If you don’t follow a routine, why not?
Following a set schedule has always been the best for me. I find my lack of writing as many words as I am accustomed to comes when I am no longer able to stick to a schedule. Normally, I work from 9 – 5, get home from work and eat dinner, then I spend about 2 – 3 hrs writing. I am lucky enough to have a wife who is also a writer, so she understands my schedule and what I need in order to do what I love. On the weekends, if I’m not busy doing family things, this is when I am able to spend the most time writing and crank out the most words. On a good writing day, I can accomplish 1.5k to 2k words per hour while sitting up at my desk. Writing on my laptop is a comfort but I find that comfort yields less words.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
By far my favorite part when writing Daxton is a scene near the middle of the book. Daxton and his friends are in a marketplace in Ebonthorn, looking for a compass. While there, they catch the attention of two people. One is a really bad dude. He’s like the leader of a gang. The other is a crush Daxton develops on one of the merchants. Anyway, they do something to the bad dude to make him want to attack them when the marketplace is nearly empty. This was a moment where I backed myself and my characters into a corner. They were surrounded by goons with weapons and they were unarmed. I had to think fast. How can I save them? Then it hit me like a ton of bricks! The girl in the marketplace approaches them, wearing a veil that is covering her face. The goons say cruel and sexual things to her as she’s walking past them, but she doesn’t flinch. Instead, she lowers it and a barrage of arrows come out of nowhere attacking the bad guys. To this day that is still my favorite scene! It taught me that no sticky situation is ever as sticky as you might thing. There is always a way out.
Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?
I learned a lot about pacing. A great storyteller knows when to take their time with a story and when to get to the point. This story, and the larger series it is a part of, has taught me to take my time, enjoy the scenery and the people.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? A gardener or an architect?
I am a “plantser” by nature. I plot for sure. The outline for my current project is 6K+ words long! However, and this is the case for all my stories, I usually only end up following about 15% of my outlines once I actually start writing. You never know what can end up happening when the writing process begins. I don’t like to limit myself to the outline I’ve set out. I use it merely as a guide, just in case I find myself unable to write or losing my speed.
It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?
After examining all the stories I’ve written thus far and all the ones I plan on writing in the future, I realized something; all of my main characters are male. Seeing as I’m not male, I had to ask myself the obvious question, why don’t I write more female leading characters? I must confess I still don’t know. Maybe because women are much more complex and what drives men to do the things that they do is much easier? All I know is, I find I’m able to close my eyes and see not just my character but the people around him easier. That’s not to say I don’t plan on writing a story in the distant future where a woman is the main character, because I do. In fact, I have a story idea that will revolve around 5 women, all of them main characters, and all of them badass. But don’t look for this story for another 5 years at least!
What are your future project(s)?
My future projects are vast! I have 60+ novel-length ideas all within Stonehaven alone. I also have a mystery series that would be like a cross between Kinsey Millhone, Hercule Poirot, and Sherlock Holmes! But I think what I really want to mention are my Stonehaven Fables. I started them earlier this year and they are my pride and joy. When I sit down to write a novel, especially one that will end up being an epic fantasy, I will create countless characters. Some will have a name, and some won’t, but all of them will have a story. I can’t create, even a nameless character, without giving them some purpose for existence. And some of them, I love so much I just don’t want to leave them on the page and never hear from them again. That is where my Stonehaven Fables come in. They will be an endless supply of short stories based on the characters in my novels that I want to tell my readers more about! These short stories can go anywhere from 2K words to as long as 7K. These stories will release once or twice a month and are exclusive to patrons.
What is your favorite book ever written? Who are your favorite authors?
I’d have to say The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. The movie is great, too. But I’ve read this book multiple times and each time I love it more and more. I have a few authors whom I truly admire: Agatha Christie, Sue Grafton, Brian Jacques, & Terry Pratchett.
If you’re looking for authors who are currently living: Ransom Riggs, Jonathan Kellerman, Christopher Moore, Dean Koontz, and Gregory Maguire (to name a few).
What makes a good villain?
I think, historically speaking, what used to make a great villain was when a person would do something evil for evils sake. That seems to have changed a lot since then. Nowadays, people want to analyze the motivations of a villain. For me what makes a villain great is what makes him/her similar to the main character (protagonist). At the end of the day, a great story has these two opposing forces, each after the same thing, but often for different reasons. Once you know the what and why about your main character then defining the villain becomes that much easier. And sometimes, once the villain is deciphered, they may teach you something you hadn’t considered about the character of your protagonist.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
In my spare time I love to watch movies. I love old black & white movies from the 50s and 60s. But I also love a great silent film. I find movies that were made pre “code” are more dynamic and fascinating and the acting is infinitely more engaging. I’m always looking for something new to watch on TCM (Turner Classic Movies) or re-watching some of my favorite movies/actors.
If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?
I think I’d love to own a bookstore. Or be a consultant in a bookstore? Though, I don’t think they exist. I want to be like a bartender you tell your troubles to and then I’ll reply with the book you should read that will either solve your problems, give you a different perspective, or take your mind off of whatever is bothering you. Can I do that for a living? Or maybe a job that involves reading books all day long? You know, for research for the job I mentioned…
You can travel to any planet or moon in the Solar System. Where would you go, why and what would you do there?
I’d go to Jupiter. At first, I was going to say, Mars, because as it’s not much further out from the sun than Earth I suppose it would be safe. But it seems like everyone is going to Mars these days. So, Jupiter it is. Then again, Saturn does have all those lovely rings… As for what I would do there? Settle, most likely. I’m sure Saturn would be fabulously quiet and empty this time of year. Just the ideal place where a writer can get some work done without interruption. Except, can I get Wi-Fi on Saturn? Hmm…
Pick any three characters from a fiction novel. These are now your roadtrip crew. Where do you go and what do you do?
I’m a mystery buff! If I could pick any fictional characters in literature, I would have to pick Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes and J.B. Fletcher, of course! Part of me wants to take them all on the Orient Express. But that might not be fun enough. Honestly, I think we should all go over to some rich person’s villa where they invite about 12 or so guests that all hate and despise either each other or the host. Let the murder, the mayhem, the mystery, and the sleuthing begin! That would lovely! Ah, and make this villa on a deserted island. Wouldn’t want any of the suspects getting away, now would we…
Finally, 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 on Twitter 99.9% of the time https://twitter.com/ericadrayton. Now, if you are a writer, I have started a VIP Writer blog that posts every Monday morning. I recommend it to you as you might find my thoughts and journey through self-publishing interesting. I also set-up a newsletter so you can get an email with my post once a week, for your convenience. That link is here: https://eldrayton.com/newsletter/ or you can just check out my blog posts here to see if they might interest you: https://eldrayton.com/vip-blog/
Lastly, I mentioned I have a Patreon, where my Stonehaven Fables are exclusive to my patrons. They start at just $1 per creation and I invite anyone, especially writers who are thinking about creating their own Patreon account but are on the fence, to take a look at it: https://patreon.com/pdbooks/