Back with a new interview! Luke Tarzian is next up in the interviewer’s chair.
First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you write?
I’m a bookstore manager by day and a semi-functioning adult by night (I think I’m doing this properly, right?). My happiness is entirely dependent on whether or not I get to pet a dog on a semi-regular basis.
Oh, and I write adult dark fantasy. ☺
How do you develop your plots and characters?
Haphazardly? With regards to plot, I try to at least have an ending mapped out, if not already written before I start a draft. Obviously, things change during the drafting process, but I’ve found that having a general idea of where I’m going helps immensely. This leads into character development as well. It gives me an endpoint to their emotional arc. I love digging into the psychology of my characters regardless of how big a role they play in the story. I’ve found it absolutely leads to a better emotional investment for me, which is great because if I can’t get invested in my characters then my readers probably won’t be able to either.
Tell us about your current project.
My current project is the Shadow Twins trilogy, more specifically its first installment, Vultures. Vultures is about a man trying to end a war against demons, both physical, emotional, and cognitive while maintaining a level head. I would even go so far as to call it psychological fantasy as the vast majority of the major players are dealing with loss and mental illness, both of which I have become intimately familiar with in the last year.
Is this your first entry into SPFBO? If not, how many times have you entered?
It is my first!
Who would you say is the main character of your novels? And tell me a little bit about them!
For Vultures there are really three: Theailys, Serece, and Behtréal, the latter being the antagonist of the story. They are all, in some way, shape, or form, representations of myself.
Theailys is a man dealing with depression, a bit of schizophrenia, guilt, and a murderous presence keen to take possession of his body every now and then, all while having tasked himself with trying to end a war. He is scholarly, easily agitated, but extremely loyal.
Serece is a centuries old mountain woman with a temper. Like Theailys she too harbors an immense amount of guilt. She is the royal bastard, loathed by her mother and step sisters, but loved by her adoptive father. Her people, the phantaxians, are bound to their mountain world by a plague. As such, Serece longs for freedom.
Behtréal is meticulous, intelligent, and ambitious. He desires only two things: vengeance against the Ariathan Empire for their centuries of needless slaughter in the name of conquest, and the means to resurrect his wife, son, and entire race.
What advice would you give new writers on how to delve into creative fiction?
Fuck writing to market. Write what you want. Write what makes you happiest.
What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding within your book?
You know, I’m not really even too sure. There are bits and pieces inspired by Norse mythology, my general love of dogs. Some of the story is social commentary about mental illness and fascism. I’m also someone who really likes rainy days and clouds, so I suppose that lent itself to general aesthetic and color palette of the story.
What inspires you to write?
My friends and family. Dealing with anxiety; writing works perfectly as an outlet for me and lets me work through a lot of stress and insecurity. It’s very introspective in that way.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Realizing it was going to be a trilogy. It originally started out as a standalone novel called Shadow Twins, but then my brother-in-law gave me some notes. I rewrote the entire first part of the story based on one comment and basically ended up with 71,000 words worth of new content.
What is your routine when writing, if any? If you don’t follow a routine, why not?
I used to aim for like x-amount of words per day, five days a week, but it burnt me out eventually, to the point where I almost shelved this project. Now, I write in bursts and I’ve found it’s made what I write a lot more satisfying.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
Chapter 13—Atrocities. It’s the longest in the book, one of the darkest emotionally (are you starting to get a feel for my writing yet?), and one of the most revealing. It was a pretty big undertaking considering how many threads I had to weave together, but it was extremely satisfying to complete.
Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?
I learned to a) really dig into my own psychology as far as writing characters goes and b) stop obsessing over magic systems, which I was something that really sidetracked initial iterations of this story when I started writing it four years ago.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? A gardener or an architect?
Probably a bit of both. I give myself enough of a roadmap and then kind of let the writing go where it needs to. I’ve found in the past that if I’m working off an extremely detailed outline it a) makes the story feel a bit too predictable b) makes the drafting process a bit boring and c) pigeonholes me.
It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?
Gently aggressive. Like I mentioned above, a lot of my characters are manifestations of my own emotions and mannerisms. For me, personally, it’s important to really look at myself as a person and what I’m dealing with emotionally in order to have my characters be as sympathetic as I want them to be. It’s also important to be gentle during this process, especially when you come to realize some pretty dark things about yourself while writing.
What are your future project(s)?
I’m busy working on Tomb of Memory, which is the follow-up to Vultures, and a pre-Vultures novelette called The Laughing Heart.
What is your favorite book ever written? Who are your favorite authors?
I don’t know that I can pick a book. That’s like asking who my favorite pet was. As far as authors go: Edgar Allan Poe, Neil Gaiman, Ursula Le Guin, and Brandon Sanderson.
What makes a good villain?
Sympathetic qualities. If I can relate to the villain in some way on an emotional level, then I’m going to be a lot more invested in the story. I’m not a huge fan of villains or antagonists who are evil just for the sake of being evil. It gets boring after a while.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Read, go for walks at the Rose Bowl, listen to music, and draw (I did the cover art and book design for Vultures!)
If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?
Probably a vet. I love animals immensely.
You can travel to any planet or moon in the Solar System. Where would you go, why and what would you do there?
Mars, because why not? I need to see of J’onn J’onzz really exists.
Pick any three characters from a fiction novel. These are now your roadtrip crew. Where do you go and what do you do?
Cord, from River of Thieves; Vin from Mistborn; and Aziraphale from Good Omens. I don’t know where the hell we’d go or what we’d do, but there are a lot of contradicting personalities between these three and I feel like something nuts would happen.
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’ve got a website (luketarzian.com), I’m on Goodreads and Facebook (rarely), and I’m a pretty frequent user of Twitter (@luke_tarzian)
Website: Luke Tarzian.com