It is David Reiss’s turn to take the road into my little hideout for his lobotomy. I mean interview.
I’ve just given the game away!
I also think his book cover is really pimping.
I need coffee.
I’m always on the lookout for more people to interview. Just drop me a message!
As always, I have a list of my current interviews for SPFBO(5) down below. Check out whichever you like!
First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you write?
Greetings! My name is David Reiss: software quality-assurance engineer by trade and sci-fi / fantasy geek by passion. When I was young, I was that weird kid with my nose in a book and my head in the clouds. I was the table-top role-playing-game geek, the comic book nerd, the storyteller and dreamer.
Fortunately, I haven’t changed too much.
The majority of my far-too-many hobbies have all been inspired by the crafts and skills seen speculative fiction genres; I’ve forged medieval armor and build replica lightsabers, programmed autonomous drones and brewed my own mead, learned to start fires with sticks, and accidentally set things on fire with lasers. Also, I’ve become equally mediocre at multiple martial arts, archery, swordsmanship, paintball and laser tag.
I’ve been writing and telling stories for all of my life but only relatively recently made the transition to completing novel-length projects. My first published trilogy, the Chronicles of Fid, lay within the difficult-to-categorize sub-genre of superheroic prose, but I fully intend to explore the entire gamut from stone-age low-fantasy to space opera.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
It varies from project to project.
Some works (such as the Chronicles of Fid) are very character oriented; I’ll start with simple emotions or interactions that I want to portray, and then expand outwards to determine both motivation and growth arcs. Often, I’ll write a vignette that covers a significant moment in that character’s life, and spend time thinking about the circumstances that led up to that moment or about how that moment will affect future events. I diagram interactions with other characters and detail traits that support or oppose each other. Exploring WHY characters act the way they do is as important as detailing WHAT the characters do. The overarching plots evolve from the characters’ interconnecting wants and needs.
Other times, a brainstorming session might result in an interesting battle sequence, or I’ll think of an intriguing theme, or a philosophical argument that I want to explore…in those cases, the main plot is often developed first. Objectives are defined and mapped out, as well as a somewhat loose plan for how the characters will attempt to overcome the obstacles in their path. Characters are created and evolved to match the plotline’s requirements rather than the other way around.
One thing is certain: No matter what methodology I follow to develop my plots and characters…I will probably change my mind and try another approach at least twice before I’m done.
Tell us about your current project.
The project that I entered into the SPFBO is Fid’s Crusade, a contemporary-fantasy / sci-fi superheroic action-thriller. Narrated from the perspective of a supervillain, it is a tale of grief, rage, guilt and violence. Also, of humanity rediscovered.
The novel explores the mindset and motivations of a long-time supervillain, and follows the villain’s adventures as he is drawn into battle against heroes, other criminals, aliens…and his own conscience.
In the end, it may take a villain to save the world from those entrusted with the world’s protection.
Is this your first entry into SPFBO? If not, how many times have you entered?
This is my first time entering a book into the Self-Publishing Fantasy Blog-Off. It has definitely been an interesting experience thus far! I’m looking forward to seeing how the competition progresses.
Who would you say is the main character of your novels? And tell me a little bit about them!
The main character is a powered-armor-wearing supervillain by the name of Doctor Fid. Much of the novel revolves around exploring the tragic events that re-shaped him from being a brilliant but awkward academic, and instead turned him into a monster. He is clever, intensely competent, and—in his own peculiar way—kind, but he is also changed and chained by his own past.
Doctor Fid is not an evil character…he is human, and he’s been broken by circumstance. The novel is as much about his own emotional recovery as it is about his battles.
What advice would you give new writers on how to delve into creative fiction?
First…Read a lot! That’s how you learn. Also, make sure to try reading books outside of your preferred genre(s). Your own narrative voice will be improved by exposure to many forms of literary expression.
Second: Raw imagination is important for creative fiction, but your prose will have greater impact when imagination is supplemented by personal experience. You don’t need to fight a dragon in real-life in order to write a fantasy novel…but there are thousands of things you’ve experienced that will add color and vibrancy to every scene. Perhaps you’ve sat near a roaring campfire…remember the way wet-wood crackled explosively, and the sting of smoke in your eyes whenever the breeze shifted, the way the flames shifted and flickered, or how the heat pressed against your skin like a physical force. When you describe dragonfire, use your own sensory memories to build a more authentic experience for your readers.
Pay attention to the world around you and use the real world to inform your fictional worlds.
What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding within your book?
The story itself takes place in a modern world that is largely analogous to our own. Significant portions of the story take place in Boston and Manhattan, for example. I visited both cities, studied maps, and sought out additional information about the cities’ histories and character. Several places mentioned in the books are real places. Others were invented (or significantly altered) for plot purposes.
As for the people who inhabit the world…there were no characters that were based upon real people, but many characters were in some way flavored by my own experiences or the experiences of people I know.
The question is difficult to answer exhaustively because so much of real-life is inspirational.
What inspires you to write?
I’ve been telling stories for so long that I honestly cannot remember when (or why) I started, but here is my hypothesis: I read a lot when I was a kid and the people who wrote those books, who inspired me and entertained me so very much, were my heroes. I always felt as though those authors had, within those pages, opened up a part of themselves to share something deeply personal.
The reason I write is. I think, to reach out across the void and connect with readers I’ll never meet. To be part of that cycle of inspiration and entertainment, in the hopes that someday some other author will remember me fondly when they themselves are asked this question.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Fid’s Crusade was my first novel-length project, and the Chronicles of Fid was my first trilogy. Prior to this, all of my experience was in writing short stories.
Writing longer works of fiction meant acquiring a great many new skills, but I think that the most difficult was learning how to edit for content. In early drafts, I’d penned scenes that I absolutely adored…but I eventually realized that those scenes didn’t serve the plot, or that others needed to be removed for story pacing purposes. Forcing myself to hit the ‘delete’ button was probably the hardest part of writing this book.
What is your routine when writing, if any? If you don’t follow a routine, why not?
Unfortunately, my answer is that I once had a routine that worked for me very well, but that changes to my health and living environment have left my writing life in flux. I’ve yet to establish a new ‘normal’.
I’m sure that I will, eventually!
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
Chapter four marks a turning point in the protagonist’s life, on multiple levels. It also includes several of the scenes that I most enjoyed writing.
I always enjoyed writing the interactions between Doctor Fid and his scrupulously non-violent hacker/social-activist friend Starnyx, and this chapter begins with a phone call between the two characters. This chapter occurs during a time period in which Doctor Fid is learning what it means to have a good friend…and also what it means to be a good friend. That emotional evolution, the willingness to reach out and make a real connection, is stretched further when the character of Whisper is introduced.
The first three chapters illustrate who Doctor Fid is. The fourth chapter begins to offer a glimpse of the man Doctor Fid might become.
Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?
I learned quite a bit. Unfortunately, I feel that the most important element was something that I didn’t truly develop an understanding of until after the novel had been published.
I’m intensely proud of this novel, but I have—in retrospect—become aware that it starts on a slow burn. I learned from this and made a greater effort to plan story pacing for the subsequent novels in the series.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? A gardener or an architect?
I’ve used both approaches but am currently favoring the ‘plotter’ methodology. Even with a detailed plotline developed, however, I still find that stories and characters both have a tendency to evolve as I write. I come up with new ideas or am inspired to try a new direction…and thus need to revisit the detailed outline.
It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?
There are many ‘character questionnaires’ available that are intended to help authors develop an understanding of their characters, and I have occasionally perused them to find inspiration. For the most part, though, I think that my answer is misleadingly simple: I spend more time thinking about my characters than I do writing them.
By the time I start typing, I’ve already spent weeks—sometimes months—developing the characters in my mind.
What are your future project(s)?
I’m currently in the process of writing a fantasy novel about a world near-overrun by demonic predators, and about a hapless wardsmith who uncovers a deadly secret that threatens to undermine the fragile peace between the few kingdoms that remain.
Alas, I’ve yet to determine what the novel’s title will be.
My progress was slowed by health issues, but physical therapy is going quite well and I’m hoping to make more meaningful progress over the next few months.
What is your favorite book ever written? Who are your favorite authors?
My favorite authors in speculative fiction include (but are not limited to) Isaac Asimov, David Brin, Steven Brust, Lois McMaster Bujold, Jim Butcher, C.J. Cherryh, Arthur C. Clarke, Glenn Cook, Neil Gaiman, L.E. Modesitt, China Mieville, Larry Niven, Spider Robinson, Brandon Sanderson, Neil Stephenson, and Charles Stross. There are probably dozens of others who belong on that list…my shelves are filled with authors whose work I adore.
As for my favorite book ever written…that is a close call, but I think that I must choose The Warrior’s Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold. That book is the first that features the Miles Vorkosigan and that character has always been both tremendously inspiring and incredibly entertaining to me.
What makes a good villain?
First, a good villain must have understandable motivations. Those motivations don’t need to be rational, and they certainly don’t need to be sympathetic…but the audience must understand what the villain intends to accomplish and why the villain intends to do it.
Second, a good villain must challenge the protagonist on a personal level. In opposing the villain, for example, the protagonist might be forced to re-evaluate their own motivations. The villain might push the protagonist to grow or change, or to make a dramatic sacrifice.
A good villain forces the protagonist to battle him- (or her-) self, first. Only when that battle is won can the hero be ready to defeat the villain.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Spare time…? What’s that?
Being a bit more serious: I enjoy learning new skills or taking up new craft hobbies and often attempt to learn skills that are demonstrated by fictional characters. I learned to pick locks after reading Harry Harrison’s Stainless-Steel Rat series, for example, and learned to knap flint after reading Neal Stephenson’s Snowcrash.
I switch hobbies too fast to build any real level of competence. But that’s all right…I’m having lots of fun.
If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?
(I’m not sure if I’ll ever be a professional writer, but no matter what job I have…I will always be an author.)
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 the Moon just so that I could look up and see the Earth. The view would be life-changing, I’m sure.
(Oh, hey, as long as I’m heading out that way…I’d probably ask if NASA has any errands that they need run. Might as well get something useful accomplished while I’m sightseeing.)
Pick any three characters from a fiction novel. These are now your roadtrip crew. Where do you go and what do you do?
I’d choose Harry Dresden from The Dresden Files, Walter Slovotsky from Joel Rosenberg’s The Guardians of the Flame, and Xander Harris from any number of Buffy the Vampire Slayer novels.
Because all three are clever, snarky individuals who are known to play Dungeons and Dragons. If I’m going to be stuck with any strangers on a road trip, they’d damned well better be willing to GM for part of the journey!
As for where we’d go…Worldcon 77 in Dublin! Sure, the road trip would be starting from California but I’m fairly certain that Xander, Walter and I could convince Harry to open up a way through the Nevernever so we could drive to Ireland.
What could possibly go wrong?
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 think that the best way to reach me would be via my personal web page at:
There’s a contact form on that page if any of my readers ever want to reach out to me directly, as well as a form to join my mailing list.
Oh, I also have a few barely-ever-updated social media accounts: