Something a bit different, or back to normality as I would say. This awesome guy’s recent novel (he publishes so many!) Shields in Shadow launched a couple of weeks ago, an amazing military fantasy that is part of The Silent Champions series. I jumped at the chance to give Andy an interview, because he’s a great author and a good friend.
Click on the spiffing book cover down below to go to the buy link. I had the pleasure of beta reading this book (and probably was really critical with it, sorry Andy!) Expect a review of this book in due course!
First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you write?
I’m Andy Peloquin, author of dark epic fantasy. All of my stories are epic in nature and scope, but they tend to focus on the darker side of the genre—both the darker characters (thieves, assassins, bounty hunters, and killers) and the darker side of human nature. With so many “heroes” in fantasy, I’ve always loved exploring the other, more hidden aspects of the genre.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
Loaded question there!
I guess I can say that they both start with snapshots, little glimpses of who/what they are before I start writing them. I get the idea for a story or character, and I flesh it out one piece at a time. That way, I have an idea who I’m writing and what plot I’m writing about before I sit down to write. However, as I finally begin to write, the characters and settings come alive in fascinating, unexpected new ways, so each new chapter is a chance for interesting and unpredictable things to happen.
Tell us about your current project.
The Silent Champions is essentially a modern-style covert ops team, but using fantasy-level technology and magic and set in a fantasy world. After an enemy ambush massacres his entire company, Captain Aravon accepts command of a team of six elite warriors who operate ex umbra, part of the established military of their kingdom (the Princelands) yet independent of it. It’s a fascinating look at military, special ops, tactics, strategy, and battles through the lens of highly complex and intriguing characters.
Who would you say is the main character of your novels? And tell me a little bit about them!
Captain Aravon is the POV character of this series, so he’s definitely the “main” character. As the son of a renowned general, he’s lived under the shadow of his father’s legacy—and disappointment. It’s shaped his actions throughout his entire military career, and has made him the man he is.
However, each of the six elite warriors under his command are equally complex (a half-breed born to two worlds but belonging to neither, an archer who’s had to fight every day of her military career, a mute alchemist on an impossible mission, etc.) and intriguing. The series takes a deep dive into each of their minds and hearts—all through the eyes of Captain Aravon—to give us a better understanding of who these elite warriors are beneath the armor and military titles.
What advice would you give new writers on how to delve into creative fiction?
Learn writing craft first, then learn business. Writing a great book is just the first step; you have to sell it, and keep selling it to thousands of readers each month. The only way to make it into a living is to be both a good writer and a savvy businessperson.
What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding within your book?
I did a lot of research for this story talking with former special operatives, learning from them everything I could about these people, the operational practices, the types of missions they were assigned, and more. Some of the characters are actually crafted according to real-life stories from former soldiers.
What inspires you to write?
I love telling great stories that haven’t been told before. Being able to craft unique characters and ask questions that other authors won’t or don’t think to ask is my personal challenge, and it’s what makes writing an absolute thrill.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
The military strategy and tactics. As a civilian, I knew next to nothing about battles and warfare when I set out to write The Silent Champions. Now, I know only fractionally more, but at least enough to tell a story that reads as genuine and accurate.
What is your routine when writing, if any? If you don’t follow a routine, why not?
I’m very routine-oriented. I always start writing at the same time every day (2:30 PM) so I can finish by the time my wife gets home from work. I make my drink (coffee, tea, or hot chocolate), turn on my writing playlist, and start work at the same time. It helps me get into the flow of the story easier.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
There are so many! There was one death scene in Steel and Valor (The Silent Champions Book 3) where I had two of the male characters express their feelings for each other by saying, “Fuck you!” That brought a huge smile to my face!
Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?
So much! Probably the most important lesson was that I need to give each character and plot element time to “breathe”. The books expanded to upwards of 200,000 words because instead of pushing things along, I let the story take its natural course, giving the characters time to develop and grow more complex. It’s something I’m going to apply to every book I write from here on out, even if that means the books are longer and take more time to write.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? A gardener or an architect?
75% plotter, 25% pantser. I put down the outline, but I leave enough room for creativity and flexibility as I write. The story invariably follows the plot line I’ve set out, but the route it takes to get where I want to go will often change.
It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?
LOTS of research! The more I understand the character before I sit down to write, the easier it is to come up with their dialogue and their unique style of talking. And, as I put bits and pieces of them onto the page, I find they reveal more about themselves to me.
What are your future project(s)?
The next project is an Atlantis-style high fantasy series based off the first novel I ever wrote. I unpublished the novel a couple of years ago, and I’m now taking the best bits and pieces from it to craft this grand, epic-scale world reminiscent of Atlantis—but set in my own world, with characters and worldbuilding elements cropping up from all of my other series.
What is your favorite book ever written? Who are your favorite authors?
I’d have to say The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, The Black Company by Glen Cook, and The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson take my top spots. Riyira Revelations by Micheal J. Sullivan and Sherlock Holmes come in for a close tie.
What makes a good villain?
Desire, and the willingness to do whatever it takes to achieve it. I like villains who are driven, and who are just ruthless enough to run over everything and everyone in their path. Even if their desire is for something “good”, their actions are what make them bad.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Read, watch TV, cook, snowboard, play board games, hang out with friends. I’m a simple person and lead a simple, quiet life.
If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?
I’ve considered actor, psychologist, and bodyguard as possible fallback careers.
You can travel to any planet or moon in the Solar System. Where would you go, why and what would you do there?
(Insert Uranus joke here)
Joking aside, I think I’d go to the moon. To be able to look down from the moon and see Earth would be truly spectacular.
Pick any three characters from a fiction novel. These are now your roadtrip crew. Where do you go and what do you do?
Locke and Jean from Lies of Locke Lamora, with Kaz Brekker from Six of Crows. Either Atlantic City or Vegas, just so I can watch them run cons on all the casinos.
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)?