To quote Deston’s badass cover, the job starts here! Last day of the month and it’s been a busy one. Today’s interview is with Deston J. Munden!
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?
Hello, I’m Deston J. Munden, an African American storyteller for North Carolina. I’m the author of the entry, Tavern (Book 1 of the Dargath Chronicles). I’m a huge video game, anime, and fantasy/science fiction book nerd. I write in those same genres: soft science fiction and epic high fantasy novels. It’s a pleasure to meet you.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
They usually start with a small idea. What if these characters were like this or I see an opportunity for another character in a previous book to have their own book? I like to think that my ideas and characters start off with a tagline. Sometimes I’ll sit on a character or an idea for months before I do anything with them. I have what I call my junk drawer file. It’s just a text file of me rambling off until something of substance comes up or I feel like charging head-on into an idea.
Tell us about your current project.
As of a few weeks ago, I just finished the second installment of the “Dargath Chronicles” books named Duke’s Brand. My main character was inspired by Thor from the MCU but with a twist, he’s on the autism spectrum. It follows his journey to becoming a knight while fighting off parts of his bloody past that crept into his life via his father’s machinations. It’s both fun and heart-wrenching tale of a man learning to come more of his person after years of abuse and mistreatment from those around him. It’s also about following your dreams, even at an age where people would’ve already given up.
Is this your first entry into SPFBO? If not, how many times have you entered?
It is! I’ve followed all four prior and I always wanted to join. If not for Jonathan French’s coaching, I would’ve chickened out.
Who would you say is the main character of your novels? And tell me a little bit about them!
Xel is the main character of the entire series. He appears in every book in one shape or another, even when he’s not the protagonist. A spymaster, a healer, a guild master, and a businessman, Xel suffers from anxiety that he’s constantly learning to manage. He’s an interesting fellow. Though powerful and capable beyond his years, he doubts his own abilities often. As a person with clinical anxiety, it was important for me to write a character like him and show even with these crippling symptoms, you can achieve amazing things. Also, he’s an orc. So, there’s that.
What advice would you give new writers on how to delve into creative fiction?
I’ve noticed a lot of new writers finding themselves getting tripped up on the starting process. I’ve recently been helping a friend get started on his book and it took me weeks to get him to even start the book. He had the outline started, he had amazing ideas, and a good plot ready to go but he refused to start writing the process. Sometimes, the very best you can do is to jump in. You are never going to be happy in your first draft, especially in your first book. It’s better to get started, start learning, and crank out those words. It teaches you discipline as well as skills that you can transfer into new drafts and new skills.
Also, read in your genre. Learn from others. If you’re not writing, you should read or consume media. People underestimate the latter. Learning from shows, comics, anime, video games, and movies are amazing ways to learn a creative craft. I tend to always write down notes or talk to friends about what I liked or disliked about a show. It will teach you what you enjoy and what you can put into your work.
What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding within your book?
Everything. Honestly. That’s the truth of the matter. Days after days, I fall down the rabbit hole of learning stuff about our world. Whether it’s animals, different cultures, different languages, martial arts, history, food, etc. I binge watch documentaries and youtube videos. My google search is filled with a bunch of weirdly unrelated searches. I try to bring a little bit of the real world in my fantasy. I want people to feel welcomed and see themselves within the pages of a book. Sometimes, I just sit back and research something I don’t know just to get to some knowledge on the matter.
Also, people. Sometimes I get inspired by the people in my life. A lot of the characters are bits and pieces of people that I know or have interacted with. There are other times where I just see a stranger and a story just pops in my head. It makes visits to stores like Walmart interesting.
What inspires you to write?
I’ve always wanted to. At first, I didn’t think that it would be possible, but I wanted to try anyway. After several failed attempts, enough was enough. I wanted this more than anything in the world, so I had to push myself harder. There’s not a lot of people like me and I wanted to make a statement on the world in this genre. So, I started treating it like any other job. After a while, the routine became an inspiration on its own. I want to show people that everyone can make a splash in this world and I want to tell fun and exciting stories that I would want to read on the shelf.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Tavern was an interesting experience. This was my first real attempt in writing an epic fantasy. It is and always will my favorite genre, so I wanted to give it the attention it deserves. The hardest part, however, was the editing. After the first draft was completed, I sent it to my readers for a look over. There was a lot of things wrong. It took so many painstaking hours to figure out how to incorporate all the feedback I’ve gotten and get over the self-doubt that came with it. I was sure that the book would never be the quality that I want it to be.
Even now, there are things I know I could’ve done better. Alas, that’s the problem with writing. Once you get better, you look back on older stuff with the incredible power of hindsight. I know what I can do better with the editing and writing of the next books and I hope that Duke’s Brand will be even better.
What is your routine when writing, if any? If you don’t follow a routine, why not?
Monday-thru-Friday from 8-4 PM, sometimes a bit on Saturday and Sunday. I’ve gotten to the habit that now it feels wrong if I don’t write in those time slots or if I miss a day.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
Chapter 13 and 14 of Tavern. Chapter 13 was probably the best battle that I’ve ever written my entire life. Chapter 14 I have been cursed out about in my DMs by everyone that has read the book. It’s so hilarious. I’m a vile writer that likes to watch my readers suffer from time to time. So, it’s probably a tie between those two.
Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?
I’ve learned to pace and plan myself better. There were times where I would run myself to the ground writing Tavern. It got so bad that my friends put a limit on how much I could work in a day and when. Passion can be a dangerous thing. I’ll advise anyone to learn their limits in their first-ever draft. It took me several first drafts and failed books to realize that I probably should care about my health as well as my craft.
Other than that, I feel like I’ve gotten better with the craft in general. I’ve been reading more and writing more every day since Tavern’s completion a few years back. I can now write and read faster and I’ve learned my strengths and my weaknesses throughout the process. A tip, treat yourself better and allow yourself to make mistakes. You’re going to in your first book no matter how hard you try.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? A gardener or an architect?
I’m a pantser, 100%. Well. At least in the first draft. My goal at first is just to get the story out of my head to the best of my ability. Once I finish that draft, I go back and go into a plotter mindset. I fill in the gaps that I made, fix pieces here and there, and work to make the story feel more alive and cohesive than before. My author friends tease me because I do my outline after the first draft is already completed. For me, that works the best. There I know what is happening without having the unfortunate side effect of me derailing my outline. It’s already down. If I want to add a part or take away a scene, I’ll know when or where I can do it. It’s weird, I know, but it’s something that I learned best suits me. Given an outline before the draft, I’m going to go so off the rails with a sudden idea midway through a chapter that I’m going to wreck the outline in the first five chapters.
It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?
Learning what makes them tick. The best way I’ve to learn to understand a character… is to hurt them in the most painful way possible. Yes. I know. It’s twisted. But you tend to learn a lot about a character when you put them in life-threatening or emotionally compromising situations. Give them the old tough love. Sometimes, they just must learn what conflict is and sometimes, they are better or worse off from it. Pain is love from the author. My characters know that coming in.
Other than putting them through torture, I like to know what they enjoy as hobbies. A person’s hobby tells a lot about them. It shows what they enjoy, where they like to spend their time, and more than often tells you how their brain works. Are they creative? Are they logic? Do they like games? It’s a good start to understanding a character and their motivations.
What are your future project(s)?
Right now, I’m working on my science fiction book named Dusk Mountain Blues. It’s space mutant hillbillies avoiding colonization. It’s a fun book, to say the least, based on Red Dead Redemption, Fallout, and Mass Effect and the space opera genre all thrown together. So that’s something to look out for.
I also have plenty of short stories planned, Duke’s Brand in the second draft phase, and the future third book in the Dargath Chronicles under the code name Undergrove.
What is your favorite book ever written? Who are your favorite authors?
I’m huge into listening and reading books and audiobooks. Here’s a list (only to name a few).
Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames
The Grey Bastards by Jonathan French
A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George RR Martin
A Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Embers of War by Gareth L. Powell
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Vagabond by Takehiko Inoue
Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
A Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
The Blade Itself by Joe Abercombie
Theft of the Sword by Michael J. Sullivan
What makes a good villain?
Charm. There’s something powerful with a villain with charm. Their motivations become much more interesting when you can’t quite pin down what they want. I enjoy a villain that can play circles around the protagonist. I also am drawn to the villains that I can’t help but agree with on some emotional level. Agreeing with a protagonist is easy. You are always in their heads so often you tend to default to their line of thinking. I’m drawn to villains that makes a good case for their cause. I love thinking well…that does make sense when the villain reveals their motivation. Despite their malicious or evil intentions, the villain must have some sort of charm and motivations to get people on their side (even you the reader).
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I’m a huge gamer and cook. When I’m not writing, I’m playing video games of all types. I enjoy playing League of Legends, Rainbow Six Siege, Call of Duty, and Overwatch in my spare time. RPGs are also my weakness. Very often I can lose hours and hours in an RPG.
Cooking is a relatively new hobby I picked up. After suffering through a bunch of medical issues, I decided the best way to get healthier is to learn how to cook some of my favorite foods.
I hope that I can get well enough, for I can add powerlifting and live-action roleplaying to my hobby list.
If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?
Video Game Designer. I have a degree in it but by the time that I was ready, I’ve heard so many negative things about the process that I decided to put that on hold. If not that, I would love to try my hand at being a professional baker or chef.
You can travel to any planet or moon in the Solar System. Where would you go, why and what would you do there?
Mars. Every time I see a video game or show talking about settling on Mars, I always want to try it out too. There’re so many good stories that are set on Mars that it kinda romanticized the planet for me. Given the chance and guarantee that I will you know…breathe on Mars, I would be the first on a spaceship to start a new colony. Maybe find some weird alien life. A man can dream.
Pick any three characters from a fiction novel. These are now your road trip crew. Where do you go and what do you do?
I’m picking Clay Cooper (Kings of the Wyld), Logen Ninefingers (The Blade Itself), and Jackal (The Grey Bastards). We’re gonna make a band and go a rock tour, probably get in more trouble than we signed up for. We’ll go travel the world, playing music and probably get arrested in every town that had the displeasure to deal with us. Ahhhh good times.
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)?
If I haven’t scared you off already, you can find me in loads of different places. I’m good at keeping my social media up to date and it’s probably the best way to contact me. Also, feel free to drop me an email on my contact form of my site.
Also if Tavern tickled your fancy, here’s a link to that as well: https://www.amazon.com/Tavern-Dargath-Chronicles-Deston-Munden/dp/1795562587
Thanks for having me!