Back with another long overdue interview: this one is with Rodrick Macdonald. My apologies on taking so long to get this posted up!
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?
I write fantasy inspired by the classics and the 70s/80s fantasy I read when growing up, without trying to be any of those things. I think every artist absorbs the things they love, and then kicks against or transmutes it into something all their own. That is what I do – it isn’t a conscious thing, it’s just the stuff I write – epic fantasy with dark overtones. I want to write a bright fantasy one day, but today is not that day.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
Original seeds can come from anywhere, most often random imaginings on walks or in the shower or in dreams. I write notes of story ideas, I have a few files of the best ones that have stuck with me. The ones I want to run with grab me, keep on occupying my mind, make me work at them, think them through, find a thread or a core that can run through from start to finish, to animate the story and the characters. I then write rough ideas into a word file. Then I add, and add, and add to the core ideas, with plenty of deviations and tangents taken to explain sub plots, or aspects of worlds, magic, culture, as they become relevant to the story and characters I’m experiencing. In this phase there is a lot of room for “aha!” moments and “wouldn’t it be cool if?” thoughts. Through all this wooliness a central story structure and theme evolves, character motivation and reasons for acting come alive. From that morass I then edit and draw out the central structure and plan of the novel to be. There is always space for improvisation, but a strong heavily thought out core is built first. When I was young I wrote it all as I went along. Having learned that that did not really work for me, I have modified the process, given myself lots of room to maneuver, but ultimately, I am in search of a structure around which I can work and improvise as needed.
Tell us about your current project.
The Thief and The Demon is the result of a “what if” that came to me one day. And it was this: “What if a thief escapes from a prison, but in the process also releases a demon? What would happen then?” From that thought I had to wonder why the thief was in prison, why the demon was there also, who wanted each imprisoned, (not necessarily the same individual or group at all!) and how a thief would be able to free such a highly guarded prize as the demon. (I decided the demon had to be highly prized! I could have chosen it to have been forgotten, but if I had, the whole story would have been vastly different.) From there the world they lived in, the power structures that would see both imprisoned, and both set free slowly took shape. The end result, after quite a few years of imagining, is the book entered into SPFBO.
Is this your first entry into SPFBO? If not, how many times have you entered?
This is my first entry. I hope to enter again next year, if I ever finish edits on my next novel!
Who would you say is the main character of your novels? And tell me a little bit about them!
The main character of The Thief and The Demon is Fistmar, the titular thief. I would say that while he is definitely the protagonist, he is also part of a heroic triumvirate, with very strong allies who could easily carry their own stories.
Fistmar is a smart, ambitious, pretty, and confident in his skill set. Perhaps overly so. He’s a physical coward, unskilled in open combat, but magically sensitive and capable of casting minor spells. He’s a city boy, useless in the country. As talented as he is, there are others who are more skilled – his greatest asset is in the friends he has made, and his intelligence. Over the course of the story he needs his brains and his buddies to challenge multiple opponents who are more powerful, at least as smart, and often far more knowledgeable than he is.
What advice would you give new writers on how to delve into creative fiction?
Believe in your ideas, but flesh them out. They can have far more depth than you need to show in your writing, but the depth lets the writing (I hope!) feel more anchored to the reader. Hell, I am essentially a new writer myself – I’m not that qualified to give advice!
What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding within your book?
Places that I have been, things I have seen that have sparked ideas within me. Travel is a great boon to a writer. Reading and studying history has been essential to me also, not just dates and wars, but art and philosophies of eras and the insights they give into the people who thought and admired those things. We forget, I think, that people 3000 years ago were every bit as smart as we are, and filled with the same yearnings, emotions and ambitions we have, but expressed those things in the environment and with the tools they had.
What inspires you to write?
I am moved to write by a need I’ve had since I was very small. I’m not inspired to write – I just write. My ideas are inspired by the world I live in and its history and peoples. There is so much to wonder at. I’m also a sucker for cosmology.
What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Finishing it. By that I mean stopping with the edits. I can still open any page and want to fix something. At some point you have to stop. I have other stories I want to write – I can’t strangle them at birth by trying to get this one perfect. I’ve wasted enough time already.
What is your routine when writing, if any? If you don’t follow a routine, why not?
I don’t have a routine, but I wish I did. I write when I can, when I have the mental space for it. I can make myself sit down and write on my days off from my job, but not always. I’m curious and engaged in the world, so I like to read about it. That wastes a lot of time, but it also feeds my writing brain. I should do better with a routine, and I keep trying to improve.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
I can’t recall one specific chapter in detail. The beginning and endings were strong for me. The interaction between friends, the confrontations with and between enemies, the first hard won victory, all those were great to write. Some of the connective tissue is harder.
Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?
I can finish. I can get better. That presence of structure is better than absence, and provides and creates its own intriguing freedoms as a writer. I loved it. I want to do it again.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? A gardener or an architect?
I’m a reformed pantser who plots and builds, but always leaves room for things to grow. That way seems to maximise my form of creativity, for now. I’ve changed over the years. I expect I shall continue to do so.
It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?
I’m not sure I have that as an objective. I want things and people to make sense and to be consistent. I spend a lot of time thinking about how world and character and story interact, in the end I just want it to make sense to me, and hope that translates into making sense for others. As with so many other things, this is something I could get better at. You can’t know how well you’ve done until other people decide whether or not your characters live in their heads or not. That is where the alchemy happens – the minds of other people.
What are your future project(s)?
The Killer and The Dead is in final edits now. Then I’ll start The Slavegirl and The Traveller. I plan to exhume and correct a book I spent years on called The Crystal Fruit, because in publishing TTATD I have learned so much that I think I can now go back and salvage that bookwreck, hahaha!
What is your favorite book ever written? Who are your favorite authors?
If I have to choose one that isn’t The Hobbit as it is the book that started it all, I will choose Nine Princes in Amber. I read and reread that book possibly twenty times before I found the other books in that series five years later. It has a special life of its own within me. Favourite authors? Roger Zelazny, Tolkien, Patricia McKilip, Julian May, Iain M. Banks, Conrad, Chaucer, Shakespeare. The Pearl poet. I’m old school. I don’t read enough poetry nowadays.
What makes a good villain?
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Play pool. I’m a pretty good player, but could improve – the challenge is always there, just like writing – you can always do more, execute more skillfully, edit and control yourself and your expression better.
If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?
Astrophysicist. Archaeologist. Perhaps both together!
You can travel to any planet or moon in the Solar System. Where would you go, why and what would you do there?
Europa to go ice fishing, and wink up at the red eye as it passes overhead.
Pick any three characters from a fiction novel. These are now your roadtrip crew. Where do you go and what do you do?
Corwin of Amber, Raederle of An, Cheradenine Zakalwe. With Corwin we can go anywhere, with Raederle we won’t forget where we’re from, and Cheradenine won’t want the trip to stop because he hates his destination. I’d be there for the conversation.
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)?
Firstly, thank you very much for the great questions and the opportunity to be here, it is much appreciated! Folk can find and get in touch with me via my website and author Facebook page. I have a Goodreads page also, they all link back to the website. Here are the links: