My online call for interviews seems to be going nicely, less than a few days, and already half a dozen responses back! I hope to get at least two out a week, but if I can get more out, all the better.
Today’s interview comes from the talented and awesome Allan Batchelder!
First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you write?
My first book and series is/are all grimdark.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
In terms of plot, I typically know how a story begins, how it ends, and several key moments along the way. I discover the rest as I go. For characters, I guess I’ve played so many as an actor, read so many, met so many, that they come to me more or less naturally. And many of the tenants that apply to acting apply to writing as well. For example, characters must change and/or grow over the course of a story.
Tell the world about your current project!
I’m *guess* I’m writing historical fiction/fantasy/horror? I don’t really know HOW to classify it, but, in short, Shakespeare fakes his own death and comes to the New World, to Jamestown, where he runs afoul of Spanish spies, angry Powhatan Indians, and Grendel…I mean “Wendigo.” And that’s just page one.
Who would you say is the main character of your latest novel? And tell me a little bit about them!
Really? Tell you a bit about Shakespeare? Okay, well, he’s actually staged his own death in order to escape celebrity and a bad marriage. Plus, he’s always had wanderlust. Having written The Tempest based on the misadventures of some Jamestown settlers, he is anxious to come see the New World.
Have you been to any conventions? If so, tell me a little about them!
After my first book – Steel, Blood & Fire – came out in 2013, I went to a couple of local Cons – Northwest Con and Rusty Con – but I don’t think I had work to show/share with everyone. Now, with a five-book series out, things might be different. I just haven’t had time to consider it.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always written, even as a kid. It just didn’t occur to me to *share* what I’d written until I passed 50.
If you had the opportunity to live anywhere in the world for a year while writing a book that took place in that same setting, where would you choose?
This makes me feel greedy. I’m tempted to say Florence, but then there are so, so many locations I’d love to live and write in throughout Europe.
What advice would you give new writers?
Read across all genres. Don’t get bogged down in a favorite – say, fantasy. You can learn as much or more from detective novels, from biography, from horror as you can from your potential peers.
What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding?
Well, I think many fantasy elements have their real-life counterparts. For example, currency systems, units of time, government systems, religious systems, etc. I almost think that if everything in your world is too unique, too original, no one will recognize it for what it is, and we’ll be like the apes and the obelisk in 2001. There has to be at least some familiarity or we’ll be lost.
What inspires you to write?
I just have these characters and stories that want to be shared.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
I go through these periods of lassitude or malaise in which I attempt to lose myself in trivialities instead of working. Not sure what that’s about, but I do know time is fleeting. I could be shot by Aaron Burr at any moment.
What is your routine when writing, if any? If you don’t follow a routine, why not?
Weekdays, I typically write in the evenings, and, when I’m really in the groove, I have a daily word count goal. But I figure even one sentence is a sentence in the right direction. Weekends, I write in the afternoons, evenings and sometimes late into the night. Sometimes I have an adult beverage, sometimes I don’t.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write in any of your books, and why?
The end of my first book was probably my favorite, because it represented, for me, an enormous accomplishment and a goal met. It was also the conclusion of a particular story arc.
Did you learn anything from writing your latest book? If so, what was it?
I’ll pretend you’ve asked about my LAST book, the conclusion to my five-book series. It was coming to a head as the final season of Game of Thrones was airing – to much critical disappointment. I saw that and thought, “Gee, I hope my conclusion doesn’t suck this badly.” I was thinking, too, of the end of the Malazan series, which is probably my favorite series. But the end left me absolutely confused and unsatisfied. I did not want to repeat those mistakes. And yet…it’s very, very hard to avoid disappointing some fans; it’s hard to wrap up a ¾ of a million-words story in a way that answers everyone’s questions and does justice to every single character. Better authors than I have tried and…let’s say “struggled.”
Are you a plotter or a pantser? A gardener or an architect?
A gardening pantser? Some of my favorite plot elements and characters came about spontaneously, but I do recognize that some things absolutely must be planned.
If you had to give up either snacks and drinks during writing sessions, or music, which would you find more difficult to say goodbye to?
Snacks and drinks. Every once-in-a-while, I need a good cocktail. That said, I do have an original, full orchestral theme song for my series, Immortal Treachery, that you can listen to at:
Which is your favorite season to write in, and why?
Summer. The days seem longer and thus appear to have more time to write in.
It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?
Well, again, I think my lifetime of experience as an actor helps here. I’ve played so many, directed so many, seen so many, I just think I have this reservoir of characters floating around in my head to draw from.
What are your future project(s)?
I’ve got a sort of Steampunk I’m working on, planning with my son, who’s an illustrator, and I’ve got a horror novel planned, and a YA fantasy.
What is your favorite book ever written?
That’s like picking a favorite arm or leg. I. Can’t. Do. It!
Who are your favorite authors?
That’s a very long list. But let me go outside the genre so I don’t alienate anyone. I like – in no particular order — Michael Connelly, Stephen King, Jeff Shara, Poe, Dickens, Shakespeare, ee cummings, Robert Frost…
What makes a good villain?
I am still learning this, but I would say that a) their actions follow a certain logic, b) they’re not stereotypically evil, c) they have positive qualities or attributes, d) they don’t see themselves as bad.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Read, take walks, play computer games, sometimes watch the tube.
If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?
I’d like to be a film actor.
Coffee or Tea? Or (exult deep breath) what other drink do you prefer, if you like neither?
Coffee. C’mon. I’m from Seattle.
You can travel to anywhere in the universe. Where would you go, and why?
Does this include time? I’d love meet Shakespeare, see if Jesus really existed, watch the Greeks’ seige of Troy, check out the dinosaurs, observe the various iterations of early man in action. If this is strictly a question of place, I’d like to go anywhere else life exists (with a breathable atmosphere and temperate climate), so I can see how life manifests itself.
Do you have any writing blogs you recommend?
Do you have any writer friends you’d like to give a shoutout to?
All the good folks in Grimdarklings, a Facebook writers group, and most especially C.T. Phipps, who have been a tremendous boon to so many of us.
Pick any three fiction characters. These are now your roadtrip crew. Where do you go and what do you do?
I’m gonna go with comic book characters – Hulk, Wolverine and Batman. We’d all go hang out in a tequila bar and see who could eat the hottest food.
What superpower would you most like?
Teleportation. C’mon! Lunch in Paris, see a show on Broadway, watch the sunset in Kona? Get into places you’re not allowed. Even fly, if you do it right.
What are two of your favorite covers of all time? (Not your own.)
Anything Frazetta. Anything Felix Ortiz!
It’s a very difficult time right now for the world. When quarantine and pandemic comes to an end, what is the first thing you would like to do?
Go be part of a crowd. Maybe go to a comedy show or a baseball or (American) football game.
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)?