Got ourselves a new interview to show to you guys, this one with Ian Lewis. I’ve had several interviews back already, keep them coming! Any questions or requests, just contact me!
First of all, tell me about yourself! What do you write?
I live in Ohio and work in the software industry. I’ve been in print since 2009, initially releasing three novellas with Untreed Reads, a small indie press who specializes in eBooks. While I enjoyed working with them, I decided to go out on my own and found I enjoy even more having complete control over pricing, release timetables, etc. Since then I’ve released four novels in a variety of genres and am a co-host of the Promptly Written Podcast where we crowd-source our flash fiction writing prompts each month.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
Most of my characters are modeled on abstract impressions that are probably subconsciously based on certain archetypes or a mix of archetypes. At least that’s what I tell myself. I’m probably doing nothing of the sort and am instead butchering a handful of shallow character sketches over and over again.
Plots are something that just need time to develop organically. Usually I have an idea for a scene or maybe even a start and a finish, and then I have to build something around that to fill in the gaps.
Tell the world about your current project!
Right now I’m putting the finishing touches on the final manuscript that will be the fourth book in my Driver series. It’s called Winterfield Nights, and once I’m done with said manuscript, I’ll go into edit mode. This book is experimental like the rest of the series, and features a mix of POV where each chapter starts out in third person to set the scene, and then you drop into the viewpoint character’s first person POV to finish it out. I wanted the book to be really moody and atmospheric, and there are strengths to both first and third person POV that help craft that vibe.
Content wise, there’s a supernatural bent that overlays the rural noir/crime aspects of the story. There’s a lot of desperation and regret and the feel that characters are drifting closer to a point of no return. It will be a Gothic Supernatural Thriller if there ever was one.
Who would you say is the main character of your latest novel? And tell me a little bit about them!
The Driver is the primary protagonist in Winterfield Nights. He’s a murdered soul who operates out of an in-between state known as the Upper Territory. This is where all murdered souls reside, the idea being that the trauma of murder splits soul from spirit. Members of a group called Abel’s Fold build temporary “super-physical” bodies for murdered souls so they can find their spirits or “ghosts” that are lost in the Territory. The Driver is a member of the Fold and is supposed to facilitate this process, but he has a vengeful vigilante streak that prompts him to shirk his duty and intervene to save people’s lives when he sees fit. This of course has caused problems for him over the years, and Winterfield Nights is sort of the culmination of those missteps. Oh, and did I mention he drives a phantom Camaro? Black ‘85 IROC-Z. It doesn’t get any cooler than that.
Have you been to any conventions? If so, tell me a little about them!
I’ve never been to a fantasy convention, but I’ve been to author conventions at libraries. Despite being an introvert (and quite happy to remain so), they are a good way to get out there and meet readers and other authors.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I was in college, reading a lot to pass the time, wanting a creative outlet. I used to draw a lot when I was younger but stopped for whatever reason. Since I always enjoyed reading, I thought I’d try my hand at writing. I proceeded to write a number of really terrible short stories that thankfully never saw the light of day. Frustrated with my output, I quit writing for three or four years until I got the idea for The Camaro Murders, which was the first book in the Driver series. I haven’t stopped since.
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?
Maybe feudal Japan? There is a Japanese thread to some of the lore/backstory in my Reeve series that I need to explore for the second book (Villians), and I want it to be as authentic as possible. At least up until to the point where things go sideways due to alchemical mutations, and then anything is fair game.
What advice would you give new writers?
Join a critique group. Participation therein is the cheapest, fastest way to improve yourself as a writer.
What real-life inspirations did you draw from for the worldbuilding?
Last year I released From Legend, the first book in the Reeve series. It’s essentially Batman, a western, and low-fantasy all in a blender. In it, I created an alternate post-alchemy version of North America (and really the entire world) where the primary setting is Northeast Ohio. I tried to be faithful to the plant/animal life and the schizophrenic weather patterns as well as incorporate bits of local history. I think it was all born of a desire to turn my mundane surroundings into something interesting.
What inspires you to write?
Music, philosophy, and any number of visual media I loved as a child in the 80s.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Finding the time to do it. Sometimes sleep and reading time must be sacrificed in order to eke out a chapter a week at best. This intensifies when I hit a release cycle.
What is your routine when writing, if any? If you don’t follow a routine, why not?
I always try to write during my lunch break at work as well as at the end of the day. Those are really my only options since I have a day job and family. Otherwise it’s just me and a Chromebook, trying to block everything out.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write in any of your books, and why?
I’ve always been fond of the last chapter in The Camaro Murders (titled The Wicked and Despair). Even though it’s the last, I wrote it first, and really captures the morose pathology that the Driver will carry with him from that point forward. And I really like the way the chapter ends. It’s very much the Driver’s point of no return.
Did you learn anything from writing your latest book? If so, what was it?
Yes, as clear of an idea that you have with regard to your book’s vision, your best attempts may never get you there. You have to ask yourself whether to beat it up some more to see if you can get it there, or admit defeat. I don’t mean you should mail it in, so to speak, only that at some point it’s as good as it’s going to get, and you have to let it go.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? A gardener or an architect?
A bit of both actually. I used to write totally organically, not proceeding past a sentence until I felt it was perfect, with nothing other than an abstract idea of where I was going. My process has evolved to where I start with a simple outline (one paragraph per chapter). There’s still room for organic development within a given chapter, and if I get stuck anywhere, I skip past it and then come back later with fresh eyes.
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?
None of them are integral to a writing session for me. While music is inspirational, I don’t often listen to music while I’m writing. I guess I would prefer to at least have a glass of water by my side, so maybe that’s what I’d most want to keep.
Which is your favorite season to write in, and why?
Winter for sure. There are no yard work/outdoor distractions pulling me away from writing time. You have every reason to stay huddled inside and write.
It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it?
A number of books I’ve written in first person, which to me is the easiest way to get into a character’s head and speak/think how they would. Having done that, I find it easier to understand any of my characters regardless of POV.
What are your future project(s)?
My pending release (Winterfield Nights) is the fourth of what will be five Driver books. I’ll switch back to the Reeve after this and tackle book two, which will be called “Villains.” The Reeve will also be a five book series, so I’ve got a lot of things to keep my occupied. I’d like to fit a cold war spy thriller in there somewhere, sort of an homage to a 007 thriller.
What is your favorite book ever written?
I don’t know if I can pick one. I don’t even know if I could give you a list of my favorite books. It’s just too hard. I like many things for many different reasons, but none of them really strike me as a “greatest of all time” from a personal perspective.
Who are your favorite authors?
Ian Fleming and C.S. Lewis.
What makes a good villain?
Someone who hates humanity, who hates existence. Someone who hates being itself.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Writing is largely my spare time, but I do enjoy reading as well as watches, craft beer, and bourbon.
If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?
I would’ve liked to have been a philosopher.
Coffee or Tea? Or (exult deep breath) what other drink do you prefer, if you like neither?
Straight black tea for me. If coffee tasted like it smells, I’d be all over it. Unfortunately it doesn’t, and so it should be relegated to accent flavors in desserts or ice creams.
You can travel to anywhere in the universe. Where would you go, and why?
I think I’d stay on earth, actually. As visually stunning as the universe is, it’s so inhospitable to life that I don’t see any sense in wanting to go anywhere else.
Do you have any writing blogs you recommend?
No, I can’t say that I’m familiar with any of them. Like Mr. Miyagi says in the Karate Kid, “No learn Karate from book,” I’ve always been of the mind that you don’t learn about writing by reading a book about writing (or a blog), you simply just write.
Do you have any writer friends you’d like to give a shoutout to?
Perhaps Matt Sugerik, my fellow partner in crime on the Promptly Written Podcast. From month to month, he has me on the edge of my seat, terrified at what he’s going to do with the prompt and how dark he’s going to go. But then every once in a while he comes out of left field with lighter fare.
Pick any three fiction characters. These are now your roadtrip crew. Where do you go and what do you do?
James Bond, Jack Ryan, and the Raider (a resourceful survivalist from my Split series). We’d go about defending the free world from tyranny.
What superpower would you most like?
Easy. The ability to generate any other superpower at will. I know that’s kind of cheating, but you asked.
What are two of your favorite covers of all time? (Not your own.)
I can’t say that I have any, or at least it’s not something I ever thought about. It would probably take too long to answer as these types of things are paralyzing to me, so I’m going to pass on this one.
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?
Just get back to a normal routine in general. I’m a creature of habit and I very much like my freedom, and so this isolation stuff grates at me even though as an introvert I’d be perfectly fine never talking to anyone again.
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)?
You can find all the relevant links to things on my website, http://www.ianlewisfiction.com. Or you can find me on Facebook or GoodReads:
Also consider subscribing to the Promptly Written Podcast. There are new stories once a month, and you can listen on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, or our site:
We have no genre restrictions, but the fantastic does show up from time to time. And my co-host and I are fundamentally different with regard to just about everything, so it’s always fun to see where he and I take the same writing prompt.