SPFBO Interview: Todd Herzman

Yes, I am still alive! Still very slow on the blog lately, but hopefully in October I’ll be providing a lot more content.

Today I bring you an interview with Todd Herzman. Hope you guys enjoy!

STARTING OFF WITH A BANG

Introduce yourself! An easy question to start off with. Who are you, what do you write?

Hi! I’m Todd Herzman. I live in Canberra, Australia and I write epic fantasy. I’ve been writing for almost six years now. When I realised it was what I wanted to do, I quit my full-time job and jumped straight into a Bachelor of Writing degree. While the degree didn’t give me as much as I’d hoped, being surrounded by would-be writers helped give me a solid foundation. I work in legislation publishing and wake up too early to write before the day starts.

SPFBO DISCUSSION

Is this your first time in SPFBO?

Yep! Though I’ve been watching the competition closely since last year.

What book did you enter into this year’s event?

My debut novel, A Dark Inheritance, the first book in the Hollow Fate series.

Does one of the main characters hold a special place in your heart? If so, why?

My book follows three siblings, Ruben, Ella and Marius. They each have their own point-of-view chapters and take up an equal amount of time. Now, I’d like to say I don’t pick favourites, but I’ve always been rather fond of the youngest, Marius. He’s a good kid, just trying to do the right thing.

What was the inspiration for the story? What are your future project(s)?

It’s hard for me to pinpoint an exact seed of inspiration. When I began thinking about this story and its characters, they were different people. Marius was the main character originally. I’d written a scene with him meditating at a monastery, an hourglass turned with the sand slowly falling. He was trying to move something with his mind…

Then I wanted to know how he’d gotten there. I pulled the story back and started earlier, but, as I’m an avid discovery writer, it became something completely different.

I’m currently working on the second book in the series.

What are the key themes and/or messages in the book?

I didn’t write the book with any themes or messages in mind, though I’m sure they snuck in there. One thing that comes up a lot is the justification of violence and killing. One of the peripheral main characters is a pacifist. He has powerful telekinesis but refuses to kill. So, I put him in situations that made it difficult for him to stick to his ideals to see what happened.

Each of the characters deals with this in their own way, like any person would have to when they’re put in life or death situations.

What were the key challenges you faced when writing this book?

Perhaps the most challenging thing for me was confidence. In the years before I began writing A Dark Inheritance, I had never finished a novel-length project. The longest story I’d written to the end was 11,000 words, while I’d had unfinished novels that petered out at 130,000 words. As I mentioned earlier, I’m a heavy discovery writer. I’m never exactly sure how long I’ll have to go until I get to the ending, and I was always afraid there would be far too much for me to handle in the revision process.

Perseverance, and a strong writing habit—at least five days a week I write before work and during my lunch break—got me over that hurdle. When I reached the end of the first draft, I knew I could do the next draft, and the next novel. 

What is the future for the characters? Will there be a sequel?

Their future is unclear. I can’t say I know where they’ll each end up, though I have my suspicions. There will definitely be a sequel. The second book is already with beta readers!

MORE RAMBLES ABOUT WRITING

What is your favorite book you’ve written?

Well, as I’ve only written two books, and the second is still not quite finished, I have to say A Dark Inheritance is my favourite. But that could change when the second one is done, and with every one that follows.

Who are your favorite authors?

Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, John Scalzi, Joe Abercrombie, Will Wight… there are so many to name.

Rothfuss and Sanderson are the ones I admire most.

What makes a good villain?

I think that depends on the story being told. Some stories, a villain isn’t around as much as others and that’s what the story needs. But, if you can make a villain empathetic and have depth, like Magneto, they’ll stand out above the rest.

Do you have any writing blogs you recommend?

I don’t read blogs often these days, but I do revisit Hugh Howey’s blog posts on Writing Insights, and I regularly listen to the Writing Excuses podcast.

Do you have any writer friends you’d like to give a shoutout to?

I’ll give a shoutout to my writer girlfriend, Dionnara Dawson. She writes YA fantasy, with kick-ass witches, warlocks, and unique magic. Her characters feel real, and I always fall in love with them.

I’ll also give a shoutout to some of my fellow SPFBO authors. Brandon M Lindsay’s book Shoreseeker was an amazing debut. I’ve just started reading Voice of War by Zack Argyle as well, and am very impressed so far.

Did you learn anything from writing your latest book? If so, what was it?

The book I’m working on right now, I learnt it’s difficult—but highly rewarding—to write a battle scene over multiple perspectives and half a dozen chapters.

I’m sure I learnt a lot more than that, but it was the first thing to come to mind.

Are you a plotter or a pantser? A gardener or an architect?

A pantser/gardener, though I prefer the name discovery writer. I do jot ideas down here or there, and I often have some of the beats in mind as I write, but I couldn’t tell you how it plays out until I’ve written it.

If you had to give up both snacks and drinks during writing sessions, or music, which would you find more difficult to say goodbye to?

Coffee. It would be the most difficult to give up coffee.

I’m drinking it as I answer these questions. Please… please don’t take it away.

Which is your favourite season to write in, and why? 

Winter, with a hot coffee and lots of layers. If it’s raining outside, that’s a bonus.

It’s sometimes difficult to get into understanding the characters we write. How do you go about it? 

For me, it’s a very organic process. I learn about the characters as I’m writing them. I always try to make them do the things that feel right for them.

I wish I had a more involved, analytical answer. Perhaps a few years down the line, I’ll understand my process more fully!

What is your writing process? Do you have one? What is your workspace like?

My process grows and changes as I develop as a writer. I’ll talk about the process for book two.

I have habits and systems in place, things that help me get the words out on a consistent basis. When writing the first draft, before my morning session, I would listen to what I’d written the day before using a text-to-speech program (either while driving to work, or these days as I’m working from home, while I’m making my morning coffee and eating breakfast). This kept me in the story, which helped stop me from backtracking too much during the writing itself.

Between writing sessions, if I had the time, I would read/edit the words on my phone. I have Word on my laptop and my phone, with dropbox syncing my novel files automatically. This helped to make the first draft cleaner, and also helped me keep the whole story straight in my mind as I was writing it.

The revision process involves lots of wordsmithing, word-cutting and prose-smoothing. I heavily utilise Word’s commenting feature so I don’t slow down the process by having to go off and research or check things earlier in the manuscript. When I finish a draft, I’ll address the comments one-by-one, adding scenes or taking them away to fix story inconsistencies or strengthen character.

Then I send it off to the beta readers, and I’ll do another draft with their feedback in mind, evaluating what each of them said and implementing it if I agree.

During the pandemic, I most often write at my desk or on my armchair. Pre-pandemic, I would get to work early and write in a small, private meeting room, then I’d either write at a café or in the office lobby across the road during my lunch break.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

Everything. I try to read a lot, though writing comes first, so I never have as much time for it as I used to. I also draw inspiration from TV, movies, video games… all types of narrative storytelling. I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, but I find inspiration there when I do.

How many plot ideas are just waiting to be written? Can you tell us about one?

Oh, I have so many ideas swirling around in my head. Talking about any number of them could spoil something for someone in the future, so my lips are sealed.

Do you have any new series planned?

I’m going to try and write one series at a time, but I always have new ideas popping into my head. Self-restraint stops me from working on them. I can guarantee Hollow Fate will be one of many series I work on, but I can’t say when I’ll get to the next.

MORE ABOUT YOU 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Read. Spend time with my girlfriend. Archery, when we’re not in a pandemic… Really, a lot of my spare time is dedicated to writing and editing.

If you couldn’t be an author, what ideal job would you like to do?

Screenwriter? Is that a copout? Honestly, nothing can stop me from being an author, so it’s not something I’ve considered.

Coffee or Tea? Or (exult deep breath) what other drink do you prefer, if you like neither?

Coffee.

Always coffee.

You can travel to anywhere in the universe. Where would you go, and why?

Do I have a spacesuit? A spacecraft? Can I get back? How long will the travel take? Is there intelligent life in the universe, and am I aware of that when I make the decision to travel somewhere? Are they friendly?

Pick any three fiction characters. These are now your roadtrip crew. Where do you go and what do you do?

Teal’c from Stargate SG-1, Elodin from The Kingkiller Chronicles, and Castle from Caslte. I’ve no idea where we’ll go, but it’ll be a wild ride.

What superpower would you most like?

The ability to slow down time (and not age while I’m at it).

What are two of your favorite covers of all time? (Not your own.)

I’ve never had to think about this before… I can’t say I have any in mind. The favourite covers I’ve seen recently, though, are the ones for Black Stone Heart by Michael R Fletcher, and the UK cover for Of Sand and Malice Made by Bradley Beaulieu. These are my “favourite” because these covers were directly responsible for me checking out the books, which is something all great covers should do.

If you could invite one person to dinner, who would it be and what would you cook?

Patrick Rothfuss, macaroni and cheese.

Share something your readers wouldn’t know about you.

I still have a scar from burning my arm while fire twirling (poi) at my best mate’s 21st birthday.

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?

Take my girlfriend out to dinner and a movie.

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)?

The most reliable way to contact me would be my email, author@toddherzman.com. For follows, I’m somewhat active on Twitter, less so on Facebook.

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You can grab The Seeker and the Sword by signing up to my newsletter and get regular updates about what I’m doing, writing, and publishing. You can sign up here: https://www.toddherzman.com/.

You can find me on goodreads here

And on Amazon here.

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