I love your covers! Can you give us your quickest description of your books?
My series chronicles the adventures of Dr. Alastair Stone, British mage and Occult Studies professor, who currently lives in northern California and teaches at Stanford. He balances the magical dangers he faces with trying to keep his “secret life” as a mage separate from his professional life in his teaching job.
That sounds like a very interesting premise. My mind immediately went to Indiana Jones, but maybe creepier. What genre would you put your series in, then?
I go back and forth between calling it urban fantasy and paranormal thriller – I think it’s a bit of both. A lot of people these days when they think of urban fantasy, they either go to the Dresden Files (which I kind of play in the same sandbox with, since I have a male main character, lots of action, and not a lot of romance) or else the more romantic end of the spectrum that so much urban fantasy nowadays seems to do (female main character, exotic male love interest like a vampire or shifter, etc.). I throw in ‘paranormal thriller’ because I don’t want to disappoint or mislead any readers who are looking for that second type of urban fantasy.
Makes sense. What are you working on currently?
At the moment, I’m working on the next book in my Stone Chronicles series. It was originally supposed to be Book 6, but since my editor gave me back his comments on Book 4, I realized I need another book (probably a novella) in between Books 4 and 5. So this one just became Book 7.
It’s so hard to know where to split books for a series. That’s a great idea to slip in a novella. Is that because there’s just a little bit that doesn’t fit anywhere else, or is it a complete side story that adds to the series?
It was funny—one of the things I love about my editor, John Helfers, is that he’s not at all afraid to call me out when I’m being lazy. The epilogue to Book 4 was lazy. I brought up something with huge implications, and then just wrapped it up right away. Way too easy. So the novella will be focused on remedying that. It’s not enough material for a full-sized book, but depending on how it goes, I should be able to get 20-40,000 or so words out of it.
What is one bit of advice you’d like to share with writers?
Don’t try to do everything yourself. As an indie writer, it’s tempting to want to design your own covers, do your own editing, and generally be a one-person show. But the skill of writing doesn’t necessarily translate to being a good editor (at least for your own work, because you’re too close to it), or to being a good designer. There are folks out there who are great at these things, at all price levels. Concentrate on writing, and let them help you make the best book you can.
I think a lot of us do this because we don’t want to give up any control (I know that struggle all too well). But it’s good to remember that you, as an indie, still DO have final say – you don’t have to be stuck with whatever your publisher thinks is a great cover, for example. Have you ever disagreed with an editor or artist and had things adjusted back to fit the idea in your head? Or are you lucky and your cover artist (for example) nails it every time?
As it happens, yes! When I was getting my first book, Stone and a Hard Place, ready, I found this great cover designer (Streetlight Graphics, who I use for all my covers). I didn’t really understand the process of how it worked. When the designer came back with the cover, it blew me away—it looked amazing. There was only one problem—Stone looked way too young. He looked like an 18-year-old pretty boy instead of a 31-year-old snarky mage. I mentioned it and the designer tried a few things, but nothing was quite right. I finally went with it because I didn’t want to be “that client,” but the more books I sold, the more it just ate at me. Finally, I brought it up again and he sent me to the stock-photo site they use and told me to find a face. I did that in like 5 minutes, sent it off to him, Stone got a face transplant, and now he looks much better!
That’s really cool. So in a perfect world where you could cast your book for a movie, who would you pick for your main characters?
For Stone, I’d definitely pick David Tennant. I’ve been writing about Stone for years now, and I remember seeing “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” and thinking during the first scene with Barty Crouch Jr. in his black leather coat and intense expression, “Wow—that guy would be great to play Stone!” And then later on I saw Doctor Who, and I was sure of it. I actually haven’t done a lot of casting for most of the other characters—I can picture them in my mind clearly, but in most cases there are several actors who could do a good job playing them.
I love Tennant’s Doctor. Easily my favorite. Do you find that you write with him in your mind so that it almost shapes the character? I know some writers find themselves subconsciously doing that. Or do you like that, for your other characters, you don’t have any ONE face/persona in mind?
I find that I kind of do write with him in mind. I hear Stone’s lines in Tennant’s voice (halfway between the Tenth Doctor and Peter Vincent from Fright Night, especially at the end of that movie when he’s not channeling Russell Brand but is more in “action hero” mode.)
When you get stuck in your writing, how do you make yourself keep going?
I remind myself that I’ve been stuck before, and I always seem to find a way to get past whatever is blocking me. Usually that comes in the form of a plot epiphany at an unexpected time, like when I’m half asleep, watching a movie, or driving somewhere in the car. I’ve learned to trust that these insights will come as long as I don’t try to push them, and if that means I have to take a little break from what I’m working on, that’s okay.
It’s amazing how you can be stuck and then WHAM – an idea will come. Are you an author who keeps a pen and paper on-hand at all times to write down these ideas when they come so you don’t forget?
I certainly try to! It doesn’t always work, because my ideas are nasty little things and usually hit me when I’m not in a place where I can write them down (three of my biggest epiphanies for stories came in the shower, in the car while driving down a busy street, and in a movie theater during the movie). But I always try to get them down as soon as possible. For example, I actually left the movie theater for a couple of minutes so I could fire up the iPhone and send myself an email. I have a file box full of half-size 3×5 cards that I jot ideas on, and every time I’m ready to start a new novel, I go through it and see if I can use any of them.
Thank you, R.L. King, for sharing!